My new book!
Frogs: Inside Their Remarkable World
by Ellin Beltz

1987 HerPET-POURRI Columns by Ellin Beltz

1987 . 1988 . 1989 . 1990 . 1991 . 1992 .

1993 . 1994 . 1995 . 1996 . 1997 . 1998 .

1999 . 2000 . 2001 . 2002 . 2003 . 2004 .

2005 . 2006

This was my first year to write my columns on computers; although I'd been working on the Newsletter/Bulletin since 1986.

In those days, we only had dot matrix printers, so headlines and bold were full caps

February 1987


..."We were absolutely not trying to make the reader believe the frog was real...We are, of course, concerned with depicting real animals in a humanitarian fashion...We hope this explanation helps you to understand that our intent was not malicious in any way." Signed by Julie F. Palley, Director, Consumer Marketing for Levi Strauss and Company.


By Donnie Brown "Lazy Snake Sleeps All The Time--Dear Pet Talk: How can I wake up my snoozing snake? He sleeps all the time, so I never get a chance to strut our stuff in front of my friends.--Torpid in Texas. Dear Torpid: Jump start your sluggish snake with a gentle breeze from a hand-held hairdryer. The warm air will bring his cold blood up to operating temperature and he'll soon be his old slithery self. Don't blow dry him too often or too long." Does anybody else think this advice is as stupid as I do? Address all correspondence to: Donnie Brown, Pet Talk, Weekly World News, 600 S. East Coast Avenue, Lantana, FL 33462.


Please take a look at this month's Legislative Update Column. Note that on January 5th, (52 Fed. Reg. 309) the FWS has asked for comments by January 30th, 1987. I feel that citizens should be given more than 25 days to comment on issues. If you feel the same, please write to Charles Dane, Room 527, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Dept. of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240.


I just received a press kit from the Sweetwater Jaycees for their Annual Rattlesnake Round-Up, billed as the "World's Largest". Let me say at the outset of this discussion that I am trying to be as objective as possible, but I have collected some information on Rattlesnake Round-Ups (RRUs) that I would like to share. H.K. Gloyd (The Chicago Naturalist, V7, #4, pg 87-97) states, " is, and probably will continue to be, the snakes' most merciless enemy. He applies the oppressive heel to the head of the serpent indiscriminately, despite the efforts of naturalists to learn and tell the truth about these animals." In Sweetwater, TX, last year 15,991 pounds of rattlesnake were collected and killed. Lynn Carlson, of the Sweetwater Jaycees said, "Every dime made was spent for local charities. The RRU supports Sunshine Inn, a residence and work program for mentally retarded adults." In Rattlesnakes in America be demonstrated that the activities of the round up are harmful in some economic manner to the ecology of the area (and this seems doubtful) the round-ups are here to stay." Mr. Kilmon founded International Biological Extracts located in Sweet- water. All the toxin collected from the Sweetwater RRU is donated to his outfit.

Regina Dennis of USA Weekend, Jan. 23-25, 1987 interviewed Luther Harden who started the Whigham, GA, RRU 27 years ago. He describes the hunting practice: "With this cold weather, they go down into these gopher holes. We run them out with gas. When you run a hose down there, he'll rattle and that's how you find out they're there...Then you put a little gas down the hose and the fumes make the snake come out the can put it in a can...They're not hard to catch. When the snake comes out he's moving a might slow." Mr. Harden also described the fate of these captives: "Some of them we kill. Some we sell to Silver Springs of Florida." All rattlers caught at the Sweetwater RRU are killed. The heads are cut off. The bodies are hung on hooks and skinned. The heads and skins will later be tanned, frozen or otherwise preserved for souvenirs (belts, hat bands, gaping heads for paperweights, etc.). The Jaycees served 2000 pounds of fried rattlesnake meat at last year's event. Other events that weekend include a beauty pageant, a 10K run, a gun and coin show, guided tours of rattlesnake dens, and a "highly educational and entertaining" snake-handling demonstration. Hooper Shelton, a co-author of Rattlesnakes in America "Rattlesnakes are not an endangered specie (sic), proven by large numbers of Rattlers brought in each year to Sweetwater Roundup." In addition to the RRU in Sweetwater, the following organizations sponsor RRUs where the snakes are killed (from Rattlesnakes in America).
  1. Mangum and Greer Cty. Chamber of Commerce, Mangum, OK
  2. Waynoka Saddle Club, Waynoka, OK
  3. Lions Club, Walnut Springs, TX
  4. Ballinger Lions Club, Ballinger TX
  5. Lampasas Cty. Farm Bureau and Lometa Lions Club, Lometa, TX
  6. Taylor Jaycees, "National Rattlesnake Championships", Taylor, TX
  7. Keystone Reptile Club, York Springs, PA 17372
  8. Southwest GA Sportsman's Club, Albany, GA
  9. Evans Cty. Wildlife Club, Claxton GA
  10. Whigham Community Club, Whigham, GA
  11. Opp Jaycees, Opp, AL
Other communities were listed, but no sponsor was given:
  1. Brownwood, TX
  2. Big Springs, TX
  3. Bangs, TX
  4. Belton, TX
  5. Gainesville, TX
  6. Archer City, TX
One RRU, in San Antonio, FL has been very successful, but does not kill the snakes captured. "There's no reason to kill these snakes," says Eddie Herrmann, one of the founders of this event (St. Petersburg, FL Times, 10-15-86). The state of Florida also bans the use of gasoline to catch snakes. New York State has had to place the timber rattler, Crotalus horridus, on its endangered species list. RRUs are also prohibited. The Resources Code of Utah requires a state collecting permit. The State of Arizona protects all poisonous snakes. Crotalus w. willardi, Crotalus p. pricei, and Crotalus l. lepidus can not be killed or collected without a permit. The others can be killed or collected with a hunting license. The State of Wisconsin discontinued the bounty on rattlesnakes for biological and administrative reasons in 1975. R.C. Vogt in his book, The Natural History of the Amphibians and Reptiles of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Museum states that there was no evidence of tremendous increase in the rattler populations in Wisconsin after the bounty was eliminated. He also says that they are totally protected on state wildlife refuges and in state parks.

March 1987


The Milwaukee Public Museum is sponsoring "Dig-a-Dinosaur expeditions." This is your chance to spend 10 days digging in the world-famous Hell Creek Formation near Marmarth, ND. These Cretaceous sediments have been a major source of fossils for over 80 years. The digs are limited. Contact Diane Gabriel, Assistant Curator of Paleontology for more information.


was recently published in a book entitled "White Trash Cooking", by Ernest Matthew Mickler, published by Ten Speed Press, P.O. Box 7123, Berkeley, CA 94707 in 1986. It reads: "Drop live cooter in a pot of boiling water. Cook 45 minutes. Open shell with a saw and take out meat, fat, liver and eggs...". Perhaps we should have a Herpetologist's Cookbook. I have a great recipe for redneck kebob...


