An autumn nature hike is enriching and relaxing, but keep in mind… you’re not alone!
August and September are two of the most beautiful months to explore the great outdoors. The weather is perfect and nature during this time of year is awesome.
All is calm and serene with insects buzzing, a bird chirping here and there, and maybe a light breeze or the cheerful sounds of a bubbling stream. What could be more enjoyable?
Yet in this seemingly peaceful environment you must be attentive and prepared for any encounters with wildlife. The great outdoors is the home to many creatures, small and large, and you are traversing their native space. Animals are generally shy and reserved, preferring to go about their business and keep to themselves. But sometimes contact is unavoidable, and this includes running into poisonous (venomous) snakes.
Snakes are very remarkable animals. They have adapted to live on the land in the trees, grasslands, and desert areas and they are also found living in water, including the oceans. They eat meat so will prey on insects, birds, small animals and other reptiles, and sometimes even other snakes.
Being cold-blooded animals they are unable to regulate their own body temperatures, so they are most active when it’s warm and less active as it gets cold. Snakes like to come out when it’s sunny, but not scorching. Sensitive to temperatures exceeding 80 degrees, they are most likely to be seen early in the morning, in the evening, and during the nighttime when it’s warm.
Preventing snake bites
A nice thing to know is that snakes only bite if they are provoked or startled. Most snakes do not act aggressive toward humans without provocation and by simply leaving them alone, you should be okay. Despite a sinister reputation, snakes are almost always more scared of you than you are of them. If you spot a rattlesnake or other venomous snake, you should stop, watch it and let it leave before continuing on.
Avoiding snake bites is not difficult as long as you take precautions. Educate yourself about the types of snakes in your area before venturing out, and then stay aware of your surroundings. Wear the appropriate clothing for outdoor activities too, like long pants and hiking shoes. Although these may not stop every bite they can help deflect a bite.
Venomous snakes have modified salivary glands that they use to inject venom. During a bite the snake passes the venom into a duct into their fangs, and then into its prey. However they can regulate whether or not to release venom, and don’t necessarily inject venom with all bites. A bite without venom is known as a “dry Bite” and will occur between 25-50% of the time. This varies with different species; pit-viper bites will be dry about 25% of the time while coral snakes will be dry up to 50% of the time.
Only a small number of people experience snake bites. On average about 7,000 people in the United States report being bitten by venomous snakes each year. As reported by the Rapid City Journal, the curator of reptiles at Reptile Gardens south of Rapid City, snake expert Terry Phillip says that the No. 1 reason people in this country are bitten by venomous snakes is because they were “trying to catch, kill ‘em or tease ‘em.” Further, of those bitten by venomous snakes, 89 percent are men between the ages of 16 and 30 years.
Phillip further states that if bitten by a venomous snake, make wise choices. None of the common field treatment myths are effective, like the cut-and suck method, tourniquets, nor applying ice or alcohol. He says to remain calm and remove jewelry or anything that will restrict movement from the affected limb, and then seek medical emergency treatment immediately. If you get bit call your local poison control center, then the center will call a hospital in advance for treatment.
Poisonous (venomous) snakes in the United States
There are about 25 species of poisonous (venomous) snakes in North America, with at least one or more species found in each of the 50 states. The most notable venomous snakes in North America are comprised of two groups; the Pit Vipers which include Rattlesnakes, Cottonmouth, and Copperhead snakes, and the Coral Snakes.
The Rattlesnakes are probably the best known venomous snakes, and this pit viper is found all across the United States. They are so named for the “rattle” at the tip of their tail, which when sounding, strikes fear into the heart of the intruder. Their primary method of protection is their camouflage rather than the rattle, so you know they are riled if you hear it sizzling.
There are 32 recognized rattlesnake species in the genus Crotalus, all bearing a large pair of fangs. Though none of these snakes are considered aggressive, if threatened they are known to hold their ground. A few familiar species include:
- Western Diamondback Rattlesnake C. atrox
The Western Diamondback, ranging from California to central Arkansas and south into Mexico, has gained much of its notoriety due to being featured in Western Movies.
- Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake C. adamanteus
The Eastern Diamondback is the largest of the rattlesnake species and is the heaviest, though not the longest, venomous species in the United States. It has large range from North Carolina to Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
- Sidewinder C. cerastes
The Sidewinder is a well known snake from the Midwest deserts where is slithers sideways across the sands leaving a zigzag pattern in its wake. It ranges from Utah and Nevada, then south through Arizona and California and into Mexico and down the Baja.
- Timber Rattlesnake C. horridus
The Timber Rattlesnake C. horridus is an abundant snake, and the most populous of rattlesnake in the northeastern United States. It ranges from the northeast south through Florida and into Minnesota and Texas. It is commonly found on wooded hillsides and rocky outcrops.
The Copperhead Agkistrodon contortrix is also a pit viper with 5 recognized subspecies. It is widespread throughout the Eastern and Southeastern United States. It is responsible for most of the bites from venomous snakes, and although the bites are quite painful they rarely life threatening. Still a victim should still get medical attention.
