A little over one year after ASU’s albino diamondback rattlesnake, Hector, was humanely euthanized at 25 years old, conversations about starting a Hector Day at ASU have emerged among the ASU community.
Jacob Lenzi, an ASU chemical engineering graduate, posted “Can there be a Hector day at ASU?” in an ASU channel on Reddit on April 21.
The post gained almost 500 upvotes and dozens of comments, some of which told stories of fond interactions with the snake.
The idea sparked a conversation among students and ASU community members whose lives were impacted by Hector.
Hector joined the ASU community in 1995 and lived on campus in an enclosure in the Life Sciences building for nearly 25 years before passing in April 2019.
He fathered other snakes in his lifetime, including another rattlesnake with albinism.
“It was really nice how the Life Sciences building had it set up so it was just like a zoo, you could get up close and personal with the snakes,” Lenzi said.
Lenzi had posted the idea on Reddit after receiving a "year ago today" reminder on his phone of a photo he had when Hector died.
“I didn’t think it would take off,” Lenzi said. He never realized how many people knew Hector, as he often referred to Hector as “one of those hidden gems at ASU.”
Hector's main purpose at ASU was “to educate the general public not only with knowledge with the (display) signs but also exposure and developing a sense of value of these animals,” said Dale DeNardo, associate professor at the School of Life Sciences and overseer of the rattlesnake collection at ASU.
“In Arizona, rattlesnakes are an important part of the community of animals because they are the dominant biomass predator,” DeNardo said. This means that although other predators may be larger, if taking the total mass of organisms in an area, rattlesnakes would win.
“Hector’s the only, as far as we know, caught albino western diamondback rattlesnake,” DeNardo said.
“I think if (Hector Day) has purpose not only to Hector, but if it brings attention to wildlife in general, I’d be supportive, I'd be willing to promote it,” DeNardo said.
An ASU spokesperson said that they were not aware of any immediate plans to start a Hector Day at ASU.
Hector grew to be about 5 feet during his time at ASU and was the largest snake in the collection.
“It’s hard to miss him,” said Christopher Eckert, a sophomore studying aerospace engineering, who first met Hector as a freshman.
“Every day I walked by Hector in LSA, and I would walk with a couple of my friends," he said. "It was just entertaining to walk down that hallway and see all these snakes."
Eckert said he and his friends would go to class intentionally early to stop and look at the snakes.
“I would definitely go out of my way to swing by the hallway if something was going on,” Eckert said.
An annual celebration for Hector at ASU could be a good way to raise awareness about snakes in general, Eckert said.
“I think that would be a really great way to celebrate Hector,” May Lister, a freshman studying computer sciences, said. “Hector Day would be a really good idea maybe to raise awareness for other ecosystems or just trying to conserve a lot of our nature nowadays."
As a Devil's Advocate for the Tempe campus, Lister leads campus tours for potential future Sun Devils and their families.
“On one of my training tours I found out that we have an albino rattlesnake,” Lister said.
Since then, Lister tries her best to remember to mention the rattlesnake collection as a fun fact to help draw people to the ASU community.
“I think it would be a good way to really raise awareness for the importance of protecting ecosystems and really taking the right actions to protect all wildlife," she said. "Especially during these times, I think that would be a really cool, uplifting thing to have for the community.”