Pet Peeves: Geckos and Dragons and Snakes, Oh My!

Natassja Anto-Keshen


Puppies are cuddly and kittens are cute, but there are some new little best friends gaining popularity around Tumbler Ridge. These critters come in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes. Who am I talking about? Reptiles of course!

I myself am the proud owner of a bearded dragon named Luke. He’s about 15 inches long from nose to tail and is conveniently (since hide and seek is one of his favourite games) almost exactly the same colour as my couch.

Why own a lizard? Growing up with cats and dogs made reptiles seem exotic but I was intimidated by having to manage their environment. Temperatures? Weird and specific diets? No thanks.

One day, a friend of mine who had been breeding bearded dragons decided that she wanted to change her focus. Due to some adventures in cannibalism (don’t ask) she figured that Luke would be more than a match for my cat and so gifted him to me.

Since moving in he has been the model of a well behaved and loving pet. He mostly basks under his lamps (to get energy from the warmth and UV-B rays) when he’s in his tank, or perches on my shoulder, scoots around, and then falls asleep when I let him out.

Luke is spiky all over, he even has tiny little spikes on his eyelids, but he’s actually quite soft to touch. His favourite colour is red. I know this because if he sees something red, anything at all, he will scamper over to it and try to eat it. I discovered this when he started nipping at my toes one day when I’d painted my toenails red. They must look like little berries to him. He also goes for red buttons on the remote, red socks, and any red or bright green flashing lights he sees (including the light on the power touch-button of the Xbox which he once turned off mid-game).

Bearded dragons are known for being one of the most affectionate lizards out there. A Tumbler local, Stephanie McBain, also recently got one. She says: “My Beardy is my little buddy. When I get home from work he runs right for the front of the tank to see me, it’s really cute. I put my hand in the tank and he crawls on my hand for me to hold him. He loves having his belly rubbed, and under his chin.” McBain says about her dragon: “He loves crickets. They’re his absolute favourite food.” My lizard loves raspberries, crickets, and arugula.

The closest place to get crickets is Dawson Creek, and it can be tough to go there regularly. In Tumbler Ridge, Jaren Rehbein breeds high quality mealworms but she says: “There just weren’t enough people buying crickets to justify keeping them around.”

And that sounds fair to me since they breed very quickly and are prone to escape. Rehbein’s household currently boasts two Leopard geckos and a Red Tail Boa. Rehbein has been fascinated by reptiles ever since childhood. She was originally drawn to them because she says: “They were really accessible, I liked anything you could catch and keep yourself. They’re also very easy to observe.”

As a biologist, she worked with rattlesnakes in the Okanagan Valley, and since 2001 has sporadically bred Ribbon snakes, Anoles, Corn snakes, King snakes, Boa Constrictors, praying mantises and even occasionally wild frogs (okay, some of those are insects and amphibians but close enough).

“Some people don’t like what you have to feed them; live crickets, frozen mice. Some people don’t like having frozen mice in their freezer,” she says. But when asked who she thinks would enjoy having a reptile for a pet she says: “Anybody who is interested in observing, and having a pet that isn’t very demanding. Reptiles can be very low maintenance. The pinnacle of reptile keeping is that if you can get their environment just right, they will thrive. They’re easy to keep happy so long as they have everything they need.” Stephanie says of her lizard: “Definitely an awesome pet. I think he’d be a good pet for kids too, with supervision.”