The Coral Snakes comprise a large group of venomous snakes, and they are not restricted to just the Americas. However the New World has the largest number, with 65 recognized species in 3 genera. These snakes are extremely toxic. Their venom is a powerful neurotoxin that requires prompt snake bite treatment. A bite from one of these fellows will shut down your nervous system and stop your heart.
Coral snakes are identified by the colored bands ringing the entire length of their body and a blunt black snout. The bands alternate in red and black, with a thinner yellow in between. They can easily be confused with the harmless King Snake, as their body colors are similar looking, though the King Snake has a red snout. It is the arrangement and size of the colored bands that distinguish the two. A rhyme that can help distinguish them goes like this, “Red touch yellow, kill a fellow (Deadly Coral snake). Red touch black, friend of Jack (Harmless King snake).” Three species encountered in the United States include:
- Eastern Coral Snake Micrurus fulvius
The Eastern Coral Snake typically ranges from North Carolina through Florida and along Mississippi.
- Texas Coral Snake Micrurus tener
The Texas Coral Snake typically ranges in Texas, but is also found in Arkansas and Louisiana.
- Arizona coral Snake Micruroides euryxanthus
The Arizona coral Snake, also known as the Western Coral Snake, typically ranges in Arizona and south to Sinaloa in western Mexico
The Cottonmouth Agkistrodon piscivorus, also called the “water moccasin,” is another species of pit viper with a serious bite that can be fatal. Although this snake’s aggression is somewhat exaggerated, it is a fast fellow and an occasion male can be aggressive and cranky. It has a thick, heavy body that’s brownish or olive/gray in color and a flat topped head. It is known to stand it ground when annoyed and may gape repeatedly, exposing the cotton-looking lining of its mouth, thus its common name. It ranges across the east, Mideast and southeastern United States.
The beauties of autumn season are yours to fully enjoy when you are aware of the venomous snakes in your area and ready if one should cross your path. Fully prepared, your hiking experience will be fun and relaxing!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
When a lucky frog comes into your life that’s a sign of transformation, and it may well spark many wonderful changes!
The frog has been a strong good luck symbol in many cultures all around the world, and throughout history.
Just like people, the frog undergoes incredible changes in its journey to adulthood. It first hatches from an egg into a wiggly fish-like tadpole, then it begins growing arms and legs and its tail recedes. With this curious growth cycle, frogs are seen as a lucky symbol of transformation, fertility, and the awakening of one’s creativity. They also represent save travel, abundance, wealth, prosperity, health and friendship.
Frogs as good-luck symbols
I really like frogs, but when you think about what a frog is… it’s a cold blooded amphibian. It lives mostly in a watery or humid environment, though there are some exceptions in toads, and it can lay a many eggs at one time. Great for reproduction! Thus the frog became a symbol for fertility, and safe travel as well. Here’s some of what’s attributed to the frog as a bearer of good fortune:
- Good Luck
In Japan frogs are a symbol of Good Luck, and the Romans believed that to have a frog would bring good luck into the home. The Irish on the other hand, consider the frog as a close relative of the leprechaun, and thus very capable of playing tricks on you.
The Greeks and Romans both associated frogs with fertility and harmony. To the Egyptians the frog is a symbol of life and fertility, as well as rebirth or resurrection. The frog was a creature born of the annual flooding of the Nile, which in turn made the otherwise barren lands fertile. Thus the frog-goddess of Fertility named Heget (meaning frog), came into their culture and mythology. In the Roman culture, the goddess Venus was also often depicted with a frog.
Partly due to the very large number of eggs that a frog will lay, it became a symbol of abundance as well. For many cultures that depend on rain for rich and bountiful crops the frog is a good luck symbol, a sign of prosperous weather to come. In Native American tradition the frog is often seen as a rain maker. In Australia too, the native Aborigines believed frogs brought the thunder and rain to help plants to grow. To the Vietnamese the toad is the “uncle of the Sky”, and an ancient story tells that it will rain whenever toads grind their teeth.
In ancient China the frog represented the lunar yin and the Frog spirit Ch’ing-Wa Sheng was associated with healing and good fortune in business. Tradition has it that the Chinese god of wealth, the immortal Liu Hai, kept a three-legged toad as a pet. It is a symbol for riches and often pictured with a gold coin in its mouth.
In Native American culture, the frog is seen as a spirit animal or totem that is strongly associated with the water element and its cleansing attributes. This water connection brings emotions and feminine energies, but also cleanses physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
In folklore the first frog of spring is said to bring you many friends if it does a “hop toad” jump in your direction.
Frogs as bad-luck symbols
Although frogs and toads are mostly considered lucky, there are a few examples where they represent bad fortune. One of my favorites is the common old wives tale that says handling a toad will result in getting warts. This is believed to have originated from the toad’s bumpy skin making it appear like it has warts on it.
