LEVI STRAUSS' REPLY TO A CHS MEMBER ..."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.
WEEKLY WORLD NEWS "PET TALK" COLUMN 1-6-87 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.
U.S. FISH and WILDLIFE DEADLINE FOR COMMENTS 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.
ITEM: "OVER 75 TONS OF RATTLESNAKE COLLECTED SINCE 1958." 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, "...man 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 hole...you 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).
Other communities were listed, but no sponsor was given:
- Mangum and Greer Cty. Chamber of Commerce, Mangum, OK
- Waynoka Saddle Club, Waynoka, OK
- Lions Club, Walnut Springs, TX
- Ballinger Lions Club, Ballinger TX
- Lampasas Cty. Farm Bureau and Lometa Lions Club, Lometa, TX
- Taylor Jaycees, "National Rattlesnake Championships", Taylor, TX
- Keystone Reptile Club, York Springs, PA 17372
- Southwest GA Sportsman's Club, Albany, GA
- Evans Cty. Wildlife Club, Claxton GA
- Whigham Community Club, Whigham, GA
- Opp Jaycees, Opp, AL
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.
- Brownwood, TX
- Big Springs, TX
- Bangs, TX
- Belton, TX
- Gainesville, TX
- Archer City, TX
ITEM 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.
A RECIPE FOR COOTER PIE 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...
RATTLESNAKE ROUNDUPS, CONTINUED
- 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,...it 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:
- The timber rattlesnake is vulnerable to extinction through persecution by humans and has been severely reduced in population size within its range.
- The species has a low biological replacement rate.
- The snake is a valuable species in the ecosystem and is valuable for scientific studies.
- Although venomous, the timber rattlesnake is an insignificant threat to human life.
- 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
- 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.
INTERVIEW 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.
"THANK GOD I ONLY HAVE AMPHIBIANS" 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)
IS YOUR TURTLE PHOTOGENIC? 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.
KIDS SPEAKOUT 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."
ANNUAL FROG PROGRAM AT RYERSON CONSERVATION AREA 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.
CHICAGO ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OPENS A NEW CHILDREN'S GALLERY
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
TOAD TUNNELS OPEN IN BRITAIN 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."
A MEMBER ASKS FOR ADVICE 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?
PARTHENOGENETIC LIZARDS 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!
RUDY, THE "COBRA KING", STRIKES AGAIN 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.
SERPENT HANDLERS IN THE NEWS 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.
WONDERFUL LETTERS FROM MEMBERS AND HERPETOLOGISTS WORLD WIDE
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"
I WOULD LIKE TO THANK EACH AND EVERY PERSON WHO HAS WRITTEN
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.
H.E.A.R.T. RELEASED 1,600 YEARLING RIDLEY TURTLES 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
MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING CENTER OF BRIGANTINE, NJ 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!
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF ILLEGAL TURTLE KILLING "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.
HERPETOFAUNA NEWS REPORTS LOGGERHEAD PROTECTION 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.
HUNTING GOPHER TORTOISES STILL LEGAL IN FLORIDA 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.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE STATES "TRUE OR FAUX, TORTOISE 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.
CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL IN ATLANTA 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.
THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION 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!
LOS ANGELES HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT REFUSES TO DISSECT FROGS
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
HOUSTON ZOO SUCCEEDS IN MATING 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.
18 RARE PYTHONS FROM NEW GUINEA 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.
CHARLES BECK, CURATOR OF REPTILES AT THE MEMPHIS, TN ZOO 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
AN INDIAN SNAKE CHARMER MAY FACE A SEVEN YEAR PRISON TERM 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.
"DROP THAT IGUANA!" POLICE ORDER NAKED MAN 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."
A STEEL WORKER IN POMPANO BEACH, FLORIDA 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.
A SUNNYVALE, CA RESTAURANT MAY BE IN HOT WATER if authorities
determine the "alligator" on the menu isn't caiman as the chef
claims. The law includes fines up to $5000.
AN AUSTRALIAN CROCODILE ATTACKED AND KILLED 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.
ST. LOUIS ZOO ATTEMPTS TO BREED TUATARAS 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!
AMERICAN TOY COMPANY MARKETS "SLIME TIME" WATCHES 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!"
BOB JENNI WORKING ON BEHALF OF RATTLESNAKES - 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.
INTERESTING QUOTES, PRO and CON - 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
- 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
- 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."
THE SHOE IS ON THE OTHER FOOT AWARD OF THE MONTH 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.
ON A MORE SERIOUS NOTE 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.
THE GOPHER TORTOISE COUNCIL 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.
HEART UPDATE 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.
SEA TURTLE PROTECTION LAW DEFEATED 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.'
DAVE BARRY 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.
WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT OF SNAKES AND NEWSPAPERS 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!
SMITHSONIAN NEWS SERVICE 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!
CHICAGO ACADEMY OF SCIENCES SPONSORS 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.
ISRAELIS TRYING TO RAISE A CROP OF CROCODILES 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.
WHO SPOTTED THE INCONSISTENCY IN 'FROG'? 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.
RATTLESNAKE ROUNDUPS 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.
