Reptile Show returns to Towerlane Mall
The Airdrie Echo - Wednesday, August 24, 2005 - Jeff Harris
FCB Towerlane Mall was invaded last weekend by some creepy crawly critters.
The Wrappin About Reptiles show returned to the mall and once again brought with it an assortment of truly unique reptiles. As always, the snakes took center stage, but a Tortoise, a tarantula and some lizards were also on hand to add some variety.
Dean Harper is the owner and operator of Wrappin About Reptiles and he sees these shows as a great opportunity to dismiss some of the myths surrounding his slithery friends.
"We're not here to scare people we are here to educate them," Harper said. "We're here showing kids of all ages where these animals are coming from."
"You're seeing animals from all around the world, learning about there environment," he added.
Harper has been collecting snakes since he left home at 17, at which time he purchased a Boa Constrictor. But he had been working in a pet store since the age of 12 and was already known as the reptile guru.
The Olds resident currently owns more than 100 reptiles and truly has a passion for them. Feeding his collection alone costs $700, but that amount can double if there are babies.
"This is a full-time job between cleaning, feeding, sickness or anyone that is going through a hard shed - which is the snake removing its old layer of skin," Harper said.
A lot of reptiles are good for pets, but some are definitely not. People should be aware that although a Boa Constrictor may be very small when first purchased, it can grow to up to nine feet long.
"While some of these animals may look really cool to have as a pet when you see (them) in the store, (they) actually don't make the best pet in the world," Harper said.
There are many snakes that would make great pets, but doing research to understand what would be in the owner's and pet's best interest is imperative. A person must also understand what the animal needs to survive as far as food and environment goes. Harper's African tortoise Mortimor requires very hot temperatures in his enclosure and 50 pounds of hay a week for food. These types of demands make such animals quite difficult to own.
Harper travels all over Western Canada doing shows with his reptiles. This year he believes that he has done more than 200 shows, but he ensures that none of the reptiles are put under to much stress from the traveling.
"The animals that we have here today are not the animals that we will using at the next venue next week," he said. "They get rotated. These guys get their rest and their meals while we use the next batch of animals."
Harper does not view his pets as workers and maintains a strict guideline on how they are treated.
"They are pets first and working animals second," he said. "They always will be pets first.
"The day I start looking at them as working animals and not my pets is the day I shouldn't be doing this," he added.
Harper may be a snake guru, but realizes that his slippery friends still hold many secrets.
"You never stop learning about these animals," he said. I will never say I know everything about them, because I don't. Every day I'm learning something new. It's always amazing."