Bad fortune is depicted in folklore regarding the first frog of spring. “If the first frog that you see in the spring is sitting on dry ground, it signifies that during the same year you will shed as many tears as the frog would require to swim away in.” Further, if that frog leaps into the water you’ll have misfortune fortune all year, or if it leaps away from you, you will lose friends. In ancient China, a frog in a well is symbolic of a person lacking in understanding and vision.
Frogs in Culture
Though frogs are often thought of as a symbol of luck, and mostly good luck though sometimes bad, they are also featured prominently in many cultures. They have been found throughout the ages in myths, folklore, and fairytales and they are still found today. In popular culture frogs and toads have many appearances, but the tendency is to depict them as kind, often handsome and charming, but with an underlying mysteriousness.
- Children’s stories
Some popular stories for children include an early fairy tale, “The Frog Prince,” originally featured in Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics and then later translated into English by Edgar TAylor. Then there’s Mr. Toad from Kenneth Graeme’s “The Wind in the Willows” and Tiddalik the frog, a legend in the mythology of Indigenous Australians.
- Television and Movies
In the television and movie world, Kermit the Frog appeared in 1995 and became the most famous of Jim Henson’s Muppets. He became even more famous in 1979 as the star of “The Muppet Movie”. Looney Tunes Michigan J. Frog first appeared in 1955 in “One Froggy Evening”. Wearing a top hat and carrying a cane, he happily sings ragtime and other tunes.
A highly favored advertisement was the 1995 Budweiser commercial for Super Bowl XXIX, which featured three large, deep-voiced bullfrogs. They toads were sitting on rocks in a stream in front of a tavern, making a chorus of “Bud,” “Weis,” and “Er.”
In the music world there was Jeremiah, a bullfrog, as the star in the song “Joy to the World,” written by Hoyt Axton and released by Three Dog Night in 1979.
So frogs have long influenced people and there’s the good, and just a touch of bad, in the world of frog luck. Beyond the joy of keeping frogs as pets, they could very well bring changes and abundance into your life!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Housing your pet will never be as fun or rewarding as when you create its perfect home.
Each animal has its particular habitat needs and a vivarium setup is a re-creation of its natural home. There are as many unique virarium arrangements as there are exotic pets.
A vivarium is an enclosure where selected plants and animal species are kept or raised. The concept of vivariums started initially as a medium to study and research selected flora and fauna. Literally, vivarium means “a place of life”.
The ecosystem inside a vivarium is created to simulate, on a smaller scale, the environment conditions, which are favorable to the species. Vivariums can range from small enclosures that can sit on a table to a very large structure that houses bigger animals and are placed outdoors.
Types of Vivariums
There are several types of vivarium depending on the habitat that you wish to simulate and the accompanying flora and fauna that will be used. These include:
- Aquarium: These are water habitats that can house freshwater fish, saltwater fish, and coral reef inhabitants.
- Insectarium: These habitats are for housing insects and arachnids.
- Terrarium: This is generally a dry habitat for housing reptiles
- Paludarium: The paludarium simulates a semi-aquatic habitat such as in rainforests or swamps. Other setups of a paludarium combine a terrarium and an aquarium, sometimes known as a viquarium
- Riparium. A riparium recreates the wet habitats near lakes, rivers, and ponds. The setup is suitable for marginal plants that thrive best in the water-saturated soil along the water’s edge.
- Penguinarium: A unique habitat for housing penguins
Materials for a vivarium
Vivariums are commonly made of clear plastic or glass containers. Wood or metal can also be used as long as there’s a side, which is transparent. There are also vivariums made from plywood with built-in sliding glass doors.
The material that you will use depends on what flora and fauna you plan to put in, the desired size, height and weight, cost, desired quality, as well as the ability of the materials to simulate the natural environment and provide protection against extreme environment conditions.
Coated plywood can retain heat better compared to glass or plastic vivariums. These types of enclosures can also withstand high humidity. When making a vivarium, it is recommended to place a high-drainage substrate on top of a layer of stones to help retain humidity without the substrate surface being saturated.
The type of substrate will depend on several factors including what is favorable for the plants and/or animals, the benefits, and the aesthetic value. The most common substrates used include soil, wood chips, pebbles, peat, sand, coconut coir, and wood mulch. There are also vivariums that use tissue paper and newspaper.
These are the recommended methods to effectively regulate humidity inside the vivarium:
- Regular pulverization of water
- Enhanced water evaporation by placing a basin inside
- Use of humidifiers and automated pulverization systems
The lighting system is always designed to meet the requirements of the animal and plant species. Various types of bulbs are needed to simulate specific natural environments. There are also certain flora and fauna that require a good source of ultraviolet rays for vitamin D synthesis and assimilation of calcium. Specialized bulbs are available which can emit a more natural sunlight effect.
You may also need to put in a day/night regulator to mimic the change between light and dark periods. The regulator is set depending on the natural habitat of the species including the season that you desire to achieve.
