December 14, 2020

Reptile show brings sleek snakes, wiggly worms and arachnids | News, Sports, Jobs

By haziqbinarif


Kori Kercher of Kinsman and her boyfriend, Chris Smith, hold a 10-foot Burmese python during a reptile show Sunday at the MetroPlex Expo Center in Liberty. This type of snake, which can grow to between 16 and 23 feet, is one of the largest in the world. Numerous types of snakes, arachnids, chinchillas and other animals and insects were on display or for sale at the event.
Correspondent photos / Sean Barron

LIBERTY — If you visit Kori Kercher’s home, don’t be surprised if you also meet one or both of her lengthy family members.

“I have two Reticulated pythons — one a 7-footer and a male somewhere between 10 and 12 foot,” Kercher, of Kinsman, said. “I bought the female from a friend who was going blind and couldn’t care for the snake anymore.”

This type of python is considered the world’s longest snake, which can grow up to 30 feet, and one of the three heaviest. It also is common in Borneo, Indonesia, India, the Philippines and other parts of Asia, according to www.reptilesmagazine.com.

Kercher and her boyfriend, Chris Smith, also seemed at home handling and embracing a large yellow Burmese python, which they met during a reptile show Sunday at the MetroPlex Expo Center, 1620 Motor Inn Drive.

An estimated 45 local and regional vendors participated in the four-hour event, at which numerous varieties of arachnids, snakes, scorpions, worms, spiders, rats, bearded dragons, tortoises, chinchillas and other animals were on display or for sale. They included a 3-year-old blue-tongued skink that’s common in Australia, a 4-inch red-foot turtle, a variety of small, large and extra-large rats and various-sized centipedes, millipedes and geckos.

Also available was merchandise such as blankets, aquariums and items that included 1-pound bags of food for roaches for $5 each.

Kercher said her female snake typically eats once every seven to 10 days and feeds largely on rats. The male, which she got about four to six weeks ago, has yet to eat largely because it is breeding season, which in part cuts down on its appetite and desire to eat, she explained.

Reticulated pythons can have up to 100 teeth, and she has learned a lot about both snakes’ body language and how to keep them calm, Kercher continued.

When it came to narrowing down his favorite animals, James Wynn, 8, of Vienna, was quite nondiscriminatory.

“Pretty much any type of animal,” said James, who enjoyed holding on his shoulder a blue bar ambilobe panther chameleon, the likes of which are found in tropical forests in northern and eastern Madagascar and usually grow to 10 to 18 inches.

Making it so that James was not the only one to befriend a chameleon from the other side of the world was Sophia Bailey, 6, of Struthers, who was comfortable getting acquainted with a smaller, less colorful female blue bar ambilobe.

Another attraction was the variety of colorful chinchillas, courtesy of Buckeye Chinchillas of Louisville.

“We have about 600 in our breeding program,” said Ryan Olesh, the business’s owner.

The animals are largely indigenous to arid regions of the Andes Mountains in Chile and were imported in the mid-1920s to the U.S. for their fur. That industry remained strong and profitable until about the late 1980s, Olesh noted.

“They are very fragile animals that (often) come with health issues,” he said, adding that chinchillas also are becoming more common as pets and have an average 15- to 25-year lifespan if given a proper diet and care.

Chinchillas also are typically energetic for the first two or three years of their life before becoming more docile and social. In addition, they often feed on food pellets and cubes of hay, Olesh continued.

Keith Gisser, executive director of the South Euclid-based nonprofit Herps Alive Foundation, said his business often partners with the Mahoning County Dog Warden’s office and other local humane organizations regarding reptile rescues, most of which are because people can no longer care for such pets, he explained. Animals taken to safety include turtles, frogs, toads and some invertebrates, Gisser said.

In addition to taking in unwanted, abused or neglected reptiles, the foundation, with three volunteer veterinarians, rehabilitates the animals so they can be adopted, Gisser continued.

The reptile show is important also because attendees can buy special heat lights, thermostats, hides and other supplies for such animals that are difficult to find in most traditional pet stores, James Wynn Sr., an event organizer, said.

James Wynn, who’s also James’ father, noted that as of 2001, the reptile industry made about $5 billion annually, a figure that has grown over the years.

“It’s a big thing. There’s a lot of people into the reptiles and amphibians,” Wynn added.

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