Snakes on display at Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

When asked what the most dangerous animals in the Deep South might be, the average person would respond with alligators, cougars and even snakes. However, according to Terry “Snake Man” Vandeventer, we should not fear snakes.

Vandeventer, an avid herpetologist, has dedicated his life to spreading the good word about snakes and how they are good for mankind.

“Snakes have a bad reputation because of things like Animal Planet and fictional stories told around the world. What most people do not know is that most snakes will actually run away from humans,” said Vandeventer.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The “Snake Man” goes around to schools, libraries, museums, and natural festivals talking about south-western Mississippi snakes, educating people of all ages so their perspective is more accurate.

This Saturday, Vandeventer will be giving his Living Reptile Museum Educational Productions presentation about snakes at the Crosby Arboretum starting at 10 in the morning. Vandeventer is the top snake expert in the region said the director of the Crosby Arboretum, Pat Drackett.

“A lot of people do not have a cognitive view of the snakes. We can show the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes as well as what their habits are and how to identify them,” said Vandeventer.

Vandeventer goes on to describe his intent of the educational program, which is to make kids and adults understand they do not have to be afraid of the snakes, but should be educated and alert about them in their community.

“People need to open their eyes to the beauties of nature. If you do not experience the opportunities and aspects of nature, you will never respect it,” said Vandeventer.

Vandeventer likes to refer to his programs as presentations, not shows. “A show means pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and wowing everyone with comical antics. What I do is lively and fun but it is also educational and meant to be taken serious. We laugh, we have fun, but we are sincere too,” said Vandeventer.

What has kept the “Snake Man” going for 40 years is the kids. He mentions that as long as the kids take something home from the program and learn something new, that is all that matters.

At the end of each presentation, Vandeventer says the same thing, “No child left indoors.” This means that he believes kids need to be outside.

“Kids need to be communicating with green things and wildlife, it’s what we are hardwired to do as humans. It is proven that ADHD is more prevalent when you are stuck indoors, glued to your Xboxes,” said Vandeventer.

And to that point, Drackett agrees with the “Snake Man.”

“From one of my favorite books, Last Child in the Woods, written by Richard Louv, kids want to be inside because that’s where the electrical outlets are. Kids are increasingly being diagnosed with nature deficit disorder,” said Drackett.

Education about these creatures is vital to both Vandeventer and Drackett to make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what snakes actual intentions are.

Vandeventer wants communities to change their behavior toward snakes, and with these changes, he believes that both snakes and humans can live peacefully together.

“Our culture used to smoke lots of cigarettes, and we used to not wear seat belts, but now we don’t because we are more educated about the topics. I feel the same way about the topic of snakes. If we become more educated about them, we will soon change our behavior towards them,” Vandeventer said.

According to the “Snake Man,” 90 percent of snakebites happen when the person is trying to kill the creature. Also, Vandeventer mentions that the number one preventable injury—from animals—in America is the snakebite.

Any questions or concerns about snakes can be directed to Vandeventer at (601)371-7414 or email him at