Monday, April 30, 2007

Famous Galápagos Tortoise, Lonesome George, May Not Be Alone

Article from ScienceDaily
"Lonesome George," a giant Galapagos tortoise and conservation icon long thought to be the sole survivor of his species, may not be alone for much longer, according to a multinational team of researchers headed by investigators at Yale University.
New research led by biologists Adalgisa Caccone and Jeffrey Powell in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale, with the strong support and cooperation of the Galápagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station, has identified a tortoise that is clearly a first generation hybrid between the native tortoises from the islands of Isabela and Pinta. That means, this new tortoise has half his genes in common with Lonesome George. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Lonesome George, a native of Pinta, an isolated northern island of the Galápagos, is the "rarest living creature." By the late 1960s, it was noted that the tortoise population on this island that is visited only occasionally by scientists and fishermen, had dwindled close to extinction, and in 1972, only this single male of the species Geochelone abingdoni was found. Lonesome George was immediately brought into captivity at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz where he is housed with two female tortoises from a species found on the neighboring island of Isabela.
"Even after 35 years, Lonesome George seems uninterested in passing on his unique genes and has failed to produce offspring," said lead author Michael Russello of the University of British Columbia, Okanagan who began working with the tortoises as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale. "The continuing saga surrounding the search for a mate has positioned Lonesome George as a potent conservation icon, not just for Galápagos, but worldwide." Although Lonesome George has yet to find a tortoise partner, upwards of 50,000 people visit him each year.

The study, published in Current Biology, gives a peek into the "evolutionary" history of a species of Galápagos tortoise (G. becki) -- previously known to be genetically mixed --on the neighboring island of Isabela. The results were possible only with advances in technology from these researchers that make DNA from ancient or museum specimens useful for genetic analysis. Population analyses of a large database including individuals from all 11 existing species of Galápagos tortoises was compared to the genetic variation within two of the G. becki populations. DNA data for the nearly extinct G. abingdoni species from Pinta was available for the first time from six museum specimens -- and from Lonesome George.
There are well over 2,000 tortoises of G. becki living on the neighboring volcanic Isabela Island, which has only two sites accessible from the sea. The research team collected samples from a total of 89 tortoises -- 29 at one location, 62 on the other side of the island. Because the subset of the population they sampled was so small, the researchers hope that thorough sampling will locate a genetically pure Pinta tortoise.

The authors speculate that, in the event additional individuals of pure Pinta ancestry are discovered, a captive breeding and repatriation program could be set up for species recovery. "It will take a team of about 20 people about three to four weeks to do a first, exhaustive sampling and transmitter-tagging of the tortoises on the volcano," said Caccone. "Then once individuals of interest are found -- either hybrids with Pinta or pure Pinta animals -- an equivalent field expedition will have to be mounted to find the animals and bring them in captivity. But, it is a harsh environment with no local resources and funding such an operation will be costly." According to Powell, "These findings offer the potential for transforming the legacy of Lonesome George from an enduring symbol of rarity to a conservation success story."

Other authors on the paper are Nathan Havill from Yale, Luciano B. Beheregaray from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, James P. Gibbs from the State University of New York at Syracuse and Thomas Fritts from the University of New Mexico. The research was supported by the Bay Foundation, the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies and the National Geographic Society.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Herpetologist Still Unbitten After 51 Years of Venomous Reptiles

Even after 51 years of handling venomous snakes, Arkansas herpetologist Dennis Magee has never been bitten. That shows just how cautious he is when dealing with the creatures he says are misunderstood. As part of the Hot Springs National Park's 175th anniversary, and keeping with the celebration's theme of conservation, Magee presented two talks at Hill Wheatley Plaza this month to educate the public on the important role all snakes play in the ecosystem.

"I used to be a Steve Irwin myself. I really admired his excitement and animation, too," Magee said. He said he was communicating with the famous "Crocodile Hunter" about a possible meeting before Irwin died last year from a stingray attack. Magee speaks of Komodo dragons, hellbender salamanders, and cobras with equal experience. Although known to many as a downtown Hot Springs real estate developer, Magee also has a colorful past in the natural world that began as a young man in Santa Rosa, California, earning merit badges for the rank of Eagle Scout. Before he was 20, while living in Cincinnati, the snake hunter had established the Cincinnati Reptile Research Laboratory and brought together local herpetologists such as Dr. George T. McDuffie and Richard Costello to amass the largest private collection of crocodilians in the country, and assemble the largest collection of various rattlesnakes outside a major zoo.

