Hi! My name is Mike Wilbanks. I have been keeping reptiles for almost 40 years now. I had my first baby snakes at the age of 6 when a Garter Snake I had captured turned out to be gravid and gave birth in her enclosure. As I set each baby snake down in a different place and watched as it slithered away, I dreamt of living my life working with these animals. I have been obsessed with snakes since as long as I can remember. I guess it is in my blood. My grandfather, Fred Wilbanks, gave me a picture of himself in the 1934 with a bull snake wrapped around his neck. I grew up hearing about his pet snakes. My dad, Joe Wilbanks, had an Indigo during my early childhood. My dad made snake hooks out of old golf clubs and shaped pieces of metal. We used to hunt reptiles together often while I was growing up and my mother was always very supportive of any new prizes we brought home. When I was 14 years old, I bought my first Burmese Python from a local pet store. Before this time, I never even considered buying a snake. When I got that first python I was hooked. She was so much different than the colubrids I was used to keeping.
So, I wanted to make working with snakes, herpetology, a career since the first time I was asked that question. My mom used to keep a book about us kids. Every year she would ask us questions and either her or later, we would fill in the answers. Every time the question was asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I said “herpetologist”, “zoo keeper”, “pet shop owner”, something to do with snakes. Unfortunately while those careers would be appealing to many people, none held much appeal for me either because of monetary limitations or because of the political stuffiness of academia. I wanted to “have my cake and eat it too” as the saying goes. So, snakes would just be a hobby for me so I could maintain my freedom while keeping and studying these animals. Then I discovered the morphs. Well, we sort of all did, when Bob Clark hatched the first Albino Burmese Pythons. Now there was a way to work with snakes, make a good living, and still maintain the freedom being your own boss bestows upon you.
So there it is. In the mid 90s I discovered the possibility. By the late 90s I had made almost every mistake in the book. By early 2000s I was starting to see some real success. In April 2014, we celebrated our 15th year as a corporation, Wilbanks, Inc. I have traveled the world, met some great people, had some life changing experiences, both good and bad, and mostly had the time of my life doing a job that never really feels like a job but sometimes feels like much more, both good and bad.
I called this blog a “Manifesto” because that word implies the sort of edge of insanity it takes to really make it in the Ball Game. Also, using that word, allows me the freedom to write about everything without regard to wether it sounds crazy to the reader. That book of mistakes I made, I am going to write about them. The fun, the success, the failure, everything is on the table. I want to make this a place people can go for an insight into how we do things and hopefully help more ball pythons thrive in captivity. If you are still crazy enough to dream this dream and work hard doing something you love and never working again, then you will want to subscribe. I do not have all of the answers and I am still learning, but I bet you can get an idea or two about another way to do things. Welcome and I hope you enjoy.