  • NEWS ITEM from the Ocala Star-Banner, 2/1/1987 - Pattie Griffiths reporting: "20,000 people - give or take a few thousand - flow onto the school grounds at Whigham High School for the Whigham Rattlesnake Roundup."
  • NEWS ITEM from the Ocala Star-Banner 2/3/1987 - Varqui Wright, staff writer: "More than 305 deadly Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are the latest immigrants to take up residence among the animals, fish and fowl at the Silver Springs here. The snakes arrived here Sunday, prisoners from an annual Rattlesnake Roundup in Whigham, Ga."
  • "The Whigham rattlesnake roundup, held the last Saturday in January, attracted more than 250,000 people from all over the Southeast. The winners for most snakes caught was a three-man team that gathered 84 of the critters."
  • Letter to the Editor, Ocala Star-Banner, 2/4/1987 from Ellen Patterson: "In Florida, is illegal to pour gasoline into the burrows... It seems significant to me that Silver Springs would need a new supply of snakes each year in order to keep up with the demand for them to "perform"...Snakes have their place in the balance of nature, and should not be systematically destroyed as a result of these roundups."
  • NEWS ITEM from the Jacksonville Florida Press, 2/7/1982: `Dr. D. Bruce Means, the director of the Tall Timbers Research Station near Tallahassee...said the burrows, which are dug by the gopher tortoise, are used by 30 to 40 types of insects, reptiles, amphibians and, on occasion, birds. Another inhabitant of the holes, the indigo snake, (Drymarchon corais couperi) is on both state and federal lists (of threatened species in Georgia and Florida). Means said..."we do know that gasoline kills some animals in the burrow and insects."
  • PRESS RELEASE, Sweetwater Jaycees, Sweetwater, TX 79556: "The Media's support in the past has helped make it (the roundup) one of the largest charity fund-raisers in the State."
  • Nancy Ball, Letter to Dr. J.H. Black, 2/16/1979, Bull. Ok. Herp. Soc. 2(4) "As to the argument that the round-ups are a fine old tradition, I can only point to the find old tradition of hunting buffalo to near extinction...and that finest of Old West traditions, getting smashed and breaking up the town on Saturday night."
  • Brown, William S., Background information for the protection of the Timber Rattlesnake in New York State. Bull. Chi. Herp. Soc. 19 (3):94-97, 1984 "The timber rattlesnake is an officially threatened species in New York. Under the law, the timber rattlesnake is fully protected and may not be taken, imported, possessed, transported, or sold in New York State except under permit of the Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • The timber rattlesnake is protected as a threatened species in New York State for the following reasons:
    1. The timber rattlesnake is vulnerable to extinction through persecution by humans and has been severely reduced in population size within its range.
    2. The species has a low biological replacement rate.
    3. The snake is a valuable species in the ecosystem and is valuable for scientific studies.
    4. Although venomous, the timber rattlesnake is an insignificant threat to human life.
    5. Ethical reasons. (i.e. ecological balance and natural beauty, to be derived through maintaining a rich diversity of our native life forms.)
  • Section 71-0925 of the Environmental Conservation Law dealing with civil penalties for illegal traffic in endangered species of wildlife provides for a fine of up to $1000 per violation and not more than $250.00 for each fish, shellfish, crustacean, wildlife species, or part thereof involved in the violation."
  • In a recent conversation, a member of the Oklahoma Herpetological Society mentioned that technically, in Oklahoma, you must have a hunting permit to hunt reptiles. He also said that typically only about 10% of the hunters in Okene have a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Department.
  • Endangered Species Technical Bulletin, Vol X #12 (1985) "The greatest threat to Crotalus willardi obscurus (the New Mexico Ridge nosed Rattlesnake) is over-collection for the pet and zoo trades. Unscrupulous collectors often used highly destructive capture methods that destroyed habitat, further reducing the snake's range. Even more devastating is the method used by some collectors of pouring gasoline over the snakes' cover to force them out, often killing some in the process." In January 1975, the subspecies' population in New Mexico was given protection as an endangered species. On August 4, 1978, the FWS listed it as Threatened and designated its Critical Habitat as the western part of the Animas Mountains.
  • Ernie Wagner, Senior Keeper, Reptile House, Woodland Park Zoological Gardens, Seattle, WA, in a Letter to Dr. Jeffrey H. Black, 2/28/77, Bull Ok. Herp. Soc. 2(4) "Several years ago in Eastern Washington, I was acquainted with an apple farmer in the Methow valley. Every year he would find three or four rattlers on his place and kill them as a pest, which is quite understandable if you have to work around them. Then one spring some boys found a large den site in a dry wash behind his place. He took dynamite and blew up the den killing over a hundred rattlers. That summer the rodent population in his orchard went unchecked and when winter arrived and food was short, many of his trees were girdled by the hungry rodents. The following spring, he had to bridge graft to try and save many of his trees...The thing he never understood...these animals are an important part of the life cycle in the wild."
  • "A Wild West without wild animals would be little more than a movie set, where people play good guys and bad guys in a landscape empty of everything but human pretense." Joy Fatooh, Benton, CA, Letters to the Editor, Time Magazine, 2/16/87.

April 1987


Ray Murphy, Animal Welfare Department, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Oakbrook, IL. Recently, an animal distributor sold turtles with a carapace length less than four inches to quite a few pet shops. As this is in violation of an Illinois Public Health Law, a case has been filed and is pending in the Circuit Court. On other grounds, a case has been filed against the distributor and certain pet stores in Federal Court by the Department of the Interior. The Animal Welfare Department is also working on a test case for the law on "dangerous animals" involving the owner of a python or boa in excess of six feet. Mr. Murphy stated that his office would not become involved with large snakes unless they were loose, complained about or for sale. Mr. Murphy would welcome calls to his office concerning endangered or mistreated animals in pet stores. If you call please mention the Chicago Herpetological Society. Please also be aware that permits for wild animals issued through the Department of the Interior are subject to all state laws and local ordinances.


exclaimed a CHS member upon reading the weekly grocery list of the Lincoln Park Zoo. In an average week, the Reptile House uses 50 pounds of fresh water smelt for its alligator, 50 pounds of salt-water herring, 9 anoles, 8 pounds of bananas, 18 pounds of apples/oranges/sweet potatoes, 6 bunches of celery, 28 pounds of carrots, 10 heads of lettuce, 8 bunches of spinach, numerous other fruits and vegetables, 400 pounds of rat chow, 1100 small rodents, 48 chickens, 1500-2000 crickets, 3.5 dozen raw/hard cooked eggs and 3 pounds of Reptile Fare. (courtesy of the Lincoln Park Zoo Review)


Animal Theatrical Agency in Washington, New Jersey maintains a list of cute or trained unusual animals for their advertising client list. Contact Carol McAuliff, vice president of the Agency, for more information.


in the Sunday Press, Atlantic City, New Jersey. When asked, "If you could have any animal for a pet, what would you choose, and why?" Jason Bordo, 7 of Cape May Court House replied, "It would be an icky, slimy snake. I like snakes."


Ken Mierzwa, fellow columnist and "Commander Salamander" of the CHS, will be leading his annual Frog and Toad walks at the RCA in Lake County on April 17th and 24th. Ken has researched the reptiles and amphibians of Ryerson Conservation Area for five years and has prepared a list of the Reptiles and Amphibians of Lake County for the L. C. Forest Preserve District. RCA is a high quality nature preserve bordering the Des Plaines River. Ken has been doing population studies on their salamanders for three years. If you are interested in attending please call 948-7750.


Have you ever wondered what a sea turtle feels like? In the new gallery, children and their adults can try on a sea turtle shell, and explore puzzles, sound boxes, live animals, books and pictures. If you have any interesting education specimens to donate, please call Ron Vasile or Mary Lamb at the CAS. (Here's a good home for all those five foot eleven inch python sheds!)


Through the determined efforts of hundreds of local volunteers and world wide conservation groups, Britain has opened its first tunnel under a motor-way for the protection of toads migrating to their breeding ponds. The road has been edged with a barrier which will divert the creatures into the tunnel and thence, safely to their pond. Lord Skelmerdale dedicated the project in the name of Queen and amphibian and snipped an appropriately small ribbon. This tunnel is the first of a series planned to prevent the yearly slaughter of some 20 tons of toads by British drivers. Until now the toads were carried across the road in buckets by volunteers. One said, "Our evenings won't be the same without a bucket of toads to carry."


on what to do with snakes that have been hit by cars but are not dead. "I normally move them off the road to recover but occasionally a more serious injury requires much more and I feel I have done more harm than good by moving them and thereby extending the suffering." Do we have any suggestions out there?


in the American southwest and northern Mexico are the subject of a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, professor of zoology and psychology at the University of Texas. It seems as though certain females of Cnemidophorus uniparens assume a "male" role and engage in courtship display and mount- ing behavior. The desert grassland whip-tail is much more likely to ovulate when she has been "courted" by a male-like female. He also found that females without courtship take longer to lay their eggs. I guess Ann Landers is right when she says a little hugging can be a big help!


John Behler of the New York Zoological Society sent some clippings and a UPI wire release concerning an alleged attempt to kill a woman by placing three 12 inch timber rattlesnakes in her apartment. One snake bit the lady's cat. She found two more in the apartment and a neighbor killed another snake that was loose by the front door. Police suspect Rudy captured the snakes locally. However, the timber rattler is an endangered species in New Jersey and New York. Possession without a permit can bring fines of $100 to $3,000 per animal per day according to Paul Kalka, a zoologist in the New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife. The cat survived, but the vet had to put the rattlesnake to sleep.


Living proof that rattlesnakes are not casual killers, the members of Appalachian snake handling churches worship God while holding live, unaltered, poisonous snakes. They take as their guide a paragraph in the 16th chapter of Mark in the Christian Bible: "They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them..." While academics argue theories explaining the death-defying religious acts as manifestations of everything from inhibited sexuality to a supposed hill country fatalism, the snake handlers say they do it because of "the feeling that one's destiny is in God's hands." Although Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky have passed laws against the handling of poisonous snakes in church, enforcement is minimal because the worshipers consider it an honor to be arrested for their faith.


have been pouring in, responding to the articles on Rattlesnake Roundups. Very minimal editing has been done. My most sincere thanks to all who took the time to write.

