Joe McDonald, 23, paid little mind to the two dots of blood that marred his right hand. Nor did he harbor ill feelings for the fangs that put them there.
As a volunteer with Nature in Motion, an exotic animal and supply store in North Charleston, McDonald said he’s comfortable with the slithery animals that may frighten some others.
The non-venomous Nicaraguan boa constrictor that contorted its body in McDonald’s hands had a surly temperament. But McDonald said that’s what attracted him to the creature.
“He’s mean, so no one was going to want him,” McDonald said. “I figured I’d give him a home.”
McDonald bought his new pet on Saturday at the Repticon Reptile & Exotic Animal Show at the Omar Shrine Convention Center in Mount Pleasant. The snake will join 14 others that McDonald said he has at home.
About 40 vendors from across the country displayed thousands of animals including snakes, geckos, chameleons, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, tarantulas and turtles.
On Saturday, attendees scurried through the convention center in awe of the animals.
Some cradled the creatures with confidence. Others overcame fears with the poke of a finger.
The trade show’s manager Joe Lesh said the two-day event gives attendees a hands on opportunity to learn more about the exotic animals and possibly take home one of their own.
“You’ll see all kinds of animals from all over the world. Most of them are going to be reptiles, of course, but you’ll see some other exotics thrown in there as well,” Lesh said. “It’s a great, family-friendly event, with educational talks every hour on the hour.”
The educational presentations staggered throughout the day offer tips on how to care for the various animals before attendees commit to buying one, Lesh said.
“You’ll see animals here that you’re never going to see at your regular pet store. And the vendors, they’ll take them out to let you pet them and hold them. You’re not going to get that at a zoo,” Lesh said.
Repticon first came to the Charleston area in 2004 and was previously held at the Ladson Exchange Park and the North Charleston Convention Center. This year was the event’s first at the Mount Pleasant site.
Lesh said the change in location meant no venomous animals were allowed this year due to a city ordinance. Also banned were constrictors longer than six feet and crocodiles more than 30 inches, he said.
“For every show we do, we have to research the state, county and city code to see what we’re allowed to bring. ... South Carolina is fairly lenient, compared to some other states. Almost anything goes here,” Lesh said.
The event’s coordinators relay all restrictions to vendors, but Lesh said it’s up to those individuals to adhere to the law.
Undercover law enforcement agents often frequent such events to ensure that no illegal animals are sold, Lesh said.
Federal authorities in Florida recently filed felony charges against two South Carolina men accused of illegally selling a variety of native turtles to an undercover agent. One of the men reportedly boasted making $9,000 a week selling and shipping restricted spotted turtles.
“Animal control called us and let us know they were going to be here,” Lesh said of the Mount Pleasant event. “Of course, if we see something that’s not supposed to be here, we generally tell people, ‘That’s not supposed to be in this town.’”
Lesh said Repticon’s officials turned away a man on Saturday who brought a large crocodile for attendees to take pictures with. The man returned later in the day without the animal, and he was allowed into the venue, he said.
Repticon will continue today from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Omar Shrine Convention Center at 176 Patriots Point Road.
For more information on the event visit www.repticon.com/charleston.html.