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Sunday, August 8, 2010

What if? Nasty pets.

The title sounds strange but its the best I could come up with. Over the years I have had a few snakes as a hobby. They were corn snakes, Elaphe guttata guttata. They're well know for their good disposition and make great beginner snakes. The one pictured at the top is from Google Images and is representative of the species. Breeders have made quite a few interesting varieties such as albino, amelenistic and so on. The beautiful patterns being bred are amazing.
I have been to a lot of reptile shows and there's something that down right scares me. If you ask the right people in the right way, you will enter the world of back room dealing, usually a motel room near the show or even a van in the parking lot. These places are sometimes called the "hot zone" because what you find are deadly, poisonous and usually illegal reptiles. These are called "hot herps" and most of the time there are more than reptiles available for the right money. A few of my herp friends have told me stories about the great buy on Russel's viper babies, spectacled cobra babies and other insane purchases. Most of these creatures were illegally imported (smuggled) into the US. One fellow I knew bragged about bringing a dozen Australian tiger snake babies home on an airliner in his carry on bag. This was before 911 but it should have been found none the less. Another ran his mouth off about how he had a group of juvenile pit vipers (I don't remember the species, but they were from Africa) that struck so fast they terrorized him and he could only feed them pinkies (newborn mice) with a pair of long tongs. One wackbag had the misfortune of having a box of newborn, newly captured Mojave rattlesnake's ( the deadliest species in North America) turnover in his van on the way to a meet in Los Angles. That must have made for some exciting driving on I-10! Another friend told me the story of a collector from Indonesia who brought a box of funnel spiders (deadly and very aggressive) from Australia to a show for back room dealing. There is a lot of money to be made.
Now, here's what really bothers me. Scenario: there is a major earthquake, riots, economic collapse, name your poison. The collector who owns these deadly creatures has released them because he's A-crazy B-can't afford to take care of them C-he's dead and unknowing looters have let the wee beasties loose. Now we have a real big problem. These things will breed if they are in the right environment and your troubles have multiplied. Its not really a major threat and doesn't rank up there with lack of water, food, shelter and civility. But, it compounds the survival problem and adds an unnecessary concern to the already mind boggling situation. There may  be some anti-venom for native fauna available-maybe-but, for exotics, I don't think there is a chance of having any. Plus, having to deal with an animal who's habits and actions you know nothing about really sucks.Having to deal with exotic deadly creatures just adds more chaos into the mix.

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