Past Reptilian Pets

While I have also kept the occasional frogs, toads, and newts, as well as numerous fish and one dog.  I present only the reptilian pets here, in keeping with the theme of this section of my site.  I've tried to list them in chronological order as best as I can remember.  Some of the dates are based on what was recorded in my mom's account of my school years, so the dates might be off by a year since my records were organized by school year, rather than calendar year.  
You'll notice that most of these reptiles were kept in what today are recognized as substandard conditions, and my track record with these animals was deplorable.  We are very fortunate today to have Internet access to assist us in gathering information on proper care.

Unnamed | Skinky | Harry | Snapper | Harold | Bozo | Unnamed #2 | Mr. Mouth | Max and Mary | Lionel | Gizmo and Stripe | Melio | Ayatollah | Wiesner | Bud | Reginald and Hortense | Biscuit | Sinclair | Nibbles | Twitchy and Scratchy | Tuco | TX Banded Geckos | Desert Banded Geckos

1980:  Unnamed (Texas spiny lizard, Sceloporus olivaceus)--We took a family vacation to Galveston, Texas.  On the way home, we stopped in Wimberley to visit one of my dad's former coworkers who had retired there.  He had a log cabin, and in back was a greenhouse he made out of the bottoms of green glass bottles cemented together, and a wooden tool shed.  Inhabiting the tool shed were numerous Texas spiny lizards.  I was fascinated by them, and we (my father, his friend, and I) decided to try to catch one.  After several failed attempts, we spotted one perched on a shovel handle.  My dad and his friend lifted the shovel, with lizard still attached, and lowered it into a cloth sack.  Presto!  My first pet.  I knew nothing about how to keep reptiles.  I put it into a coffee can with a screen lid and a little dirt.  I tried feeding it ham, but couldn't get it to eat, so we released it (at our home in Oklahoma City, beyond the edge of the species' known range--this is, of course, a Bad Idea!).  A few days later we saw it in the garage, but after that it was gone.
1982:  Skinky (five-lined skink, Eumeces fasciatus)--While visiting relatives in Bourbon, Missouri one cold early-spring morning, I went for a walk in the woods.  Out of curiosity, I flipped a rock and was startled to see what I thought was a garter snake (due to the black and yellow/white stripes) "slithering" through the soil beneath.  Thinking quickly, I grabbed him, and he became a pet.  I wasn't very creative with names, so "Skinky" it was.  He was sort of ornery, biting me soon after capture and again to startle me so he could run up my arm, out of his cage, and across the living room floor.  Skinky lived for about a year and a half.
1982:  Harry (five-lined skink, Eumeces fasciatus)--Later that year, while we were away on a family vacation, my grandfather was visiting with our next-door neighbor when he saw a small striped lizard in the bushes.  Thinking it was my escaped pet, and how distraught I'd be if I returned home to find it missing, he went through a lot of trouble to capture it (Skinky spent a lot of time burrowed under the soil in the cage, so it would be easy to assume he wasn't "at home").  I sure was surprised to find TWO lizards in the cage when I got home!  I had Harry about a year.
1982:  Snapper (box turtle, Terrapene sp.)--My grandfather brought me a box turtle (probably an ornate, but the coloration I remember more closely resembled an Eastern box turtle, Terrapene carolina) he found on a road near Washington, Oklahoma.  I only had it for around 24 hours.  I was keeping it in a cardboard box, and left it on my back porch while I went to the library.  Unfortunately, an infamous Oklahoma wind storm kicked up while I was away, and when I got home, I found the box overturned and the turtle was long gone.  I cried and cried.  
1982:  Harold (ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata)--After I lost Snapper, my friends Mark and Lance, who lived across the street, felt sorry for me and gave me one of the turtles they had found at their new house being built (they were moving out into "the country," outside of Mustang, OK--southwest of Oklahoma City).  They had named it "Snipper," but I renamed it Harold.  I still have that turtle today!  Although "he" is a female, I didn't know at the time, and once I found out, I couldn't bring myself to change the name (or my referring to the turtle as "him").  I almost lost Harold at least twice as a child; once when I brought him to Cub Scout camp for a turtle race (turns out he could climb out of the temporary wooden box I had used to transport him), and once when I was playing outside and set him down to walk around, then forgot about him for a few minutes.  He hid in a nearby flower bed, but for all I knew he had caught a train out of town.  My grandfather helped me find him the next day.  I've had him ever since!  His page is here.
