Amanda Ferrara poses with ball python Lemon and bearded dragon Drogon. (Karina Andrew / Whidbey News-Times)

Amanda Ferrara poses with ball python Lemon and bearded dragon Drogon. (Karina Andrew / Whidbey News-Times)

Whidbey woman has warm heart for cold-blooded critters

Amanda Ferrara owns 14 scaly friends of her own, each with its own unique personality.

The well-known adage “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life” rings true for one Langley woman who is forging an unconventional career path based on her passion since childhood.

That passion is reptiles.

“My whole family was really squeamish about reptiles, and when I was a little kid, I would pick up lizards and snakes and frogs, and I just loved them,” Amanda Ferrara said, allowing her boa constrictor, Peaches, to wind around her waist and shoulders.

Peaches is one of 14 reptiles Ferrara owns. Her home is something of a menagerie, with glass tanks lining the walls of at least two rooms, each one regulated to its occupant’s environmental needs.

Some of Peaches’ friends include fellow boa constrictor Spot, Bus, the red-footed tortoise, Niki the Argentine Tegu lizard, and Cartman, the pixie frog, who, despite being an amphibian, still gets lumped in with the rest of the gang.

Ferrara is a recent Whidbey implant. The reptile fanatic moved to Langley about a year ago and works at Hewitt Reptile Emporium in Everett, where she teaches people how to care for their pets at home.

Amanda Ferrara lets her boa constrictors Spot and Peaches wrap around her. (Karina Andrew / Whidbey News-Times)

Amanda Ferrara lets her boa constrictors Spot and Peaches wrap around her. (Karina Andrew / Whidbey News-Times)

Now she is looking to expand her reach beyond the walls of the shop. She has recently started booking gigs to give 45-minute presentations on reptiles at events like kids’ parties. She has her first event later this month, and her own pets will be the stars. She charges $75 for reptile encounters on Whidbey and $150 for events on the mainland.

A large part of her reptilian education agenda is to correct misconceptions about the scaly critters.

“They’re a lot smarter than people think. Snakes and lizards can recognize their owner apart from other people,” Ferrara said. “Some larger lizards are smart enough to learn their name or maybe a couple words.”

Reptiles feel emotion, too. When color-changing reptiles such as chameleons shift shades, it isn’t a camouflage attempt; it’s an expression of emotion.

Ferrara also said snakes and lizards smell with their tongues. Though those flickering forked tongues might look sinister, a snake sticking its tongue out when it sees an unfamiliar person is akin to a dog getting to know a stranger by sniffing them.

Her own pets defy the “creepy-crawly” stereotypes often bestowed upon snakes and lizards in pop culture. Take Lemon, the ball python. She is the smallest of Ferrara’s three snakes and is both shy and snuggly, hiding her face away from strangers until she warms up to them.

Ferrara said ball pythons like Lemon are “really good for people who are afraid of snakes, because they kind of curl up and don’t move very fast, so they’re a nice species for beginners to meet if they’re nervous.”

On the other hand, Drogon the bearded dragon is outgoing and interactive. His favorite activities include camping, swimming and riding on the dashboard of Ferrara’s truck.

Eventually, Ferrara would like to start her own reptile pet store, which would also serve as her main platform for events and education.

“I love reptiles,” she said simply.

“I always have. They’re awesome.”

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.

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