Fear of snakes is one of the most common phobias, but for one Northeast Wisconsin man, it’s the polar opposite.
Steve Keller of Menasha loves snakes and has devoted his life to convincing you that you shouldn’t be afraid of them. Keller is a snake handler, who rescues and adopts snakes from people who don’t want them. You may remember hearing about him in August when he helped remove a ball python from a woman’s SUV in Omro. Right now he owns more than 30 non-venomous snakes, several of them more than 7 feet long.
“I have carpet pythons, I have king snakes, I have corn snakes, I have milk snakes, I have hognose snakes, I have ball pythons, I have Burmese pythons, and that covers a lot of them,” he says.
Keller travels around Wisconsin doing educational presentations on snakes, where he displays the creatures to his audience, explaining facts about each one. After the show, audience members can hold and play with the snakes.
The Bible, it comes out with the first bad P.R., and it goes from there
Keller’s mission is to get the message out that snakes are friendly, non-threatening animals who are suffering from a P.R. problem.
“The Bible, it comes out with the first bad P.R., and it goes from there,” he says. “Every story out there is about a bad snake. I cannot think of one single story out there that makes a snake look friendly. Most snakes are pictured as evil, nasty, sneaky creatures, when actually they’re more gentle than most animals on the planet.”
Keller also says as long as a snake is non-venomous, the worst thing you can receive from it is a puncture wound that will heal within a day or two.
While he encourages adopting a snake as a pet, he doesn’t recommend picking them up in the wild.
“Find a reputable breeder, or find a snake that someone else has, and maybe they would like to re-home,” he suggests.
The traveling show is just the beginning of Keller’s mission. His ultimate goal is to create a Humane Society-type organization where people can bring cold-blooded animals, like snakes and other reptiles, that they no longer want.
“So I would like to be able to provide homes, and education,” he says. “I’d like to go one step further than the Humane Society does with their facility, and I’d like to continue educating people like I have been doing. There’s a lot of people out there that aren’t afraid of them anymore because they met me.”
If you’d like to book Steve Keller and his snakes for a show, you can contact him here.
For an extended look into the story of our local snake whisperer, Local 5’s Photojournalist Bobby Sherman sat down with Steve Keller.
Local 5’s Digital Content Manager Josh Rose sat down with Reporter Justin Razavi for a digital exclusive conversation on what led to the story and how it developed.