In 1960, Magee was the reptile keeper and supervisor of the zoo hospital at the Staten Island Zoo in New York City. Between then and 1968, when he moved back to Ohio for a zoo job at Columbus, he was a police officer with the Jacksonville, Fla., police department and a Boy Scout master.
In 1981, Magee went on to become the business partner of Ross Allen in setting up Ross Allen's Alligator Town in Lake City, Fla., and then director of the tourist attraction when Allen passed away shortly before Alligator Town opened in 1982. While in Florida, Magee captured the largest soft-shell turtle on record, in north Florida's St. John's River. He held nine "length records" for snake captures at one time, and also holds two oldest-snake records for snake catchers _ a 23-year-old cane break rattlesnake, and a 27-year-old cottonmouth water moccasin.

At his home office, a building separate from his house on Bower Street, Magee has a collection of about 30 snakes. All except a few he has caught in the wild, including a pair of rare trans-pecos copperheads from west Texas. Oddly enough, before his research and fascination with reptiles, Magee said he was scared of snakes. "I was phobic scared of snakes. It was the first fear I overcame, and I haven't been afraid of anything since," he recalled. Respect and caution are the two qualities one needs to have in dealing with wild creatures, he said.

Although he hasn't been bitten by a snake, he can't say the same for alligators. He shows a scar on his thumb that is still healing up after feeding a mouse to Thomas, his 5-year-old alligator. Thomas came from the Cincinnati Zoo, about two years ago, as a gift to the former reptile house keeper. Like many who concern themselves with wild animals, Magee has a passion for conserving the natural habitat they live in. "If I turn over a log or a rock to look for a snake, I put the log or rock back where I found it," he said. When he returns a snake back to the wild, he takes it back to the exact place he found it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Turtles Hitting the Road: Don't Hit Them!

Article adapted from Kansas City InfoZine
Spring may come in fits and starts, but its arrival is verified by a predictable round of firsts. The first flower and the first butterfly are heartening signs of renewal. However, one sign of spring - the first turtle crossing the road - is the harbinger of carnage.
Some species of turtle are homebodies, living out lives of up to 65 years on as little as 5 acres. In the spring, however, they go on the prowl for mates, and this takes them across the highways and byways that divide the state into smaller and smaller pieces each year. More than a few end up under the wheels of automobiles. The result is a population drain.
"Box turtles are such long-lived animals, it takes a long time for them to get to the age where they can reproduce," said Missouri State Herpetologist Jeff Briggler, with the Conservation Department. "Their nests are vulnerable to raccoons and other predators, so females don't produce young every year. It takes a lifetime to replace themselves. With a species like that, anything that takes away a certain percentage of the adults every year can spell serious trouble over the long haul."
Motorists can help reduce highway carnage by watching for turtles and avoiding them. Briggler said drivers have to think of their own safety first, but missing a turtle seldom creates any danger for humans. "You should never slam on your breaks to avoid a turtle," said Briggler, "but if you are paying attention, you usually can see turtles on the road a long way away. Normally you have time to go around a turtle on the shoulder of the roadway. If there is no shoulder and another car is coming toward you, slow down enough to let the other car pass so you can drive around the turtle."
Some drivers actually stop and move turtles to safety on the side of the road they are trying to reach. Briggler encourages this, but again urges caution. "I love turtles, but no turtle is worth taking a chance of being hurt yourself," he said.
Briggler said automobile mishaps are not the only way that humans cause turtle deaths. He said many turtles die in captivity each year. "Turtles are so different from us, they are fascinating. It's actually a good thing that people are interested in them. But like all wild animals, they aren't adapted to living in captivity. Their diets are hard to duplicate, and when they are taken out of their familiar surroundings they have trouble finding food and shelter. As much fun as it is to have one or two around, it's no fun when you discover that one has died."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Florida Bill Would Make Reptile Owners Cough Up $100

