“What draws me to [snakes] is the misunderstanding that people have towards them,” Basler said. “I like to learn what I can and share what little bit I know to show people how snakes are as good as any animal for the environment. Every animal has its place.”
Basler said he has photographed 34 of the 40 Kansas species of snake, and only needs to photograph the smooth green snake, smooth Earth snake, longnose snake, checkered gartersnake, rough Earth snake and red-bellied snake to complete his collection.
“The smooth green snake and checkered gartersnake are two of the hardest ones to find in Kansas,” he said.
He also has traveled both cross-country and abroad to capture photos of different species, including a stunning photo of diamondback rattlesnake he encountered in Oklahoma and several species he photographed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including a European adder and a nose-horned viper — one of the most dangerous European vipers. He said he tries to travel outside the country every two years.
Basler is quick to point out he isn’t a full-fledged herpetologist — someone who studies reptiles and amphibians professionally — but is instead an enthusiast. He considers himself a “herper,” someone who enjoys hunting for “herps” and participating in science, and said he enjoys contributing to the Kansas Herpetological Society’s collective knowledge.
“I’d like to have a Facebook photo album that can help people identify snakes,” Basler said, “so that they know what’s harmless and what’s not. So they can learn not to kill every snake they see thinking its venomous.”
Among those snakes commonly confused with a venomous species is the common watersnake, which many people have killed mistakenly thinking it was the venomous cottonmouth. Basler, who has a photo of himself holding a 4 1/2-foot-long common watersnake on his Facebook page, said that only two cottonmouth sightings have been confirmed in Kansas, and both were in the extreme southeastern corner of the state.
The most important reason to not kill snakes, he said, is that they provide a wide range of benefits to humans and the environment.
“As for nonvenomous snakes, most eat mice and rats and help keep them from coming a major problem,” he said. “There are a few species of nonvenomous snakes that will eat venomous snakes.
“As for the venomous snakes, their venom has been used for medicines used for treating cancers and high blood pressure. Also, there are a lot of other medical uses for venom, as well.”
He knows overcoming that anxiety about snakes is easier said than done. Humans have an instinctual fear toward snakes, something Basler said he initially had to overcome, as well.
“Yeah, a tiny bit,” said Basler, who despite all his adventures has never been bitten by a venomous snake. “Once you have been bitten by harmless snakes enough, it really doesn’t hurt or be scary anymore. I don’t freehand any venomous snakes. I have proper tools to handle them with so that they and I don’t get hurt.”
For those wishing to remove snakes from their property but not wanting to handle them, Basler said he also offers a snake removal service. Prospective clients can get ahold of him by phone at (773) 766-9596. To view more of his nature photos, follow him on Instagram at instagram.com/mindtwisted.
• Reflex action can cause an apparently “dead” snake to bite, so do not handle “dead” snakes with the hands; use a stick.
• Venomous snakes in Kansas have elliptical (cat-like) eyes and a pit between the eye and nostril.
• Wash hands after handling snakes as reptiles can carry Salmonella bacteria.
• Of the 40 Kansas species of snake, 34 are nonvenomous.
• Of the six venomous snakes in Kansas, four are rattlesnakes (Massasauga, Western diamondback, timber rattle, prairie rattler).
• Cottonmouths and Western diamondbacks are extremely rare in Kansas, and have only been documented in the southeastern corner of the state.
• Copperhead bites typically aren’t fatal for healthy adults. The elderly, those in poor health and small children could find the bite fatal, however.
• There is only one documented fatality from snakebite in Kansas since 1950.
SOURCES: POISONOUS SNAKES OF KANSAS, 1959; GREAT PLAINS NATURE CENTER