By Rebecca Drew
MEET the all-American girl who spends her spare time hunting down and snapping herself in the wild with poisonous snakes.
These spectacular shots show biology student Gabriella Scampone (21) from Westchester, New York holding a range of serpent friends which include northern water, black racer and eastern hognose snakes.
One photo even shows her playing with a black rat snake with both parties adopting the same surprised facial expression. Another image shows Gabriella at ease with a twelve-foot long Burmese python wrapped around her petite body.
In other pictures, Gabriella is seen standing next to the venomous Copperhead snake which she says she does not handle as poisonous snakes are protected by US law.
“I grew up catching frogs and turtles for fun so I’ve been doing this for about thirteen years,” said Gabriella.
“I started catching snakes in the last three years.
“Most parents tell their young children to stay away from snakes because they are dangerous and they want to protect their kids, mine weren’t any different.
“It wasn’t until I started doing my own research online and became educated with the species in my area that I started touching them and picking them up.
“I am interacting with these animals, I am able to understand them and handle them in a way where they don’t feel like I am a threat to them.
“I hold them and let them move freely in my hands and arms.
“I don’t restrain them or pin them behind the head which is why they don’t bite me.
“People make snakes out to be such mean and blood thirsty animals but they really aren’t.
“Any animal that feels threatened or scared will defend itself, that goes for cats, dogs and fuzzy little hamsters too.”
Gabriella’s hobby is called “Herping”, which is the act of looking for amphibians and reptiles in both natural and artificial habitats. Gabriella not only looks for different snakes in the wild but also looks for turtles and keeps some snakes as pets.
As well as studying and searching for these creatures, Gabriella also works at an animal hospital and runs educational animal programmes. She says she wants to conserve and protect the snakes, adding that people are shocked when they first see her holding them.
“I have adults who message me and tell me that I’ve changed their perspective on snakes,” said Gabriella.
“There are so many people who will see a snake and kill it, not only is it illegal but it is completely unnecessary.
“Snakes eat the rodents that carry ticks and parasites that are harmful to people and there are even snakes that will eat other species including venomous ones.
“They’re important, I post pictures to share my love and passion for these animals and I hope people will see that and maybe think differently before they reach for that shovel.”
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