Dillon – From The Animals at Home Podcast – The Q&A Interview.

Dillons: Epicrates cenchria (Brazilian rainbow boa)

Going back a number of years, I used to do like a Questions & Answers type interviews with the people relevant not only to myself within the Reptile/Amphibian community. But popular and respected within the community as a whole.

These interviews can be found over in my Chameleon Network Facebook group, and feature the likes of;

  • John Courteney-smith MRSB – (Arcadia Reptiles).
  • Mary Pinborough – of Pinmoore Animal Laboratory (PALs Vet Lab).
  • Sarah Pellett – VetMB CertAVP(ZooMed) BA BSc(Hons) DZooMed, RCVS Recognised Specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
  • + more

So I thought id start doing these again as it has been a few years. Things have moved forward within the hobby of keeping reptiles regarding the science, tech and keeping methods.

(I will also, at some point, make ALL the older interview Q&A’s available on this blog)

First up on my list was the creator of the amazing Animals at Home podcast, Mr Dillon Perron (In which I had the pleasure of featuring, here)

So here goes…….

First off a brief introduction about whom you actually are, then we’ll start with the questions 🙂

My name is Dillon Perron, I live in Manitoba, Canada, and I am the host and creator of The Animals at Home Podcast and YouTube Channel. I have had a passion for wildlife for as long as I can remember and have been keeping reptiles since 2007. My mission with Animals at Home is simple: To inspire others to push the limits of their animal husbandry by promoting the importance of high level, creative husbandry individualized for each animal. Animals at Home is also a proud support of the Amazon Rainforest Conservancy (ARC), a charity aimed at protecting sections of the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest. You can find more information at: https://www.animalsathome.ca/

QUESTIONS:

So, Dillon. How did your journey with Reptiles/Exotics start?

Ok, so my journey with reptiles started in 2007, in a grocery store of all places! While in the check-out line I found myself in the “impulse” purchase section of the store. Of course, this section includes things like magazines, chocolate bars, gum, etc., but for whatever reason, this store’s impulse section also had a display of short, clear-plastic cylinders lined up on a small table. Inside the cylinders where little, bright green Venus fly traps. It is safe to say the store’s “impulse” strategy worked on me. 

I bought the plant, took it home and immediately began researching how to care for it. I quickly realized they require a highly humid environment and it would be necessary for me to make a terrarium for it. Of course, it didn’t take long once I started the terrarium research for me to stumbled across a line in an article that read: “once you have created your terrarium, and planted your plants, you might consider adding some wildlife like a small lizard or frog”. Fast-forward a few months and I had a dead Venus fly trap and my first crested gecko, Jaxson who I still have to this day (13 years later, he is approximately 15-16 years old). 

You will be known for the amazing Animals at Home podcast, In-which I am a huge fan. How did that all start?. What made you venture onto YouTube to share your knowledge and information?

I started YouTube on a whim in the fall if 2017. I was converting a few other shelving-units into enclosures for my boas and I thought, “hey, why not film this as a tutorial?”. So, if you want to see a cringe-worthy tutorial video, click here: https://youtu.be/g-E_IHH7wzA The first 6 months of my YouTube journey was mostly composed of small DIY-type projects, setting up enclosures for new animals, etc. However, I quickly ran into an issue, I was running out of video ideas. 

It became very evident to me that an easy way to generate new content was by acquiring a new animal. A new animal would mean: an unboxing video, a set-up video, a care video, an update video etc. This would mean every few months I could get a new animal and continue to feed myself new content to create. I was NOT willing to do this, not only would this have been a bad idea financially speaking, it would not have been fair to the animals nor would have set a proper example for the viewers. Personally, I believe this is a trap many (if not most) of our beloved Petubers fall into. The end results is always an unmanageably large collection, riddled with suboptimal care.

At this time, I also started to find myself questioning the ethics of the hobby. Rack systems were becoming more popular by the day and I started wondering if it was ethical to keep captive reptiles at all (https://youtu.be/WOIqCCRIUu4). That’s when it hit me! A podcast would allow me to A) continuously post new content without creating a revolving door of new animals, and B) pick the brain of the experts and share it with the greater reptile community. At the time, I knew ZERO about starting a podcast, literally zero. With a lot of hard work, and a massive learning curve the first batch of episodes were released September of 2018. Presently there is a catalogue of 60+ episodes with guests including: John Courteney-Smith of Arcadia Reptile, Mariah Healy of Reptifiles, Liam Sinclair of Reptiles and Research, Joseph Brabin of JTB Reptiles, of course Pete Hawkins, exotic vets, wildlife biologists and much more!

