Brian Barczyk lives in the Detroit area and owns one of the world’s largest collection of reptiles.
Mr. Barczyk (pronounced bar-chick) runs BHB Reptiles, which breeds and sells snakes all over the world. This serial entrepreneur and “creative tornado” is one of the world’s foremost experts on snakes, reptiles and YouTube vlogging.
He is at the helm of a social media empire with hundreds of millions of followers.
Brian is a dedicated Youtuber, daily animal vlogger and his fans love that he is very interactive and responsive to comments.
As a popular television personality, he’s hosted Venom Hunters on the Discovery Channel and filmed his own documentary ‘Brian in the Wild’ in South Africa. What hasn’t this snake expert done? Brian is the globetrotting American Steve Irwin (he’s even great friends with Bob Irwin, Steve’s dad!) and he’s always traversing the world on a new journey and adventure with his lovely wife Lori.
I can see why Brian’s manifold efforts are so highly regarded. He’s high energy, inspirational, very educational and entertaining. His passion for snakes is infectious, in a good way. This man cares deeply for snakes, reptiles, animals in general and about encouraging greater compassion towards these amazing creatures.
Brian exhibits a growth mindset, he’s endlessly curious and constantly learning new things. As a school ambassador, he takes some of his reptiles around to schools and public events, helping to encourage others to be more open to snakes and allowing them to tap into Brian’s perpetual fascination.
It’s also humid as hell in here. Snakes need a jungle-like room temperature at all times.
The Captain and I are standing inside BHB Reptiles in the Detroit area. Brian is rattling off facts and figures about his snakes, machine-gun fast, with uncontainable excitement.
In the background, an African spur thigh tortoise named ‘Savannah’ is wandering around. Brian is showing us some of his other animals: Bella the rhino iguana (“We have an amazing relationship”), Karma5 (colorful Madagascar panther chameleon), Snoop Frog (Argentine horned frog) and he even has two dogs, a German Shepherd and a Husky!
“We have 10,000 animals in this building, upstairs and downstairs. Used to have 30,000+ but we downsized to help focus on the animals. The collection was getting too unwieldly to give them the proper attention.”
“Snakes, in particular, have a sort of mysterious elegance to them. They can do so much without limbs. I love all snakes, I don’t have a favorite snake. It’s like asking a parent which one of their kids is their favorite.”
Born Sept 6th, 1969, Brian is 100% Polish and grew up in Warren, Michigan. He attended Center Line High School, married the love of his life Lori in 1992 and they have a daughter named Jade and a son named Noah. BHB Reptiles is a family business run by Brian, Lori and a tremendously dedicated crew of people.
“My first memory is I’m two years old at the Belle Isle Zoo on Belle Isle in Detroit and looking at a snake. Maybe I was born with the fascination? My parents and siblings have never owned any pets, so I’m not sure where I got it from.”
“I grew up in Warren and there was a patch of woods at Frazho and Mound. I used to spend every summer there catching snakes.”
“At 15-years old, I acquired my first pet snake. My collection quickly grew to 250 snakes. In 1986, I started BHB Reptiles when I was 17-years old. Then, at 20-years old, I told my parents I was going to drop out of college to do snakes full-time and breed reptiles. Did I know if it would work? No. But I did it and it ended up working out. Sometimes you just have to go for it.”
“I’m a pretty focused, pretty addictive, ‘all or nothing’ type person. I’m curious about everything, I have a sort of unkillable, endless curiosity about a lot of things.”
“One of my favorite non-reptile hobbies is, I love playing ice hockey. I play in the beer leagues as a defenseman, usually drop-in at Fraser Ice Arena or wherever we can play.”
Brian Gets Into Snakes
“In the late 1980’s I started working with reptiles full-time. It was a weird niche at the time. Typically, people who looked like me, the tattoo & ponytail stereotypes, were the only ones who owned snakes.”
“At the time, Tropical Fish Pond (13 Mile Road and Woodward, Warren) was the only store in the Detroit area that carried reptiles. Now all the stores do. And 4-6 million households in the US own snakes.”
“Snakes also used to be a good ole boys club. But now the growth of the female part of the hobby has thankfully really taken off. From a reptile-keeping standpoint, about half the viewers on the Brian Barczyk vlog channel are females.”
Brian’s YouTube Empire
In 2008, Brian created the YouTube channel SnakeBytesTV. This was in the early days of YouTube and his channel became quite popular, so he eventually merged it with his more all-encompassing AnimalBytesTV YouTube channel.
Brian also runs the Brian Barczyk daily vlog where, yes, he vlogs every single day. “Right now were on day 466 of the vlog. It’s a daily show and we’ve been doing it every day for over a year.”
Currently, AnimalBytesTV has over 900,000 subscribers, his videos have over 160 million views and he averages 1.5 million views per month.
His other channel, the Brian Barczyk Daily Vlog, averages 13 million views per month and they’ve had a stellar past 12-months with over 94 million views!
“YouTube is a fun platform for sharing videos instantly, globally.”
