I have been invloved as a student of reptile study since my childhood. As an adult, I have actively been involved with reptiles since 1970. Through the years I have collected reptiles for zoos, worked captive breeding programs with rare species of rattlesnakes, and guided nature trips all over the world, catching and educating guests to some of the world's most incredible wildlife species.....of course, this includes reptiles. The following images are just a sample of some of the animals I have had the great pleasure to encounter in many areas of the world.
Here is Greg "in Action" in the Wild ! A Mussarana in the Peruvian Amazon.
The mussarana is a rear-fanged snake that can attain a fairly large size. This particular individula is well over 7 feet in length. This particular species needs more work on it taxonomy as it is unusual compared to other mussarana types. This particular species is highly aquatic and is most often found in the shallows of oxbow lakes in the Peruvian Amazon.
Cica: 1971: Check out the hair. My long haired hippy days! This photo was taken in a gum swamp in extreme southeastern Virginia. This is near the northern limit for the range of the cottonmouth. Many of the adults in this area exhibit a beautiful yellow and blackish brown banding. In the mid 1970's, I was asked by the famous Bill Haast, who at that time owned the Miami Serpentarium. Mr. Haast became famous for his working with the world's most dangerous snakes and he gradually, through injections, became immune to the bites of elapid snakes. (Cobra family) He is the only person to spontaneously survive King Cobra envenomation as well as Blue Krait. In the mid 70',s he contacted me as he needed 50 eastern cottonmouths from Virginia and North Carolina. I provided him with the snakes, most of which were captured at night, wading in swamps such as the image above.
Through the 1970's, I traveled extensively throughout the U.S and Mexico in search of reptiles, with a primary focus on rattlesnakes. This image, taken near Laredo Texas, is of a 6 foot long western diamondback rattlesnake. Check out the shorts.....This image was taken in August 0f 1971.
Mattamuskeet, North Carolina 1973
Some of the longest snakes I have caught in North America are coachwhips. Here, I am in a wonderfully rich snake habitat (a saw dust pile with lots of boards to flip) where I have a 7 + foot eastern coachwhip. These snakes are extremely fast and if the snake is already on the move when discovered, it is almost hopeless trying to catch one. Many, when cornered stand their ground, gape and throw very long strikes at the face of the intruder. Contrary to this, Bern Tryon (Curator of Reptiles, Knoxville, Zoo) and I caught a big easstern coachwhip in coastal South Carolina. Amazingly, the snake feigned death and went limp as a dish rag. Bern even threaded the snake throough his belt loops and had a living snake belt. As soon as the snake was placed on the ground and left alone, it would gradually right itself and then quickly begin to crawl. As soon as we approached, the snake would once again rolled onto its back and feign death.
Big Bend Texas, 1978 The western coachwhip is a much lighter snake than the eastern morph. This is important as the western coachwhip lives in much drier, lighter colored desert habitats, thus the coloration allows the snake to go undetected to predators. It is almost impossible to catch a coachwhip without being bittern as your only hope is to grab the snake by the tail as it is moving through desert scrub at very fast speeds. Upon grabbing a coachwhip, they immediately swap ends and the head, with mouth open is very quickly striking at the face of the "would be" catcher. They are always a thrilling catch and a marvel of the reptile world and it is equally a great feeling to release the snake "unharmed" back to its habitat.
A 6' +, Mexican West Coast Rattlesnake: Through the 1970's, my captive breeding of rattlesnakes included snakes from the tiny twin-spotted rattlesnakes of Arizona and Mexico to the big Mexican West Coast rattlesnakes, like the beautiful male above. Amazingly, these huge rattlesnakes are much more docile than many of the little fiesty montane rattlesnakes.
Female, Green Anaconda: 2006, The Llanos of Venezuela. I have been extremely lucky throough my travels through South America in finding some very impressive anacondas. The largest was a massive female, estimated to be about 18 feet long and she was so huge, two of us could not get her out of the water. She was just too powerful and too heavy to get into our small boat. Here, I have caugth a female anaconda that is about 13 feet in length. In the Llanos of Venezuela, anacondas are fairly common and they feed on a variety of food sources, including jacanas (birds), capybaras and caiman. Anacondas are large powerful snakes and it is extremely important to control the head as they will lash out to defend themselves and their teeth are huge and may result in sever lacerations that require numerous stitches and antibiotics to prevent the highly probable infection that often results from anaconda bites.
Another green anaconda....this time a big 14 foot female is just basking on a dirt road that provides a dry area in an otherwise very wet landscape.
Peruvian Amazon, adult male green anaconda. The younger anaconda are much more colorful than the large adult females. The green anaconda is sexually dimorphic where females attain a size more than twice the size of males. Here, I am presenting an impromtu program with an anaconda that has just been caught in emmergent vegetation (water lettuce and water hicynth) These programs are a great thrill for visitors and a wonderfully educational opportunity for a naturalist to take advantage of moments like these. The snake is then returned to the exact spot where it was found.
Greg with a rescued hawksbill sea turtle. While traveing in Indonesia and the Lesser Sunda Islands in the mid 1990's, a small local fishing boat from Komodo island pulled up along side of our small ship. We were buying fresh fish from them when I noticed a young hawksbill sea turtle in the fishermans boat. I inquired if they would sell the sea turtle and after some discussion, they agreed to sell me the turlte for $2 U.S. dollars. I eagerly gave them the money and I boarded their little boat to get the beautiful little turtle. As soon as the fisherman had pulled away and were out of sight, I eased the little gem of the sea back into its marine home and freedom.
While guiding a trip to Australia in 1996, I had the great fortune of finding some beautiful Australian reptiles. Black tiger snakes on Kangaroo Island, Olive python in a cave in Queensland, a children's pyton in Kakadoo, Merten's water monitors in Arnhem Land as well as anumber of big guold's goannas in a number of locations. One of my favorite finds, however, was an 8 foot carpet python at O'Reilly's. In the area there were large numbers of king parrots and crimson rosellas. In an area on the margin of a wooded tract, there was a small water source and next to it was a large board. All around the board were bright red feathers of both species of parrots so I knew there was some type of predator taking advantage of the birds coming to drink. I first looked all around the area as there are numerous highly venomous species and most are very cryptic in pattern and coloration, thus can easily be stepped on by those not aware of the habits of snakes. after a quick search, I found nothing of interest so I reached down a flipped the big piece of plywood, using the plywood as a shield to protect mny legs in the event that a brown snake, red-bellied black snake or even a death adder happened to be taking refuge under the board. Well, to my surprise, was a very large carpet python.....very heavy bodied as he had consumed many parrots during his tenor at the water hole. I gently picked up the snake, which promptly struck at my face, thus I had to control it head before summoning my group to talk about the scene and how this opportunistic predator was doing extremely well by taking advantage of the cover near an attractive water source in order to acquire food. After a short talk, the snake was returned to its lair to continue in its population control of the very abundant parrots in the area.