TIFTON–A strong fear of snakes turned into a love of education for Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College student Triston Hansford. Hansford, a junior natural resource management major from Winder, is the owner and operator of the Longleaf Snaketuary.
Before coming to ABAC, Hansford could not bear the thought of being in the same zip code with a snake. He had a strong passion for wildlife, but snakes were not in the picture. Hansford credits conquering his fear to the amazing professors in the Forestry and Wildlife department at ABAC.
“I began to develop a respect for all wild things that eventually turned into a love for snakes,” Hansford said.
Hansford will be in Alapaha on Oct. 10 at 1 p.m. at the Gaskins Forest Education Center to show the public a variety of king snakes, milk snakes, a hognose snake, a rat snake, a corn snake, and other reptiles. There is no charge, but attendance is limited to 20. Visitors must pre-register at the Longleaf Snaketuary Facebook page.
Hansford is the President of ABAC’s student chapter of the Wildlife Society. After attending many educational events through the organization, he realized that wildlife education was his calling.
“So many folks have a fear of snakes that often results in harm for snakes and people, and I used to be one of those people,” said Hansford. “In the end, what helped me to get over my fear was learning about them, so that’s exactly what I aim to do for others.”
Hansford said his goal is to teach people about snakes in the hope that they develop a respect for the species and have healthy interactions with snakes as they encounter them in the wild.
After Hansford purchased two king snakes, the Longleaf Snaketuary was born. Longleaf now has many species including a rat snake, corn snake, ball python, and more. Other than education, Hansford hopes to serve the community by rescuing unwanted, neglected, or needy snakes and reptiles and giving them a good home.
Earlier this year Hansford received his license to be a wildlife exhibitor in the state of Georgia. Having this license allows him to keep certain native species of wildlife for educational purposes. He said the state of Georgia protects all native non-venomous snakes and lizards, therefore the only legal way to have possession of these animals is to have a license.
Hansford has the goal of attending graduate school after completing his ABAC education next fall. To keep up with the events and activities of Longleaf Snaketuary or to contact Hansford about a snake or reptile rescue, follow the Snaketuary page on Facebook.