1983:  Bozo (green anole, Anolis carolinensis)--I bought Bozo at a pet store.  He was full-grown and pretty large for an anole (I think he was around 8 to 8 and a half inches long).  He lived with Skinky and Harry for about a year until I caught some toads and put them in the tank with the lizards.  The toads themselves weren't the problem, but to provide water for them I used a red Tupperware dish.  I forgot that according to the anole care books I had, these lizards like to sleep on red objects.  I woke up the next morning to find Bozo had drowned himself in the water dish.
1983:  Unnamed (Eastern collared lizard, Crotaphytus collaris)--My Cub Scout Pack (86) camped out in Red Rock Canyon State Park one weekend.  One of the days was a bike ride from the park (in Hinton, OK) to a historical landmark called Rock Mary, about 7 miles west.  While at Rock Mary, I found a large male collared lizard.  I chased it all around the Rock and was amazed to see it running on its hind legs (much slower than normally observed).  After a lengthy chase, it tired enough for me to capture it in front of the rest of the Scouts.  They were impressed, because the lizard vainly attempted to bite me.  I kept it in a large plastic garbage can, but didn't know about special lighting and heating requirements for this species (and many others), so I released it (not where I found it, but in a large field near my house) a few days later. The day after I released it, our neighbor found it in has flower bed.  After that, I never saw it again.
1984:  Mr. Mouth (Texas horned lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum)--I must've caught this horned lizard near my home.  There were a few empty lots at that time, and on rare occasions you would come across a "horny toad."  Although I don't remember calling this horned lizard, "Mr. Mouth," it was a misnomer as I seem to recall it was a female.  I fed it large red harvester ants from the school playground near my home, but didn't feed it nearly enough (they can eat a LOT).  While visiting a family friend, I found a male horned lizard and put it in a jar, with the intention of bringing it home to my female.  However, I left the jar on their pool deck when I went inside for lunch, and I returned outside to find a baked-to-death lizard.  I don't remember how long I had "Mr. Mouth," but it couldn't have been more than a few months.  I didn't have the ultraviolet light setup these lizards require, and it eventually died.  Texas horned lizards are now protected throughout most, if not all, of their range, and it is generally illegal to even pick one up.
1984:  Max and Mary (collared lizards, Crotaphytus collaris)--Mary was captured as a gravid female at Rock Mary (like the unnamed collared lizard from 1983), and Max was captured the next day closer to Red Rock Canyon.  Mary laid a few eggs a couple of weeks later, but died in the process (I hadn't provided her a proper nesting site, and I think she became egg-bound).  During the summer, I would put him in a 6' by 6' outdoor pen, but didn't leave him in it unattended because it wasn't escape-proof.  The rest of the time he lived in a 10-gallon aquarium (not nearly enough room for these active lizards), and again I didn't have an ultraviolet light source.  Max lived around a year or so.  
1984:  Lionel (three-toed box turtle, Terrapene carolina triunguis)--Lionel was found at a private campground during a weekend trip to Joplin, Missouri.  Although "he" is female, I didn't know at the time (I was only 10!), and  the name and associated pronouns stuck.  He shares an enclosure with Harold and is still with me!  His page is here.
1984:  Gizmo and Stripe (green anoles, Anolis carolinensis)--My sister and I bought these lizards at the State Fair of Oklahoma.  They were 2 or 3 dollars apiece, and were contained in boxes barely bigger than they were.  At the time, they were almost dead, but we nursed them back to health and they lived for a couple of years.  At one point, I couldn't find them anywhere in the cage.  Thinking they had escaped, I put the cage in my closet.  About a month later, I went into the closet and noticed movement from the cage!  They were in there, alive and well.  The cage came back into my room, and they went about their business as usual.
1985?:  Melio (amieva, Amieva sp.)--I bought this lizard from the now-defunct TG&Y department store.  At the time, the 1.5-foot lizard was housed in a 10-gallon aquarium with numerous other species of lizard (very crowded).  It was sick when I bought it--it wouldn't even open its eyes.  I thought I could revive it, but it only survived a few days.
Late '80s:  Ayatollah (3-toed box turtle, Terrapene carolina triunguis)--This was an immense box turtle!  He dwarfed the other two I had at the time (Harold and Lionel).  I think I only had him around a year.  He died of unknown causes in the winter (probably a respiratory infection).
1989:  Wiesner (side-blotched lizard, Uta stansburiana)--This small lizard was caught at a private campground in western Arizona while on a family vacation.  He was named after my dad's boss at the time (his last name, not his first!), because I thought it was a funny-sounding name (WEEZ-ner), especially for a lizard.  He was intended to be my primary visual aid for a forthcoming speech (see "Bud" below), but died a couple of months before I was to give the speech.  By this time, I was providing an incandescent bulb for my lizards (still no UV bulb in the sense we think of them today, but I think I did use a "plant light").  I also used a "hot rock," which I think played a role in Wiesner's death (as I recall, he had burns on his stomach).
