A Georgia wildlife enthusiast found and photographed one of the rarest snakes in the southern United States — and got the whole encounter on video.
Christian Cave, a 22-year-old environmental science student at Kennesaw State University, achieved a lifelong goal of catching a rare pine snake last month.
In an on-camera interview with Fox News Digital, Cave described the moment he finally spotted the snake as “pretty insane.”
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“It was one of the most — hands down — incredible moments of my wildlife career,” he said.
The social media content creator, who goes under the brand Caveman Wildlife, went viral on TikTok after he posted the video of catching the snake.
The video has received more than 4 million views since it was posted on Oct. 13.
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Many TikTok users compared Cave to his idol: fellow wildlife lover and crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.
One user commented, “I believe that you make Steve Irwin proud! I love your excitement!”
“The Steve Irwin vibes are IMMACULATE,” another said.
Cave shared that Irwin was his “hero” growing up as a young kid with an unwavering fascination for nature.
“[Irwin] was larger than life,” he said. “I don’t think I deserve the compliment at all … but I’ll take it as a big responsibility.”
“I look at Steve still being the epitome of how you could be as a wildlife presenter, a person who’s just passionate — but I try to do the same thing.”
Now, as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of his role model, Cave has taken on his own various excursions to hunt down unique critters.
This includes the pine snake, which he has tirelessly pursued.
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The Georgia native said he’d spent five weeks in a row driving down to South Georgia, burning “a lot of gas” to come up with a lot of nothing.
On one particularly lucky outing, Cave said he and his friend, Bobby, who was recruited as “cameraman,” woke up at 4 a.m. to drive two-and-a-half hours to the sandhills once again.
The duo came across a “pristine” longleaf pine habitat with soft sand — which Cave described as “perfect” for pine snakes to burrow into, with a modified scale at the tip of their nose.
Christian Cave said he was just about ready to give up the search.
After hours of driving in his 2010 Honda Civic with no snake in sight — while facing cool and windy conditions that are not ideal for sightings — Cave said he was just about ready to give up the search.
That is, until he spotted something long and black slithering across the sand to his right.
“It was perfect timing,” he said.
“I was like, ‘Woah, dude! Get out of the car!’”
“I just found my first-ever pine snake and I thought it was a done day.”
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The moment for Cave was one of pure bliss, as the video shows him yelling out in excitement and hugging the snake to his chest.
“It was just a sweetheart,” he said.
“Pine snakes are notorious for having a very loud hiss and a huge threat display, but this snake didn’t do any of that.”
Cave said the snake seemed to enjoy his body heat and wrapped around his neck and nestled inside his shirt for warmth.
“It was a little freaked out that I was screaming so much,” he said.
“But when I calmed down with it, it was just gliding around on me.”
Cave described the pine snake, known scientifically as pituophis melanoleucus, as an “absolutely gorgeous” species that is known for its “seclusive” nature.
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“It’s a snake that’s highly sought after,” he said.
“But the problem is they’re highly fossorial — they spend a crazy amount of their life underground.”
In autumn, Cave explained that pine snake hatchlings will begin to appear and pop out of their burrows to look for meals ahead of winter.
The pine snake is also nicknamed the “ghost of the sandhills,” due to its elusiveness and the long, apparition-like tracks it leaves in the sand.
Cave added that due to habitat loss, the species is not as abundant and prevalent as it once was.
“The snakes need a pretty specific and healthy ecosystem to thrive,” he said. “And a lot of that, unfortunately, nowadays, is kind of hard to find.”
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Even though the pine snake is nonvenomous and “harmless,” it can still bite, said Cave.
Pine snakes are known to hunt rodents such as pocket gophers as they burrow into dens for most of the year.
Cave, who is “focused and passionate” about wildlife conservation and education as a whole, said he plans to further pursue habitat restoration as a career once he graduates.
The enthusiast emphasized that his larger goal is to enlighten and educate the public on the joys of wildlife — just as Steve Irwin did.
“I’ve gotten to see a lot of real education being done from my work,” he said.
“Whether it’s teachers telling me they’re using it to educate kids or parents telling me that they’re using it to educate their kids during home school … It feels absolutely surreal,” he said.
“It’s an honor.”
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