Writers only slightly rattled by venomous snake stunt

By Caroline Fontein and Aleza Freeman

100_0235Getting snake eyes in Vegas has taken on a literal meaning with animal adventurer Donald Schultz’s “Venom in Vegas” event.

For 10 days, Schultz is spending all of his time in a 16-foot by 20-foot glass box with some of the deadliest snakes in the world. The stunt started on Jan. 17 when he entered the box in front of O’Sheas along with 50 snakes.

Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to go inside the box for a short interview with Schultz. Five more snakes are added to his temporary home each day (for a total of 100 snakes on the 10th day), so there were about 65 snakes when we visited.

100_0254Before we could enter the box, we were required to fill out extensive paperwork and to suit up in body armor, leaving only our faces exposed.

The distinctive sound of a rattlesnake greeted us as we entered the temperature-controlled box. The snakes, captured from all over the world, mostly huddled in the corners and near the walls, while some slithered around in a fake tree. A couple curious snakes ventured out to check out the action, although one of the more deadly snakes, a viper, didn’t seem particularly happy with our presence, and struck out at us a couple times.

We were anxious while standing in the box at times only inches away from some of the snakes, but Schultz looked like he was just hanging out in his bedroom at home. He sat at ease, while we lurked in the corner, talking to us about the various snakes in the box, including a Mojave rattlesnake, a python and a boa constrictor. Some even more deadly snakes like a Black Mamba will be added toward the end of the event.

While most people view eating, sleeping and bathing amidst a collection of deadly snakes as something from their worst nightmare, Schultz said that the hardest thing about the event is staying in a confined space (and the cold water shower). Growing up in South Africa, his fascination with snakes started when he was 6 years old. He handled his first venomous snakes at 8 years old, and has years of experience researching, tracking and handling snakes from all over the world.

Schultz said the idea behind Venom in Vegas is to raise awareness about snakes and some of the rural areas in the world where they are considered conflict animals and are sometimes killed in self-defense. By capturing the snakes, he provides them with a safe place to live in captivity and provides a safer living environment for people with limited resources for snake bite treatment.

Along with the snakes, Schultz has the first-season DVD of Lost, books and a Flogging Molly album to help keep him entertained. Several Vegas celebrities are expected to go inside the box and visit with Schultz.

The stunt is being filmed as part of a two-hour special edition of Animal Planet’s new series “Wild Recon” slated to air Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. The series premiered earlier this month and chronicles Schultz’s adventures with some of the deadliest animals on the planet.

Take a look as we go inside the box with Donald Schultz and some of the most dangerous snakes in the world: