HONOKAA — Clayton Cambra is “fascinated by ugly creatures.”
So when the 65-year-old Honokaa resident spotted a huge centipede scurrying about in a wooded area behind his home, he did what someone fascinated by ugly creatures would do. He captured the venomous arthropod with a bucket.
“He stood up in the 5-gallon bucket like a cobra. Standin’ right up. It’s creepy,” Cambra told the Tribune-Herald Thursday. “He crawled out of that bucket four or five times before I got him here.”
Cambra, a Hawi native who owned a tannery and taxidermy shop in Fremont, Calif., before retiring, then did what comes naturally — at least to him.
“I put it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer. Then after it died, I took it out and thawed it. And the next day, I put him on a piece of Styrofoam board and pinned him out and injected him with formaldehyde,” he said.
The gigantic invertebrate measures 14.5 inches from antennae to the tips of its tail-like hind legs.
“It’s a monster. Even when it was dead, I was nervous touchin’ it,” Cambra said.
Dan Rubinoff, an entomologist and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum, saw a photo and said he thinks Cambra’s specimen is a Vietnamese centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes).
“It’s definitely got to be the largest individual I’ve ever seen of it,” Rubinoff said. “… I get ’em in my yard all the time, 6 to maybe 7 inches. Definitely, I’ve never seen one that big.”
Rubinoff said there are other species in Southeast Asia that grow even larger, and added, “Those are really frightening.”
Cambra’s catch is displayed in a museum-like room in his home with about 50 trophy specimens.
There are numerous stuffed animals — not of the toy variety — displayed meticulously in a fastidiously clean, dehumidified environment. They include a grizzly bear, a small black bear with front paws at the ready while standing on its hind legs, a mountain lion gazing from a shelf as though surveying prey from a tree limb, an arctic fox, a beaver, raccoon, skunk and numerous birds, including wild turkeys and pheasants.
The room also boasts more mounted heads than grace the walls of most old-school Texas barbecue joints, including several species of deer, elk and wild boar.
The colossal centipede represents something different than the room’s other display items, and Cambra said he rejected a $1,000 offer to part with the creepy-crawly critter.
“I don’t want to sell it. If I get rid of it, I ain’t got it. I want to keep it,” he explained. “People collect all kinds of things. I know people on the computer (who) collect these alive and keep ’em as pets. I don’t want that damn thing alive.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.