Snakes and lizards are not for everyone, but for the most part, those weren’t the hundreds of people who showed up to the annual Kansas City Reptile show on Sunday.
Most of them were more likely to be wearing one of the “I’m a reptaholic” T-shirts on sale in the lobby of the Overland Park International Trade Center where thousands of reptiles were on display.
Or they were just fascinated by the critters as was 8-year-old Savanna Smith of Kansas City, who peered through a plastic container at a bearded dragon lizard she was trying to persuade her dad, Shane Smith, to buy for her.
“Dad, I really want one,” Savanna pleaded while looking up at her father, a KCP&L lineman who already has about 30 snakes — ball pythons, mostly — at home.
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Jason Cruse, owner of Go Lizards pet store in Bonner Springs, has sponsored the show for the last 10 years.
“What we want to do is have a place where people with like interests — reptiles — can buy and sell them and we want to educate the public,” Cruse said. Reptiles, he said, are low maintenance pets.
Sunday’s show brought in some 50 reptile breeders and vendors with thousands of snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles and tarantulas ranging in price from $20 to upward of $1,000. Those in attendance got to pet, hold and photograph the animals. Some people were there to buy food for the critters they had at home. Or to arrange for a custom designed habitat for their pet.
A bright green, blue and red colored chameleon curled up its tail and crawled up Chance Kovacs’ arm onto his shoulder and then his head. Kovacs had just spent $350 for the lizard but said he’s been collecting reptiles at his Northland home for the last three years.
“I like having pets from all over the globe. Some people collect comic books or coins; this is my thing,” Kovacs said.
And it’s Falyne Cox’s thing too. The 8-year-old girl handled her new ghost horn snake like a pro, letting it slither around her arm and through her fingers.
Most of the snakes at the show were some breed of ball python named because they like to hide their heads and curl up into a ball.
Falyne picked her pinkish colored snake from among all the others at the show “because its pretty,” she said. She learned about snakes from her brothers who breed boas and sell them online through their Facebook page.
Across the aisle a crowd formed around the crested geckos and gargoyle geckos Apex Exotics had on display. And they didn’t look anything like the green Aussie accented critter in the Geico insurance commercials.
“The crested geckos were thought to be extinct until 1994,” said Khoi Nguyen, a breeder with Apex Exotics. “They produce two eggs a month; that means a female can produce 16 babies a year,” Nguyen told a curious customer who said she was thinking about buying one of the little lizards.
Prices on Nguyen’s rusty red, gray, white, spotted and striped geckos vary depending on the “bloodline, colors, traits and unique skin patterns” he said. “People really like the cream colored ones,” he said. Those are the most expensive.
Joe Brashear of Overland Park walked through the crowd stroking his blue and red tokay gecko, Hurricane. Tokays are mean and bite a lot, Brashear said. Hurricane is trained now. But when Brashear first got him, four years ago, Hurricane bit the hand that fed him “more than 100 times,” Brashear said.
Bites are what scare Dana Fisher, and why even though her husband, Bryan Fisher, of Bryan’s Creepy Crawlers has a bunch of tarantulas in tanks in their Blue Springs home, she never touches them.
“They are cool to look at,” Fisher said. “I watch them but I will not hold one.” A few years ago, “I told him if he ever bought a spider I would divorce him,” Fisher said. But the first time she saw him holding one at a reptile show in July, “He just lit up,” she said. Now the Fishers have at least 14 tarantulas at home.
Emilee McDonald and her fiance, Logan VanOverschelde, also have a pet tarantula at their Manhattan, Kan., home. The Kansas State University students drove to Sunday’s show thinking they might buy a reptile.
Instead, McDonald stood caressing a white baby rat in her hands. The rat had been brought to the show in a tank with lots of other little rodents, by Amy Hughes from Herpsup, a Northmoor store that sells supplies and food for reptiles.
“He’s really cute,” McDonald said. “I’m thinking I’m going to take him home with me, and save him from becoming food for the reptiles.”