All that slithers

Bruce Smith-Peters

Photo by Kevin Fuller

Bruce Smith-Peters has some slippery roommates. The 54-year-old reptile enthusiast shares a modest house on the south side of town with dozens of lizards, frogs and snakes. While some homes have a large TV as a focal point, his living room is filled with several large aquariums, stacked to the ceiling, giving Smith-Peters a different form of entertainment. Smith-Peters, a lecturer in multicultural and gender studies as well as social science at Chico State, is founder of the Chico Reptile Show. The wheels started turning in 2013 after the long drive home from one of the many reptile shows Smith-Peters attends all over the state. He came up with the idea to have a show in Chico. Check out the Chico Reptile Show from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday (Oct. 14) at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds. It will feature about two dozen vendors from all over the region and as far as Nevada and Washington. Smith-Peters said the show will feature breeders as well as vendors selling natural decor and enclosures. Admission is $4-$8; free for those 5 and younger. More details can be found on Facebook.

What’s the goal of having a reptile show in Chico?

There are a lot of families in this area, and they’re always looking for interesting things to do. The best thing is, is just seeing these kids who are just getting this first-hand exposure to animals they’ve only seen on TV. You see their eyes light up. They are running from place to place, having such a good time.

How did you get into the reptile trade?

I got into the reptile trade out of desperation, really. When the economy went bad in 2009, I was looking for ways to make money. I knew from my experience in the pet trade that great wood is sold for reptiles. Now I’ve got this whole wide range of natural decor that I sell. We are out six to eight weekends a year doing this.

What does the reptile business look like locally?

The trade seems good. The industry is growing. We have such a resource here in Ron’s Reptiles. For decades, they’ve been educating people about reptiles. There is retail trade from Petco, PetSmart, Ron’s Reptiles, Chico Pet Works and some others. There are also reputable breeders in the area who sell their own: Jason Nelson at Chico Reptiles, Jeff Scott at the Magalia Gecko Project, and Ron and Donna [of Ron’s Reptiles].

What type of regulations are there on private trade?

There aren’t many regulations. It’s just hobbyists that raise these animals. Some people sell dogs; they sell reptiles. They just enjoy it. Some people think reptiles are scary, but it’s just getting over that. They are part of this natural world.