PEST IN THE EYES OF ITS BEHOLDER
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.
WISH I HAD WRITTEN THESE IMPASSIONED WORDS "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."
FLORIDA STATE WILDLIFE OFFICER KILLED DOZENS OF SNAKES 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!
FEMALE ALLIGATORS WILL SWIM AWAY 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.
STORE THIS FACT FOR THE NEXT TIME SOMEONE SAYS "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.
FEDS CLOSE IN ON PET SHOPS IN ILLINOIS 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.
NOT QUITE A HERP BUT 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.
TEN SPEED PRESS STRIKES AGAIN 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...
TEDs TO BE IMPLEMENTED IN THE GULF OF MEXICO 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.
BRIGANTINE MARINE MAMMAL STRANDING CENTER 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.
THE WINNER OF THE CALAVERAS COUNTY JUMPING FROG Jubilee was a
large amphibian whose "jockey" was from Oregon. Without the
jockey, the frog leaped 19 feet 7 1/4 inches.
THE LARGEST FROG in the annual Frog Contest in Middlebury,
Vermont weighed in just over 8 ounces.
THE CHS HAS SEVERAL EVENTS IN THE NEAR FUTURE 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
THE ONLY TROPICAL REEF SYSTEM IN CONTINENTAL WATERS 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.
IN THE MIDDLE OF JUNE SOME VACATIONERS 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!
TIME MAGAZINE SAYS PACIFIC TREE FROGS 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.
SEAN BRADY, 9 1/2, OF CARDIFF NEW JERSEY 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!
SPEAKING OF WISDOM 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.
RESPONSE ON OUR PETITIONS IN SUPPORT OF TEDs 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."
KEEP THE CARDS, CLIPPINGS AND LETTERS COMING
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!
WORLD WILDLIFE FUND PRESIDENT 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.
EVERY YEAR, THOUSANDS OF HELPLESS FROGS 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.
A STUDENT TRIED TO POISON A HARMLESS SNAKE 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.
"SNAKE HOLDS APT. HOSTAGE" 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."
A PYTHON AND A BOA WERE ABANDONED 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.
FAMILIAR CROAKS DO NOT PROVOKE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR 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.
SCUBA DIVERS SAVE A LOGGERHEAD TURTLE 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.
SNAKES 1, LIONS 0The 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.
THE NEW YORK TIMES REPORTS THAT A DEAD LOGGERHEAD TURTLE 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.
TOWN OFFICIALS IN AMHERST, MASS. ARE CONSIDERING 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.
TURNING THE TABLES ON AUSTRALIAN KILLER CROCS 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?
NATURAL ANTIBIOTICS FOUND IN AFRICAN CLAWED FROGS 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."
IN 1653, SIR IZAAK WALTON 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."
PHOTOGRAPHER'S RECIPE FOR LIVE FROG IN PASTRY CRUST 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...
THIRD ANNUAL MIDWESTERN HERPETOLOGICAL CONFERENCE 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.
CAPTIVE-BREEDING VERSUS PET KEEPING 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
200 STERNOTHERUS DEPRESSUS WERE ILLEGALLY COLLECTED 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.
A BRIGHTON, TENNESSEE MAN SHOT AND KILLED HIMSELF 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.
GARTER SNAKES IN MANITOBA ARE THREATENED 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.
AN EXPERIENCED ALLIGATOR HUNTER IN FLORIDA SAYS 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.
THE HERPETOLOGY LABORATORY AT THE NATIONAL ZOO 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!
AN ELEVEN YEAR OLD SNAKE HUNTER 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!
A HOME IN ABERDEEN, IDAHO HAS BEEN INVADED 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.
ED TUNSTALL IN ARIZONA WRITES "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.
CHINA JUST PUBLISHED A "RED BOOK" OF RARE PLANTS 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.
FOUR WHITE ALLIGATOR HATCHLINGS were discovered in a marsh south
west of New Orleans, LA and will be displayed at the Audubon Zoo.
SCORE ONE MORE FOR ACCURACY 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!
NEIGHBORS OF A HAMPTON BAYS, NY DEVELOPMENT 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."
A WEST GERMAN TEAM 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.
TWO MEMBERS OF THE HI-WAY HOLINESS CHURCH OF GOD were bitten by
timber rattlesnakes during services in Fort Wayne, IN. Both
were hospitalized and released.
NEW JERSEY STATE DIVISION OF TAXATION 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!
A LOCAL RESTAURANT OWNER MAY BE CHARGED 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.
BRITISH ROYALS UNAPPRECIATIVE OF SNAKES! 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?
A FLORIDA COLUMNIST WRITES "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
MICHAEL WEBER, OF THE CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION WRITES
"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!
PLANS TO ATOMIZE TURTLES ARE DRAWING A LOT OF FLAK 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?
THE MIDWESTERN HERP SYMPOSIUM IN DES MOINES, IOWA 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.
SEA TURTLE UPDATE 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.
JUDGE BRIAN STEVENSON, THE NEW LIONS CLUB 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.
REPLY FROM PAUL HOLLANDER, AMES, IOWA 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!!!!
RICHARD DRANE OF STELLE, IL REPLIES 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.