Archive for Monday, December 13, 2004

Student raves about reptiles

KU junior adores her peculiar pets

December 13, 2004


Kansas University junior Ginny Weatherman has two Great Plains rat snakes, two baby bull snakes, one Mexican king snake, one black rat snake and two lizards. And she loves them all.

Weatherman began collecting reptiles at a young age. She said she remembered getting in trouble in school because she would wander off the playground to catch snakes and scare her teachers.

Now Weatherman feeds her passion by traveling to states such as Florida, Arkansas and South Dakota with the Kansas Herpetological Society and for internships to catch and observe amphibians, turtles and -- her favorite -- reptiles.

Q: When did you first start collecting reptiles?

A: When I was 2 or 3 years old, almost before I can remember, my dad would take me under the porch of my house to catch snakes. The whole reason we did it was just to scare my mom.

Q: Which of your reptiles is your favorite and why?

A: My tegu (a South American lizard). Her name is Artemis, and she's about 2 years old. I've had her since she was a month old. I've been working at this camp since '97, and she's been going with me. The kids just love her. She's just as sweet as can be. Tegus aren't really a naturally nice animal. They're pretty aggressive naturally, but she's kind of unique. She likes people a lot. She sits pretty well on people's laps because they're warm, and she likes food. During the summer, she gets fed well. People feed her fruit and whatever is left over from lunch. She's kind of like a dog -- she'll eat anything.

Q: What are some of the aggressive behaviors of a tegu?

A: She's territorial. I'll tell you that. If she has a top loading cage -- if I open her from the top -- she'll get scared because there's a big thing over the top of her cage, and she'll jump, hit and whip her tail around. She'll even bite. Her teeth are hooked back like an alligator's. And if you get your finger stuck in that, you have to push in and then pull out. They don't look that big, but they are. They would do some damage if she was mad enough. She'll grab and then twist and rip.

Ginny Weatherman, 21, says she is fascinated with reptiles. The
Kansas University junior has six snakes and two lizards, one of
which rests on her shoulder. The lizard's named is Artemis, a tegu
from Argentina.

Ginny Weatherman, 21, says she is fascinated with reptiles. The Kansas University junior has six snakes and two lizards, one of which rests on her shoulder. The lizard's named is Artemis, a tegu from Argentina.

Q: What do all of your reptiles eat?

A: During the wintertime, all of them eat mice. During the summer, Artemis will eat eggs and fruit, even though she will eat eggs in the winter. She won't take to the fruit during the winter very much because it's not natural for her to eat it during the winter. But during the summer, she'll eat anything -- anything you put in front of her almost.

Q: How do your roommates feel about your pets?

A: They're amused. I'd say they get a little annoyed by the excessiveness. Every time a new one comes in the house, they're like, "Oh, great. Another snake." I think at first they thought it was cool. ... They're nice guys. They don't say much about it. They just kind of give me weird looks.

Q: Would it be different if you were living with all girls instead of all guys?

Birthday: Sept. 7, 1983.Hometown: Bucyrus.Year in school: Junior at Kansas University.Major: Fine arts.Favorite book: "Reptiles of Kansas" by Joe Collins.Favorite restaurant: The Orient, 1006 Mass.Favorite place in Lawrence: Home and the art department on campus.

A: I don't think I could live with girls. Finding three girls that were OK with this many reptiles would be hard. I don't have a single friend that hangs out with me anymore that's a girl that will go out and catch snakes. I used to have one, but she's into cars now.

Q: What are some misconceptions people have about reptiles?

A: They're not slimy. The only ones that are slimy aren't actually reptiles -- they're salamanders, which are amphibians. And those aren't always slimy. I think people don't realize that reptiles can interact with people. People don't think they have the same interaction as a dog or a cat, and they don't. But you can see that Artemis knows who I am, and she knows people. She knows I'm not going to hurt her. If I put her on the floor, she gets scared because it's not a person protecting her. They can be really loving animals, just like a dog or a cat.

Ginny Weatherman holds a pet snake.

Ginny Weatherman holds a pet snake.

Q: What other interests do you have besides reptiles?

A: I have a lot. I'm really big into snowboarding. I shattered my arm before, and I'm still going. Photography is a big love, I'd say. I do a lot of photos of reptiles. I film a lot, too.

Q: What would be your dream job after college?

A: National Geographic photographer for sure.

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