“It took 10-years to get 650,000 subscribers on our AnimalBytes channel. Recently, we just hit 900,000. Lately, we’ve been averaging about 3,000 subscribers per day.”
“Our viewership is big in the USA. We also get a lot of traffic from Australia, the UK, Canada, Germany. The Middle East is a reptile hotspot right now, so is China.”
“Google is banned in China because of government censors, so the Chinese use a VPN to watch our videos.”
“I was in Shanghai last year for a pet expo and I can tell you right now that in terms of reptile-buying, China is going to drive the global demand for the next 10-years. Our YouTube vids are really popular in China and when Lori and I arrived, there was a shockingly long line of people waiting to meet us. They said it was a 4-hour long wait time!”
“It’s surreal. I don’t look at myself as anything major at all. I’m just a guy from Warren who loves snakes. Success either makes you egotistical or it humbles you. I work 7 days per week. I’m always doing animal stuff, every single day.”
“As a traveler, wildlife enthusiast and YouTuber, I’m able to take people behind the scenes and share it with them. My passion takes me around the world, I’m living my dream, can’t ask for much more. I’m always preaching the love of animals and following your dreams.”
“I film all my own videos. I shoot it, edit in Premiere Pro and upload to YouTube daily 9am EST. Yes, every single day. By 9:03am, there can be 100 comments.”
“I feel so blessed to be on this journey with my family and all my friends. Very glad we can help share the love of reptiles with the world thru YouTube!”
Brian’s Secret to Creating a Successful Social Media Empire
“It’s about timing, positioning and owning that space. Understand your niche and fill it better than anyone else.”
“The 3 C’s of Social Media are consistency, content, collaboration. Use a variety of platforms to help engage your audience.”
“My job is to find fun and bring it to my audience.”
“We generate YouTube revenue via CPM rates, which means cost per every thousand advertisement views. In social media, algorithms control everything. Algorithms dictate the frequency of advertisements and thus, ad revenue. After the unfortunate Ad Apocalypse earlier this year, YouTube’s algorithm now favorites clean, daily content.”
“I also recommend building your own private email list to bypass exclusive reliance on social media.”
“One difficulty with the whole YouTube vlog world is that I get around 1,000-2,000 comments per day. I respond to about 400-500 daily. Wish I could reply to everything.”
The Magic of BHB Reptiles
BHB Reptiles is a large business. Pet snakes for sale are upstairs (and we’re talking thousands upon thousands) and downstairs there are 3,000 not-for-sale breeder snakes in tubs in the basement.
“Each tub has feed charts, data books and a dedicated team of people interact with each snake multiple times per day.”
“The day Jessica stops working is the day I sell the company,” Brian says of Jessica Sonders who is cleaning some of the snakes tubs.
“Yes, BHB Reptiles is a business, everything we sell is on www.BHBreptiles.com but I hate selling animals. Wish I could just give them away but I gotta pay the bills.”
“Downstairs, we heat the room to 83 degrees. There is also an 85-95 degree hotspot inside each of the cages.”
There is also a brick pond in the basement. You peer into the pond and you can see RJ the 6ft long American Alligator and his pond-mate Bowser the Alligator Snapping Turtle.
“We’ve decorated the pond for Christmas, we ever have snakeskin garland.”
Next to the pond are two huge behemoth snakes. Daisy the 17-foot long yellow Reticulated Python and Lucy, who lives below her, is 20-feet long and weighs 230-lbs.
“We also have leopard geckos, blue-tongued skinks, scale-less corn snakes, Australian black-headed pythons, Brazilian rainbow boas, etc.”
“Ball Pythons are one of the best pet snakes for beginners, if you’re just starting out. We have those, too.”
“All our snakes are captive bred here. We feed them frozen mice, rats and rabbits.”
“Snakes have a Jacobson’s Organ. When they flick their tongue to taste and smell the air, they interpret that information with the help of their Jacobson’s Organ.”
“Yes, I’ve been bit before. I get bit a lot. In my lifetime, I’ve been bit over 100,000 times. When a snake bites you, just go with it, until they let go or you pry them off. Don’t just immediately yank them off you.”
“BHB Reptiles is dedicated to the highest levels of customer service. We also talk to each individual, screen them, before shipping any live animals out to them. We even have one person who answers reptile questions on the phone all day long.”
“Our customer base is truly diverse and global. Use to be the two big hotspots were Florida and California, now it’s everywhere. Only place no one can ship to is Hawaii because they have strict restrictions on live imports.”
Brian hosts Discovery Channel’s ‘Venom Hunters’
“Venom Hunters has been a great experience. We taped 6 episodes for the Discovery Channel.”
“I was called in after they had the idea. Authentic Productions in L.A. called me and said they want to do this show on collecting venom as a business. First three times I turned them down. Then finally I acquiescence to a 6-week paid trip to Australia and spending every day looking for snakes in the wild.”
