Scales of all shapes and sizes slither their way into The Reptile Shop

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A 3-year-old boa constrictor that when fully grown will be 8-10 feet is on display at The Reptile Shop in Temecula, during their grand opening, Saturday, Feb. 29. Valley News/Lexington Howe photo

A 7-foot-long boa was laid out across the concrete for everyone to see as guests crowded around it, hoping to have a chance to run their fingers across its smooth scales.

The Reptile Shop in Temecula opened its doors to the public Feb. 29, celebrating the occasion with KTMQ-FM 103.3 Temecula Rocks radio station, alongside Avian Behavior and Forever Wild Animal Sanctuary.

The 7-foot boa belongs to Anthony Mares, the sales manager at The Reptile Shop.

“This is a Suriname boa; she’s a sweetheart,” Mares said. “This is actually a true red-tail boa. Most of the red-tail boas that you see in places like this are actually Columbian boas; they’re not true red-tails because they’re brown.”

Mares said he has always had reptiles growing up.

“I grew up in Georgia, so I used to catch a lot of animals and salamanders and toads,” he said.

The boa he had around his arms was 4 years old.

“She’s not that old,” Mares said. “You feed it large jungle rats, rabbits; they’ll eat anything.”

For shop owner Michael Roscoe, his love of reptiles started when he was 7 years old and his father bought him a snake.

“It just kind of turned into something, and I’ve been doing it ever since,” he said.

“We had a closed-door breeding facility not far from here, and people were banging on the door, wanting to come in and scope stuff out,” Roscoe said. “So fast forward, we moved to a new location; we opened the doors and it was real tight, and we didn’t have enough room for retail. We then found a new location here with an awesome landlord, and we have our breeding facility in the back still,” he said.

There are at least 500 animals in the back of the shop.

“It’s boas, ball pythons, king snakes, corn snakes, milk snakes, leopard geckos, plus we do some higher designer snakes in between $500 to $10,000,” Roscoe said. “Surprisingly, we sell probably just as many $500 to $2,000 snakes as we do $50 snakes or lizards. There’s actually quite a large community, a lot of conventions, a lot of trade shows. We ship internationally overseas to different countries, and we travel to different countries for conventions, so that’s part of our other business that we do.”

As a first-time reptile owner, Roscoe suggested starting with easier ones.

“Bearded dragons, leopard geckos, corn snakes, milk snakes, the basics that you’ll see if you go to a Petco or Petsmart,” he said.

The shop has temperature-controlled environments that are set up in rack systems for breeding, all self-contained with heat, cooling, humidity controls and staff that care for them.

“We have a ton of people in here constantly hands on with the animals, taking care of all their needs and even other needs when they’re breeding during the season, putting males and females together, setting up breeding quarters and stimulating different lighting and season cycles,” Roscoe said. “It’s pretty intricate, but it’s cool.”

Chuy Tiscareno, a sales specialist, pulled out a super hypo false water cobra.

“They’re from Brazil,” he said. “This guy is mildly venomous. We don’t sell them to anyone that’s not experienced; that’s the main thing.”

These snakes live about 20 to 25 years, and according to Tiscareno, they’re very popular snakes.

“I started when I was 16; I’m 35 now,” Tiscareno said. “I basically saw a guy walking around with one (a snake) around his neck, and I had to have one. Gotta scare all my friends,” he said. “That’s how it started. Personally, at home I’ve got about 72 animals: bugs, isopods, tarantulas, millipedes, centipedes, chameleons, geckos, all kinds of stuff.”

A local mother and her two children came out to the opening to learn more.

“We’re home-schoolers, so we’re hoping to learn some things and see different reptiles,” Nina Islas said.

She said the family doesn’t currently have any reptiles at the moment, but they used to have a bearded dragon named Charmander.

“You have a bunch of people that have the same passion as you that are doing different projects and different goals, and it’s really cool,” Roscoe said.

His favorite are the boa constrictors.

“They have tons of cool colors, they get good sized and they’re not too big,” Roscoe said. “They’re mellow; they’re personable. I enjoy them all the way around.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.