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
|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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'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).
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).
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
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.
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"
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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