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

Herp News Around the World
by Ellin Beltz

Volume Ten

Vol. 2 . Vol. 3 . Vol. 4 . Vol. 5 . Vol. 6 . Vol. 7 . Vol. 8 . Vol. 9 . Vol. 10 . Vol. 11

This was the ninth year I wrote for The Vivarium.

I started in their Volume Two, Number 5 and stopped in Volume 11 when the publication was bought out and closed by the competition.

Volume 10, Number 1 - 1998

I see an elephant

  • The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that researchers are poring over 30 years of satellite data from NASA to determine if changing weather patterns may be linked to shrinking numbers of frogs. Over the past 20 years, seven species of frogs have disappeared and several have declined in tropical Queensland. [July 8, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • A statistical study in Cosa Rica showed that natural population fluctuations do not account for the disappearance of nearly 40 percent (20 species) of local frogs and toads. The declines continue in the highland regions and scientists are trying to establish a correlation between declines and disease or contamination as the causative agents. The field researcher this year actually found large numbers of dead or dying frogs lying around in the jungle. Necropsies revealed a parasitic chytrid fungus. Frogs in captivity infected with the chytrid virus develop respiratory problems. Meanwhile, frogs and toads are declining on the western slopes of the US Sierras - the side which faces California's highly agriculturized Central Valley. UC Berkeley's David Wake pointed out that the canary in the coal mine analogy is not quite valid. He said "If a canary died, the miners got out of the mine. We don't have that option. We don't have any place to go." [1998: Washington Post, July 6; The Modesto Bee August 6, both from Kim and Wes von Papinešu; The Oakland Tribune, July 7 from Matthew Aikawa] Other suggested agents of frog decline include ozone pollution blown into the Sierra Nevada mountains and introduced trout spawn and fingerlings, dropped for years by state government fisheries department workers to provide a uniform species of recreation fish for human anglers.
  • Reuters news agency reported from Washington, DC on disagreements between scientists studying frog declines. A biologist at UC-Irving found that a common chemical derived from Vitamin A and similar to natural chemicals called retinoids, which are key in the development of all vertebrates, seems to be causing frog deformities in Minnesota. However, Stan (the nematode-man) Sessions had a strong opinion on these findings. He said, "I have one word to say about that and that's `nonsense.'" He claims that what causes all frog deformities are trematodes. Sessions said, "It's a very common kind of flatworm. It's a parasite that gets transferred from birds and snakes into amphibians... get infected by trematode cysts during their tadpole stage." The flatworms interfere with limb development by burrowing into the tadpoles' limb buds. Sessions later in the interview acknowledges that flatworms cannot explain some other deformities and are probably not the cause of mass deaths and extinctions. Other workers have linked frog deformities/decline to ultraviolet radiation and pesticides. [August 5, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • The Toronto Globe and Mail reports: "Albania, the poorest county in Europe... has an abundance of amphibian life... Between 10,000 and 15,000 Albanians make their livelihood hunting frogs, in one of the country's few surviving export industries. About 400 tons of live and frozen frogs are being sold abroad annually, mostly to France but also to Italy." [July 18, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • Meanwhile highways and cars have been implicated as the biggest predators on American wildlife. Researchers in the American West have counted alarming numbers of road killed animals and extrapolated the data for Saguaro National Park alone to total 2,227 mammals, 1,982 reptiles, 1,300 amphibians and 1,029 birds every year. Even toads which only emerge after rains get killed en masse. Researchers counted 81 smashed spadefoot toads on one side of the road on one rainy night. Incidental road-death appears now not to be a trivial matter and may contribute to long term decline in toad populations near Tucson, concluded the researcher. [Earth Times News Service, August 4, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Surprise! Big iguanas unwanted

A story that is increasingly common was echoed in The Oakland Tribune: "Pet iguanas used to be a big fad, but now the iguanas are big and the fad has faded. Rescue organizations say they can't handle any more of the castoff lizards and the city [of Los Angeles] is considering regulating their sale... 2,000 South American iguanas come through [the Port of Los Angeles] each month, although the number lately has tapered off... Imports were driven by the development of a large Latin-American breeding industry. The oversupply drove prices here down to about $20 a few years ago... iguanas grow until they die. A pencil-length green lizard that makes a cute Christmas gift may be six feet long within a few years... males can be aggressive and territorial... some of the proposed rules go before the city council in the next week." [June 9, 1998 from Matthew Aikawa]

Caiman eludes paparazzi, film at 11

Contributor Petra Spiess wrote: "Enclosed are several newspaper articles on the Washington Park Caiman Saga occurring here in Denver, Colorado..." It was front page news on the 17th, then on "the 19th, a local radio station set up a booth at the `Caiman Park.' One of the disk jockeys taped four T-bone steaks around his waist and waded into the lake in an amusing attempt at attracting the wily caiman - but to no avail. Then ... on the 20th someone called in to say the caiman sighting was a hoax. The latest articles in this silly reptile saga are included. They are now draining the lake in an attempt to find this caiman, which they don't know for sure if it even exists because, like the Loch Ness monster, they only have second hand sightings to go on as evidence, and some idiot's confession on the Colorado Harp Society answering machine. Oh yeah, both of the major papers in town have had a `namin' the caiman' contest... The Rocky Mountain News [winning name was] Monica Chewinsky!" [Clippings: RMN, August 22 and The Denver Post, August 20 - 22, 1998]

