Makin’ snakes

Ron Greenberg

Photo By Tom Angel

Welcome to the life of a snake breeder. Ron Greenberg, with the help of his wife, Donna, churns out 350 to 400 scaly babies a year from a room in their house off Cohasset Road. (Call 893-2095.) The littlest ones are stored on shelves in carefully labeled Rubbermaid containers. Ron’s Reptiles is also the secret source of most of local pet shops’ supply of feeder mice and other edible critters. From Chinese water dragons to the “highly coveted” Argentine Tegu, Greenberg is also known for his captive-bred lizards. His day job is in the fiberglass industry, but when he retires the snake gig will go full-time.

So, do you play them a little romantic music or what?

They just have intercourse. The male snakes are blessed. They have two penises. They hope they get one in the right place. Some of them go into elaborate courtships. Once they latch on, they could be together for hours and nothing could interrupt them.

What’s your success rate?

We don’t lose any. Our red-tail boas’ clutch was 25 for 25. One [python] produced twins, which only happens in 1 in 10,000 clutches. We named them Virgo and Libra. When eggs start hatching, I don’t get any sleep. You’d never know the twins. You have to grab them and label them.

Do you name them?

My wife names them. That’s her job. [We name] the breeders that we hang onto and get attached to—not the babies. Tango is our Burmese python. She’s 20 years old and 16 to 17 feet.

Do they get out much?

They travel really well. I’ve been a guest speaker at the Nature Center and Chico State, and I visit schools and go to birthday parties. We don’t want people to treat them as disposable pets. My goal is to make sure young people don’t grow up being afraid of snakes.

How’d you get into this in the first place?

When I was 10 or 12, growing up in the San Fernando Valley, I found that I could catch snakes and lizards and sell them. I started importing in the 1960s. It’s a challenge. I’ve done this for over 40 years, and when I started, everything was imported. Nobody was able to breed them. When everything became endangered or threatened and quotas became the rule of the day, things were no longer cheap and readily available. So people had to learn the husbandry, like I did.