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News Briefs

Herp Industry Pioneer Don Hamper Has Passed Away
Jeff Barringer - Thursday, Aug 15, 2019

It is with much sadness that has learned of the passing of reptile industry pioneer Don Hamper.

I first heard Don Hamper's name mentioned by John Hollister in the late 80s while taking a roadside break while hunting for reptiles out near Langtry Texas. It was all "Hamper had those" or "Hamper bred those" or "Hamper can get those". In the days before the internet word passed from herper to herper about other reptile people across the country(and around the world). Don Hamper's name was prominent among them and it seemed that in some way all herp roads led to Don Hamper. I finally actually met Don Hamper at an International Herp Symposium in the early 90s, where most of the reptile illuminati would gather to listen to lectures and compare keeping and breeding notes. By then Don was famous for hosting one of the few regular reptile expos, the All Ohio Reptile Show, as well as for his pioneering work captive breeding many of the species commonly found in the trade today, and through his work introduced literally thousands of midwesterners to the reptile hobby. Don's pioneering work both in reptile breeding and reptile expos dramatically helped expand the hobby into a true industry and his impact can still be seen in the many reptile breeders that sprouted up in America's heartland in the 90s and early 2000s, many of which are still active to this day.

I would run into Don many times over the next 3 decades at symposiums and expos across the country and each time he greeted me like we were long lost brothers. ended up hosting his web site for many years as well as helping him spread the word about his expos.

I will miss Don and his everpresent smile and kind word. He was a true gentleman and will be missed greatly by all that knew him.'s prayers go out to the Hamper family and we ask that you keep them in your thoughts.

- Jeff Barringer

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Featured Contributors

Inyo Mountains Slender Salamander
Richard Bartlett - Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Inyo Mountains Salamander at home (momentarily minus the sheltering rock

We headed to the Inyo Mountains to try to whittle some species from the list.

“Turn right, ummm—here,” Gary said as we barreled along. I turned right and was confronted by a half-dozen boulders someone had rolled onto the dirt road.

“I can roll those.” Gary said (I didn’t argue because I wasn’t sure I could—roll them, that is).

Somehow between Gary’s efforts and the car’s 4-wheel drive we actually accessed the gravel-dirt road.

“See that ridge?” Gary said?

“I think so.” I said tentatively. There looked to be several ridges.

“That’s where we’re going.”


So I put the car in low and we went. As we bounced slowly along we frightened huge basking male desert collared lizards, Crotaphytus bicinctores, from boulder-top vantage points. Toasty warm, they were alert, unapproachable, and clad in scales of warm desert brown. Good road.

Somewhere along the way one of the low ridges developed a sombrero of green formed by one or more cottonwoods. Ahhhh-that was the ridge. That was good. It was considerably closer than the one at which I had been looking. A short spur turned right and we bumped our way to the cottonwoods and at the cottonwoods was a bubbling spring.

“This is one of two places where that salamander is found.” Gary said.

“That salamander” was, in this case, the Inyo Mountains slender salamander, Batrachoseps campi.

So we parked, got out, and began carefully turning damp rocks. Nothing. Nary a salamander, but we were serenaded the whole time by goldfinches so all was not lost.

Gary said “Let’s try the second spot.”

Sounded good to me, so off we went. The roads got worse and as we ascended and rock-hopped I found myself wishing I had a Wrangler rather than a Trooper. But the car was steadfast in its approach—until the road disappeared and I chickened-out.

So we stopped and walked upwards, ever upwards, and finally we entered a beautiful spring fed copse of cottonwoods. This was a magnificent desert spring, replete with terrestrial orchids, mosses, ferns, and flat surface rocks. If ever an oasis existed, this was it.

Gary went in the direction where on an earlier trip he had found an Inyo Mountain slender salamander. Not knowing better, I floundered around in a more open area having a great number of flat rocks, most of which were partially awash in the numerous seeps that emerged from the main spring.

And through dumb-luck, it was I who found the only Inyo Mountain slender salamander of the trip. This beautiful caudatan of the silvery phase was right at water level beneath a tilted rock.

What can I say but “thanks, Gary!”

Continue reading "Inyo Mountains Slender Salamander"

Black Collared Lizards
Richard Bartlett - Monday, Sep 09, 2019

Black collared lizard juvenile

Next stop would be a bit closer to San Diego, where amidst canyons and boulder fields we would try to photograph Baja black collared lizards, Crotaphytus vestigium. Because of their color, predominantly black with an intricate pattern of white crossbars and spots, the breeding males of this species are distinctively different in appearance from any other collared lizard in the United States. Breeding females are also dark but have deep brown fields alternating with the black.

The good news about our search for these collared lizards is that we found them. Gary, with his new fangled, reach to eternity digital camera, even got some good photos of a basking (but very wary) male.

Me? My little 35mm never even had a chance with the lizards. So we decided to try to catch one to enable me to photograph it. After a more than casual “look around” the lizard we zeroed in on was a beautiful adult male in peak coloration. He was basking quietly atop a boulder only about half the size of a house about 20 yards from the road. Even before the car had stopped he was on the alert (being alert is how you get to be a big lizard!) and as we got out he darted over the side and disappeared. Gary ran and I hobbled over to where we thought he had gone and found that he had wedged himself in a cul-de-sac of rocks. He was safe from everything but a whipsnake or our lizard noose. Gary manned the noose and after about a half an hour of standing and lizard fishing in sunshine that had heated the desert to a seeming 200F, he exclaimed “I’ve got him!” He withdrew the noose and with it came one of the most spectacular lizards I’ve ever seen. We were elated—for a moment. The lizard dangled free for a moment, seemed to glare (was it balefully or quizzically) at Gary, shrugged a bit, and before either of us could move to grab him, he had dropped free and was gone. We still don’t know what happened, but we do know it was collared lizard, 1, collared lizard noosers, zero!

Continue reading "Black Collared Lizards"
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