A Brief History of Kathy Love & CornUtopia
I've been interested in herps (reptiles & amphibians, collectively) since early childhood. I grew up absorbed with all wildlife, including early fascinations with horses, cats & dogs. Being a veterinarian was the first career I ever dreamed of obtaining. I learned about herps through TV, visiting the local Milwaukee Zoo and Museum of Natural History, and through books.
My first wildlife experiences were with local garter snakes Thamnophis sirtalis that neighborhood kids found in wooded lots near my home and used to try to scare me. That sure backfired on them! My initial fears quickly subsided and were replaced by curiosity as snakes soon became pets, and later a part-time pet business (called "Jungle Hut") in my hometown of Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA.
I met Bill in late 1976 while I was operating a mobile educational herp display called `The Living Jungle' with my business partner of the time, Tom Vermersch of San Antonio, Texas. The exhibit toured the U.S.A., setting up inside large indoor shopping malls. It spread a positive image of herps, and supported itself solely through voluntary donations. Bill became a business partner after meeting us when we showed it in South Florida and needed help. Running that display was a great chance to travel the country hunting for 'exotic' herps previously only read about. Even more importantly, we got an early glimpse at how various herpers, in zoos and privately, were progressing with the newly emerging art of herpetoculture nationwide. It was truly a "Roads" scholarship, unsurpassed, we feel, by any that could have been obtained in a school or living in one place at that time.
In 1979 we
returned to Florida, got married, and bought our first "farm" -- a
mobile home on two acres outside LaBelle, Florida. Our herp collection
grew steadily, aided by a long association with Tom Crutchfield (Herpetofauna
Inc., at the time) in Fort Myers. Soon we were keeping and breeding many
snake species, including colorful tree vipers of several species, Amazon tree
boas, and a few other boas, pythons, and small venomous snakes. But we
found ourselves pulled more and more towards specializing in selective breeding
for attractive color and pattern morphs in one of our favorites, the corn
snakes Elaphe guttata. We built a 1200-square-foot
building from scratch ourselves in the mid- 1980s to devote purely to reptile
and rodent production. The collection soon expanded to completely fill the
space we had for it.
That's me back in the late 1980s still sorting baby snakes at 1:00 am. When it's baby season, I spend some serious amounts of time at this annual task.
The name `Glades Herpetoculture' was adopted in 1985 as a business name reflecting our new passion, and the fact that we technically lived within the (former) Everglades. Our first annual "Expected Offspring" list was distributed in 1987, and the response was phenomenal! Many of our offered snakes were not readily available on the mass market at that time, so collectors and hobbyists from all over the world were soon finding their way to our door to buy and swap specimens.
By 1989 our need for more room became critical, and we were considering our growth options when Bill decided to join forces with longtime friend Rob MacInnes as a 50/50 partner to create a full-line herp dealership. This combined his herpetocultural and marketing experience with Rob's years of import / export and husbandry expertise in diverse species of herps. They shortened the name to a less tongue-tying "Glades Herp", later incorporating the company as they rented a huge warehouse in North Ft. Myers, Florida. Later, in late 1993, they found a smaller but better-located retail shop in Fort Myers. They started printing regular stocklists monthly, continuing with their recognizable neon green paper, to promote their constantly changing assemblage of animals and growing list of books, tools, etc. The business grew to be one of the largest of its kind, offering a greater variety of quality live herps and supplies at one place than anyone else had done previously.
Bill got particularly involved in herp photography with the large selection of photo subjects at his disposal. Traveling to exotic lands, particularly Madagascar, to scout sources of animals and learn more about them in the wild was also a pleasurable part of the business. Writing evolved into a third sideline from which we both derived great satisfaction, and a little income and notoriety. Our book, The Corn Snake Manual (published in February 2000), was our first collaboration, and our second work, Corn Snakes – The Comprehensive Owner’s Guide (published five years later) is currently the most complete book available about the species.
Kathy & Bill photographing an Okeetee corn on their property.
above pursuits, along with continuing to propagate many colorful corns, and a
smaller number of colorful Amazon tree boas and ball pythons, are now the
primary aspects of our newest enterprises, CornUtopia ( < Thanks,
Kevin Enge, for letting me have that biz name you once used.) and
Chameleon Ventures. We had lost personal touch with
customers, and were starting to feel that we were spreading ourselves in too
many different directions with our duties at Glades Herp. Bill chose to
sell out his interests in March 1996, and is now happier (but not necessarily
less busy) concentrating on the specialty projects for which he has become known
in the herp community. Rob is still running the company as Glades
Herp Farm with his new partner, Robbie Keszey; you should check out
their website if you're looking for one of the largest selections of
captive-bred and imported herps in the world. I deal almost exclusively
with the snakes at this point, which allows me to be the one of
us to speak to about any aspect of that portion of what we do. I have
thinned down the snake colony to a more manageable level now - one that I can
care for personally - as I'm am currently keeping and breeding only three
species – corns, Amazon tree boas, and ball pythons.