Heat inside a vivarium can be provided in several ways:
- Heat rocks
- Infrared lamps
- Heating lamps
- Hot plates
- Heat mats
- Heating cords
- Equipment that can generate hot air inside the vivarium
The heat inside the enclosure is controlled by a thermostat. Thermo-control systems are often employed to regulate not only heat but also light cycles and humidity.
Aside from promoting proper air circulation, ventilation can also prevent the growth and development of pathogenic molds and bacteria. This is particularly true in vivariums that maintain a warm and humid environment.
5 Best Pets for Small Spaces
Guest Post by Michael David
There are many health benefits that come with owning a pet. They lower allergy risk in children, help you stay social, lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol, help you get more exercise, and boost your mood. But not everyone has the space for horses, a monkey sanctuary, or even a 150 lb Great Dane. Here are a few pets that will do wonderfully in a small apartment or home with a little yard.
Fish are a hands-off pet, require no training, and can be left alone all day and not cause trouble. Studies have also shown that watching a fish swim around for 10-15 minutes a day will lower stress levels. You don’t even need a huge aquarium or a school of fish; a couple of goldfish or a Betta in a small tank sitting on your desk will work just as well. They are also good for those on a tight budget; goldfish and small aquarium supplies can be quite inexpensive.
You could also find a hermit crab for something a bit more exotic. They are very social, and so keeping at least two together is recommended. They do not need a lot of space, and can be quite happy simply with some sand to dig into or rocks to climb on.
- Small and Scaly
In this category there are quite a few options – geckos, box turtles, small frogs, and snakes. These are also more solitary animals, content with a stick or a couple rocks to climb around, although once you have gained their trust they will let you hold them for a while. They do well with being left alone for long periods (as long as they’re fed), and are fairly easy to keep clean.
Be sure you know how large your chosen pet will grow to be, though; if you only have a small space available for a snake, you don’t want to be surprised later on when it grows to eight feet!
- Small and Furry
Guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas, and small rabbits can be good for apartment living because they can stay in a smaller, centralized area that can easily be cleaned and maintained. They are more hands-on, cuddly, and social than fish or reptiles, but also can be left alone during the day while you’re working. If you have time for more maintenance, a ferret would also be a good option. They like having the run of the house and are temperamental towards visitors however, so keep those points in mind.
Cats are more costly and time consuming than your other small furry pet choices, but also do very well in small apartments. They are easy to train to use a litter box, are very independent, which makes them great if you are gone all day, but can still be playful and interactive.
Dogs are the most hands-on pet on this list, so if you are hardly home or have no time to play, then it may be best to choose a different pet. Dogs are playful, social, and always happy to see you. They like to play outside and go for walks, so a small grassy area or nearby park would be good for them. Larger breeds will have a much harder time living in a small apartment, but smaller breeds will do just fine. Some of the smaller breeds to choose from include the Pomeranian, Corgi, Cocker Spaniel, Yorkie, Pug, Boston Terrier, or Chihuahua.
When choosing your new animal companion, be sure to put forth some serious thought before going out and buying the first thing that catches your eye. Make sure your apartment permits that type of pet and that you have enough time, funds, and knowledge to properly care for your pet.
Pets provide many wonderful benefits from health to companionship, and anyone can enjoy a pet no matter how small your living space is.
Michael David is a freelance journalist and blogger living in New York City. Michael loves writing about DIY projects, home improvement, and garden-related topics. He has recently been writing for Big Al’s Pets.
Cool Pets! Reptiles… the Fascinating World of Lizards, Snakes, and Turtles
The sighting of a reptile captures everyone’s attention! These are the most bizarre and curious of all the land dwelling creatures, and also some of the most adorable of the aquatic creatures. Like other terrestrial animals they evolved from creatures of the sea, but these animals are certainly some of the most provocative.
Reptiles, just like their aquatic ancestors, are cold-blooded animals. But unlike the familiar warm-blooded pets such as dogs, cats and other mammals, reptiles lack any sort of furry cover. Rather they are sheathed in scales, or bony plating known as scutes. Although reptiles lack that cozy, huggable appeal of a fuzzy soft covering they are fascinating to look at and intriguing in habit. They are exceptional animals and make very cool pets!
Cool Animals Known as Reptiles
Incredibly, there are over 8,000 reptile species in the world! These are extremely ancient creatures, and have been a part of many culture’s folklore throughout history. This large group is divided into four classified orders.
- Turtles, of the order Chelonia, are the most aquatic and are also the oldest living reptiles, existing nearly unchanged since the Triassic period.
- Lizards and Snakes are placed in the large Squamata order, and all are terrestrial.
- The very large, carnivorous reptiles found in tropical and subtropical swamps are placed in the order Crocodilia that includes alligators, caimans, crocodiles, and gavials. The ‘ruling reptiles’ of the great reptilian subclass Archosauria is also part of the Crocodilia order, and includes the popular, but extinct dinosaurs.
- The tuataras from New Zealand are in the order Sphenodontia with just 2 species.
