Reptile show slithers into UNF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Invasive species like Burmese pythons have invaded the Everglades and public hunts have been organized to reduce the population, but don't expect that problem to move to the First Coast.

Exotic pets have been known to run loose from time to time here in Northeast Florida.

We have done the occasional story of an iguana, tegu or snake running loose in a neighborhood, but it is not a huge problem, local reptile rescuers say.

Many believe it is caused by irresponsible pet owners, but we found that not to be the case when he visited a reptile show held this weekend in Jacksonville.


A 5-year-old alligator met 5-year-old Aiden Conlan at the Repticon Exotic Animal Expo at the University of North Florida.

Conlan was able to hold Wally with the help of reptile expert Bob Shumaker.

Hundreds visited the reptile show to be entertained, and perhaps buy an exotic pet, like a snake or some type of lizard. Shumaker loves to educate people at one of these shows.

"It's just something different, like the zoo, you see different things," Shumaker said.

Jethro is one of those different things. He is a black throat monitor from Africa.

"He [Jethro] was the one running loose in Arlington," Shumaker said.

Shumaker is the one who gets the call when pets like Jethro get loose. He says it is usually not because irresponsible reptile owners are just letting them go into the wild.

"They really don't know how strong these guys can get. They put them in a cage and the case is broken open. That is how these guys get out around here," Shumaker said.

Most exotic pet owners know letting them out here in Northeast Florida during this time of year can be a death sentence, he said.

It is important exotic pet owners be educated to what is involved in feeding and caring for some of these pets, Shumaker said, and how to keep them caged.


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