Legislation is slithering its way through the Florida state capitol to have owners of certain non-native, non-venomous snakes and lizards register their pets beginning next year. The exotic reptile owners will have to shed $100 for each snake and lizard that makes the list, but they said they won't shed any skin about it. "Anyone who is seriously involved with reptiles is in favor of this legislation," said Ray Goushaw, president of the St. Lucie Regional Herpetological Society and owner of Fort Pierce-based Herpetological Breeding Research. "The permitting is a good idea. It may eliminate people who aren't serious about having a snake from getting one in the first place."
The non-venomous breeds are being added to the state's regulatory list along with the venomous ones that have been tracked for years. It was headlines about non-venomous, hungry snakes wreaking havoc through the state that made a Treasure Coast lawmaker take notice. State Rep. Ralph Poppell, R-Vero Beach, sought the new law after learning snakes such as the Burmese python were not regulated by the state. The snake is not venomous, but can grow as long as 16 feet and slithered into the news when one killed a 6-foot-long alligator in Everglades National Park a few years ago. "We don't want these snakes competing with the native species," said Joy Hill, spokeswoman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The commission will handle the permits for the snakes and follow up with registrants to make sure they're keeping track of their animals, Poppell said. Neighbors also will be notified about their presence, and snake owners will have to take their pets to a veterinarian to be inserted with an identification chip. "If a snake dies, the owner will have to let us know they're burying it," Poppell said.
Goushaw said there's two potential sources for stray snakes in Florida. There's the pet owner living in a city who doesn't take care of the snake or decides to just unload it in the wild. There's also the occasional importer who may unload several unsellable snakes. The latter contributes the larger portion to the problem, but the legislation at least will make sure the former can be accounted for, he said.
The irresponsibility of some pet owners led one Treasure Coast pet store to get out of the big snake business altogether. Pet World in Port St. Lucie used to carry large snakes but stopped because people tend to release them into the wild, manager Betty Geitner said. Vero Beach Animal Control Officer Bruce Dangerfield said he's had to catch more than 30 large snakes in the past eight years in Indian River County. He's in favor of the legislation, which, if successful, could lighten his workload. He's considered the principal snake handler by law enforcement in the county. "The officers won't get near them," Dangerfield said. He remembers one call on 58th Avenue when a Burmese python was found near the road. Several deputies stood by at the scene until he arrived. "None of them would help me pick it up," Dangerfield said. "All they did was offer me a body bag." In Stuart, the Aquatic Life store sells non-indigenous snakes such as carpet and ball pythons, but the reptiles are relatively small and manageable. Such animals will not be on the register list, state officials said. Store Manager Zach Smith heard about the proposed legislation from a Miami reptile wholesaler and said he thinks it's an "excellent idea" to keep exotic and dangerous, non-venomous reptiles only in the hands of serious pet owners. "It's a problem," Smith said. "There are iguanas everywhere."
Staff writers Megan Winslow and Chris Young contributed to this report.

• House and Senate bills could pass this month establishing a list of non-venomous reptiles pet
owners will have to register annually with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for $100 beginning in January.
• The list includes Burmese, African rock, reticulated and amethystine pythons, green anacondas and monitor lizards.
• Exhibitors will have to post a $10,000 bond for each reptile listed.
• The state already regulates all venomous reptiles by requiring registration. The new law would require registration for non-venomous reptiles for the first time.
• State Rep. Ralph Poppell, R-Vero Beach, and State Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, are sponsoring the bills.
• House Bill 1505 can be found at

Friday, April 20, 2007

How Much is That Reptile in the Window?

By Katherine Fenech
People who sell from car boots in parks or shopping centre car parks might look a bit dodgy but some aren't as shady as they might seem. With theft of reptiles becoming more prevalent across the region some snakes can fetch $10,000 licensed keepers have taken to advertising their wares on internet forums and meeting buyers in public places away from their homes.

Hawkesbury Herpetological Society vice-president Michael McFadden said a reptile keeper who is selling 20 babies from a litter does not want to have 20 people know where the snakes are kept so they sell in neutral locations. "Quite often they'll meet somewhere down the road, just for the sake of not bringing people to your house,'' he said. Mr McFadden said that snakes could cost from $150 to $10,000 but he had not heard of keepers installing extra security, apart from perimeter alarms, in their homes. A National Parks and Wildlife Service licence is required by anyone who keeps or sells snakes. Anyone buying, selling or possesing snakes without a licence can be fined up to $11,000 and face up to six months in jail. Brendon Neilly, the service's wildlife licensing officer, said buyers are responsible for finding out if the seller is licensed.