1989:  Bud (fence lizard, Sceloporus undulatus)--Bud was purchased as a wild-caught adult from a pet store as an (unnecessary) companion to Wiesner.  He lived around a year.  For my first speech on deserts of the American Southwest (my junior year of high school), he served as a visual aid.  Bud got his name from the mechanic who fixed our family's motor home when we broke down in the Arizona desert while on vacation.
1989:  Reginald and Hortense (ornate box turtles, Terrapene ornata ornata)--Reginald was a large male box turtle, and Hortense was a young female.  I can't remember how I ended up with them, but my box turtle population at the time was now 4.  I "had" these turtles around two years.  When I found out I was going to the Air Force Academy after high school, I gave my 4 turtles to my then-girlfriend.  I even built a pen for them in her backyard.  While I was away, Reginald and Hortense escaped.  My faithful original two turtles, Harold and Lionel, remained.
1995:  Biscuit (ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata)--I found this male turtle on a trip between Oklahoma City and Stillwater.  At the time, I was still a cadet at the Air Force Academy (where pets aren't allowed), so I brought him home to my parents (who were also watching Harold and Lionel for me while I was at college).  Also see "Sinclair" below.
1995:  Sinclair (ornate box turtle, Terrapene ornata ornata)--I can't remember how I got this one, but I believe it was a young female.  By this time, I was up to 4 box turtles again:  Harold, Lionel, Biscuit, and Sinclair.  I had Biscuit and Sinclair all summer, but I returned to the Air Force Academy in the fall to work until I began navigator training in Florida.  I was staying with a family in Colorado Springs for the first half of that assignment, so my parents once again took care of the turtles until I moved into an apartment.  However, neighborhood kids went into my parents' backyard while I was away and took two of the turtles.  We think they took them out to play with them and then "forgot" to put them back.  Regardless, the biggest (Biscuit) and the smallest (Sinclair) were gone, but my dad found the "old faithful" two, Harold and Lionel, elsewhere in the yard.
1995:  Nibbles (wandering garter snake, Thamnophis elegans vagrans)--My friend nearly stepped on this snake when we were playing Frisbee.  The snake looked like it's been hit by a lawnmower, or stepped on, or something--broken back in one spot and some bizarre scratches further down the tail.  He's doing fine now, though, although his wounds never healed back "good as new."  He is still with me.  His page is here.
1998:  Twitchy and Scratchy (leopard lizards, Gambelia wislizenii)--These were purchased by a woman in Port Townsend, Washington, in late 1996, presumably as wild-caught adults.  She had to get rid of them two years later, so I drove from Tacoma in a U-Haul truck to pick up them and their HUGE cage.  They were in OK shape at the time, but not really "filled out" and muscular like I was used to seeing this species.  I got them to eat pinky mice, and they started looking even better.  Then, they went off their food and I couldn't get them to eat anything.  Scratchy eventually died 22 February 1999.  Twitchy would eat pinkies, but then stopped.  Then he'd eat moths for a while.  Finally, I was able to get him eating smaller lizards.  The problem, however, was the parasites in the feeder lizards, which made my lizards sick.  Twitchy died early May 2000 after a long battle with the internal parasites (a lot of protozoans, primarily).  Scratchy (L) and Twitchy
2002:  Tuco (desert kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula splendida)--I removed this snake from a family's house in August 2002.  They had mistaken it for a rattlesnake.  When I first caught it, I could only get it to eat live lizards (which I don't really enjoy doing, since I'm a "lizard guy").  After a few weeks, I was able to switch it to live pinkie mice.  Once out of brumation, it readily accepted frozen/thawed pinkies.  I came back from vacation in August 2003 to find it dead.  I think it may not have properly digested its last meal for some reason. Tuco--desert kingsnake
2003:  Texas Banded Geckos, Coleonyx brevis--I had two females of this species given to me at the end of June.  One had laid two eggs en route.  I incubated the eggs for 76 days until one finally hatched.  The hatchling lived about a month.  The two adult females died within a week of each other at the end of September.  Texas Banded Gecko
2004:  Desert Banded Geckos, Coleonyx variegatus variegatus--I had three of these given to me at the end of June 2003, and not in good health (the picture shown here shows that they were seriously underweight).  One died the day after I received them; the other two lived until early 2004. Desert Banded Gecko

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