Who am I? Well, my name is Will Bruce, and I have been studying reptiles and amphibians for most of my life. Growing up in Shropshire I was fascinated by wildlife from an early age. From stag beetles to slow worms (Anguis), the more unusual an animal was, the more I wanted to catch it and study it. That said, the herp life in England is seriously limited – so the only experience I got with exotic animals in my early years was finding a viper and a tortoise on a family holiday to Italy. It wasn’t until I moved to Indiana at the age of 9 that I was able to observe a wide range of reptile and amphibian species.
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 content 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.
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 do 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