Featherdale Wildlife Park's senior park curator Evan Harris said two Arafura file snakes, a Collett's snake and a water python stolen from the Doonside zoo in October had not been located. "We've had our ears to the ground, so whoever's got them was pretty keen on them and wanted them for themselves, and kept it quiet,'' he said. He said some of the six snakes stolen from a Colyton home last month, an Atherton python, Centralian python and the black and gold jungle python from Central Australia, were rare on the Sydney reptile collection scene and therefore valuable.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Article by
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today unveiled the newly refurbished, state-of-the-art reptile wing at the Staten Island Zoo, home to one of the largest collection of venomous snakes in the nation. The City invested $18.8 million in capital funds in the 16,600-square foot project through the Department of Cultural Affairs. The new wing will house 120 species of reptiles, and features a new main entrance, a two-level alligator pool, interactive exhibition space, classrooms, an auditorium, and the “Fear Zone” – a special exhibition designed to educate and dispel common myths about snakes and other reptiles. The project also incorporates a number of environmentally sustainable features for energy reduction and improved air quality.
The Mayor was joined by Cultural Affairs ( DCA ) Commissioner Kate D. Levin, Design and Construction ( DDC ) Commissioner David J. Burney, Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, Council Member Michael McMahon, the Zoo’s Director John Caltabiano, and Board Chair William Frew.

Not only is New York City a world capital of art and culture, we are also home to one of the largest venomous snake collections in North America,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “From its founding, education has been a vital part of the Zoo’s mission. The opening of today’s Reptile Wing will vastly expand the Zoo’s ability to fulfill that mission, and the Zoo is doing so in an environmentally responsible way, by reducing energy consumption by 20 percent and improving air quality.

The new Carl F. Kauffeld Reptile Wing is dedicated to the memory of a renowned herpetologist who served as the Zoo’s Director and Curator of Reptiles from 1936 to 1973 and has been credited with bringing the collection international acclaim. The refurbished reptile house took two years to complete and is located in an expanded and renovated wing of the 1930’s WPA exhibit hall of the Zoo. The design for the wing, by Gruzen Samton LLP, received an AIA Staten Island Design Excellence Award in 2004. The project includes a 32-foot long bronze python designed by artist Steve Foust for the curved exterior wall of the new main entrance. The artwork was commissioned by the City’s Percent for Art program.

The new facilities showcase and support the Zoo’s collection of aquatic, venomous, and non-venomous snakes and invertebrates in their “native” habitats. ... “I applaud the Zoo’s commitment to creating a dynamic, environmentally friendly public space that gives children and adults of all ages the opportunity to learn about the extraordinary world of reptiles,” said DCA Commissioner Kate Levin. “Indeed, this new facility will allow the Staten Island Zoo to enhance its contribution to the City’s vibrant non-profit cultural community.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Amur Leopard Still On The Brink Of Extinction, Scientists Say

A new census of the world's most endangered cat, the Amur leopard or Far Eastern leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), shows that as few as 25 to 34 are left in the wild, renewing fears for the future of the species. In February and March, World Wildlife Fund along with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Science, conducted a routine snow-track census of leopard numbers. "The recent census confirmed once again that the Amur leopard survives on very shaky ground," said Pavel Fomenko, biodiversity conservation program coordinator at the Far-Eastern branch of WWF in Russia.
Fomenko said encroaching civilization, new roads, poaching, exploitation of forests, and climate change had contributed to the leopards' plight. "From my perspective, the leopards' exact number is not the big question." Fomenko said, "What is really important is that the predator is on the brink of extinction. And still a unified protected area with national park status has not been established, which is the most important thing for the leopards' survival."
At least four leopard litters were encountered during the census. This is a good sign because it means that the population is not completely depressed and is still able to restore itself. But for long-term survival, at least 100 animals are needed. "Conservation of large predators needs vast territories with minimal anthropogenic changes, which is difficult," said Dr. Dmitry Pikunov, the coordinator of the 2007 leopard census and head of the laboratory of animal ecology and conservation of the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Russian Academy of Science.
According to Dr Pikunov, a mature leopard needs 500 square kilometers of habitat with good forests and high and stable amounts of ungulates, including deer. Two to four female leopards would live in the same amount of land, reproduce and nourish their cubs. "Maybe this is the reason why leopards practically completely disappeared from the Korean Peninsula and north-east China," said Dr. Pikunov. "At the beginning of the past century, the Far Eastern leopard was a common species in the southern parts of Sikhote-Alin and in some Khanka lake areas. Right now it roams only in south-west Primorye."
About 5000 square kilometers of land in the south-west Primorye region, close to the border between Russia, China and North Korea, were transected for the census and tracks left by the leopards in the snow were counted. Scientists were able to determine the number of the leopards by examining the shape, size and patterns of the tracks as well as determine the direction and time of the animals' movement. In all, 35 field workers took part in the census, working in more than 158 transected sections.
"The snow track census is an important method to monitor leopard numbers. We see that its population has been balancing on the edge of survival for many years," said Dr. Dale Miquelle, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Russia program and coordinator of the previous census in 2005. "But to understand the reasons, we should research the ecology of the predator in a more profound way, using latest techniques such as automatic camera traps, radio tracking, genetic and veterinary research."
The census 2007 found 7-9 male leopards, 3-7 females without cubs, 4 females with cubs, 5-6 cubs in all, and 6-8 undefined tracks. Total: 25-34. This compares with 9 males in 2003, 7 females without cubs, 4-5 females with cubs, 4-5 cubs in all, and four undefined. Total: 28-30. In 2000, the results were 4-5 males, 8-9 females without cubs, 1-2 females with cubs, 1-3 cubs in all and 8-9 undefined. Total: 22-28.
Article from Science Daily
Photo credit:
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by World Wildlife Fund.