2/18/1987 -- "In response to your request for thoughts re RRU's, I'd like to suggest that every sponsor of them should be sentenced, in compensation for past freedom of exploitation of rattlesnakes, to reading every word of Farley Mowat's "Sea of Slaughter," examining himself afterwards for the place he fits in the picture Mowat painted. I'm all for private enterprise, but in entrepreneurship unbridled, too often, success results in creativity being replaced with greed, and the devil take the hindmost. Can anyone think for a moment that slaughter such as described can be sustained indefinitely? If these events are regarded as so important, the leaders should invest goodly portion of their proceeds in rigidly protected sanctuaries of truly large size that would assure persistence of a population large enough to withstand limited attrition. And the attrition should be strictly humane. Pessimists think that humans are incapable of that much far-sighted control. Evidence indicates otherwise, when the facts and alternatives are clear; the popularity of insurance is an example, as is erosion control Education is the answer, but the answer itself is a problem: how do we educate widely and rapidly enough? Sincerely, Hobart Smith"

3/1/1987 -- "...The rattlesnake roundups are yet another example of the diabolical schemes that our insensitive fellow man thinks up to exploit lower life forms. Snakes bear a special burden of punishment and malevolence due, at least in part, to the Judeo-Christian religious basis of "western" civilization. Historically and culturally, their status varies from a similar reputation to one of an exalted state of worship. Certainly in our contemporary society, snakes "enjoy" commercial value, dead or alive, and in conjunction with a good time and a "benefit" for other humans' ailments, become an acceptable target for sadism and violence. The roundups become a "community tradition" at the expense of the hapless rattlesnakes similar to some traditional fiestas in Spain where rabbits are stoned to death by mobs of celebrating villagers. The roundups have been protested by animal advocates (myself included) for years to no avail, in some part because this cruelty doesn't "grab" the general public's empathy. However, as a long time activist, I have found that reforms are most effective when expressed from within, i.e., professionals, researchers, zoologists, veterinarians, and in this case, herpetologists. Legislators and bureaucrats listen more attentively when knowledgeable, authoritative testimony and opinions are rendered. The Chicago Herpetological Society and similar societies around the country have the prestige and enormous potential influence to put a stop to such mindless activities. If all you dedicated "herpophiles" applied pressure and protested in the right places (media, legislators), the real "low lifes" who promote these killings would crawl back under their rocks until they think up another gimmick to vent their hostility and violence. Very truly yours, Carol Piligian"

2/26/1987 -- "Back in the early 70's, I owned a business called Arizona Reptiles, which was a mail order business, similar to Herpetofauna down in Florida. On several occasions I received letters from the Sweetwater, Texas Chamber of Commerce wanting to purchase live rattlesnakes from me. Seems as though they had collected all or most of the rattlesnakes out of the area. Without the rattlesnakes, they wouldn't be able to have their rattlesnake roundup, which was a big money making scheme for Sweetwater. I refused to sell them any rattlesnakes! I find it hard to believe they are still finding native rattlesnakes and wonder if they haven't found another source for their snakes. A couple of other items: ALL poisonous snakes are NOT protected in Arizona; only three - the twin-spotted rattlesnake (Crotalus pricei), ridge-nose rattlesnake (Crotalus w. willardi) and the banded rock rattlesnake (Crotalus l. klauberi). C. l. lepidus comes from east New Mexico and Texas, it does not occur in Arizona. Any of the other rattle- snakes may be collected with an Arizona hunting license and you may have four of each species; but no native reptiles may be sold or traded. The three rattlesnakes are the only snakes protected in Arizona. Also, Arizona did have a small beginning of a rattlesnake roundup. The town of Wickieup, about 90 miles NW of Phoenix was promoting a roundup a few years back. But, through the efforts of the Arizona Herpetological Association, we put a halt - I hope - to it. In one week-end, at one of our mall shows, we collected over 2,000 signatures from Arizona residents opposed to the rattlesnake roundups and asking the Game and Fish Department to go after them. In closing, I believe Dr. Jeff Black from the Oklahoma Herp. Society deserves a big thanks. He has led the fight for many years against the slaughter of the rattlesnake, unfortunately, with little success. Thanks for your time and I think the new format for your news- letter is great. I'm jealous! Sincerely, Tom Taylor, Editor, Arizona Herpetological Association"

3/2/1987 -- "I am very pleased that interest seems to be picking up on the issue of rattlesnakes and thought you might like to read the enclosed copy of a letter of mine to the Canadian Veterinary Journal. I have had similar publications around the world about this and am a founder member of the joint Universities Federation for Animal Welfare/World Society for the Protection of Animals Working Party on Reptiles and Amphibians, a scientific advisory body currently investigating the humane euthanasia and slaughter of reptiles and amphibians. It's not gruesome as one might suspect from the title, but we collate and disseminate data on the subject. The way in which rattlers are killed is probably inhumane at the best of times. You may be interested to know that later this year I am hoping to visit the USA again to investigate the rattlesnake roundups in person with the aims of producing several articles on the subject. Yours sincerely, Clifford Warwick, Consultant Herpetologist, People's Trust for Endangered Species, Surrey, England"

Excerpted from a Letter to the Editor, Can. Vet. Journal 1986 27:34. "It was previously thought that decapitation was a humane method of euthanasia for reptiles...recent discussions between veterinary surgeons and specialists have resulted in the condemnation of this practice...The reptilian metabolism is renowned for its ability to function at a low respiration and heart rate. It is therefore reasonable that nerve tissue is far more tolerant of a reduction in oxygen supply than, for example, mammals and can withstand comparatively long periods of induced hypotension and anoxia. One hears of anecdotal accounts where snakes and lizards indicate consciousness following decapitation, as the head may be seen to react to an approach by attempting to defend itself, respond to touch with movement and respond to light with pupil dilation and contraction...It has been suggested that such a high transection of the spinal cord would induce rapid and sufficient neurogenic shock to incapacitate normal central nervous system functions and reduce or eliminate sensitivity to pain. For various reasons it would be irresponsible for anyone to offer approval on this point alone as the duration and type of reactions suggest that the "shock" effect is insufficient to reduce awareness significantly." The Editor noted that "methods for humanely killing reptilia are being considered by the Scientific Advisory Panel of the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

2/25/1987 -- "Native to Georgia non-venomous reptiles are unlawful to collect or possess (including albino and heterozygous corns) without permits. Try and get a permit. Non-native venomous reptiles are banned due to their inherent danger to people and pets, but native venomous reptiles can be legally collected, killed, or possessed. In a nutshell, your son could legally keep a coral snake, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, etc. but could be prosecuted for keeping a garter snake or corn snake...gassing of the burrows has not been eliminated. According to page 49, Section 27-130 of The Game and Fish Laws of Georgia, 1982 Annotated: be unlawful to... use explosives, chemicals, electrical and mechanical devices, or smokers of any kind in order to drive such wildlife out of such habitats; provided that this Code section shall not apply to poisonous snakes." The last line was added in 1982 to exclude poisonous snakes (GA.L. 1982, p.1629, par. 1). It is now legal to gas gopher tortoise burrows for rattlesnakes. So, the current status of rattlesnake roundups remain the same as... in 1979. There are four roundups in the state with Whigham and Claxton the largest. We have attended these roundups to gather data for various humane societies, but no action has been taken. Rattlesnake roundups are very political in Georgia and as long [as] the populace thinks that they are overrun with snakes and that they are in danger from snake bite, they will prevail. We have given lectures, etc. to try and educate people about snakes and will continue to do so. The Georgia Herpetological Society is currently sending recommendations to the Georgia DNR to revise some of the existing wildlife laws...Sincerely, Dennis W. Herman, Assistant Curator of Herpetology, Atlanta Zoo, Atlanta, GA"

2/27/1987 -- "Notes on March 1985 Waynoka rattlesnake roundup observations: 2nd night (day after Easter) around 1,000 snakes were taken to a local woman's barn and slaughtered... Male western diamondbacks comprising the bulk of the snakes captured and featured in the various aspects of the roundup are brought in with good numbers of prairie rattlers (the study subject in Duvall's report), and a small number of western massasaugas, Sistrurus catenatus tergeminus. The western pigmy rattler is found in wetter areas in the state, and none figured in the count in Waynoka this year. Male rattlers are apparently the first to emerge and the last to leave the den sites (the females go first) for the summer feeding grounds and other habitat. This makes for the statistic showing only males in the thousand collected during the roundups and the time, early spring, accounts for the lack of stomach contents. Numbers of harmless species also end up in the huge corral or "pit" along with the 3 to 4 thousand rattlers seen this March. The most prevalent were the western coachwhip (Masticophis), black rat snakes (Elaphe), yellow-bellied racers (Coluber). Speckled and prairie king snakes (Lampropeltis), red, black and tan color phases of the western coachwhip were represented. When possible, through a friend of my companions who worked the pit, the harmless snakes were taken and later released around prevalent old buildings and other likely habitat. Children walking about the fair grounds would purchase some, carrying these about like toys while eating rattlesnake filets or cotton candy. Most of the snakes in this unfortunate situation would be dead of heat stroke by days end. I tried to educate a few kids as to the conservation of snakes, but this had mixed results. Stomachs of coachwhips who died of such mistreatment were examined and most were empty but others contained lizards, Crotaphytus collaris, Cnemidophorus sp., Eumeces obsoletus etc. I found the coachwhips and racers were the only snakes which had eaten their first meals of the year upon coming out of hibernation. Diamondbacks and prairie rattlers brought in ranged in size from juveniles of the previous fall to scarred and bulldog faced adults exceeding 6 feet in length. In the barn, snakes were removed from the boxes with tongs and beheaded on stumps with a hatchet, slit open and hung on a rack where the entrails were removed and the skin pulled off. Rattles and heads each went into separate buckets. Stomachs and intestines were retained for analysis by my researcher companion, Bill Strond, and blood slides were collected. The samples were used to determine if blood parasites were present. Thus far, only dermal and/or subdermal fungal lesions were present, presumably from dampness associated with early spring floodwaters permeating the hibernacula. These hibernacula were gypsum rock, mesa, foothill ridges on pasture grassland. The snakes would sun themselves in the entrances to the numerous holes, fissures and cracks and would be collected en masse this way. The use of gas, presumed in many hunts of this type, was not observed. Hope this helps! Tom Anton"


concerning this series of columns. I feel that we should gather as much information about these events as possible, from as many sources as possible and use that information to reach out to government officials and regulators. It is my goal to work within existing legal structures to modify, if not eliminate, these events.

