An ambassador lives on

According to Denardo, Hector’s legacy is not just that he is a memorable snake. Instead, it’s what he contributed to snake conservation.

Many people fear rattlesnakes, but being exposed to one with such a calm demeanor has changed minds.

“Many students tell me that when they first got here, they couldn’t even walk through the building. They’d have to walk outside to get from one side to the other,” Denardo said. “Now, they can walk through. They’ve gotten used to it. They haven’t fallen in love with rattlesnakes, but they’re not inherently afraid and assume danger. I truly believe that the thousands of people going there each semester, seeing those snakes, does impact them.”

Denardo recalls growing up, spending his days playing outside and gaining an appreciation for nature. Without that, he says, he may not have become a biologist.

However, technology is more readily accessible today, reducing the time many people spend outdoors. Forming a connection with a snake like Hector can really influence how people view rattlesnakes, an animal which typically causes fear from those who encounter it.

“When I tell people I’m a biologist at ASU, they bring up that display. And it’s not just from last year, it’s from a few years ago,” Denardo said. “I think it promotes a connection with nature, especially a connection with something people see no value in. Some people really get attached. So, he’s done a lot. He was an ambassador. And hopefully his son or daughter will do that.”

Melinda Weaver

Communications specialist, School of Life Sciences