Cold Blooded Eye Candy

The Royer Reptiles Story

Growing up in south Texas, practically devoid of that bane of field herpers- winter- Jason spent days at his grandmother’s farm chasing the native fauna.   Like most boys, he was completely fascinated with the scaliest varieties, and with snakes above all.

His first snake was a banded water snake, caught on a fishing trip.  His uncle taught him how to cast net so he could collect feeder fish for the nasty tempered beast, but it never was the best of pets.  When he brought home a baby copperhead in a mason jar, his mom knew it was high time he learned everything he could.  Obviously Jason predates the internet by a few years, so he was limited to the books he could find at the local library or the book fair when it came to town.  We still like to laugh about the inaccuracies so many of those books contained!  We even have a small collection of them for posterity.

Jason’s mom never liked snakes, but it was clear to her that her son’s interest was no passing fancy.  She found a man with a bullsnake for sale and brought it home, though I’m fairly certain she never actually touched the thing.  To this day, we can only get her to pick up freshly hatched ball pythons!  Though “Damien” the bullsnake was only slightly less naughty than the water snake, the experience of keeping him only fueled Jason’s passion further.  One day, a reptile educator came to visit Jason’s school, bringing him face to face with the reptile that would come to change his life (and mine)- the Burmese python.

We had only been living together a few months when I suggested Jason get a pet snake- and it was indeed a Burmese python, whom we named Oakley.   Though I grew up poor, I have always been drawn to animals.  We always had a family dog, and I raised and showed guinea pigs in 4-H.  We raised chickens for meat and eggs, and adopted a couple of abandoned cats.  I appreciated every one of them, but truly my soul dances to the drum of hoofbeats.

Every birthday candle I ever extinguished was accompanied by a wish for a horse.   I devoured every equine book I could find, from the Black Stallion to Veterinary Notes for Horse Owners- an 800 page tome I read and took notes on before I even owned a horse.  Yes, I was a complete nerd.  When we moved to rural Michigan from California, I hoped to be able to buy my own horse when I was old enough to get a job.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait that long- just a few months before my 13
th birthday, my parents surprised me with “Angel”- a 6 year old green broke quarter horse mare that would shape my future.  Though I had set out to become a veterinarian (or a field biologist, if that didn’t work out) I found I couldn’t afford to transfer to a big university and keep any of my horses.  Not keen on starting my adult life in debt, I decided to join the military- and that is where I met Jason.

My earliest snake memories were of close encounters with rattlesnakes in southern California.  I also remember picking up a garter snake that promptly bit the fire out of me when I was about six.  Other than that, I pretty much was raised around the “kill it, just to be safe” theory towards snakes.  Though this shames me today, I hope to make up for it by helping to educate the public so they don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Since I had my horses, I wanted Jason to have the pet he always wanted.  After all, what feeling in life is more intoxicating than intrigue?  As children we are flooded with it, new and inspiring things abound, but as we age, we’re too eager to trade our curiosity for comfort, and I feel that contributes greatly to overall unhappiness.

We found Oakley at a San Antonio pet store.  We had no idea at the time that there were hobby breeders or online reptile communities.  This particular establishment was offering freshly hatched neonates with umbilicus still present and full-on mite infestations.  Jason was versed on mites, at least, and brought it to the storeowner’s attention.

“No big deal,” the shopkeep said, whipping out a can of Proven-a-mite and giving the snake a good soaking from nose to tail.   After adding a full store-endorsed habitat- reptibark & a heat rock in a 20 gallon long with screen lid- we gleefully headed home.

The next day I awoke to poor Oakley doing backflips in his cage.  You don’t have to be a reptile expert to understand neurological impairment.  Resorting to our dial-up internet, we gleaned the web for answers.  We even called the manufacturer of Proven-a-mite to confirm our suspicion- that spraying the animal was NOT an approved application of that product!  Thankfully, Oakley recovered after a few days and went on to be a very healthy snake, though that stupid heat rock did claim the life of another snake before we learned how inappropriate they are.

We were very disappointed by the bad information that pet stores provided to their customers, and sadly, this really has not changed- only reptile specialty stores can be generally trusted for good advice.  We learned that most of the pet stores bought cheap imported animals and sold them as quickly as they could, with no regard for the animal’s health or the customer’s satisfaction.  Trying to alleviate the problem, we decided WE would buy some of those imports, but we would quarantine them and make sure they were feeding well before we sold them.  We would make sure their new owners went home with proper care information and a place to seek advice.

That is how Royer Reptiles began- by buying captive born import baby boas and ball pythons and selling them to local pet owners.  Since then, we have successfully bred many different species, and have kept many others as pets.  Consisting primarily of pythons and boas, our collection is now housed in it’s own small facility, with our rodent production happening in yet another building.

They say the more things change, the more they stay the same.  We have not purchased a lot of imports since 2004, but we still strive to sell healthy, well-represented animals.   Today, 95% of what we sell is produced by us, right here in Texas.  The other 5% are breeders we no longer need for our projects or the occasional animal we took in on trade.  Regardless, we never “flip” anything.  If you buy a snake from us- we have had it long enough to be certain it is healthy and eating well.  Anything less would not be worth risking our reputation for.

To us, it’s worth that extra effort.  We want to see the hobby grow.  We like to have more people to share our passion with.  We love seeing that spark of intrigue in another’s eyes.  If a new owner has a bad experience with their first pet snake, there is a good chance that spark could be smothered, and we would rather stoke fires than put them out.

We are truly fortunate to live in a time where working with these animals in this capacity is possible.  Royer Reptiles is more than just a small business - it's the result of two people's passion for animals.  We strive to share that with each and every one of our customers.  Thank you very much for the visit and we hope to earn your business.

The Royers

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