26 October 2009

Higher Education

Last weekend I took a one-credit workshop on Reptiles and Amphibians. I wasn't sure that I wanted to go as I work enough weekends already without throwing school into the mix on top of that.

I needn't have worried, as it turned out to be one of the better classes I've attended. The lecture portions on different animal groups and the keeping of herps as pets were pretty good, but the real highlight for me was the hands-on time with all the different animals. On the first day they had a caiman ( a relatively small crocodilian) in the classroom, which was a good reminder that these animals are never really tame. She spent much of the time trying to spin around and grab the instructor as he lectured about her.

Several snakes were passed around the room, so I got to handle a Rubber Boa, a Ball Python, a Great Basin Gopher Snake, and a Sand Boa on the first day. I think my favorite for the first day was the Rubber Boa. Who knew that Idaho has a native boa? I didn't know that. Here's a picture of one I found online.

We also got to touch a Great Basin Rattlesnake, which is probably not something I'd get to do outside of class. The front of the snake was immobilized in a plastic tube, so there was relatively little risk of him spinning around and biting someone. That was pretty neat. This is a picture of him, taken from the instructor's website, EcoSnake.com:

On the second day we spent a lot of time with lizards, but also more snakes. The lady doing the lecturing had some large Green Iguanas with her and explained that even though they are extremely common in the pet trade they are about the worst lizards you can get as far as temperament and sheer size of necessary habitat. She also had some Bearded Dragons and some other creatures, like Corn Snakes, Kingsnakes, a couple of Box Turtles, and a toad.

At lunchtime my wife stopped by with our Russian Tortoise so we could pass him around the room for everyone to look at. A lot of people commented on how strong Owen's legs are, as when you're holding him he attempts to pry your fingers off with his legs. We also talked the instuctor into showing her the Gila Monster, and we both got to pet him while the instructor held him in a way that he wouldn't try to bite us. Rumor has it that while the Gila Monster's venom is not exceptionally dangerous it is a very very painful bite. When they bite they don't just inject venom with fangs, they grind it into you with all of their nasty teeth.

Highlights aside from the Gila Monster were holding a Dumeril's Boa for about 30 minutes and a Bearded Bragon. The Grey-banded Kingsnake was a nice-looking snake. I liked the Dumeril's Boa a lot, but my wife said no big snakes allowed in the house. She liked the Ball Python we had a while ago, but she often had nightmares about the snake eating us.

All in all it was a lot of fun and pretty informative. The school offers several workshops with different course numbers featuring the same people as instructors, so I could take the class a couple more times for credit. The instructor's name is Frank Lundburg. Below is a picture of the Green Iguana; you can see me in the background. I'm the guy in the Denver Broncos shirt holding a snake. It's hard to see from here, but I think it's the gopher snake.

I may just join the Idaho Herpetological Society and nerd out with the reptile folks.


  1. Dear Chris
    You are a nerd after my own heart. I am a retired zoologist but I specialised in nematode worms, marine ones.

  2. Sounds like a great class. Native retilians are often overlooked for the more exotic imports much to the detriment of the local populace.

  3. i knew idaho had a native boa...whether i wanted to or not. i am married to the ultimate snake nerd.

  4. p.s. i like the picture.