In the Summer of 2020, I transitioned Animals at Home into its own Network and in doing so added an additional show to the program. This show is called Animals Everywhere and is hosted by Bryce Broom of Righteous Reptiles. More information about The Animals at Home Network can be found here: https://www.animalsathomenetwork.com/

What reptile/exotics do you keep yourself now? And others you may have kept?

Currently, I have: 

  • 1 x Crested Gecko
  • 1 x Giant Day Gecko
  • 2 x Boa Imperator’s
  • 1 x Brazilian Rainbow Boa
  • 1 x Jungle Carpet Python

These are the only reptiles I have ever owned! I have been fortunate that every reptile I purchased over the years is still with me today (knock on wood), and at this point I can’t see myself adding any more to the collection any time soon (famous last words, I know…).

Dillons, Morelia spilota cheynei (Jungle carpet python)

What is the most common reptile/exotic related question(s) you get asked?

The most common questions I get from non-reptile folks are the classic ones: are your snakes poisonous? Or what will you do if you snake tries to eat you? (my aunt’s friend has a sister whose snake… you know the rest)

From reptile folks I receive mostly comments rather than questions. I receive MANY messages monthly from listeners thanking me for producing the podcast. It is important to point out that the value of the podcast comes directly from the guests, and not from me but the messages are always welcomed and appreciated. I will share a comment I received a few months back; I am sent comments of similar sentiment often and they are among my favourite type of feedback to receive:

“When I first started I was very much in the mindset of keeping my snakes in a rack system with minimal enrichment. However after I discovered your podcast you opened up my mind to increasing the levels of care by providing a more naturalistic approach to my animals. It was just after that I changed the way I care for my snakes and rather than being excited about increasing my collection and purchasing more snakes I became more interested and excited about increasing the levels of care I have for my current animals by actively engaging in research and implementing a naturalistic approach. As a consequence I feel a huge sense of reward and satisfaction knowing that I am now providing a higher standard of care for my snakes.”

I don’t think it gets better than that!

What native reptiles/amphibians are there in the area you live?

I live in an area of North America called the Great Plains. This part of the continent was flattened by a glacier 1000’s of years ago and has left us with a landscape with very little contour, you can see the horizon in all directions. This unique landscape coupled with a few other factors means we have the pleasure of living in quite an extreme climate. Bitterly harsh winters (average temperature in Jan/Feb are easily into mid to high -20°C, with many -30°C and colder days) and hot, humid summers (25-30°C, humidity +70%). All of this is to say, we still do have a surprising number of herptiles that live here, goes to show how insanely tough this class of animal is. 

We have red-sided garter snakes, including the largest breeding event of this species on the planet (Narcisse Snake Dens), wood frogs and grey tree frogs, both of which have the ability to freeze solid in the winter and thaw out in the spring without issue. Instead of freezing solid, a few other species remain at the bottom of lakes and ponds throughout the frigid winter and absorb oxygen through there skin. These species includes leopard frogs, as well painted and common snapping turtles. And of course, we cannot forget the Canadian and America toad!

We do also a few animals that I have never seen including the prairie skink, western hognose, smooth green snake, redbelly snake and a few species of salamander. https://www.inaturalist.org/guides/2399

Is there a reptile/exotic that you would love to keep, given the chance. If there were no restrictions?

I am quite certain my answer to this question is a monitor lizard. If I had the space, and the money I would like an emerald tree monitor. Such a unique an inquisitive species and the potential for a stunning tropical enclosure would be endless!

Dillons, Correlophus ciliatus (Crested gecko)

What changes, if any, would you like to change most in the reptile/exotic industry?

My vision is, simply put:  Less industrialized, More individualized Reptile Care. I want to learn about the individual animal, not about the genetics it carries. I want you to hear about the care you provide and about the enclosure, it is in.