“On the show, my assistant ‘Chewy’ is my friend John Lovchuk. Chewy lived in Sterling Heights and worked for me for ten years. Now he lives in Croswell in Michigan’s Thumb. We’ve known each other for years, we’re great friends and there’s great chemistry between us. I’m catching deadly snakes and this guy is the joker, we’re a good pair. He’s also a natural klutz, always falling everywhere, saying things like ‘Well the gravity is different in Australia’.
Titanoboas: One of the Holy Grails of Snakes!
“Titanboas lived 60 million years ago. They were monstrous 50-feet long dinosaur snakes and weighed 2,500 pounds! We know they lived during the late Mesozoic and early Cenozoic periods.”
“Yes, they were real and yes I have been obsessed with the thought of coming across a Titanoboa since becoming aware of them.”
“The thought of seeing a snake that size in the wild is amazing. I know how incredible handling a 20-foot python is, I just cannot imagine the power a snake of that size must have! Amazing! If anybody ever discovers one, please contact me immediately!”
Brian’s Fascinating Intrigues in Indonesia
“I was in Indonesia for an appearance on a show. We were in Bali and someone knew my friend and I, who is also ironically named Brian, were looking for a cave of reticulated pythons.”
“They draw a map on loose leaf paper for us and we take a prop plane to Labuhanbajo, beautiful scenery but very poor. We want to go to Istana Ular. He says it’ll take 3-4 hours to drive it. Luckily, my friend’s dad is the vice president of Indonesia, so we’re able to arrange it swiftly.”
“The road was unbelievably bad, very scary, 8ft wide 4ft deep potholes. We go way up into the mountains. 4 hours of crazy winding roads, and at the top of the mountain we arrive at a tiny village, Istana Ular.
“We’re taken to a little hut. Brian and I sit down and the Chief and 2 elders sit down across from us. After 15 minutes of talking in a language I can’t understand, the Chief looks back, and some lady hands him a big machete.”
“My interpreter barely speaks English, so I’m freaking out, thinking they’re gonna whack us out and chop us up right here. Turns out, they’re saying that they’ll take us to the cave for safe passage, all they want is $40.00 American dollars.”
“We hike 1.5 hours thru the jungle, no trails, hacking our way thru the jungle, until we come to a cave opening. We go in and I’m up to my waist in bat guano. I have my backpack, two cameras, nothing else, no weapons. About 150 yards into the cave, we can’t see the entrance. I suddenly can’t breathe from the nitrate from the guano, can’t catch my breath. I’m so disoriented and panicking, that I accidentally dunk my $800 camera in batshit. But in the end, we did get the footage of the pythons, so everything was well worth it!”
“I’m very proud to say that Bob Tyrrell, the famous Detroit tattoo artist who now lives in Los Angeles, is my tattoo artist. Bob is an incredibly talented artist and is always great to work with.”
“I have an African theme going, then some Australian stuff. I have 14 tats total so far. My goal is to cover my entire body with animal tattoos over time.”
The City of Detroit’s Ridiculous ‘No Reptiles’ Policy
“Yes, it’s sadly, bizarrely true that you cannot own reptiles in the City of Detroit. The DNR enforcers can legally confiscate your pet turtle. It’s been happening since the 1970’s.”
“City of Detroit Ordinances Governing Animals, Chapter 6, Section 6-1-4 states that Animal Control is authorized to confiscate and if they want to, euthanize, your pet reptile.”
“This absurd and ridiculous law needs to be repealed and fast because it’s pointless.”
City of Detroit ‘No Reptiles’ Law
Brian’s Final Thoughts
“I’ve lived almost my entire life trying to change people’s perceptions and getting them to love reptiles.”
“About ten years ago, I started publicly championing the snake cause and it became an addiction. Many humans still have that deep instinctual fear of snakes, they go into fight-or-flight survival mode when they see them.”
“Snakes are living creatures, just like cats. What if someone said ‘the only good cat is a dead cat’? They would freak out! Whereas people say that about snakes all the time, since serpents are largely perceived as evil, even though they help with rodent control and other critical things.”
“Antarctica is the only continent snakes are not found on. Everywhere else, snake populations in the wild are being decimated and I would like to see less snakes killed and more taken care of as pets.”
“I’m going to change as much as I can. Guerrilla marketing thru YouTube and other social media channels is a good way to reach the masses.”
“About 5-6 years ago, someone commented on one of our videos and said ‘I’ve always feared and hated snakes. I grew up on a farm and every time we’d see a snake, we would scream and chop its head off. This morning I saw a snake and I gently released it into the woods because of your videos’. That’s what BHB Reptiles is all about.”
c/o Fan Mail
P.O. Box 182306
Shelby Township, MI 48318
Brian Barczyk daily vlog Youtube channel
AnimalBytesTV Youtube channel
Discovery Channel ‘Venom Hunters’
Training my dog for the Iditarod dog sled race. Wish me luck! pic.twitter.com/QLG144Pt9G
— Brian Barczyk 🐍 (@SnakeBytesTV) October 27, 2017