Like so many of us in this hobby, I have been captivated by reptiles and amphibians from a young age. Growing up in New Jersey I would catch and release local herps, and by the age of 8, I had convinced my mother to let me have my first pet snake. He was a pencil-sized, California kingsnake who I aptly named King. It was 1993 and my father came home from the pet store with a bag of frozen pinkies, and what turned out to be the first ever issue of Reptiles Magazine. From that point on, I was hooked, and over the next several years I added to my bedroom collection, hatching my first clutch of leopard gecko eggs at the age of 11.
When I was 13, a reptile specialty pet shop called Jungle Exotics, opened near my house. It was a reptile kid’s dream come true, and in no time I had a job that lasted throughout high school. The 90’s were an exciting time to be immersed in the reptile industry. Rare exotics were still being heavily imported, while husbandry and breeding techniques were becoming more advanced, making captive bred animals more widely available, and the morph craze was just beginning to emerge. The arrival of the internet, and communities like the kingsnake.com forums, were treasure troves of information, where many of the experts who pioneered reptile breeding converged to share their knowledge.
It was also at Jungle Exotics where I got my introduction to reptile medicine. Despite being just minutes outside New York City, at that time there were very few vets in the area that were knowledgable about reptiles. People brought all their sick animals to the shop for advice. Becoming a vet had always been a childhood dream, but in high school, my grades had fallen off as a priority. Ultimately, it was the lack of quality vet care available for these animals, that motivated me to refocus on my studies and start down the path to veterinary school.
I earned my Bachelors degree in Animal Science from the University of Vermont, where King lived in my dorm room. I then spent a year in Boston studying marine biology at Northeastern, and volunteering in the wildlife rehabilitation department of the New England Aquarium, working primarily with sea turtles.
I was fortunate to be accepted to Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine where I took every opportunity available to study exotics and wildlife. I volunteered with the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, and did externships at the Denver Zoo, and various private exotics practices. I also started to grow my reptile collection, and launched my first breeding business, Slithering Creations. At that time I was working primarily with rare and locality specific colubrids, anthill pythons, and a few species of micro geckos and chameleons.
Then, during my senior year of vet school, my life took a sudden turn when I was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer that carried a grave prognosis. I moved back to New York for treatment, while a friend took care of my animals and helped sell off my entire collection as quickly as possible. When everything was said and done, I was extraordinarily lucky to walk away with my life. Thanks to the team at Memorial Sloan Kettering, a bone marrow transplant from my sister, and the unconditional support of my wife and family, I beat an unbeatable cancer. A little over a year later, and I was back in Colorado ready to finish vet school. The snake room was pretty empty with just King and a few other pets I could never part with.
I was awarded my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2013.
King was quietly by my side through everything. He died on my last day of veterinary school at the age of 21.
Since graduation I have practiced in the Hudson Valley of New York, where I live with my wife and young son.
I am the founder and president of The Center for Reptile and Amphibian Conservation, a not for profit organization dedicated to conserving reptiles and amphibians through research, education, rehabilitation, and boots on the ground projects. I am also a licensed New York State wildlife rehabilitator, and The Center rehabilitates several hundred native turtles, snakes, and amphibians each year.
It took a few years of remission before I had the confidence to start rebuilding my collection and breeding again, and I knew that I wanted to do things a little bit differently. I dreamed of herpetoculture with a philanthropic twist. I kept ball pythons as a kid, long before the morphs, and I remember clearly the moment when I first saw the pictures of Pete Kahl’s piebald ball pythons, and I knew then that one day I would have one. A high end pied project was the first thing that I got back into after my illness, and my first ever clutch of ball python eggs hatched the world's first Black Pastel, Pinstripe, Pied. I have continued to selectively grow the ball python collection, and have hatched several more worlds first morphs. Now I am beginning to selectively add on more rare exotic species again. In 2018 Conservation Herpetoculture was launched. We took a brief hiatus from public life for most of the COVID pandemic, and now we plan to continue growing in our mission to produce amazing animals, and promote herp conservation.
We are just getting started! Please check back soon!
Baby snappers, ready for release!
Magellan, the worlds largest common snapping turtle, weighing in at 84 pounds!