Abilene resident, Maxwell Hicks, is a snake handler for Big Country Snake Removal and owner of Max’s Morphs.
The 24-year-old, bearded vagabond makes his living breeding and safely evacuating reptiles and other animals from private properties across Abilene and the rest of the Big Country. Primarily in ball pythons, he specializes in creating unique breeds, revealing the best and most vibrant qualities from the male and female specimens.
Hicks does not keep all of his work secluded, opening bits of his operation for tours and field trips, teaching about the genetics and geography of all the animals he keeps. When not attending reptile conventions and meeting other breeders, he spends his time herping the wilderness.
Deriving from the term herpetology, herping is defined as the act of searching for snakes and other reptiles.
“Not only do I do this for my own hobby, but my education in studying their patterns according to the weather and habitat,” Hicks said.
Although he finds a variety of things like human remains on his ventures, this does not stop him from exploring the the U.S. and England in search of new species and research.
“The love Max has for reptiles can be compared to that of Steve Irwin,” said Ashley Hicks, a freshman environmental science major from Abilene, and girlfriend of Hicks. “His passion is genuine and his knowledge blows me away.”
Hicks said he believes it is vital that people expand their knowledge on reptiles, voicing negative views on the Rattlesnake Roundup ran by the Sweetwater Jaycees in Sweetwater.
Hicks said the event was “a gimmick for selling novelty items.” He said his previous visits led him to believe everything they say strays from the facts they put out about snake, and the reasons they kill the snakes.
According to Hicks, CroFab and Red Rock Biologics, the two companies that create anti-venom vaccines in North America, retrieve venom from seven venom labs across the country. This does not include the Roundup at Nolan County Coliseum, which Hicks claims is not sanitary enough to properly extract venom samples.
Not only this, but Hicks said he believes many of the facts the Roundup tells visitors are false, exaggerated and used as scare tactics to gain supporters for the actions they make at the event.
Hicks said people should do their research before they voice their fear of snakes.
“The opposite of fear is education,” Hicks said. “The more you learn about something, the more you care about it.”
Although he has spent three years professionally in the business, his years of interest and willingness to explore have taken away any fear, which he wishes others would be open to do.