Some of the modifications suggested have been: listing rattlesnakes as a game animal and establishing bag limits and permit requirements (as has been done in Arizona, see above); eliminating the use of gasoline under existing EPA regulations; regulating or eliminating interstate transport of live rattlesnakes and reminding sponsoring agencies such as Lions or Jaycees of their liability in case of envenomation.

May 1987


in the Gulf of Mexico, Tuesday, April 21, 1987. The class of 1987 has many dangers to avoid in the next seven to ten years before they reach sexual maturity and return to produce the next generation. CHS members who attended the August, 1986 meeting will remember Carole Allen, a dedicated front-line conservationist from HEART who told us of the struggle to protect this most endangered of sea turtles. There are believed to be less than 700 females of breeding age left in the wild. Currently, the US shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico refuses to use Turtle Exclusion Devices on their nets resulting in a "bycatch" of 9 pounds of wasted fish for every pound of sale-able shrimp as well as thousands of drowned sea turtles. All sea turtles are protected by CITES. Mexico is making a heroic effort to protect turtles on the beaches and in the water. The US is not enforcing the Endangered Species Act where the turtles are concerned and has not yet passed legislation requiring the use of TEDs on shrimp nets. Please take a few minutes of your time and send postcards or letters in support of the sea turtles to: Carole Allen, H.E.A.R.T., Box 681231, Houston, TX 77268-1231. She will send them in a bunch to senators and congressmen fighting to save the turtles. Additionally, the class of 1988 will be arriving in Texas very soon. It costs only $5.00 to sponsor a turtle from babyhood to releasable size. (Hint, hint!) A free, 24 page booklet about TEDs is available from the Center for Environmental Education, 624-9th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.


recently nursed a loggerhead sea turtle back to health. The turtle was confiscated by federal agents in Philadelphia. It had been illegally raised in captivity and kept in a small fish tank for eight years. Bob Schoelkopf and Sheila Dean, co-directors of the MMSC struggled to keep the malnourished and stunted creature alive. After nine and a half months of being hand fed crabs and fish had fattened it up to six pounds, the turtle was sent to the Miami Seaquarium in Florida. Thanks Bob and Sheila!


"I have never felt so personally enraged as I did the morning I stood on a remote beach in Costa Rica and watched helplessly as three "fishermen" harpooned a hawksbill turtle and her mate offshore, in technically protected waters. The poachers are tough characters and are frequently armed. This is big business for them -- because somewhere, some woman wants a pair of tortoise-shell earrings." Judy Broderson, CHS member, 3/31/87.


entering critical phases. One of the important nesting beaches for Caretta caretta is on the island of Zakynthos, Greece. Since research began in the early 1980's, the effects of human disturbance have become more apparent. Problems include noise and light of beach-side discos, vehicles and dogs destroying nests of eggs on the beaches, and sea sports which involve speed boats in the bay. The Greek Minister of the Environment visited Zakynthos in 1986 to personally monitor the situation. Hotel operators and property speculators are particularly hostile to the conservation efforts because they wish to see the tourist industry increase. A new airport has just opened and cheap package holidays provide enormous economic incentives for tourism growth. On 12/14/1986, a third Presidential decree was signed giving a complete protection zone covering 12.5 kilometers of the bay and for 200-500 meters inland. Building and land development regulations were included. Whether this new law can be enforced in the upcoming "season" remains to be seen. Some observers cannot see a satisfactory outcome for the turtles, despite the fact that this is one of the biggest known nesting sites in the Mediterranean.


Despite the efforts of Ellen Nicol and the Gopher Tortoise Council, habitat destruction, agricultural practices, legal hunting, and development continue to pressure populations of this burrowing tortoise. Ellen writes, "Nothing much will help until we can get threatened or endangered species status for it, and that will only mean that populations are scarce enough to warrant it." The GTC has a newsletter and some interesting turtle related products. Write Route 1, Box 1367, Anthony FL 32617.


is off and running as one of spring's hottest accessories." If you should see ANY real tortoise shell items, Jack Baker of the Division of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would appreciate your phone call, (312) 298-3250. Jack's department handles all reports of CITES violations for the Midwest. Give him a call if you have seen animals, live or dead, whole or in pieces.


states 14 percent of all salmonellosis cases have been caused by pet turtles. Rumors of phenomenal fines against local pet stores caught selling tiny turtles abound. The highest fine of which I have heard so far is $2,000 for four turtles. Remember, don't sell tiny turtles, and don't put them in your mouth.


children's fishing book says "small frogs are good bass bait...hook small frogs through both lips or a leg." Let's get ahold of the authors of this book and hook 'em through the lips or the leg and see if that changes their minds!


Jenifer Graham, with the support of the Humane Society of the United States, is ready to file a Federal case against the local school board, if they do not recant their position. School officials have told the girl to either cut up a frog or get out of biology class. The 15 year old vegetarian and her lawyers have suggested she learn frog anatomy from a model or computer program. Miss Graham said, "I'm not squeamish or emotional...I don't want to have any part in it." She said she objects to the killing of captive animals for food or research that involves unnecessary killing.


their endangered Houston toads, currently on the list of the ten most endangered plants and animals in North America. After trying strobe lights, simulated thunder and rain, the zoo scored with hormone shots. Offspring are being released in a wildlife refuge.


were seized by Federal wildlife officials at LA International Airport. Officials stated a cargo of more than 70 snakes was bound for an Ohio importer who claims to have a reptile research facility.


was quoted in the "Commercial Appeal" Newspaper "There's really no need to kill every snake you see. We have many snakes brought in chopped, diced and otherwise mutilated ...(the curator of birds) doesn't have people bringing in chopped up bluebirds and robins."


and a fine of $384 for transporting an endangered king cobra from Assam State to New Delhi, in violation of the Indian Wildlife Act. When interviewed Mokham Nath said he bags 500 snakes every year and sells them to snakeskin dealers. The snake was placed in the New Delhi Zoo.


following wild rampage. A 35 year old Memphis man faces charges of indecent exposure, burglary, assault and battery and intent to rape. During his spree he grabbed a 1 1/2 foot iguana from a terrarium in an apartment and was holding it when arrested. He later told police he had been taking "speed."


caught a 5 foot Nile monitor in the driveway of the factory. He suspects it is an escapee from the pet trade. If it won't settle down in the big cage he is building for it, the Metrozoo in Dade County will have a new inmate.


if authorities determine the "alligator" on the menu isn't caiman as the chef claims. The law includes fines up to $5000.


an American tourist swimming in a remote river in the northern part of Western Australia. Two types of croc inhabit the area - the harmless freshwater and the "deadly" saltwater, which can grow to 26 feet. Increased tourism and a ban on crocodile hunting may mean more fatal encounters between human and croc.


sole survivors of a large number of prehistoric families whose fossilized remains are found throughout the world. The New Zealand and United States governments will permit tuatara keeping only for propagation research. They cannot be displayed and have never before been bred in captivity. Let's keep our digits crossed!


A recent advertisement for a major chain store pictured two snake-like watches for children. They are about $8.00 and are made by Hasbro. My daughter saw the ad and said "Oh, cool!"


- In an interview, with the Dallas Times Herald, Jenni says, "It's against the rules of nature for (rattlers) to engage in conflict with anything larger than themselves. The only reason they'll strike a human is in defense. I tell kids that if they want to know how a snake feels, to lie down and put your head on the floor and look up at someone. That someone looks 14 feet tall." Jenni is trying to convince rattlesnake hunters in Texas to quit killing so many snakes. He says the Okeene, OK hunters are now restricted to killing adult snakes and that there is a limit on the number that can be killed in one day. Outdoor Oklahoma Magazine stated, "Jenni has observed areas in the state where valuable cattle forage has been virtually destroyed by unchecked rodent populations once rattlesnakes have been eliminated." As admirable as these statements are, fairness compels me to report that on August 4th, 1986, Mr. Jenni testified before the OK Senate Wildlife Committee Hearing on Rattlesnake Hunts that roundups should be preserved. Mr. Neil Garrison and Mr. Patrick Mulvaney of the OK Herp. Society testified against roundups. Mr. Mulvaney concluded his testimony by recommending that the state of OK recognize rattlers as a game animal; that the Dept. of Wildlife Conservation study the populations to establish facts about rattlesnake distribution and density for the purpose of establishing regulations; that the interstate transport of rattlers be prohibited; that all rattler hunters be required to posses a valid State of OK hunting license and that the sale of rattlers - live, dead or in pieces - be prohibited without a license.