Reptiles have a vital role in the natural world. They are an important part of the food chain both as predator and as prey. Predatory reptiles eat various species of rodents and insects, yet in turn, some mammals as well as birds of prey will eat some reptiles. Both sides of the equation help to keep animal populations in balance.
Cool People that Love Reptiles
All pet lovers tend to be very passionate about animals, and that’s equally true for reptile lovers. Reptile lovers repeatedly prove to be ardent enthusiasts for these unusual creatures. Also as is true to all animal lovers, these people also understand and care about the passions of their fellow reptile keepers. The dedication these fascinating creatures inspire is best illustrated by an amazing story that unfolded just a couple weeks ago.
At the recent Reptile Super Show, held on November 2nd and 3rd in San Diego, California, the herptile community came together to help an aspiring 13-year-old boy named Zayd Sheck realized his dream of owning a beautiful boa constrictor.
The United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK) reported that Zayd “…came to the USARK booth to hand over a rosy boa he found in the lobby (misplaced in container by an attendee after purchase). After speaking with Zayd’s mother, we found out that Zayd has been to many reptile shows this year following one certain boa constrictor bred by SoCal Constrictors and had been saving his money to buy the boa. He had saved enough for the snake but not enough to buy a cage, so he bought two raffle tickets for a snake kit at our booth and would be able to take the snake home if he won the kit.”
Well Zayd did not win the snake kit in the raffle, so a wonderful USARK volunteer spoke with the breeders of the snake, relaying Zayd’s story. Together they devised a plan “…to guarantee Zayd had an incredible day!” After the raffle USARK paged Zayd, asking him to come to their booth. When he arrived they presented with the boa from SoCal Constrictors that he had been eyeing for months, along with a ReptiHabitat Snake Kit from Zoo Med. The herptile community extended a great gift to this aspiring reptile keeper. Zayd and his mother were overwhelmed with appreciation, “… Zayd’s mom had tears in her eyes and hugged nearly everyone in the room”!
Benefits of Reptile Keeping
For enthusiastic reptile lovers, learning about these animals and keeping them as pets is an exciting adventure in and of itself. But reptile keepers, as is true of all pet lovers, are passionate people with a profound respect for animals. Their strong compassion lends a deep concern when any Animal Cause comes up.
The ultimate reward for both the animal world and humanity is people equipped with knowledge and the ability to help maintain and even breed these wonderful animals. Reptile lovers make it possible to save many endangered species from extinction.
Find the Best Reptile Pets
It’s exciting to learn what great pets reptiles make. They come in a variety of shapes, patterns, colors, and habits. Keeping them as pets is a fascinating hobby, and they have many advantages over other types of pets. They are generally quiet, clean, odorless, and non-demanding. Many require very little space, are low maintenance, and yet are fascinating to observe.
The trick when picking out your pet is to match the reptile that best fits into your lifestyle and home environment. See pictures and find great information for all sorts of Reptiles on Animal-World. A broad selection of Snakes, Lizards, turtles and tortoises will make good pets.
Join the Herp Community
You can follow in the footsteps of Zayd and attend multiple reptile shows, expos, and special reptile events. There are so many dedicated people in the herptile community that it’s easy to get involved. All across the country there are numerous clubs and organizations too.
One of my personal favorite organizations is the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK). In their own words, they are dedicated to the “…science, education and conservation” of these fascinating creatures. Join their mailing list and you will receive details about many upcoming events. Another great online resource for shows and expos is the Reptile Shows & Events on Reptile Channel. Just be warned, once you start getting involved you may very well get hooked, and be a reptile lover for life!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Rescued sea turtles rehabilitated and returned home
Sea turtle rescues and releases are such an exciting adventure for people, perhaps because we are mostly land dwellers.
Yet it warms my heart, and I’m sure yours too, to learn about any type of pet and animal rescue.
The warmth and caring of people, for all the creatures in the animal world, never ceases to amaze me!
South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program
On a sunny September 13th, after treatment and revitalization at the “Sea Turtle Hospital” of the South Carolina Aquarium, four beautiful sea turtles were returned to their vast watery home. Parker, Dennis, Crosby and Skully were released at the Isle of Palms County Park, sent to rejoin with their cronies in the Atlantic Ocean.
At the season’s change, as the weather warms, sea turtles begin to move into the coastal waters. They are a threatened and endangered species, and are affected by the many pressing issues surrounding coastal development. Specimens can end up in a state of distress, injured, or sick. A caring individual will rescue them and see to it that the animal is delivered into the hands of the dedicated employees and volunteers at a rescue facility, like the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program. There they are monitored and treated until they are well enough to be re-introduced into their natural habitat.
Four sea turtles released in September, 2013
Parker was a 5-pound juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle that was accidentally ensnared in a recreational fisherman’s net at the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier in June.
Dennis, another juvenile Kemp’s Ridley, had been rescued as a “cold stunned” turtle last winter. Crosby is a 9-pound juvenile green sea turtle that was found in April floating on the Folly River. Dennis was one of over 30 sea turtles that had been treated for cold-stunning in various rescue facilities.
