TAMPA (FOX 13) - For most of us, snakes tap into a hard-wired fear. For entomologist Daniel Dye, snakes are a way of life.
At his north Florida home, he's never killed a snake. Instead, using a loop, he carefully relocates venomous snakes.
"I gotta say, they don't want to bite. They'd rather flee," Dye explained.
Dye said he thinks too many snakes are being killed for reasons not based on facts, but fear and misinformation.
"More people are harmed every year, some seriously, by dogs and horses, than a snake bite. Do we shoot every dog we see? No we don't," he said.
For Mikey Evans, snakes bring up fears rooted in his own personal truth. He was bitten by one of two diamondback rattlesnakes he came across in July, 2006.
FOX 13 News visited Mikey shortly after he was bitten. His father, Joe Evans said one of the snakes that struck his son was too young to control it's venom.
"From the venom actually working its way through the body, he turned green up under his arm pit up to his chest area. He looked like he was bruised, but they said, 'no. It was from the venom," Joe Evans explained.
Doctors administered 72 vials of experimental anti-venom, flown in from Miami and California, to counteract the toxin that permanently damaged Mikey's nerves.
At a physical therapy session two months after his encounter, the physical therapist showed FOX 13 News two remaining open wounds on Mikey's leg. Both were placed there by surgeons to relieve the intense pressure caused by the swelling.
A decade later, along with a prominent rattlesnake tattoo, those physical scars are still visible, but for Joe, the mental scars are the most daunting.
"It looked like you just took it and dipped it in boiling oil. You know, it was almost like a bargain. OK, take his leg, but save his life. Then it looked like the foot was going to go, so it was, take the foot, save the leg," he recalled.
"That is so rare for that to happen - for someone to step on a snake," Dye explained of Mikey's run-in with the rattler.
He said he understands the importance of telling Mikey's story, for awareness and education.
He says, snakes play an important role in the balance of nature.
"If we were to just eliminate all the venomous snakes, or any other snake, guess what? The insect population would boom, the rodent population would boom, fleas would boom, tics would boom," Dye explained.
Dye takes his pet snakes to classrooms and meetings to help protect people and snakes through education.
"My favorite is an easy way to distinguish look-alike snakes; the harmless Scarlett King and the venomous Coral. If red touches yellow, that’s the Coral snake. You think of it like you're approaching a stop light. The light turns yellow, then it turns red, you stop," Dye explained.
He added, trying to identify vipers by the shape of their heads, like triangular versus rectangular, is no effective.
There are some ways to protect yourself from bites, he said, which begin with taking care to check your surroundings before sitting on a rock or limb. If you're hiking, stay on trails and wear boots that cover your ankles.
Finally, if someone tells you the only good snake is a dead snake, remember people have been struck by snakes while trying to kill them.
In one study, "intentional exposures" including aggravating, handling, or engaging the snake, caused two thirds of the bites. Almost half of the unintentional exposures were associated with use of alcohol.
For more information on snakes and snake bites, visit the following resources:
6 Tips for preventing snake bites: https://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/2015-2016/09/20150918_rattlesnake-bites.html
The Truth about Snakebite: http://snakesarelong.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-truth-about-snakebite.html