- Leo Sutherland, Waynoka, OK, "When the Waynoka Rattlesnake Hunt began, it was nothing for the average hunter to bring in between five and six hundred pounds of snakes. That's about 600 snakes (apiece)...But the past few years, all the hunters put together have bagged about 1,500 pounds per year. So you can see the hunts have made a big difference." When asked if the annual snake hunts upset the balance of nature, Sutherland replied, "Too many snakes get away from us every year, so they'll keep right on going." Shortgrass Rattlesnake Association of Mangum, OK Position Paper on Rattlesnake Hunts, "Some areas are not open to snake hunters because the landowner fears a lawsuit if the hunter is bitten."
  • Master Sargeant Richard Lardie, "Rattlesnakes...and bison lived together in western OK for thousands of years and it was not the snakes that nearly exterminated the buffalo."
  • Ivo Reynolds, "It is an act of cowardice when a man gets his boots and "pint of whiskey" and sets out to kill such reclusive creatures."
  • Steve Hager, "...the current hunts are little more than cheap tourist attractions, grabbing dollars at the expense of Oklahoma's hapless natural resources. It is not only the snakes that suffer in these festivals of death, it is the people of this state, as well, who are losing their wildlife for the profit of a few."


    Tommy Martindale, a Waurika, OK, volunteer fireman was at Ardmore, OK showing off some rattlers. Specifically, he was trying to get a snake to strike a balloon. Instead, when he turned his back, the snake struck Tommy. A local took him to the Ardmore hospital where he was treated and kept overnight for observation. The Waurika News Democrat reports this is Tommy's second snakebite. However, in a 1984 article in the Daily Oklahoman, Tommy (who had not ever been bitten then) remarked that people who get bitten by snakes are "...usually yahoos. Just careless."


    a 29 year old, Irving, TX father of two died 3/25/87 after he was bitten during a roundup in western TX. The Dallas Times Herald reports he was one of several hunters bitten during the 23rd annual Brownwood roundup. Jay Wagner, one of the organizers of the event said "Some of the snake handlers got bitten, but they get bit every day. To us down here, when somebody gets bitten by a snake, we say, 'So what else is new?'" David Rodriguez, the chairman of this year's roundup, said that Alexander's death was regrettable but not likely to put a damper on future events. The Brownwood roundup made $6,500 for its sponsors. 6,774 pounds of snakes were bagged this year. Bernard Weller, who has investigated roundups since 1972 for the Humane Society of the United States said "All you have to do is leave a rattlesnake alone - he'll move away." He also said that the roundups he had investigated were "ridiculous and serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever. All they are doing is exploiting and sensationalizing the rattlesnake fear." In Sweetwater, TX this year, Bill Ransberger was slashed across the stomach by a rattlesnake during an exhibition. The UPI account said that Ransberger retreated to his RV, sucked out the venom with a snakebite kit and made it to the next show. I wish to express my personal condolences to the family of the man killed at Brownwood.

    June/July 1987


    is actively working to protect the endangered gopher tortoise, Gopherus polyphemus, from the effects of habitat destruction. It also seeks to inform the public about these rare and reclusive animals. Currently it is legal in Georgia to pour gasoline into burrows ostensibly to flush out rattlesnakes. However, this high octane anti-environmental additive can kill all the creatures in a burrow, including the tortoises. Florida has protected its tortoises, but some people continue to kill them to make 'gopher stem.' Ellen Nicol, the tortoise's dynamic person, and keeper of several acres of prime habitat personally designs and screens some gorgeous turtle shirts. She is also the person to contact if you wish to join GTC. Write her at Rt. 1, Box 1367, Anthony, FL 39617. Membership is $10.00 per year.


    Carole Allen writes, 'The fight for the survival of see turtles goes Currently, she is urging all persons interested in sea turtle survival to contact their senators or congressmen to support the use of TED's (see last month's column) and the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. You can call the capitol switchboard and leave a for your representatives (202) 224-3121, or call their local office. Letters are even more effective. Write your politicians at either the House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515 or the United States Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510. Please encourage them to contact Jack Woody of the US Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species office for accurate information on sea turtles. If you wish to get up a petition drive (as the CHS has done), call your senators' local offices to find out if they have telefax equipment. If they do, you can send your petitions electronically to Washington, saving postage and increasing the impact of your effort.


    The Ocala Star Bow reports that an ordinance which would ban artificial lighting on beaches in St. Johns County was defeated 4-1. Turning off the lights would have been beneficial to nesting females and hatchlings. Studies have proven that tiny turtles head toward the lights instead of the water. This results in thousands of smashed hatchlings on the shore highway. Night driving on the beaches is still okay down there, as is leaving on all your house lights and using flashlights on the beach. One community beach representative said that criminals would roam the blacked out beaches. He also said, 'The protection of endangered species is a noble cause, but there has to be a better way to do it without reverting to the Dark Ages.'


    humor columnist, mentioned the CHS in a column published Sunday, May 3, around the nation. He wrote, "I used to think snakes were bad, until I got this document from an alert reader named Rob Streit who is a member of the Chicago Herpetological Society (herpetologist is Greek for alert reader).' Seems Rob sent him a brochure from the Kaneda Snake Poisonous Snake House in Taiwan which offers 'snake penis pills', claimed to increase reproductive function, etc. Dave wrote, "... I was unaware that snakes had penises. Where do they keep them? In special little cases? Then how do they carry them?' Perhaps some of our other alert readers can answer Dave's questions. You can write him, c/o Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60610.


    Several months ago, I lambasted a pet writer from Weekly World News, 600 S. East Coast Avenue, Lantana, FL 33462 for suggesting people jump start their snakes by blow drying them. Well, Donnie Brown must have gotten some interesting mail because in the May 26th issue she give some accurate and unbiased advice on another snakey question. Thanks to all the herpers who wrote!


    reports that three of the five species of birds endemic to the western Pacific island of Guam have become extinct. The two remaining bird species seem doomed and all forest birds on the island are threatened. Toxic waste dumps? Radioactive fallout? Nope. Snakes. The culprit is the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) introduced to Guam from Australia or New Guinea in the late 1940's. It is rear-fanged and can be 10 feet long. Population estimates on Guam are 7 per acre or 936,320 snakes, total. The island's wildlife officers fear the reptiles will eliminate other small animals besides birds. They are studying several possible methods of snake removal including: introduction of a parasitic mite, chemical repellents, physical barriers and trapping. They are also considering developing a market for the snake's skin. Several zoos are working on breeding the few surviving birds in captivity for potential release programs. Perhaps we ought to get the Waurika Jaycees to hold their roundups on Guam!


    A "Pet Picture Contest." TM rules are: 1.) one picture per entrant; 2.) no pictures of pets in costumes; 3.) enclose a short paragraph describing why the photo best captures the pet's personality; 4.) label the back of the picture with your name and the pet's name; 5.) send photos to... Photos will not be returned unless you go pick them up so don't send your only copy. Why, you may ask am I pushing this? Well folks, the introductory copy to this contest reads "Is your most photogenic friend furry and four-legged?" I figure that if they get enough hops and slithers in their mailbox, they won't forget us in the introduction next time. Deadline is July 10th, 1987.


    Kibbutz gan Shmuel, an agricultural kibbutz, is creating a five acre marsh to 'grow' their crop, offspring of 220 African crocodiles they bought two years ago. Somebody thought the area would look more pastoral with the addition of a few ducks. The manager of the farm said, 'They lasted only a matter of seconds.' The farm is surrounded with two fences, barbed wire and Doberman pinscher patrol dogs. The inner wall is to keep the crocs in, the outer wall and the dogs are to keep curious humans out.


    Last month, we published a poem which originally appeared in the Atlantic Monthly. There is a ridiculous error in the very last line. Did you see it? I mean, I've heard of super-feminization and all that (God's coming and she's mad, etc.) but folks, facts is facts. Female frogs don't sing.


    The roundups this year went off without a hitch, unless you count a higher than average bite count. Take a few minutes to consider ways we could change these events, ways to influence the Jaycees and Lions Clubs, ways we can reach legislators effectively. The states we need to work on are Georgia (see above), Texas and Oklahoma. Let me know your suggestions. Now we have a full season before the next batch.

