Reptile show sheds light on very slippery subject Snake fanciers flock to see variety of scaly attractions

September 14, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Snakes as pets. Snakes as deterrents to nagging in-laws. ZTC Snakes as self-help?

Leapin' lizards.

Bill Brant, a former teacher and current vendor at the Mid-Atlantic Reptile Show at the Maryland State Fair Grounds in Timonium, elaborated yesterday on the therapeutic value of the scaly, slippery reptiles.

People "are taught to be fearful of snakes," said Brant, co-owner of the Gourmet Rodent, which supplies snacks for snakes. "Yet they want to work through their fears."

Stephanie Mitchell knows this all too well. Her husband bought a python two years ago to conquer his fear of snakes. Now, all 10 feet of Monty lying on a carpet is lovingly captured in photographs the Timonium resident carries around in her wallet.

Her husband's fears? Officially conquered.

More than 100 vendors from all over the United States have converged this weekend on Timonium to sell their wriggling wares: 200-pound snakes, baby snakes, frogs, rain-forest-like aquariums to house the frogs, books on how to care for snakes and frogs -- and snake food.

There were mealworms at $8 per thousand and "superworms" at $25 per thousand. But for the more discerning reptile, Brant said he delivers "the gourmet rodent."

He ships some 750,000 frozen mice, rats and rabbits every year from his Florida firm. With a smile, Brant tells of his first visit to a reptile trade show.

"I said, 'Wow, this is great. Every one of these snakes is going to eat 50 mice this year,' " Brant said.

The star of yesterday's packed event was Bernadette, the 17-foot, 220-pound python owned by Tim Hoen, president of Maryland's Herpetological Society.

When coiled, she appears the size of a tire for an 18-wheeler. And frankly, her owner says, she could probably crush one.

"It's a good pet for the experienced, a bad pet for the inexperienced," Hoen said. "That animal could kill three Hulk Hogans, easy."

Josh Webb came to Timonium to find a mate for his male python. The Peach Bottom, Pa., resident plans to breed his snakes and sell the babies -- at up to $250 apiece.

There are advantages to owning a snake.

L "They're also good at keeping your in-laws away," Webb said.

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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