Wanted: Dead or Alive

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports: "A brown tree snake from Guam was found dead in the landing gear of an Air Micronesia aircraft at Honolulu Airport. Officials believe the 28-inch snake stowed away in the wheel well when the plane departed from Guam on one of two flights made between July 30 and August 4. State plant quarantine inspectors and a dog team searched the plane and maintenance area and found no evidence of other snakes... the discovery [by a mechanic] led state and federal officials to review procedures to prevent arrival of the reptile species in the islands. It is the eighth brown tree snake to be found in Hawaii since 1981. The species has devastated the bird population on Guam, posing a threat to people as well as causing economic and ecological loss..." [August 8, 1998 from G. E. Chow]

Hide your Pomeranians

  • The same 7.5-foot boa that got loose and ate a 2-pound Chihuahua ("Babette") has escaped again. This time, the police and other officials think "Alissss" was stolen from her owner's Birmingham, Alabama apartment. Alissss' human moved from Los Angeles to the south because he gave up waiting for LA to give him a permit for his snake. [The Courier-Journal, July 26, 1998 from Gary H. Kettring]
  • "Godzilla" the lizard is loose in Virginia and the press covered the event like a full-blown scandal. Described as a crocodile monitor lizard 50 pounds, eight feet long, feeding on dog food, mice and rabbits, Godzilla's species is native to New Guinea. He escaped from an outdoor dog run. The owner immediately called police. Their community education caused a flurry of "Are you really telling our kids there's an 8-foot lizard on the loose?" calls and more than a few worried pet owners and parents. A local kid said, "I watch stuff on snakes and lizards on TV all the time. It's kind of cool to have it live." [The Washington Post, July 9, 1998 from Andy Via and Bryan McCarty]
  • The News-Herald from Panama City, Florida reports: "A long-distance trucker pulled over his 18-wheeler to give his pet `gator a bite of some canned oysters and some exercise and ran afoul of the law... [he] was arrested on charges of illegal possession and transportation of alligators... [the man] was so saddened by his pet's confiscation that [the police officer] obliged him by shooting some pictures of them together with the trucker's disposable camera." [April 15, 1998 from Rex Knight]
  • Contributor Andy Via writes, "When you start looking, these things pop up everywhere!" Attached was a note from The Washington Post that a large black snake emerged from under the dashboard of a car while its owner was driving. He called police. Animal control officers removed and released the snake which was native to Fairfax County. [July 9, 1998]

Resort threatens sea turtles

Development of tourist facilities on an untouched beach in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo may result in destruction of nesting facilities and loss of hatchlings to beach lighting and traffic, according to one of Mexico's leading sea turtle specialists and a marine biologist at the local college. There is precedent for these fears. In Malaysia a beach which used to host 1,000 nesting turtles every year, now only sees a few. Development in Greece and Turkey has erased loggerhead nests, and thousands of baby turtles are disrupted by lighting in oceanfront communities along the ocean shores of the United States. [San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 1998 from Matthew Aikawa]

While a judge rules in their favor

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, GA ordered the 3-year-old coastal light case be returned to the federal district court in Orlando for a ruling. Volusia County may be held responsible for the deaths of endangered sea turtles due to beach driving and excessive outdoor night lighting and may result in new regulations or regulatory permit changes affecting both human land uses. [Orlando Sentinel, August 5, 1998 from Bill Burnett]

And traders do time

Two Muskogee, AL brothers in their 30s were sentenced to home confinement after pleading guilty to conspiring to violate the Lacey Act. They sold protected turtles to wildlife officers and a Texas reptile dealer at flea markets in 1995 and 1996. The turtles were collected in eastern Oklahoma. Fifty-two of the 820 box turtles seized as part of this case were ill with runny noses, swollen eyes and other signs of vitamin deficiency They were treated at Oklahoma State University and the rremainderwere released in proper habitat. [Tulsa World, August 14, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

While more babies hatch

Blissfully unaware of all the controversies in this column and indeed of any controversy at all, this year's hatch of baby sea turtles on Florida beaches was watched by children, adults, tourists, natives, and hordes and hordes of press. Geoffrey Tomb in The Miami Herald writes "While the ups and downs of Wall Street, World Cup soccer and Bill and Monica play out elsewhere this summer, something far more enduring is happening all along the beaches of South Florida. It is turtle time." For more information on how to become involved with next year's hatch, contact Miami Date County naturalists at 305-365-3018.

