A report from the field: Snake hunting with a local legend

This is Marty Martin, timber rattlesnake expert and absolute legend.

He has been hunting rattlesnakes in our area since he was a young child. His youth, in the 1950s, was filled with taking our area’s best herpetologists out to sites to show them where venemous snakes weren’t yet documented. This snake hunting eventually turned him on to ecology and the thought of pursuing college. With that, he joined our armed services to help him afford such an education.

Once in the military, he was selected to fight as a bantam weight boxer. After taking a few punches and delivering many more, he eventually hung up the gloves to fight in the Vietnam War.

After that, he spent many years traversing across several of the most dangerous places on earth (constantly seeming to find himself at ground zero for a newly emerging disease, civil war, and many other disasters).

In addition to these notable experiences that have nothing to do with snakes (but totally help you get to know Marty better), he was one of the founding members of the Virginia Herpetological Society (at only 15 years old), currently serves on the IUCN task force focused on timber rattlesnake conservation, and was the field naturalist who took Steve Irwin to find timber rattlesnakes to film for his show, The Crocodile Hunter.

Creeping up to 80 years of age, I am proud to state that today was another first for him. As we spent 7 hours climbing up and down the rocky face of a mountain – and he said it was the single ABSOLUTE WORST snake survey trip he ever had at this particular site!

Completely skunked. Not even a shed skin.

Knowing that Marty’s happiness is completely tied to the presence and well-being of local venomous snakes, I tried to point out the other natural wonders we were encountering. A feeble attempt of distraction, I walked along saying, “still a nice day to be outside though”, to which he eventually stopped.
The silence of his sudden non-movement making me whirl around to catch his gaze. 

There Marty stood staring at me with a comically puzzled look and said, “NO, ITS NOT!”.

With the life this man has lived, scratch that – SURVIVED – I am honored I could experience one of his ultimate downs with him.

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2 Comments

  1. Martin was my little big brother, we met in 82? And we become really good friends. Our hunting g trips got to become scarce as I became a locomotive engineer but we still talked on the phone as well as me dropping by once in awhile. I loved him like a family member and I don’t say this lightly. I loved rattlesnakes and had a bedroom full of them for years and years. It was great to get out to the actual hibernaculums with him. I lost touch with Zach(from NC) so if you see this please get in touch with me. It hurts me to think how Claire, and Renee are feeling right now. Please find peace in all this! I’m in tears writing this.

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