Some people from Alberta’s reptile community are speaking out following a house fire Wednesday where a large number of reptiles were found dead.
At 12:01 p.m., Edmonton Fire Rescue Services was called to a fire at a single-family home in the area of 20 Avenue and 112A Street. The fire was brought under control at 12:35 p.m. and EFRS said no humans were injured.
Information received Wednesday afternoon from a spokesperson with the City of Edmonton was that “more than 1,000” reptiles were found. However, it was still not known exactly how many reptiles were found dead, what type of reptiles they were or how they died.
Peter Daly, a professional biologist and president of the Edmonton Reptile and Amphibian Society (ERAS) said on Thursday that the number is likely much smaller than that.
“There were not thousands of animals involved. There were several dozen. I struggle to say exactly how many.”
Daly was called to the scene Wednesday as a subject matter expert and as president of the ERAS. He also said he knows the homeowner and that the man kept, bred and sold reptiles.
Most of the reptiles found dead were a variety of small lizards, frogs and small “harmless spiders,” according to Daly.
A spokesperson with Animal and Pest Control said on Wednesday that 10 tortoises and one leopard gecko were taken into their care.
Daly said many of the containers that housed the reptiles were covered in soot and it would have been difficult to distinguish the plants and insects used as food from the reptiles.
“The homeowner also had a bunch of small tubs that were used to propagate small plants. So if they’re looking at tanks that obviously have reptiles in them and scan to see tubs with plants in them, it’s a natural assumption to make,” Daly said.
Regardless of the exact number of reptiles killed, Daly said keeping dozens or more reptiles in one home can be done safely and should not be a concern for neighbours.
“Just because it’s not your cup of tea doesn’t mean that it’s something creepy that people need to be worried about,” Daly said.
“These are animals that are so often demonized that it’s very often for things to become sensationalized and spun out of control.”
Daly said he keeps 100 or so reptiles, amphibians and arachnids in his own house and that they all together are “less work to attend to than a single dog.”
Vanan Kesavan has been in the reptile industry for more than 20 years and recently opened a new store in Redcliff, Alta., called Reptiles West. He said this fire is a tragedy that hits close to home.
“We’re in the sales business. I’m in the sales business. But we’re also animal lovers, that comes first. So it’s a hard one to swallow.”
Kesavan also knows the homeowner involved in the fire and has been in contact with him.
“We have a close-knit community. The community is going to come together and support him through this in whatever way we can because this could happen to anyone.”
Daly said Edmonton doesn’t have rules regarding the number of reptiles someone is permitted to own and that anything dangerous is made illegal under the Alberta Wildlife Act.
“In terms of public safety (regarding the number of animals), there is none to speak of in this situation at all,” Daly said.