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Reptile lovers gather at Bass Pro Saturday
Central Valley Herpetological Society founder Edgar Ortega poses with a young alligator. The organization will host its inaugural meeting on Saturday, April 9, from 6 to 9 p.m. in the conservation room at Bass Pro Shops. - photo by Photo Contributed
Edgar Ortega spent a large portion of his time as a kid scouring the creeks and canals looking for any sort of reptile or amphibian he could get close to and study.

And while he’s no longer a kid, Ortega – who spends his days working as a veterinary technician – still harbors the same passion for snakes, lizards, frogs and anything that falls under the herpetology umbrella.

“I never had a chance to keep any of the things that I caught when I was a kid, but that didn’t stop me from looking,” Ortega said. “I keep some things today, but my passion is about conservation and education, and that’s what I’m pushing towards today.”

On Saturday, April 9, Ortega will be hosting the first meeting of the Central Valley Herpetological Society – a group he’s organizing for people to share their collective love of amphibians and reptiles as well as work towards conservation goals – at Bass Pro Shops from 6 to 9 p.m.

While Ortega has organized a statewide herpetological society in the past, this is his first attempt at a regional group – one that he says already has between 50 and 70 people committed to.

“We’ll have to wait and see if they all show up at the first meeting,” he said with a laugh. “This is a group that’s open to anybody who’s interested in reptiles or amphibians or conserving the habitat that they currently live in. We’re also going to be a resource for public education so that people who want to keep something know what they’re getting into before they tackle something they can’t handle.

“Most of it, though, is going to be about conservation and the spread of scientific knowledge.”

According to Ortega, the local area is home to a variety of gopher snakes, king snakes and racers, and a short drive to Tracy will occasionally turn up a rattlesnake or two. The banks along the Delta are also ripe with a multitude of amphibians.

The upcoming meeting is open to the public, and becoming a member of the society, Ortega said, is free of charge. Several members will have things on hand to show, and there will be a guest speaker appearing as well.

“We just want people who are interested in this or want to learn more to come and check this out,” Ortega said. “We’re really excited about getting this going.”

Those interested in learning more about the organization can contact Ortega, or even register for the group, by visiting