Gary Hamann - Ridge and Valley Reptiles
Ridge and Valley Reptiles has grown out of a lifetime interest in nature. As a kid, my brother and I were always catching and studying the native herps of Wisconsin. We would keep them and observe them for a while before releasing them back into the wild. We were mostly interested in snakes, but we also kept a variety of turtles, salamanders, and frogs and toads, as well as many non-herps. This interest in herps never went away, but for a number of years I simply enjoyed seeing them in the wild and didn't keep any of my own. In the mid 1990's my interest in reptiles flared once again, and I became actively involved in keeping and breeding snakes. I built a fairly extensive collection of corn snake morphs and then moved into some of the higher end kingsnake varieties such as the brightly colored mountain kingsnakes of California and Mexico.
Let me step up on a soapbox for a minute, because I've been around the reptile hobby for quite a while and I've made a few mistakes, and I've seen too many others make those same mistakes. There is a progression that happens in what so many jokingly refer to as the "addiction" in reptiles. You start with one or two animals, maybe on a whim, or maybe after careful research (hopefully the latter). You enjoy them so much that you decide you'd like more. Soon, you decide you'd like to try your hand at breeding and begin producing more animals. Then you decide that you need "higher end morphs" or "more exotic species" and your collection expands. Eventually, you find that the enjoyable hobby you began with has begun to take a lot of your time and has become more expensive than you thought. Cleaning and feeding are no longer the quick little evening activities they once were. You now refer to "feeding nights" or "cleaning days" because these activities take up such large amounts of time. You may be finding that your visions of breeding and selling for a profit are not working out nearly as well as you planned, and that you are having a hard time finding homes for all the offspring you produce. At this point you are entering the "burnout zone". I have seen many keepers jump in too deep and too fast, only to quickly burn out and disappear from the hobby. You see this all the time on the various online reptile forums as well. Someone new will appear and start to buy up a large number of animals. They post constantly on the forums and rack up large post counts in a relatively short time span. Then, you don't hear much from them for a while. A few more months pass and you see them posting their animals for sale. Some sellers take advantage of these super enthusiastic "new-to-the-hobby" buyers who start buying up geckos like they are going out of style. I always try to give a word of warning about jumping in too fast with too many animals. I may lose a sale or two as a result, but in the long run, it is much better for the animals I sell.
Anyway... I was well on my way along this same "burnout path" with my snake collection when I began dating and then married a woman who has a lifelong fear of snakes. For her sake, I gave up my snake collection. I thought it would be hard, but it was almost a relief, and I realized then that I had been overextended. For the next couple of years, I had just a few reptiles that I kept in my school classroom for my students to view, and then one day at a reptile show, I saw a young pair of crested geckos which had to come home with me, and my new found fascination with "all things gecko" began. The spark was reignited! I had kept leopard geckos in the 1990's, but I was more a "snake guy" back then, and didn't get too serious with the geckos. With my wife's blessing, I slowly began my new venture into geckos.
Today, I have a much more mature approach to the reptile hobby. I keep a growing variety of species which I find unique and interesting in their own ways. I add a few new species each year to keep my interest level high and to continue to learn more about this group of animals. Any new animals I buy are funded by geckos I sell. I don't keep large numbers of any one species, and don't produce wholesale numbers of offspring. I resist the "more is better" mentality and focus instead on fully understanding the requirements of the geckos I own and producing the highest quality offspring that I can produce. I'm a firm believer in "Quality rather than Quantity".
Gecko species I have worked with or am currently working with include: Rhacodactylus ciliatus; Rhacodactylus chahoua; Rhacodactylus sarasinorum; Eurydactylodes agricolae; Geckonia (Tarentola) chazalia; Nephrurus (Underwoodisaurus) milli; Nephrurus wheeleri; Nephrurus levis; Eublepharis macularius; Palmatogecko rangei; Goniurosaurus luii; Goniurosaurus hainanensis; Oedura castelnaui; Gonatodes vittatus; Chondrodactylus angulifer; Coleonyx elegans, Pristurus carteri, Rhoptropus biporosus, Paroedura androyensis, Pachydactylus caraculicus, Diplodactylus galeatus, and Cyrtodactylus peguensis. I have a number of other gecko species on my "wanted list" for the future, and I look forward to slowly expanding my collection by adding a new species or two each year.
"sciteacher" to all my forum friends