Houston & Peach

Repticon shows the warm side of cold-blooded creatures

PERRY -- People were paying good money Saturday for critters that, if discovered in most other folks’ homes, would prompt a call to 911.

Repticon at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter offered sort of a zoo reptile house where most of the creatures on display were up for sale. Exotic snakes, spiders, frogs, turtles and other things that creep, crawl and course cold blood were scattered about tables in little containers with price tags.

William Perry, of Americus, has numerous reptile friends at his home. He was at Repticon in search of a South American horned frog, commonly called the Pacman frog because it is shaped like the iconic video game character and eats pretty much whatever is put in front of it.

“I like to watch them eat,” Perry said. “Each animal feeds differently and these guys are really fun to watch.”

He was also there with the Georgia Reptile Society, which works to reduce the fears people have about reptiles so that they don’t indiscriminately kill everything they find slithering across the backyard.

“The majority of them are harmless,” he said, as he held a 7-foot Dumeril boa draped around his neck. “They are not going to hurt you. They are great for taking care of pest control.”

Melissa Floyd brought her tomato frog, named because of its color and round shape, to the show. She was letting children handle Mater.

“This is her first show,” she said. “She’s doing pretty good for her first show.”

She showed photos of another frog, Mr. Toad, that she and her husband take on every vacation. She had photos of the frog at various locations, including posing with Disney World characters.

“I like frogs, period,” she said.

Parrish Coker, owner of Bounty Hunter Exotics in Manning, South Carolina, was there with a wide variety of reptiles for sale. He said he has been involved in the hobby for more than 30 years. He had snakes, hermit crabs, tarantulas and more.

“I grew up on a farm and we stayed in the woods,” he said. “All animals have got different personalities and I like messing with the different ones.”

One lure of reptiles as pets is that they are fairly low maintenance, he said. Those such as hermit crabs can be good for children as a starter pet, he said.

For adults, sometimes it’s image creation that leads people to want to have a tarantula in their home.

“People want something big, bad and dangerous,” Coker said. “But then a few people just like spiders and they want something they can hold, and we’ve got a few that you can hold.”

Ben Nutting, of Savannah, has about 30 snakes, mostly ball pythons, at his home. He brought one of his Saturday and was letting Jodi Pharo, of Macon, handle it. She and her son, Dave, have been thinking of getting a snake.

Nutting said ball pythons are a good snakes for beginners.

“They are pretty docile,” he said. “They are not going to jump out and bite you in the face for no reason. They don’t get too big.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.