My name is Will Bruce and I am a herpetologist and professional biology writer. More to the point, I’m someone who wants to provide in-depth knowledge to anyone who wants to learn about reptiles and amphibians.
I was born in Shropshire, England, where the countryside is beautiful but reptile diversity is seriously limited. Fortunately, a family trip to Italy gave me a glimpse of what was out there, and at the age of six I caught my first viper and a tortoise. Years later, at the age of nine, I got lucky again when my parents moved to Indiana. I ended up in one of world’s best herping countries and my obsession finally had room to grow.
Becoming a herper
In the first few years of living there I became an avid “herper”, turning up 3 state endangered species – the Kirtland’s Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii), the Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandindii) and the Butler’s Garter Snake (Thamnophis butleri). During this period, I also encountered two species not known to occur in the state.
These were the Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum) and the Yellow-bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta). The Slider was almost certainly a released pet, given the sheer quantity of these brightly coloured animals being sold in pet shops around the U.S. at the time.
The Lined Snake on the other hand is a shy species, occupying disjunct areas of prairie-type habitat from New Mexico in the west to Illinois in the east. It has never been of any interest to the pet trade. My feeling to this day is that the specimen I found was most likely part of a relict, northern Indiana population. If any Indiana herpers are reading this, go have a look around County Road 17, near Goshen, Elkhart County, and you might just find another one – but make sure you let me know if you do!
It was during my time in Indiana that I began keeping Ball Pythons, or Royal Pythons as we call them in the UK. They were becoming extremely popular, with newer morphs fetching $10K+. I got my first one when I was 12 years old, and that’s how I’ve acummulated over 20 years of experience with the species. In fact, they’re still my favourite kind of snake, due to their gentle nature and colourful pattern variations.
Becoming a herpetologist
Following my return to Europe, I became a herpetologist because I was not satisfied with my level of knowledge on reptiles and amphibians. With a little hard work, I was able to attend a leading Russell Group university, where I received a high level of teaching on everything from evolutionary theory to wildlife disease. This journey led me to a greater understanding of herps, and to some awesome herping trips.
A few years after graduating, however, I realised that I didn’t enjoy academia. In the UK at least, how far you could go often seemed to depend on who you knew, and how wealthy your background was, rather than how deeply you cared about conservation or sharing knowledge.
That’s why I decided instead to write articles for websites that help people care for their reptiles correctly. Hopefully, in this way I could help imrove the lives of the millions of herps that are kept as pets around the world, and do some real good. So far, the feedback has been overwelmingly positive!
My aim now is to share my knowledge and experiences with you all – and to record the details of more herping trips, whenever I can find the time! Given that I’ve been keeping them for so long, I also produce a variety of Ball Python morphs. These offspring are from parents that I have gone to great lengths to ensure are genetically unrelated and ethically maintained. I don’t believe in weakening a species for profit – or keeping them in darkness! I will be putting these in the For Sale section, for anyone interested in high quality captives.
ballpythonbreeder.co.uk is a resource for all herpers and herpetoculturists, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the Contact page!
Or, to see what I’m up to, why not see if I’ve updated instagram: @bpbuk