The biggest of the group is Skully, a 70-pound juvenile Loggerhead. He was found in June, stranded on a sandbar.
The South Carolina Aquarium’s first beach releases for 2013 started with 5 specimens on May 23rd, consisting of a Kemp’s Ridley, 2 Loggerheads and 2 Green Sea Turtles.
On July 31st at the same place 3 sea turtle’s were released; Sutton, another juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, Raker another green sea turtle, and Splinter who’s a Loggerhead sea turtle.
Another seven sea turtles were released a month earlier on June 18th.
Prior to that, the South Carolina Aquarium participated in the Sea Turtle Trek for Florida Release held on April 12th.
They contributed two sea turtles to the Sea Turtle Trek, a 65-pound Loggerhead and a Green Sea Turtle. They joined with the New England Aquarium and the National Aquarium in Baltimore to release a total of 52 sea turtles into the ocean. The 52 turtles were loaded onto the US Coast Guard Cutter Fort Macon and transported to the Gulf Stream where they were released.
When you are out and about, keep a watchful eye out for sea turtles in distress. Depending on the local rules and regulations, you can either call the local authorities or rescues to come get the animal, or if allowed, you may be able to rescue the animal and transport it to a facility.
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Sulcata Tortoise!
Has it always been your dream to have a gigantic tortoise? I’m guessing not! But just in case it is, the Sulcata Tortoise may be right up your alley! The pet store I worked at sold a couple of these guys, but it was usually only on special order. We didn’t normally keep them in the store on a regular basis. People who purchase these tortoises usually do so because they are very intrigued by their size as well as their many great pet qualities!
About the Sulcata Tortoise
I bet your first question is: Just how big do these guys get? Well, the males often reach 2 and a half feet in length and can weigh up to 150 pounds! Females come a little smaller than males, reaching a little under 2 feet in length and weighing up to 75 pounds. These are big tortoises! Without regard for its size, the Sulcata Tortoise has many attributes which make keeping it as a pet appealing. They are very tame, have good dispositions, are friendly, and don’t get sick easily.
The Sulcata Tortoise Geochelone sulcata, also called the African Spurred Tortoise, is the third largest tortoise in the world, coming in behind only the tortoises from the Galapagos and the Aldabras. The natural habitat of these huge tortoises consists of hot temperatures and dry scrubland areas where they can make deep burrows and have plenty of plants to eat. North-Central Africa is their native continent, just south of the Sahara Desert. There is cause to worry about them as they are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is rare to find one in the wild now, as well.
Caring For Your Sulcata Tortoise
Before acquiring a Sulcata Tortoise, you will want to be fully prepared. You can get one as a baby, but these guys grow fast! Make sure you have a large area or terrarium for them as they grow to their full size. If you keep them outside, you should also provide some sort of enclosure where they can go to get out of the elements. Provide them with heat lamps and different props and shelters to make them feel more comfortable and at home. These can be things such as logs, huge leaves and piles of straw. A good substrate is a sand and peat moss mixture (mostly sand). Because these tortoises come from a very dry part of the world, they do not tolerate humidity and dampness at all. DO NOT keep them outdoors if you live in a humid area. This can lead to all sorts of illnesses and conditions.
Feeding a Sulcata Tortoise can also be a chore! They can eat a lot, and they need a varied diet! Provide them with a whole mixture of different greens everyday, as well as such things as hay, dandelions, and grass. If you can get your hands on Opuntia cactus pads, these are also very good for them. This will provide them with a high fiber diet, which is crucial to their health. Sprinkle their food with a calcium powder a couple times a week as well. If you wish to give treats, only do so a couple times a month. Good, healthy treats could include apples or melons. Clean out uneaten food at the end of each day. Provide fresh water daily in a large flat dish.
Problems and Availability of the Sulcata Tortoise
The most common problems you will run into with this tortoise are respiratory illnesses. These almost always occurs due to improper keeping. If they are not kept in hot and dry environments they will inevitably become sick. Watch out for runny noses and eyes. Renal problems can also arise if they are not fed a high-fiber and nutritionally sound diet. So make sure they get their greens!
If you would like to acquire a Sulcata Tortoise, your best bet is a reptile store, online from reputable breeders, or a reptile show. The vast majority of specimens sold in the United States are captive-bred babies and are readily available when you look in the right place.
Isn’t the idea of keeping such a large tortoise fascinating? Do you have any stories of your own that you’d like to share? We would love to hear it!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Emperor Scorpion!
Are you a spider lover? Are you fascinated by arachnids in general? If you want to keep a unique arthropod for a pet, the Emperor Scorpion might be just what you are looking for! I would say that keeping these types of pets is either a love it or hate it type of situation. People who love them often keep several different types and make a hard-core hobby out of it. People who are terrified of them often don’t even want to go in a house that they know has these critters in them!
