Big Sky Reptile Expo returns to Missoula after pandemic

MISSOULA – After 18 months, thousands of people are flocking to Missoula to attend the Big Sky Reptile Expo, where you can bring home your own snake, spider or other creature. And owner and operator James Dvorak says Montana’s industry is growing.

“The industry in general has been really, really fantastic,” said Dvorak.

Dvorak said he took over in 2018 for the event that has been taking place around Montana for about a decade. He said he sees a positive change in the industry since the pandemic.

“People, because they spend more time inside their homes, they spend more money on animals and enclosures,” Dvorak explained, adding that the popularity depends on the animal: “Watch out lizards, there is a high demand for them at the moment.

Beyond the recent growth in the reptile industry, Dvorak said it’s good to be back.

“It’s been hard not being able to have a show, and we have a lot of clients who constantly contact us and say ‘hey, when’s the next show, when’s the next show’, but to be able to have a show and be able to putting it on so people can come in and enjoy it again and have a little bit of normalcy, that was really great. ”

Dvorak fought a misconception about the animal kingdom of reptiles.

“Everyone thinks snakes are slimy. In fact, people secrete oils on their fingers, and when we smell snakes and say to ourselves “the snake is slimy”, that is actually us. So humans are slimy, snakes aren’t, ”Dvorak said.

Inside the exhibition, a few dozen vendors exhibited and sold their inventory of creatures.

Nathanael Johns, owner of Eden Exotics in Lolo, said he was carrying species from South America and Africa.

“I have a lot of tarantulas for sale today and a few species of cockroaches, and I also market a fertilizer that I developed called Optimal Growth,” Johns said.

He said interest in the tarantula grew as the stigmas improved – despite the large size and eight hairy legs.

“It’s nice to meet people here today. Some people have never held a tarantula before. I love presenting these animals to people, ”said Johns.

Other suppliers have echoed the positive growth in their business. Andrew Ingold, owner of Andering Pythons, said he has been breeding snakes for over 20 years and has shown positive growth in his business last year.

“The reptile community, surprisingly enough, last year when it all started was my best year in many years. Even though we didn’t have exhibits, we were shipping snakes all over the country, ”Ingold said.

And the number one recommendation for owning reptiles? To research.

“If it’s a milk snake, corn snake, ball python, do your research. Find out what they are doing in the wild, find out what the requirements are for captive keeping. And once you’ve got all of your stuff, start looking for a snake, ”Ingold said.

After researching and trading currencies, some lucky attendees returned home with a new friend.

Butte resident Alexandria Aguilar was there with her family. She bought a normal snake and a pastel inferior breed.

“This lesser pastel is mine, and its name will be Ka, named after the serpent from the Jungle Book,” Aquilar said.

Aquilar said she has been waiting for two months to attend this show and has wanted a pet snake for over a year. She told MTN News some tips for future snake owners.

“You have to be prepared and you have to know what you are going to buy before you buy it, because hundreds of animals are bought at conventions or other places and don’t go to proper homes. Myself as an animal lover, I hate to see when this happens, ”said Aquilar.

This Family Expo is traveling. Next time it will be in Billings around the end of July, according to Dvorak.

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