    August 1987


    As the proud owner of a Bufo marinus toad, I was dismayed to read a column by Horace Davis of the Gainesville Office of the NY Times. He suggested Florida residents eliminate the beasts by "repeated puncturing with a pitchfork." While I'm aware that (a) Bufo marinus is an introduced animal and (b) he is trying to be humorous I would ask amphibian lovers to express themselves by writing Mr. Davis, P.O. Drawer A., Gainesville, FL 32602.


    "I have been here only ten years and I am dismayed over what has happened to wildlife in just that short time...Man's greed and overpopulation will win in the end and I often am glad I am as old as I am and won't be around to learn about species after species disappearing forever as Homo sapiens scramble for space and food..." and "A frog may not be known for its intelligence, but it possesses more nobility than a man who chooses to ignore and enjoy the pain of nonhuman animals."


    that had wandered into an I-75 rest stop south of Gainesville. A local sheriff's deputy said, "There were tons of them. The last I heard we killed 47 snakes and 41 were poisonous." I hope he isn't responsible for truck weight checks!


    if unimpressed by males, reports a University of Florida zoologist who has observed courtship behavior for six years. The process begins as a series of touchings and pressings of heads and necks. They nuzzle and caress for up to four hours. Additionally, males submerge and make a noise inaudible to humans but so powerful it causes the water to ripple.


    "What good are poisonous snakes?" Cancerous mice given an extract of venom from Naja nigricollis, lived nearly twice as long as mice in the control group.


    and four other Midwestern states in connection with the illegal sale of 30 to 50 thousand tiny turtles. 27 of the 33 pet stores are in Illinois. A 1975 law bans the sale of turtles with a carapace length of less than four inches except for education, exhibition, export or research. These little red-eared sliders apparently came from Louisiana, the nation's leading turtle-producing state. According to the National Association of Concessionaires, salmonella bacteria are most likely to be found in meat, poultry, chili, bar-b-cue sauce, egg products, puddings, shellfish, soups, gravies, sauces and warmed over food.


    Two researchers at the University of Florida are studying the snake eel to see if it could become a viable new source of seafood. Let's see, so far this year we have had Cooter Pie, Gopher Stew and now sauteed sea eel. UGH.


    The publishers of the White Trash Cookbook have just released "Flattened Fauna," a guide to animals on the road. Herpers have some great names for reptile mimics, "Snakus fakus rubberii and Hubcappus depressus come to mind. Send in your favorites...


    but only after March 1, 1988. Also, about 50 headstarted Kemp's ridleys were stranded, dead in Copano Bay after heavy (and illegal) shrimp fishing. No plastics or ingested materials were found that might have killed them and they sure didn't die of old age. TEDs will not be required in bays for less than 90 minutes of fishing under the present regulations. Please write to Dr. Gary Matlock, Texas Parks and Wildlife, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX 76744 requesting full implementation of this 90 minute drag rule and proper TED use.


    P.O. Box 773, Brigantine, NJ 08203 opened a little early a couple of months ago for a tour by this author. They had a Malaclemmys terrapene in, recovering from a close encounter with a speedboat. This fine, little facility deserves a visit if you ever go gambling in nearby Atlantic City. There is also a very large nature preserve at the north end of the island and adjoining on the mainland. Local volunteers are replanting dune grasses. Bob Schoelkopf and Sheila Dean of the M.M.S.C. are an ecological bright light amidst the many blinking bulbs of America's newest casino playground. Your support is encouraged.


    Jubilee was a large amphibian whose "jockey" was from Oregon. Without the jockey, the frog leaped 19 feet 7 1/4 inches.


    in the annual Frog Contest in Middlebury, Vermont weighed in just over 8 ounces.


    The Turtle Race, the Chicago Academy of Sciences weekend and a recently proposed auction of herpetological dry-goods. You who attend regularly know that we usually have a raffle. Whether for raffle or auction we will appreciate all donations (books, shirts, herp jewelry, cash in large denominations). Write me if you're concerned if the item is appropriate. All donations will be acknowledged. Volunteers are needed for the turtle race which will be held at the Chicago Hyatt Regency on September 6th, 10:00 am. Registration will begin at 11:00, the race at 12:00. All aquatic, freshwater turtles EXCEPT SNAPPERS and ANYTHING endangered are eligible. Very small turtles are not a good idea because it is a very large lagoon. The CHS is currently in a time of big changes. The CHS Bookshop is developing and (with your support) will be a big help to the treasury. We do need your active participation and support in all our endeavors. Please, contribute however you can. Buy books, t-shirts, patches, decals. Send neat goodies. Renew a little early. Become a sustaining member. Help with our events. An organization can only grow with the active support of its membership.


    an area off Key Largo, is threatened by investors seeking to "develop" the land. The American crocodile is one of the four Endangered Species which currently live on this hotly contested parcel. An amendment to the Endangered Species Act authorizes private development in an endangered species' habitat if the developer comes up with a plan that assures the survival of the animal. Any such plan requires Fish and Wildlife Service approval. It is opposed by the Izaak Walton League, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Everglades.


    and year-round residents of Fripp Island, SC, patrol the beach daily for loggerhead turtle nestings. The number of nests is down one-third from last year. A major factor in the decrease in nesting is the loss of habitat resulting from the construction of sea walls and other beachfront development. Last year, the volunteers hatched about 10,000 turtles. The account says "On Fripp Island, the mere word that a turtle is on the beach causes volunteers to scurry around, warning people strolling along the shore to turn off their flashlights, lower their voices and collar their dogs." What a difference from that other community which voted down the "dark beach" issue this year!


    and salamanders now flourish in small ponds, in hummocky fields of loose volcanic ash and fine pumice pebbles in an area blasted by Mount St. Helens seven years ago. TIME also states that authorities from the state department of game are pushing the restocking of "game fish" like rainbow and brown trout. Biologists oppose the plan. The mountain is an unparalleled laboratory, geological and biological changes are so rapid that they can be observed in less than a lifetime.


    said he "would want to be a snake because then it would be impossible to break my arm (or leg) like I did last month. It's really the pits." Oh, the wisdom of youth!


    where are all you folks who are constantly arguing cage heaters? I've received 9 entries in three months. Yes I know we're all sweating, it's July, etc. But it will soon be cold, and lots of little lizards will be shivering if we don't share what we know with other herpers.


    was fantastic. I've actually lost count, but we collected between 500 and 600 signatures which were telefaxed to Washington. We received a lovely letter from Paul Simon, the Democratic Senator from Illinois. He says "I am a firm believer in the need for fair and humane treatment of animals and certainly support efforts to assure the continued existence of all animal species."


    I try to use everything I can and 90% of it comes from members. Do try to come to the HerPETological Weekend. Don't think because "It's only a box turtle" that you won't be most welcome. Many, many people in this city have never seen a herp of any kind up close and in person. Besides, it's FUN!

    September 1987


    William K. Reilly speaks out in support of protecting sea turtles in July/August 1987 "Focus." He writes "Efforts to protect sea turtle nesting beaches and hatchlings in Central America, Mexico, and elsewhere will mean little if the turtles survive to adulthood only to be caught in shrimpers' nets. Now that NMFS (US National Marine Fisheries Service) requires the use of the turtle excluder device, I urge the government to stand firm in ensuring that these regulations are enforced." I urge all herpers to write Mr. Reilly at WWF, 1250 Twenty-Fourth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037 urging WWF monetary support for programs such as H.E.A.R.T. which has worked long and hard for TED legislation in addition to its primary purpose of "head-starting" Ridley turtles.


    are dissected by high school biology students. F. Barbara Orlans, PhD, is the Director of the Scientists Center for Animal Welfare, 4805 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814 which sponsored a conference on the well-being of laboratory animals, June 3rd and 4th in Chicago. Her presentation on "The Use of Animals in Education" discussed the current standards for student projects involving animals as well as problems caused by animal use. Biological supply houses ship massive quantities of live animals, captured no doubt from some hapless local population. Those animals that survive to the classroom may be stressed and diseased. Animals not killed for "anatomy lessons" may be released by well meaning teachers passing disease to local populations. Please write Dr. Orlans to express your feelings on herpetofauna in the classroom.


    in its cage in a local Chicago high school classroom. The teacher assigned an extra credit report on "the poisoning of the snake." Nineteen students implicated the writer of the twentieth paper as the culprit! The snake is fine, the student is in a lot of trouble.


    screams the Atlantic City Press. Seems as though a tenant left a snake (or two) behind in his apartment when he was evicted. The landlord said he found the snake curled up behind a radiator and bolted from the room, closed the door and ran across the street to the firehouse. None of the firefighters would help capture the "ferocious animal." However, the next day, Mike Spezio captured the hideous two foot boa. He said the former owner "should be prosecuted the way they do when you abandon a dog or a cat."


    nailed shut in a box, in the refuse room of a Chicago building. Joan Moore, CHS board member and past president, was called in by the Humane Society. She said that both snakes had been neglected for a period of time and has taken them to her serpentarium in the hope that someone else would like a 9 foot python or a 6 foot boa with peely skin.