Monday, April 16, 2007

'Harmless' Snake Proves Deadly

Friends of a reptile enthusiast who died after being bitten by a snake have expressed their shock that a man who knew snakes so well had been killed by a species generally regarded as harmless.
Ron Siggins, 37, of Pascoe Vale, died yesterday afternoon after being bitten by a whip snake at Harcourt North, 120km north west of Melbourne.
Mr Siggins was collecting scorpions with a friend at Mt Alexander about 2.30 pm when he was bitten on the finger by the snake. He bandaged his finger with a handkerchief, but later became woozy and his friend went to his car to call an ambulance. When the friend returned a few minutes later, the 37-year-old had collapsed. Mr Siggins had gone into cardio arrest by the time paramedics arrived. They were unable to revive him.
Police will prepare a report for the coroner in relation to the man's death. Mr Siggins caught the snake that had bitten him.

Bite 'like a bee sting'
The snake was later identified as a whip snake, a species which is considered harmless in comparison to more venomous species such as brown snakes and tiger snakes. "You read any reptile book, they're classified as harmless, it's like a bee sting,'' said Steve Macgregor, a reptile enthusiast and friend of Mr Siggins.
While the exact circumstances of Mr Siggins' death remain unclear, it is believed he may have experienced complications as a result of medication he was taking for neck and spinal injuries.
Friends said he had been bitten by whip snakes in the past. "Probably what happened is he knows they're not that deadly, he's been bitten by it and didn't think much of it,'' Mr Macgregor said.

Community 'devastated'
Another friend, Sheryl Longstaff, said Victoria's community of herpetologists could not believe what had happened to Mr Siggins, who had been around snakes for 30 years. "It's a shock to the system ... everybody's devastated,'' she told "Ron's got venomous and non-venomous snakes at home, he knows what he's doing, he knows how to handle them,'' she said. "He's got bitten by something that would normally just make you feel a bit sick and give you a bit of a headache but he's had a reaction to it.'' Mr Siggins leaves behind a wife, Helen, and school age daughters Emily and Stephanie.

Ms Longstaff said the community of reptile enthusiasts would rally around Mrs Siggins and the children. "She's going to need a lot of help. She's got a lot of grieving to go through,'' she said.

Snake catcher Raymond Hoser said people should not fear snakes. "All the deaths from snake bite in Australia in the past year have actually been people catching them or killing them," he said. "Provided you do neither of the above, you've got basically no chance of dying from snake bite.''

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What to Do When a Snake Goes Missing at Google? SEARCH, of course!

