I have been keeping and breeding snakes for over 40 years, with garter snakes being amongst the first snakes I ever kept, when I first started keeping reptiles back in the 1970s. Since then I have always kept snakes, and for the majority of that time my main passion within the reptile world has been garter snakes. I continue to keep and breed garter snakes, although now focus on a smaller number of what have become my favourite varieties. I also enjoy observing and photographing reptiles in their native habitat.
For me the garter snakes have always held a special appeal. They are diurnal, and many appear to have quite a lively and almost inquisitive nature: a distinct advantage for the observer over many other varieties of snake, which often spend much of their daylight time in hiding.
In my early days I learnt a lot from local keepers and breeders in the north of England, where I grew up. In the pre-internet world of the 1970s and 1980s, information was not as easy to come by as it is now, and sadly information that is now readily available (for example about thiaminase in some fish potentially causing irreversible neurological damage to snakes) was not common knowledge then. However, the absence of ‘easy answers’ on the web was perhaps more than compensated for by the existence of many local (and local branches of national) herpetological societies, where a young enthusiast could readily meet more experienced and knowledgeable keepers, (and their reptiles) and have more personal and face to face meetings – something that is sadly missing in today’s virtual world.
In particular I owe much to the founder members of the Cheshire Herpetological Society (sadly the society is long-since defunct), to Chris Mattison (renowned photographer, herpetologist and author of several best-selling reptile books), who has enthused and inspired me, and taught me much about reptiles, and their habitat and conservation, and from whom I have learned a huge amount about photographing reptiles (so apologies to him for some of the poor quality photographs on this site!).
Two other memorable influences in my younger days were Bob Riches (Robert J. Riches) of Bristol, who was one of the pioneers of snake breeding in the UK (and whose book “Breeding Snakes in Captivity” first published in 1976 was a ‘bible’ to me in my younger days), and last but not least John Pickett, whose unbridled passion for, and knowledge of, garter snakes, made him a person who was always a pleasure to spend time with. Sadly both Bob Riches and John Pickett are no longer with us.