    Mark Davis of the University of Missouri has studied the reactions of male bullfrogs to recordings of other "neighboring" and "distant" calling frogs. The frogs defend 7 to 12 square yard territories by wrestling with their forelimbs and grasping their opponents under water until one or the other gives up and swims away.


    Returning from Key West, a boat load of divers thought it was strange when a loggerhead did not plunge to the depths upon their approach. Taking their underwater camera, the divers approached the turtle and noticed a large lump in the turtle's throat. It was also having trouble breathing. Four men pulled the turtle into the boat and pried his jaws apart to take a look. They found that the turtle had tried to swallow a blowfish which had inflated to the size of a grapefruit and was restricting the turtle's ability to breathe. "Holding the jaws open with the knife, it was an easy matter to reach in with a sharp knife and pop the blowfish. We were then able to reach down into the turtle's mouth with a pair of needle-nose pliers and remove the blowfish," wrote one of the rescuers. A big "THANK YOU" to those divers and to Florida Sportsman Magazine for printing the article.


    The newly formed Pacific Northwest Herp Society of Washington (state) put the kabosh on a planned Lions Club rattlesnake roundup in the town of Warden, WA. The Fish and Game Department revoked the town's permit, but the Lions went ahead anyway. Less than 200 people attended and lack of profits will probably preclude a recurrence next year. The Protective Animal Welfare Society filed suit contending the event was illegal because organizers failed to comply with state law by proving the event would not endanger the survival of the snakes in that region. PAWS attorney, John Costo said, "If this were a kitten roundup people would be outraged. Somebody is making a value judgment that the snake is a less valuable creature...I thought the Lions Club stood for honesty and integrity. That's what sets them apart from groups like the Hell's Angels." An editorial stated "Treading on this symbol of national independence with a snake fry is bad enough. Treading on rattlesnakes is much worse...The rattler roundup is not a wildlife management tool...One bite could mean the financial ruin of the Warden Lions Club. Headlines about Eastern Washington's first snake roundup could turn into headlines about its first Lion hunt." CONGRATULATIONS to the P.N.H.S. for work well done! You can write the Society, c/o 1308 N. 8th, Tacoma, Washington, 98403.


    was found on a beach in Queens. The head trainer at the New York Aquarium said, "It may have died of old age or some other natural cause." The Marine Mammal Stranding Network in Montauk, Long Island has been called in to investigate.


    building a tunnel under a busy road to permit spotted salamanders to cross the road during their annual spring migration. Last year the street was temporarily closed to protect the animals.


    An Inn in North Queensland, Australia has sold 45 pounds of crocodile meat a week since they added it to the menu last year. Near Kakadu, a hotel is being built in the form of a crocodile. It will measure 750 feet from nose to tail. Paul Hogan has been invited to open the hotel next May. The minister for the environment has proposed a fine for tourists caught in crocodile waters. Is the law faster than the crocs?


    A researcher at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, discovered a new family of natural antibiotics in Xenopus laevis which appear to kill a broad spectrum of microbes and may be used in human therapy. The press release stated "It is the first time a chemical defense system separate from the immune system has been discovered in vertebrate animals."


    wrote about the amazing longevity of frogs used for live bait. In Chapter 8 of "The Compleat Angler" he described how to fish with a frog "that he may continue long alive." He also mentioned that frogs can live for 6 months without eating and added "in so doing, use him as though you loved him, that is, harm him as little as you may possibly, that he may live the longer."


    includes instructions for placing a live bullfrog, wrapped in the crust, into a microwave oven for three minutes. "With any luck, the heat will have made the frog drowsy enough to permit careful removal of the crust...If the frog is not served without delay, it may revive, begin to hop about, and destroy the crust." The editor of the "F-Stop" Column in Studio Photography Magazine, Woodbury, NY 11797 says "BRAVO to David Fischer Studios, San Francisco, CA for his spirited ad. I'm sure that more than just this editor got a chuckle out of it." Personally, I doubt if any frogs are laughing...


    is scheduled for October 16th and 17th in Des Moines, Iowa. The Iowa and Nebraska Herp Societies are cosponsoring the event. For information and registration, contact Allen Anderson, Norwalk, IA 50211.


    is the focus of an article in the British Herp Society Bulletin, by Charles Snell. He writes "Keeping reptiles or amphibia in tanks simply for the personal satisfaction of having them is, of course an entirely different kettle of fish. Such specimens are often doomed not to add to numbers of their species and are lost from the general pool...A problem here is that a pet keeper as a child can convert to a serious captive breeder and/or conservationist in later life."


    from a US Fisheries and Wildlife Service research site by a reptile dealer. Many south-eastern biologists note serious impact on native turtle populations from commercial dealers. Please do not permit yourself to become part of illegal trade. Please consider your personal impact on local populations before being tempted to collect any. Please do not tacitly or actively condone illegal collecting in your area. Our freedom as fanciers implies a responsibility to those animals we cherish.


    accidentally while trying to kill a snake. Witnesses reported he had shot the snake twice with a 12 gauge shotgun, then clubbed it with the butt of his gun which discharged, hitting him in the chest.


    by commercial harvesting. In the last two years, over 150,000 snakes have been collected for the pet trade. Twenty years ago, there were more than 100 mass dens in the province. Today, there are fewer than 30. One set of dens, near Narcisse, is protected from the annual two-week commercial harvest. The dens are visited by up to 600 tourists a day in the breeding season.


    he expects the numbers of complaints about these reptiles to rise. "There's so many people moving down and taking over the habitat that the gators have to lay out in yards." US Fish and Wildlife Service director, Frank Dunkle, is expected to approve removing the alligator's endangered status in seven states. This would permit legal hunting seasons. There are an estimated one million alligators in Florida alone, one of which killed and partially consumed a 22 year old swimmer near Tallahassee.


    in Washington, DC has created a board game named Territory to teach children about lizard behavior. One card reads "Uh-oh. You've been spotted by a bird. That was a close call! Lose 4 spaces." The lab also has a comic book about an intense territorial battle between two anoles!


    was crushed when a one-ton concrete slab gave way. Please remember to be careful not only of the snakes but the debris covered areas when you are herping!


    by hundreds of harmless snakes seeking shelter after their dens were destroyed last year by construction. The 84 year old homeowner has killed hundreds, and exterminators are scheduled soon. A special representative from the governor has promised that a hole will be dug into the creek bed and filled with gravel in the hope that the snakes will find it a more attractive denning site.


    "For heating a row of cages, I use one of those 30 or 40 foot wires they sell in the midwest for thawing the ice in the gutters of homes. I run the wire down a long shelf, making a loop or two under each cage. I plug it into a 4-outlet electrical box that has a light dimmer mounted in it. By using the dimmer, I can control how warm the wire gets. Doesn't seem to use a lot of energy and does the job year after year. Yes, it gets chilly in Arizona!" Anita Hawkins of Delaware suggests, "Place a ceramic dog watering bowl (with water in it!) atop a flat heat tape (Flex-watt) or a flat pad-type heater. Be sure no flammable bottom material gets between bowl and heater, as it gets quite warm." Steve Snow from Illinois wrote a lovely, long letter suggesting the use of clamp type work lights on the side of a heavy water dish. Over that, he places an inverted 3 lb. coffee can which helps distribute the heat evenly and reduces stress from constant light. He uses caged drop lights for larger specimens. He does state that his winter electric bills are less than ideal.

    November 1987


    and plans publication of another on animals. Since 1978, 300 nature reserves, equalling 2 percent of the country's area, have been established. However, development and tourism have begun to impact these preserves. Endangered animal products such as panda furs have been smuggled out. Beijing Review also reports that Chinese zoologists are asking for international cooperation in wildlife protection by intensifying the monitoring of both legal and illegal animal businesses.


    were discovered in a marsh south west of New Orleans, LA and will be displayed at the Audubon Zoo.


    and efficiency at a Chicago area pet store...The Niles Journal reported that a snake was found lurking around a residential area. An employee of the store came over at the request of the neighbors, identified the animal as a "grey racer" and said it was one that the store had lost. He couldn't catch it. However, the manager of the store said they have never had a snake escape and that the particular type of snake is "common" in the area. PW Smith (Amphibians and Reptiles OF Illinois, 1961) cites only one Cook County racer record, in 1882!


    have requested public hearings to determine if an area of pine barrens should be set aside because of the presence of a population of Kinosternon subrubrum in the algae-covered waters of Wehrmann Pond. The mud turtle is a threatened species in New York. "It took a real beating during the DDT years," said the director of the Department of Natural Resources in East Hampton. The developer said, "...we plan to go ahead."


    photographed live Coelacanths in the western Indian Ocean. They found that these living fossils use their four, paired fins in a peculiar synchronous pattern. The scientists said it "is common to tetrapod locomotion," although rare in fish. Coelacanths may be cousins to amphibians and were believed to be extinct until 1938. These films are the first to show these animals alive and in their natural habitat.


    were bitten by timber rattlesnakes during services in Fort Wayne, IN. Both were hospitalized and released.


    was handing out balloons to publicize its tax amnesty program on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Dolores Cooper, State Assemblywoman, quickly put a stop to it. Balloons have been implicated in the drowning deaths of many marine animals. A dead leatherback turtle was found nearby in the middle of September with three balloons and strings in its stomach. Bob Schoelkopf, head of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, said that balloon makers have called him and said their products are biodegradable and safe. So far, no manufacturer has taken up his offer to eat some as real proof!


    with unlawfully possessing dangerous reptiles, a violation of the state Dangerous Animals Act. An electric meter reader who had been on his rooftop reported that he had seen a live cat in with two snakes in a cage. Animal Control took the cat and identified the snakes as a pair of 15 foot Burmese Pythons. No one claimed the cat in eight days and it was put to sleep.