This was one search that you couldn't just Google.
Source: WTVG
An employee's [ball] python went missing over the weekend in Google's sprawling Manhattan office, sending search teams on an all-out snake hunt. The searchers scoured the complex for the 3-foot-long snake and finally found the serpent, known as Kaiser, on Monday night. "A snake was lost; it was not an April Fool's joke. It was found last night," Google spokeswoman Ellen West said Tuesday. "The snake has left the building." She declined to reveal specifics about where in the office Kaiser was discovered. But a contributor to Google's official blog wrote that the staff was told the snake was found "relaxing behind a cabinet." And although West wouldn't say how the snake made it to the office, she confirmed it belonged to a "Googler" and said the pet was now at its owner's home.
The Google blog contributor, software engineer Dan Bentley, wrote that while some employees laughed about the situation, others stood away from walls and corners and the bathrooms were less crowded. The fact that someone brought a snake into the building is not completely surprising, given Google's laid-back culture. Dubbed the "Googleplex," the Manhattan office of the Mountain View, Calif.-based company offers a relaxed workspace, built around a team concept that has people sharing offices and cubicles connected in groups. It also offers free food, massage therapy, yoga classes, and ski trips, according to Google's jobs Web site.
Company officials did not comment on a report that the search for the snake even included a missing snake flier. The Web site Valleywag, a technology gossip Web site based in Silicon Valley, posted a photo of the flier, complete with a photo of the reptile. The flier described the snake as "non-venomous" and "not dangerous," and responsive to the name "Kaiser," according to the Web site.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Reptile Specialist Gets to Play With Newts, Frogs and Snakes, Oh My!

By jennifer priest-mitchell /The Times
Abandoned bird nests, slithering snakes and rats around the neighborhood— all the makings of a perfect day of outdoor play for many little kids. In some cases, those lucky children grow up and still get to play with, care for and teach others about the fascinating world of nature in the form of scales, claws and appetites for bugs. Chris Stenerson was once among the curious children who adored the outdoors and every small creature he could find.

Like a lot of little boys, I guess, I loved to find snakes and other small animals when I was playing outside. My mom did not like that too much. Sometimes she’d let me keep one, but it was easier to settle on a true pet that everyone in the house agreed on,” shared this Petco employee, who is now the reptile specialist at the store on S.W. 117th, off of Canyon Road. And just what does it mean to be a reptile specialist?

Well, you have to earn that title,” he explained. Petco actually has a training program where employees can become specialists in a variety of areas by reading specific books, taking part in the hands-on care of those types of animals and by passing a test. “Once I passed the test and earned the title, then I began to specialize in the care, maintenance, and upkeep of the reptiles [in the store] and their habitats,” he said. Stenerson is also the go-to person for would-be reptile owners who come to the store.

When people start to ask me about the various reptiles — when people are thinking about buying a lizard or perhaps another pet for their child, I usually send them away with some homework first. They need to understand what they are getting into before buying the pet.” And that, we do. I recently took my two children, ages 6 and 7, to Petco to watch the bearded dragons. Chris shared with us that he sells a lot of pets to people and he recommends that folks educate themselves about the commitment involved, the supplies needed and the basic care required for each of the different kinds of animals.

He explained, “Bearded dragons are actually hardy reptiles. They’re loving . . . I know it sounds weird, but they actually enjoy being held and played with. When a kid’s friends come over, they want to play with your pet and hold it, that is what it is all about, and the bearded dragon is very tolerant of this attention and actually enjoys it.” With an 8-year lifespan, and needs for an under-tank heater, the tank itself, and a light, the average transaction for the animal and its supplies can run between $150 and $400. This is not something to step into lightly, and Stenerson wants parents to understand this when they decide to help their child choose a pet. “With these pets,” he said with a smile, “you can’t push pause. You can’t hit save and come back later. You have to get the animal what it needs, treat it right, and remember that it is always there and it always needs you to feed it and care for it.

A native Oregonian, Stenerson grew up in the Lincoln City area and enjoyed all the coast has to offer while he was a youth. He moved to Portland and began working at Petco in the city before he transferred to the store in Beaverton. As a single parent, he likes that the store offers him flexibility with his job so he can spend time with his pre-school aged daughter. “It is also great to bring her into the store,” he offered. “She loves lizards, reptiles . . . all animals!” Stenerson confesses that his all-time favorite pet of his own was a cat named Murphy who lived to be 19 years old, but he has owned a lot of reptiles and had a lot of experience caring for them before working for Petco and taking the training to become a specialist.

He is also a companion animals specialist who helps people who have questions or problems with their dogs and cats. “I am learning a lot while on the job in that area,” he said. ‘I took the training and passed the test and everything, but you really learn a lot and gain a lot of experience while just talking to the people who come in and have stories to share or questions to ask.” He is now working to become an aquatics specialist, which is another certification in the series available to Petco employees. When asked what he likes about living in the Beaverton area, Stenerson chimed right in, “Well, there is a lot more diversity and there are a lot more opportunities than there were living in a small town. And I like working here and all that there is for me here. Eventually, I would like to live out a little ways and own some land. But I’ve been to Washington and I’ve been to California and there is really nowhere else I’d want to live.