By LINDA M. LINONIS
About 60 snakes and six lizards are up for adoption through Herps Alive! Foundation.
The reptiles were surrendered to the nonprofit organization near Cleveland after being rescued in October from a home in Struthers. Four venomous snakes went to a venom-production facility in Kentucky.
Keith Gisser, founder of Herps Alive!, said 10 snakes have died because they were unhealthy, and a number of baby snakes also perished. Six lizards already have been adopted.
Gisser said most of the rescued snakes are in the colubrid family, which are small- to medium-size snakes of North America. These include corn, milk and king snakes, which grow to about 4 feet long.
There also are boas that are albino (white with yellow color) and snow, which is all white. The boas will grow to about 6 feet long.
Gisser said bearded-dragon lizards, which grow to about 18 inches, and monitor lizards, which get up to 2 feet long, also are available. He said bearded dragons “are the most popular” lizards.
What attracts people to reptiles instead of a furry cat or dog? Gisser said people are interested in reptiles for a number of reasons. They’re easily confined, he said, and are convenient pets to have in an apartment or small living space. “People don’t have to worry about allergies,” he added.
Gisser said reptile aficionados also are interested in the animals because “they’re extraordinary.” They have colorful and interesting markings, he added.
Gisser, 55, said he became interested in reptiles and amphibians after catching a toad when he was 9 years old. From there, he bought a lizard and eventually worked at a pet store. “My interest just took off,” he said.
The self-taught herpetologist founded Herps Alive! — The Interactive Reptile and Amphibian Experience in 1976. It is a for-profit business that presents educational programs. It’s been offered at various times since 2003 at the Mill Creek MetroParks Farm in Canfield. Gisser presents about 100 programs annually and has traveled to 36 states.
Herps Alive! Foundation, the nonprofit, was organized last year to care for and adopt out homeless reptiles and amphibians.
Gisser said potential adopters should email him at email@example.com to get an application. (Check out Herps Alive! on Facebook.) He assesses the answers as to whether the applicants are suitable adopters. If so, they visit the rescue site and interact with the reptile and amphibian.
The adoption fees range from $25 to $100 or more, depending on the animal.
Gisser said an applicant’s answers to questions and the visit usually provide him with enough information to know if he can allow an adoption to proceed. “I want them to have a certain knowledge about their care,” he said. “Then I know they’ll have a good home.”
A certain level of knowledge is needed to provide the proper food and habitat, he said. Depending on the snake or lizard, providing a large-enough home is imperative. “They like to stay warm and comfortable,” Gisser said.
Gisser said people often ask why people are interested in reptiles, because they don’t appear to form a bond with their human owners. “That’s a big question,” he said, adding he notices some snakes react differently to him than other people. “There are anecdotes about snakes reacting to their owners,” he said.
Gisser said he was pleasantly surprised at how tame the rescued snakes are. “They haven’t shown any aggressive behavior,” he said. He pointed out since they didn’t have proper care and probably weren’t handled much, he expected some aggression but none surfaced.