    The former Sarah Ferguson and her husband, Prince Andrew, attended a charity event in Greenwich, CT for the benefit of several wildlife organizations. When an 11 foot python was displayed, she "cowered behind her husband, who demurred when offered a chance to pet the snake" according to the New York Times. What ever happened to that old-fashioned stiff upper lip, and all that?


    "We are asked to believe that our shrimping industry is about to be ruined, with wives and children left to starve along the bayous, and all for the sake of a few turtles that most people would never miss. We heard the same thing a few years ago from the tuna fishermen when regulations were introduced to protect porpoises. The regulations went into effect anyway, and strange to tell, tuna may still be found on the supermarket shelves, and plenty of fishermen are making big money...Shrimpers, who were good environmentalists when fertilizer companies proposed to dump gypsum waste into the river, demonstrated their open-mindedness at turtle hearings by toting signs reading, "I ain't pulling no TED."...Our vote-hungry politicians would be better occupied protecting their shrimper constituents within the framework of environmental law."


    "In many years of conservation work, I have never seen anything like the campaign of misinformation that some opponents of TEDs have undertaken in recent months...(Their use) will do more than any other action to conserve sea turtles. Continued drowning of sea turtles in shrimp nets will negate other conservation efforts." He urges us to write to our Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515 and to our Senators, Washington, D.C. 20510. Don't forget, shrimp is OFF the menu at the Turtle Cafe!


    An official at the National Marine Fisheries Service said the study request is still under review. HEART has supported the Galveston Lab in their widely publicized "headstarting" program to help the endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle escape extinction. "We have worked to promote the image of that lab as being for rehabilitating, raising and saving turtles, and this is the opposite of that...Is this another case of throwing money at a problem without knowing why?" Ed Klima, director of the lab, said that the experiment is aimed at improving protection for sea turtles by refining federal guidelines that oil companies must follow when removing offshore platforms. "I'm a biologist. All I know is what the oil industry tells me," he said. Has anyone told his alma mater?


    was a lot of fun, and obviously a lot of hard work went into putting it together. Congratulations on a job well done to the folks in the Iowa and Nebraska Herp. Societies.

    December 1987


    Plans to test the effect of underwater explosives on sea turtles and red-eared sliders have been abandoned by the National Marine Fisheries Service. We've heard that thousands of letters and phone calls against the proposal, even those received after the deadline, were responsible for the decision...An attempt to delay the implementation of Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) on shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico was defeated in the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee of the US House of Representatives on November 19th. Our man in Washington, William O. Lipinski (D-IL, 5th Cong. Dist.), voted for TEDs to be used as planned, on March 1st, 1988. Solomon Ortiz, a rep. from south Texas, promised to reintroduce his amendments on the floor of the House December 3rd...Fishermen are beginning to realize the potential benefits of TEDs. "Just as the shrimp belong to all of the people, so do the turtles and the fin fish. From a sound management standpoint, it makes sense to protect our fisheries by requiring that all shrimpers use TEDs." from Salt Water Sportsman Magazine, September, 1987.


    international president recently wrote, "Lions should serve as even more worthy examples than they already have in how to accomplish international goodwill and understanding...Expand your horizons; let there be not doubt that Lions are leaders..." Herpetologists know that Lions Clubs in Walnut Springs, Ballinger and Lometa, Texas host annual rattlesnake roundups. Perhaps calm, reasonable letters concerning this issue may bring change. You can write him at PO Box 2368, Station M., Calgary, Alberta, CANADA, T2P 2M6. Please don't forget to mention the devastating, long term environmental effects of pouring gasoline into small animal burrows. Pressure from the Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society of Washington State stopped a planned Lion's Club roundup in Warden, Washington, just this past summer. As we've seen in turtle issues, letters and phone calls do make a difference.


    Yes, there is life outside Chicago, as some CHS members discovered at the Midwest Regional Herp Conference last weekend. And as I enjoy your column, I thought I'd try to respond to the young reader's query in the latest CHS Bulletin.

    There are two papers in a book entitled Reproductive Biology and Diseases of Captive Reptiles, edited by James B. Murphy and Joseph T. Collins, that may be helpful. The first is "Temperature and light requirements of captive reptiles," by Philip J. Regal. The subject matter is aimed at lizards more than snakes, but it does give an idea of factors that could affect snakes, too. The second paper is "Aspects of the biology of a laboratory population of kingsnakes," by Richard G. Zweifel. Carl Kauffeld's book, Snakes: the Keeper and the Kept is also useful, as is Chris Mattison's The Care of Reptiles and Amphibians in Captivity.

    I keep North American colubrid snakes (corn snakes, kings, pines). The reader didn't specify species beyond "Snakes," so I will assume similar species. Boa constrictors have about the same requirements except for a slightly higher temperature requirement.

    I follow Kauffeld in not providing any extra moisture beyond a water bowl. A snake in a damp cage is more likely to develop skin diseases than one in a dry cage. The only exception is in the winter when there is very low humidity and the snake is going to shed. Then I mist the snake with water every day or so. The normal incandescent light bulb is not very good for providing a light cycle. If you want to breed snakes like corns and kings that need a cycle, use Duro-test's Vitalite fluorescent tubes. I have placed them outside an aquarium and attached them to a timer with good success. Incandescent bulbs seem to work fine as heaters with small to medium size terrestrial snakes. Large snakes (like 6 ft. plus boas and pythons) crawl over the bulbs and break them. Arboreal snakes like tree boas coil around them and get severely burned.

    Zweifel (cited above) has a heated room for his kings. It has a day-night temperature and light cycle. The light is from a large window. His temperature varies seasonally and daily. The average monthly high is highest in July at around 94 degrees F. July's monthly average low is 77. February's average high and low are 85 and 65. The other months range between these. My temperatures are somewhat more stable on a year round basis. I try to get 80-85 daytime high and let it drop to 60-75 at night by turning off the cage lights.

    A day-night temperature variation seems to be beneficial. Regal (above) says that at least some lizards suffer from hyperthyroidism if they are kept constantly hot for a couple of months. I have also read somewhere that male lizards can be heat sterilized the same way. I don't know how low a night temperature would be bad for snakes. However, I once had some black rat snakes in a room where the winter night temperature dropped to 55, and they had no problems because they heated up during the day. I use incandescent bulbs to heat aquariums. I make a frame of 1x4 inch lumber to go underneath the tank. A light socket is fastened to the inside of the frame at one end and generally holds a 10 to 15 watt bulb. This give a temperature gradient between the two ends of the aquarium so the snake has a choice. I got a dimmer switch from the local hardware store and wired it into the circuit so that I could adjust the power. I put some light aluminum sheeting under the frame to avoid damaging the tabletop. This setup works quite well for 10 gallon aquariums with slate bottoms. There is a danger of cracking a glass bottom from unbalanced heating, but that can be avoided by taping a couple of layers of kitchen aluminum foil to the underside of the tank at the hot end. Thanks for a really informative letter!!!!


    Yes, I'm out here! And since you seem so desperate, I've got two heaters to tell you about. Number one is the easiest. Wire a Dayton line voltage thermostat (normally used for greenhouse temperature control) between a porcelain socket and a plug. Put the thermostat and the light into the cage. I made a wire mesh cage to fit over the bulb and prevent any contact injuries. This set-up will maintain a constant temperature at a desired setting but can be of some annoyance if used in a sleeping area because the light cycles on and off to maintain the temperature in the cage. I have used this heater for two years for a boa constrictor. The light cycle seems not to have affected the snake's feeding behavior or growth. Number two is an idea borrowed from a greenhouse. A large (two-foot by five-foot) heating pad which was made for germination chambers is plugged into a temperature control unit. This unit has a thermal bulb that is placed underneath the heating mat to monitor the temperature. I have eight sweater box cages on one of these mats and it works great. The temperature control is from Pro Gro Supply Company, Butler, WI 53007.

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