Repticon by sammy fretwell

GREENVILLE - Contrary to what many people might think, snakes are popular pets in many corners of South Carolina.

Reptile shows, such as those sponsored by Repticon, attract thousands of people when they visit South Carolina cities like Columbia, Greenville and Charleston. The Columbia show is typically the largest in South Carolina.

The State visited a Repticon show in Greenville last month and talked with some of the people at the show. Some bought snakes, which is legal in South Carolina, because they love the slithery reptiles. Snakes sold at the Greenville show were non-venomous.

Other people bought frozen rats to feed pet snakes they already owned. Some even brought their own pet snakes to show off.

Turtles and exotic lizards also were on display and offered for sale at the Greenville show.

Here are a few of the stories The State heard in Greenville.

Stevie Barshaw spent $2,000 for a bright yellow snake, then wrapped it around her head and calmly walked around the Greenville Shrine Club as if wearing a reptile headpiece was a routine occurrence.

She’d been wanting a snake for a long time, and Saturday June 9, was her day. She purchased a rare constrictor snake from a North Carolina business.

Barshaw, a Greenville County resident, was more than happy to show off her purchase.

“I’ve always been interested in them, and it’s a been a long-time coming for me to actually own one,’’ she said, noting that she bought the snake after talking her husband into liking the slithering reptiles.

“This is the result of that, and I am super excited.’’

A dog groomer by day, Barshaw said owning a snake will be a new experience.

“It is something different to come home to,’’ Barshaw said of having a snake as a pet. “It’s an acquired taste.’’

“A dog is going to strive to make you happy. They were bred to be your companion. But a snake, you kind of have to earn its trust.’’

Some vendors at the Repticon show said they like selling snakes in South Carolina. Its fun educating the public about snakes and hearing buyers’ stories, they said.

Jonathan McMillan, from Gastonia, N.C., had a dozen tables at the June 9 Repticon show in Greenville. On the tables were glass and plastic aquariums filled with snakes, some large and others smaller. He also featured other reptiles, such as lizards.

McMillan says he’ll nearly double the size of tables when he comes to the Repticon show in Columbia later this summer. That’s one of the biggest reptile shows in the southeast, he and others said.

He and his family all sell snakes at the shows. Included in the sales effort is his 20-year-old son, Nathan. His favorite snake is a black headed python, a black and gold serpent from Australia.

“Doing the show is pretty fun,’’ Nathan McMillan said. “I like selling the stuff. I’m 20 years old. I’ve been doing this stuff since I was barely walking.’’

Mark Childers, a snake salesman from Marietta, Ga., said most of the animals sold at shows are not from the wild, but are bred in captivity, unlike in the old days. He also breeds snakes for sale, but not the venomous kind.

“We breed the big pythons,’’ he said. Childers' table at the Repticon show had both snakes and lizards, including a Water Monitor with a pricetag of $375. The monitors will grow to seven feet. The one he had for sale was a small one in a plastic box.

A bag of frozen rats was just what Stephanie Lane needed, and the cooler full of dead rodents attracted her attention.

Lane’s pet snake, Luna, devours rats, but Lane prefers feeding the serpent dead rodents over live ones. At a reptile show in Greenville recently, she was quick to visit the table selling snake food – for the most part, rats.

After she buys a bag of rats, Lane says she goes through a routine to prepare a meal for her snake, a yellow ball python.

“I set them out the night before’’ a snake feeding, the Taylors resident said of the rats. “I get a bowl of hot water and put them in there and let them thaw.’’

Then, she said she dries the rats “with a hair drier. I’ll take it upstairs and dangle it for her.’

Frozen rats are big business for some people, who raise the repulsive rodents just for sale as snake food. From a warehouse in north Georgia, Feedersource.com, raises rats and distributes them nationwide, via internet sales. The company also visits reptile shows routinely to directly sell rats to snake lovers.

The Feedersource booth featured all sizes of rats for sale, from “pinkies,’’ tiny hairless infant rats to big furry rats advertised as “mammoth’’ rodents. A nine pack of mammoth rats costs $63, while a 50-pack of pinkies costs $62.50.


Sammy Fretwell

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