I have always been interested in reptiles, especially snakes. In 1991, my parents got me a baby green iguana. The following later, a friend accidentally released it in our backyard, much to my dismay.
I finally was able to convince my parents to let me have a pet snake in February of 1993. Of course, it helped my case that a friend of mine had convinced his parents to let him have one a few years earlier. About a week after Mom and Dad said yes, we all found ourselves at a local pet shop near my dad’s office, and soon, I was home gazing as Jasmine, an adult ball python (Python regius).
A few years later, I had the opportunity to attend the National Reptile Breeders Expo when it was in Orlando, Florida. It was an awesome experience, seeing this gigantic room full of vendors with tables full of all sorts of herp species I had never heard of.
During the summer of 1998, I applied at my local pet store for job. After months of pestering them via phone calls, they finally hired me that December (I think just to shut me up!). During my employment there, I kept a wide variety of reptile species, including giant pythons, aquatic turtles, geckos, large monitor lizards, iguanas, skinks, various types of hognose snakes, boas, legless lizards, salamanders, tree frogs and enormous bullfrogs. I worked there until the fall of 2002, when I left for college out-of-state.
While at school in Tennessee, I worked part-time at the nearby PETsMART until 2007, when I graduated and returned home to Alabama. I also returned to working at my local pet store (finally quit there in 2010). That fall, I met the girl who later became my wife, and she was quick to share my interest in reptiles. Within months of dating, I got her a Kenyan sand boa as her first snake.
In 2008, I got interested in African house snakes, and began building a breeding colony. I quickly learned there were more than one species, and that there were several color and pattern mutations to work with as well. That fall, I had three albinos in the collection. We also tried our hand at breeding a pair of Uromastyx lizards.
In 2010, I started a local herp society called the Gulf Coast Association of Reptile Keepers (GCARK), of which I still am director.
In 2011, I gave up on breeding and keeping snakes, and started downsizing my collection. My herpetological interest did take a curious turn about the time my son was born in April of that year. For some reason, I acquired the strange desire to own a tortoise. For nearly two decades, I had always been a lizard and snake guy, but as I was selling off snakes every few weeks, I could not shake this yearning. So I soon adopted a baby African spur-thighed tortoise (Geochelone sulcata). I fell in love with the little guy immediately, and soon adopted a baby red-footed tortoise (G. carbonaria) as well. I will definitely say that keeping tortoises is nothing like keeping lizards and snakes, and I made a few mistakes during the first few months before I finally got their husbandry right!
Eugene Bessette, a well-known pioneer of the reptile industry in some circles, once said in regards to breeding snakes that you must be a “student of the serpent.” In other words, instead of worrying so much on what this care sheet says or trying to match what so-and-so told you, be attentive to your own animals and they will let you know if you’re doing something wrong. While not as expressive as some pets, reptiles will certainly show signs when something is amiss in their environment, whether natural or in captivity. We as keepers just have to be in tune with them day in and day out. That is why I have adopted and paraphrased Mr. Bessette’s statement, and will strive to be a Student of the Reptile. After all, we are all students, as we never stop learning throughout our lives.
I still have my first snake, Jasper (formerly Jasmine, upon the discovery that “she was a he!). But looking to the future, my goal is get in the field more, finding native herp species in their natural habitat, doing more outreach with GCARK, simply taking in rescue herps when possible, as well as focusing on my reptile-themed radio program, Alabama Herp Radio.
In this blog, I will try to share everything that I have learned through my own experiences working with herps. I will certainly be the first to say that I do not know everything. But what I do know, I try to back up with references or with my own observances. And I am constantly learning.
I hope you enjoy this site,