Personally, I always imagine the reptile trade as being on trial at court (I am a very visual person so use your imagination on this one)… if our defence lawyer shows up with a folder labelled “Reasons to Keep Captive Reptiles” and the only thing inside it is: ball python morphs, hybrids and rack systems, we are in trouble. Instead, I hope to fill the folder with what I perceive to true, meaningful benefits to the trade i.e. connecting people with nature and giving people a greater appreciation for the natural world, conservation (either by way of captive breeding or donating to conservatories), adding to the scientific literature (breeders and advanced keepers are often in relationships with academics to provide help, guidance and data), and one of the most important benefits of the trade is providing people with a purpose.

In reality, this is not an imaginary scenario at all. The reptile trade IS always on trial, if we lose our privilege to keep reptiles (and this has happened in many places) it will be our fault. This would mean that somewhere along the line we failed to prove to non-reptile folks the importance, the beauty, and the overall positive impact the hobby has on society as a whole. 

What is your own favourite part of keeping reptiles?

Setting up enclosures! There is nothing more fun than doing the research of an animal’s native range and replicating it! A close second is of course watching the animal display natural behaviours within the environment you created for it. 

The Least favourite part?

I think my least favourite part of keeping reptiles is the inability to travel. Even though I have a small collection of only 6 animals it can still be difficult to leave for an extended period. This is something worth considering before you expand your collection beyond what the average “house-sitter” would be capable of caring for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining! But this is a problem I plan on solving in the future, i.e. have a trained individual who can care for the animals if I were to leave for a week or two.

What setup or species in your current collection are you most proud of?

I am definitely most proud of my Giant Day Gecko enclosure (https://youtu.be/6zhY9-GH1SE). I spent quite a lot of time learning about climate cycles, light cycles, and designing the cage décor to match what a Phelsuma grandis would experience in the wild. This enclosure includes, vertical tree pillars, an automatic fog and misting system to emulate humidity spikes at night, halogen heat for IR-A and IR-B energy, Arcadia 6% T5 for UVB, a Jungle Dawn for powerful visible light and also a Phillips Hue LED smart bulb that is used to simulate sunrise/sunset. I love this enclosure!

Dillons, Phelsuma grandis (Giant day gecko)

What do you like to do in your actual free time (family, other hobbies, etc)?

My life outside the Podcast, YouTube and reptiles consists mostly swimming. Well not actually swimming… more like standing and walking around a pool deck. I am a retired competitive swimmer, who swam for 18 years most of which was at a national level. I now coach swimming. I work with kids ranging from 8-year-olds learning to swim, up to international level athletes in their 20s. It is a fun job. Other than that, my fiancée and I like to spend time at her family’s cabin in the summer months. I’m also a big Formula 1 fan!

Who has been an influence on you, and your life/career (past or present)? Not necessary Reptiles/exotics.

I have always looked up to people who handle intense pressure without cracking: Being a former swimmer of course I need to include Michael Phelps, Max Verstappen (F1 driver), David Goggins, and Jocko Willink.

Any reptile/exotic related injuries on yourself you can tell us about?

None to date… unless of your you count the time, I contracted Dengue Fever from a mosquito while on a trip to Costa Rica. 

If you were a reptile/exotic. What would you choose to be, and why?

To answer this question, I think I will first decide where it is, I would like to live. The answer to that is an immediate: Amazon Rainforest! Now, where would I like to live in the forest? In the river, burrowed in the leaf litter, up in the canopy? The answer to that is: up in the canopy! So, I think I might have to go with one of my dream animals, the emerald tree boa.

Any reptile/exotic related plans regarding the progression of your popular podcast, or related media path in general you can share/tease the readers with?

Recently I was able to expand Animals at Home into a Network. Currently, the Network features two separate shows (as mentioned above): Animals at Home hosted by me and Animals Everywhere hosted by Bryce Broom. I think it is safe to assume that number of shows will increase over the next 12-18 months. I am also working on a short e-book focused on the philosophy of reptile care. I hope to have that out in the next few months!

I dare you on our next podcast, to eat a roach or a cricket for camera. I’ll do the same. Deal?

Hahaha hmmm… I will have to think about this… no promises…

So, this concludes the Q&A for yourself, Dillon. I thank you for the time taken out to do this 🙂

Thanks, Pete! 

As always, it’s a great pleasure to talk, learn, and share more information about the people I personally have great conversations with. These people are a credit to the hobby, and I feel you all should know a little more about the people behind the websites, podcasts, or whatever the chosen platform.

More coming soon. So keep an eye out.

– Pete

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