Big Bad Bart

Bart seems to think he’s a flying gecko.  Or perhaps he thinks he’s an impresario.  In a household of 65 or more reptiles, most of them geckos, it takes a large “personality” to stand out, and Bart certainly does.  Every evening, the loudest sounds in the gecko room, also known as my living room, are the thumps of Bart jumping from one glass wall to another and sometimes crashing and burning in a spectacular way on the pothos leaves when he miscalculates.

Bart arrived in the winter of 2017.  His owner was surrendering him and his 12x12x18 ExoTerra to The Gecko Sanctuary. I lived nearby so I volunteered to pick him up.  Bart had apparently been passed from owner to owner during his short life.  In that time he had dropped his tail and appeared to be irritable and anxious.  The current owner felt that he would do better in another home with more consistent care.  The minute I saw him I was hooked and I decided he was going to stay with me.  I’d always wanted a deep chocolate colored crestie and Bart fit the bill.

Bart on arrival

Although I’ve found that crested geckos are more comfortable in larger enclosures, the 12x12x18 was all I had and all I had room for, so Bart would have to live in this enclosure until I could make some changes.  I did swap out the cage he arrived in for one with real plants.  Everything went well initially.  Bart appeared to be settling in. He let me hold him and appeared to be comfortable chilling on my lap or near my computer.

Bart in his planted enclosure


Bart checks out his leopard gecko neighbors on the left . . .


. . . and on the right


I soon discovered that I had been too complacent.  Bart seemed to have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality.  One evening he would let me hold him and the next evening he would lunge at me and bite me.  The climax came when I let him out of his cage for awhile one day.  He was eyeing me with that “I’m going to jump” look, and jump he did, right onto my face where he landed mouth first!  I didn’t want to give up on him but I had to protect myself.  From then on, every time I took Bart out I would have to wrap him in a soft cloth.  He would latch on with his teeth immediately.  Feeding him was a speed contest — could I get the food bowl in and out before he grabbed me?  If I rested my hand on the top of the cage, he would scramble up there and try to bite me through the cage.  Once I could get him out, he was often comfortable walking or sitting on me but I had to be watchful that he didn’t change his mind and try to eat me for dinner.

We’re told by some that most reptiles have no interest in engaging with their humans and that if we do feel there’s a connection we’re just anthropomorphizing.  By that logic, a gecko that bites should probably be left alone and not bothered.  I considered this, though I do try to occasionally handle all the geckos that prefer to be left alone in order to acclimate them to me in case they need help with a difficult shed or other intervention.  Bart, who had plenty of hiding spots and foliage, chose to spend most of his waking moments at the front of his cage, especially when I was around.

Bart participates in Somerville Open Studios


I still wasn’t sure if he was trying to engage with me or if he was miserable in his too-small enclosure and wanted out.  Finally this past summer I was able to find an 18x18x24 ExoTerra and a place to put it.  Bart moved in and we waited to see whether he would be more content.

Bart in his larger enclosure


Can I come out now?

After 6 months in his larger cage, I can say with confidence that Bart seems to be somewhat more content.   He is biting and lunging less, though I still have to be careful.  His near neighbors in adjoining cages are also male cresties so I have to be very careful when taking him out.  One thing hasn’t changed, though.  Bart still spends a lot of time at the front of his cage watching me (guess where he is right now?)

Bart helps me mist the cages


Sleeping it off after a long, exhausting night

What do you think?

Written by Aliza

Aliza is a home care speech therapist living in the Boston area. She successfully bred a variety of gecko species between 2005 and 2017. She currently cares for a large number of geckos as well as a few frogs and bearded dragons. Other interests which she pursues in her copious free time include work in ceramics, practicing aikido and surfing the internet.

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Healing through Art and Reptiles

Interview with Zach Brink of Josh’s Frogs