The Emperor Scorpion Pandinus imperator is a great choice for people just being introduced to keeping arthropods. They can be quite tame and are easy to care for. Scorpions don’t make a lot of noise, have very little odor, and are resistant to illness and disease. Because of their calm nature they can usually be held without fear of being stung. If they do sting, it usually isn’t dangerous and only causes localized pain for a short period of time. For an arachnid, the Emperor Scorpion can live a fairly long lifespan of 8 years. This scorpion also goes by the names of the African Emperor Scorpion and the Black Emperor Scorpion. It is the best known scorpion in the world.
The natural habitat of this scorpion is in West Africa. They can be found in many of the African sovereign states, including the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Nigeria, the Congo, Ghana, Liberia, Togo, and several others. Most often they live in forests with a fair amount of moisture. In 1842 it was described by C.L. Koch. In 1876 it was put into its own genus by Tamerlan Thorell. Right now it is not considered to be endangered, however it is listed as threatened on the CITES II species list. This is mainly due to a decrease in the wild populations because of over collection.
Emperor Scorpions are quite impressive looking. Being all black and reaching up to 8 inches in length, they can appear formidable! This is probably why they have gained such appreciation and are used in movies as a scare tactic. But despite their appearance, they are not as scary as they first seem. They can be held, but this should be done carefully. If scared or stressed they may pince, which can be quite painful, especially from a large adult! It is often better to just look at and watch scorpions rather than make a habit out of holding them.
To properly prepare for a scorpion, you will want to acquire a terrarium. This can be anywhere from 2.5 to 15 gallons depending on how many scorpions you want to keep. Although most scorpions are solitary creatures, Emperor Scorpions can be kept in groups. You will want to make sure there are enough areas and hiding spaces so that each scorpion has a place it can call its own. In the wild they are burrowers and definitely appreciate deep, moist substrates such as peat moss, damp sand, and cypress mulch. Their environment should be kept humid to keep them in good health. A humidity level of 75 to 80% and a temperature of 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal.
Feeding Emperor Scorpions is easy and simple. As adults they primarily eat insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. Occasionally they might enjoy a mouse. Offer them live insects every day and a mouse a couple times a month. Make sure to remove any uneaten prey within a day. This is to keep them from decaying and attracting parasites or growing mold. Make sure to keep a large, shallow water dish in their terrarium as well.
Breeding these scorpions can be easy. If you keep their environment at a suitable temperature and humidity level, and they are healthy and feel comfortable, they will often breed on their own accord. After mating, the mother will gestate the young for about 7 months. The babies are born alive and immediately climb onto her back. The litters range anywhere from 15 to 40 young. The mother feeds them dead insects until they reach maturity, but the majority of them do not make it to maturity. If you want to succeed at breeding Emperor Scorpions, read more here on their Reproduction.
Emperor Scorpions rarely become ill if they are properly taken care of. One of the largest problems they run into is molting. Scorpions are covered by a hardened exoskeleton which they must shed every so often. Most scorpions molt 6 to 10 times in their lifetimes and these are by far the most dangerous times of their lives. Right before a molt, a scorpion often seems lazy and doesn’t move much. For a few days after a molt, a scorpion is especially vulnerable to injury until their new exoskeleton hardens. Molting takes quite a bit of energy. If it is very difficult, a scorpion may have deformed limbs or die.
If you are interested in an Emperor Scorpion, they are quite readily available. You should have no problems finding one. More information on scorpions can be read here on Keeping Arachnids and Other Arthropods as Pets.
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Well, the short answer to that question is: it depends. I think that the idea of a pet turtle isn’t necessarily something that most people cling to (unless they are reptile lovers!). But when they go in someplace and see a cute little baby turtle, purchasing one as a pet can often sound like a great idea. And it is true, baby red-eared sliders are enticingly adorable! The problem comes when the people buying the turtles are not fully prepared for owning and caring for them long-term.
On the flip side, for those who are prepared to own a Red-Eared Slider and have decided they truly want one, these turtles can make great pets. My parents have a large outdoor pond in their backyard with a few koi, plants, and 2 Red-eared Sliders. Those two Sliders have been living there for several years and the pond is their dream home! They even go into hibernation every winter deep in the mud and then come out again in the spring. It is always fun to predict when the turtles will make their appearance! My three young children love to go over to their grandparents house and help feed the turtles by throwing pellets into the water. So for us, they have been great pets!
I was recently reading the article Talking Turtles, from the Pet Business newsletter, and they had some good points on what water turtles are and are not. They point out that many adult turtles purchased as babies end up not wanted and are given away (or released into the wild, which is even worse). This is in large part because people simply are not prepared for the needs and long-term care of an adult water turtle. Red-Ear Sliders become large as adults, they produce a lot of waste and need a lot of filtration, they don’t get along well with other aquarium dwellers, and they are often biters. It is illegal for Sliders under 4 inches to be sold, however many pet stores and other places still sell tiny turtles.