We currently live on a wild and natural 20-acre tract inland (east of) Ft. Myers on the lower west coast of Florida. Anoles, treefrogs, gopher tortoises, corn snakes, yellow rat snakes, coachwhips, indigo snakes, and even occasional eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are seen passing through our little chunk of wilderness from time to time. The backyard pond has a healthy population of native fish, aquatic turtles, and alligators. Our property has become like a sanctuary to these creatures as the land on nearly all sides of us has been cleared and planted in citrus groves or pastures. We keep a few of our herps (such as African spurred tortoises and Amazon tree boas) in outside-style pens to make use of our favorable subtropical climate in stimulating reproduction, but the corn snakes are bred in rows of tray-style plastic tubs inside special buildings. We are not open to the public anymore, but still have visitors over if they call ahead and don't just try to drop in on us from out of the blue.
in our fifties now and have been fortunate enough to so far have made our
livings doing things that are also fun and challenging. We are
definitely both firm followers in the idea that you succeed best when
doing something you really enjoy. We like running our own small
herpetocultural, photography, and ecotourism business on a personally
manageable scale, and talking directly to customers and others involved in
interesting jobs, or studies of herpetology or herpetoculture. We
also have fun sometimes, like when we made this pic of me under 139 baby
corn snakes at the Gourmet Rodent in Gainesville, Florida. It graces
the back cover of our first book, The Corn Snake Manual
We tend to vote conservatively, but approach new ideas open-mindedly, and welcome the opportunity to meet people from diverse cultures and of alternative opinions and / or lifestyles. We live by the philosophy that it's up to us to guide our individual destinies through our own honest efforts. We abhor people who don't take responsibility for their actions by trying to make others pay for their shortcomings, ignorance or stupidity instead of working hard to achieve their goals themselves. We still embrace the pioneer spirit that created this country originally, despite its tendency to slowly evaporate in the atmosphere of our evolving modern culture. Constantly experiencing new things about the world still really motivates us. We like to "live and learn, not just live!"
Although we don't have any biological children, we have found immense enjoyment in hosting numerous foreign exchange students over the years. Visiting former students has become the basis for some of our most memorable recent trips that were not mainly in search of herps. Students from France, Russia, Latvia, Brazil, Chile, Ukraine and Mexico have shared our home for varying amounts of time over the years. We will always consider hosting new short and long-term foreign visitors / students who have common interests, and who wish to share their cultures and experiences with us. We are still especially hoping to host a Malagasy exchange student someday!
Me and some of my "kids", who doubled as my crew at the '98 National Reptile Breeders' Expo in Orlando, Florida. From left to right: Brian, me, Andra, and Myriam.
We have an American "son", Brian Fitzgerald, a young man who we have virtually adopted about 1990, and had live with us for years in the mid-nineties. He shares many of our interests, He and his wife pop by to visit often from their lives and careers in northern California. Our niece (through marriage) Dasha (from Russia) also lives with us as she attends Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers.
That's us in a (big) nutshell! If any aspect of our lives strikes a familiar chord with you, we’d welcome the chance to meet you someday. Maybe we’ll attend the same conference, or share an expedition to some tropical paradise someday. Or you might look us up if you know you’ll be in Florida in the near future. We do not attend the telephone at regular hours, which occasionally makes it seem a little hard to reach us. Don’t despair; we’re just busy outside, not antisocial! Leave a message on the machine if you miss us, please. Contact us well in advance (by at least several days or more) if you'll be in our area and wish to visit.
A neonate rhino rat Rhyncophis boulengeri hatching in my hand in 2004.
Tyrannosaurus guttata ??? - - - I'm not really into hybridizing herps, but I couldn't resist seeing what a T-rex would have looked like crossed with a nice Okeetee corn snake. That's us with the original dark green one we bought, tied down on our van at the National Reptile Breeders' Expo in Daytona Beach, Florida in mid-August 2005. Bill painted it at home, and now it lurks out along the driveway.
< That's me with a carpet chameleon, and to the right, a ringtail lemur in Madagascar in early December 2005. I got to go there as a guest of Air Madagascar and many Malagasy hotels to assist hubby Bill's Blue Chameleon Ventures promote his tours of that very cool country. If you're thinking about ever visiting Madagascar, PLEASE contact me so I can tell you about traveling there. This was my 2nd visit, the first one being back in 1992. Things have improved a lot since then, and I heartily recommend going there as the adventure vacation of a lifetime for ANYone with a love of nature!
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Thanks for visiting ! --- Kathy Love
CornUtopia / Kathy Love
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