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The Herps of La Crosse

Living With Herps

Easy Herp Monitoring

Herps as Pets

General Herp Info

Suggested Reading and Bibliography


About Me and Contact Info

About Me


Here are some pictures of me with snakes that are not for sale at The Living Fossil.  But rest assured, there are many pet reptiles to be found within our store!  On the left is myself with a bullsnake (a protected species in Wisconsin), and on the right is myself with a northern water snake.

Unlike most other kids, I didn't spend most of my time hanging out with friends, partying, watching TV, bugging my parents, or any of those things that kids do.  At a very early age (just before kindergarten) I took on a huge interest in dinosaurs, learning all the names I could, and getting my mom to buy me books upon books (even though she was broke, sorry mom).  I felt like I just couldn't get enough info about them.  Then in about 2rd grade, I took on an interest in birds, bats, and sharks.  I still maintained an interest in dinosaurs, but my new found hobbies began taking up more of my time (especially birds).  I spent a lot of time chasing birds and trying to identify them.  In fact, I even began photographing them when I was in 3rd-4th grade.  My mother was rather surprised at how much effort I put into learning about these creatures.

Then when I was going into 4th grade, I went over to my Uncle's house.  He had just come back from Texas with a western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), and we went off to the pet shop to get a mouse for it to eat.  When I was at the pet shop, I went to look at the reptiles for sale, because I hadn't gotten many chances to see them.  Unfortunately, they didn't have many reptiles for sale (only iguanas, anoles, and ball pythons), so we got the mouse and went back to feed the rattler.  When we got back, the rattlesnake did a perfect job of dispatching the mouse, and I was just amazed with the animal.  This was probably my first experience with reptiles, and it was what got me really interested in them. 

When I got back home to Rochester MN, I went to the local nature center, and one day, while banding perching birds, someone caught a 3 foot Fox snake, which got me even more interested.  The next year I moved to La Crosse WI, and was just starting to want to learn about reptiles.  When I got to my new school, I didn't really know any of the kids there and so I used up most of my free-time reading about amphibians and reptiles in the library.  One day, a future friend of mine got kind of interested in what I was reading as well, so we decided to go down to the local marsh and catch some reptiles and amphibians, because he had seen them there before.  When we got to the marsh, he told me where he had seen the snakes earlier.  As I walked through the field looking for snakes, I remember feeling nervous about finding one (I had never caught one before).  Just then, I saw movement in the grass.  It was a 2-foot garter snake.  After pursuing the garter snake for a little while, I finally reached down and grabbed it right behind the head (which I now know is not the best way to catch a snake), and from that moment on, I became obsessed with reptiles.  During the next four years I spent time studying intensely about herps, catching as many snakes and frogs as I could (releasing most of them), subscribing to reptile magazines, and started building a collection of exotic reptiles by working at my dad's station and doing chores.  It was during this time that I decided to make reptiles my career.

At the end of that four years (right before I turned 15), I made my dream a reality by applying for a job at a local privately owned pet shop.  This shop had a few reptiles (about 15), but no clue how to properly care for them.  It took a little while (I applied 4 times), but finally they realized that I knew what I was talking about (despite my young age), and, after firing the other two "reptile people" who worked there, hired me.  Immediately, I cleaned up their tanks, educated the other workers about how to care for reptiles, and which species would sell the best.  After my first 3 months of employment, the store owner realized that I was skilled enough to keep many different reptiles in good shape to be sold as pets, so they started stocking more animals.  Before I knew it, I was caring for 60 reptiles at the store, starting high school, and caring for the 30 reptiles I had at home.  During the next 3 years, I worked at the store, taking care of about 60 animals at a time, and replacing our stock by going to large reptile shows to  hand pick healthy herps that we could sell at the store.

    Some of the nicer animals that I had cared for at that pet shop included:

  • Tiger Reticulated pythons

  • Jungle Carpet pythons

  • Spotted pythons

  • Albino Burmese pythons 

  • Rainbow boas

  • Various sand boas

  • Boa constrictor imperator

  • Many colubrids

  • Argus monitors

  • Tegus

  • Black-throated monitors

  • Uromastyx lizards

  • Day geckos

  • 8 different species of chameleons

  • Red-eyed treefrogs

  • Blue poison dart Frogs. 

   With the money I made from working at the store, I was able to establish a very nice personal collection (including a dozen animals worth at least $500, and numerous more common species).  During this time, I also started selling custom built tanks for reptiles, and taking special orders for animals if the store did not carry one that a customer wanted. 

   When I turned 18, just as everything seemed to be working out perfectly, my boss told me that they were moving the store to Iowa.  I was still 6 months away from graduating high school, and I could not move there to work for the store.  However, after 3 years of working there, I had taken care of about 1,600 reptiles and amphibians, with only a 3% mortality rate (most of which were already sick when they came into my possession).  So even though the store had moved, I had at least gained a large amount of experience from working there, and built a great personal collection of herps in the meantime. 

   So, I enjoyed a little time off from working during the end of my high school career, but at the same time I started posting ads in pet shops for exotic reptiles, custom cages, and herp care and advice.  After graduation I worked for 2 years selling reptiles out of my house ( I moved out before I graduated), by simply inviting people to come over, showing them pictures from my 350+ books regarding herps, and letting them choose the one they wanted.  I also took on drywall, roofing, and gutter construction jobs to earn extra money, and indulge in purchasing the occasional new reptile. 

   During these 2 years, I able to save up enough money to start a reptile & fish specialty shop by the age of 20.  I took on a partner and opened The Living Fossil in downtown La Crosse.  My main goal for the shop was to offer high quality fish and reptiles for a cheap price, while giving out advice on proper herptile care.  I have since turned 21, and have been in business for 7 months.  Already, I have had nearly 200 reptiles (both common and exotic) pass through the store and on to good homes.  In addition, over the past 11 years, I have cared for nearly 1,600 herps in the last pet shop I worked at, and have had 149 herps in my personal collection.  If you add those three numbers together, it equals about 1,921 herps (encompassing 105 species), which I've cared for at one time or another, and I'm just getting started. 

   I have also performed 3 surgeries, which include: removing a retained eye cap from a chameleon, surgically removing a chameleon's tongue, and removing a nasal passage blockage from a water dragon.  I have also dissected a water snake.  In addition, during the last 7 months that The Living Fossil has been in business, I have went to the National Reptile Breeder Conference and Trade Show in Chicago.  While there, I was able to meet some of the people that I have been reading about for years in reptile related publications, plus I was able to visit someone who keeps hundreds of venomous snakes, and am now starting to work with them as well.  In fact, during May of '02, I caught 18 timber rattlesnakes (by hand) in La Crosse County, which was a very exciting experience. 

   My new goal is to properly educate the public how to care for reptiles, eliminate myths about them, continue doing public reptile shows, offer quality animals for sale, and try to keep as many different species as I can.


 Coming Soon:

Reptiles in my personal collection


Local Reptiles I=ve caught


Reptiles at my shop