Just a quick overview on the basics of care for the Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta. These are things you will really want to consider before deciding if this is truly a pet you want to pursue. First, these turtles can live quite a long time, anywhere from 30 to 60 years. In captivity, these turtles are often fairly calm and can be tame if held regularly. Many of them will be friendly enough that they will even take food right out of your hand! They are very hardy reptiles and will adapt to almost any environment. This means that you don’t have to be too particular in their enclosure temperatures or provide specific specialized foods or tank additions. However, this doesn’t mean that enclosure cleanliness is not important or that you shouldn’t attempt to give your turtle proper nutrition!
Red-Eared Sliders can be kept indoors or outdoors. Indoor turtles should be kept in a large enough tub with spaces to bask. They love basking! UVB bulbs should be provided for this purpose. A good filtration system is also a must, because turtles produce a lot of waste! It is most likely a good idea to refrain from keeping your turtle(s) with any other fish or aquatic animals because they will usually eat other fish (especially smaller ones). If you have a pond outdoors, this is a great place to keep a turtle. They will love the space, and the ability to bask in the sun.
Feeding a turtle can be easy. Providing them with purchased turtle pellets is a good way to start. Younger Red-Eared Sliders should be given a more varied diet to make sure they are receiving the proper nutrients for good shell growth. These turtles will eat insects, larvae, worms, and small fish. As they grow larger they will start to add plant matter to their diet. For this reason, it is always a good idea to keep aquatic plants in a turtles environment.
So, do Red-Eared Sliders make good pets? If you have a large enough area, like a good pet to just sit back and watch, and love reptiles, then they do make good pets! However, they aren’t the best pets in the “impulse buy” situation. If they are just bought on the spur of the moment because they are small and cute and the purchaser really has no idea how large they become or how long they live, then this isn’t the best pet situation. Unfortunately, many turtles are still bought under these circumstances and then end up without a home as adults.
Animal-World’s Featured Animal for this week is:
The Eastern Brown Snake!
Would you like to know a little bit more about the second most deadly snake in the world? The Eastern Brown Snake is one of those awe-inspiring venomous snakes that really sends a chill down your spine when you imagine meeting with one. I have been wanting to write about this particular snake ever since I read about a little boy in Australia who stashed some eggs he found outside in a container in his closet. Apparently his mother opened the closet door and found the container squirming with a bunch of little snakes! After the boy and his mother took them to the local wildlife reserve, they discovered the babies were Eastern Brown Snakes. The boy was quite lucky not to have been bitten!
The Eastern Brown Snake Pseudonaja textilis is native to Australia and lives primarily on the eastern side. It can be found in almost all habitats, including the desert, grasslands, forest, and coastal areas. Adult Eastern Brown Snakes can reach 6 to 8 feet in length and have slender bodies. They can come in different variations of colors, from a light tan color to a very dark brown color. They can even come in gray colors. Rodents and other small animals are the bulk of their diet, although they will eat lizards, frogs, and birds if the opportunity arises. These snakes eating rodents is actually good for farmers because they act as a kind of pest control!
The Eastern Brown Snake is considered to be the second most deadly snake in the world, according to its SC LD50 value in mice. This number rates a snakes venom depending on how toxic it is. The most deadly snake in the world, according to this rating system, is the Inland Taipan Snake, also found in Australia. However, the Inland Taipan has not been the known cause of any known deaths. The Eastern Brown Snake on the other hand, has. In fact, the Eastern Brown Snake is the number one cause of snake bite deaths in Australia! The number of deaths has dropped dramatically in recent years due to the availability of anti-venom, but there are still one or two deaths per year.
The venom in these snakes is dangerous because it contains neurotoxins and procoagulants. The symptoms which arise from a bite include dizziness, diarrhea, paralysis, renal failure, and cardiac arrest. These snakes are considered aggressive in their natural territory, however they won’t usually bite something as a large as a human unless they feel threatened and/or unable to escape. If they feel they are defending themselves they will not always produce fatal bites. A “typical” bite from an Eastern Brown Snake yields about 2-4 mg of venom. The larger the snake, the more venom is produced. Without treatment the death rate is only about 10 or 20 percent. Considering there are snake species which have a 100% fatality rate if not treated (such as the Black Mamba and the Coastal Taipan), this death rate is actually not very high.
Reproduction time for the Eastern Brown Snake is in the spring. If there is more than one male in an area (which generally there is!), the males will engage in a “combat dance.” The winner of this dance is the lucky male who mates with any females in the area. The females will lay between 10 and 40 eggs apiece, with the average being 30 eggs. Once the eggs are laid, the mother leaves and has nothing to do with guarding the nest or rearing the babies. The babies also do not have a uniform color like the adults. They are banded with gray or black. These bands will disappear by the time they are three years old.
The Eastern Brown Snake is not a snake that would be kept as a pet! Some zoos or wildlife care places may keep them, and they are kept in anti-venom facilities to extract their venom. However, they are not kept as pets to handle and cuddle with! They are too dangerous and you would have to have a permit to keep one. There are many non-venomous Pet Snakes you can choose from if you want to keep one of your own, however!
I hope you enjoyed learning about the Eastern Brown Snake. I find them quite fascinating!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.