What types of reptiles first sparked your interest?
When I first “got into” reptiles, there were no stores specializing in them — hardly any were available in any pet store. There were common anoles (of course, they were called “chameleons” in those days) and baby red-eared sliders that I would confine in the infamous plastic palm tree containers while feeding them daily rations of dried ant eggs. I bought my anoles and sliders — the turnover rate was high — at a department store called Valley Fair. I remember they also sold chicks for Easter; I liked watching them run around inside their wooden crates and scratch in the pine shavings. I also got my hair cut there. Valley Fair had it all.
My first herp pets, though, were the local animals I caught and kept: ribbon snakes, box turtles, bullfrogs and salamanders. These animals typically were not for sale in stores near my house, and I loved catching and keeping them.
Urbanization has since mowed down a lot of local herp habitat, and laws now govern the collection of native animals. Wild populations of some, such as box turtles, have decreased to the point they should never be taken out of nature. And many herps are now available in stores. I wonder, then, how many of today’s young people get interested in reptiles the way I did: by catching and keeping local species.
I hope some still do — as long as they do so legally. Although REPTILES articles often discuss foreign species popular in the pet trade, such as knob-tailed geckos (pg. 36) and White’s treefrogs (pg. 28), we occasionally include articles about local herps you may not see for sale in pet stores (native herps are illegal to sell) but you might find locally in nature. The whiptail article on page 40 is featured in this issue for two reasons. First, it profiles some attractive lizards, and second, it provides captive-care tips for people who just may want to catch some whiptails of their own — while obeying local collection laws, of course.
Did you buy your first herp pets, or did you catch local species? Write to “Mailbag.”