Bits, bites, bytes

  • "Rule No. 1: Don't try to pet a rattlesnake... [A local man] learned that lesson the hard way... when he picked up an innocent looking 10-inch snake... [which] turned out to be a young rattler that bit him on his left index finger and landed him in the hospital." [The Oakland Tribune, June 19, 1998 from Matthew Aikawa]
  • A 42-year-old Oregon Native American man was bitten by a 4-foot rattlesnake. His friends called 911. Since the man had a reputation for drinking too much, police and ambulance workers didn't take his statements seriously and didn't take him to the hospital for four hours. The man died undergoing treatment. The FBI were called in to investigate and five public safety employees of the reservation have been placed on administrative leave. [UPI and The Oregonian, August 13, 1998 both from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • A woman confronted with a hissing cobra on her suburban Washington, DC lawn, called 911 and "they hung up on me," she says. She called three times. Her husband killed the cobra with a garden tool and the Animal Control officers picked it up later. Authorities speculate that it was an escapee from a captive collection. [The Washington Post, August 1, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • A Thai farmer who claims to have been the "Prince of Snakes" in a former life took up residence in a glass room in a Bangkok mall with two king cobras, 100 regular cobras, 30 centipedes, 20 scorpions and 44 pounds of live frogs. [The Oakland Tribune, May 7, 1998 from Matthew Aikawa]
  • Fifty four boxes being x-rayed at Jakarta's international airport did not contain 1,020 eels as described on the manifest. Instead they contained 1,020 cobras being illegally shipped to China for consumption as medicine and food. [Associated Press, July 30, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • In a substitute for the thousands of leopard frogs needlessly "sacrificed" every year in the so-called biological education of North America's youth, Stanford University researchers have developed a website which permits users to view the computer-simulated frog from any angle, make its skin transparent to view any organ or the skeleton. Visit alone or with your class and do your part to reduce needless amphibian decline. The programmers are working on a tactile version which, with the virtual humans already scanned in, can be used to train surgeons to operate with remote or tiny instruments. Studies have shown that students trained on virtual dissections do just as well as students forced to do live material dissections. [The Dallas Morning News, August 4, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Cutest picture

I wish we could print pictures in this column because I received the most adorable photo of "Hank and Brenda," Rankin's dragons in the care of Andy Via. Hank has his arm around Brenda's shoulder. She's plumply gravid and leans gently into him. Andy writes that she has just laid 16 eggs.

It's not easy being prolific

Regular readers of this column realize that an enormous amount of material is acknowledged to be "from Kim and Wes von Papinešu." These two illustrious contributors must never sleep, for in addition to caring for a massive personal collection of things that hop, slither and wriggle, they not only do their regular jobs, but contribute about 100 pages of reptile and amphibian clippings every couple of months. Recently Wes addressed a group of herpetologists and was introduced as a renowned "newter who monopolizes the Vivarium column!" Not really. And I don't know what I'd do without him and Kim. Probably write longer paragraphs about fewer topics!

Thanks to everybody who contributed to this issue. This is my 45th uninterrupted column in Vivarium, in addition to ten years of monthly columns for the Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society. How time flies! You can become a contributor, too. The easiest thing to do is send whole pages of newspaper, or magazines, being sure that the date/publication slug appears on one of the corners. Otherwise, write it on - or stick it on with tape and write your name on the clipping. Send it to me at the address on the masthead.
Ellin teaches geology and natural history at Northeastern Illinois University, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Morton Arboretum. She is a big-wall rock climber and field naturalist who spent more than three months primitive camping in the last year.

Volume 10, Number 2 - 1998

Watch out for phony photogs

"Greetings, I recently received a phone call from a Michael McCoy, a self-described `film producer for National Geographic.' He wants to film bog turtles preparing for hibernation in Pennsylvania. He asked for exact locations where he could take his film crew. I called the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C. -- they never heard of him. He never can leave me a contact phone number, either. He's `on the road' or `between cellular contracts,' etc. So, as always, be alert. Do not share sensitive locations where imperilled species are located. Regards, Mark Miller, President, Philadelphia Herpetological Society" [from James Harding, October 12, 1998 by email] And to this I would add my own caveat: Do not speak about reptiles or amphibians unless you really know to whom you are speaking. I still get asked for localities. I do not know if this is
  1. someone too clueless
  2. someone not clueless, or
  3. someone seeking clues.
Actually, I no longer care which - for each the answer is still "no." Have you noticed that the herpetology world is getting weirder by the minute? Seems the less species there are the more activity in species, don't you think?

Then the boggling and the busted

  • Wildlife officers had a busy day in Lancaster, Pennsylvania executing their part in "Operation Herpscam" a multi-state event. Taken in Pennsylvania were mostly wild-caught turtles including bog turtles. [Sunday News, July 5, 1998 from Michael J. Shrom] Their Outdoors Editor wrote about the buy that turned bust: "On the surface things must have looked OK, but what [the buyer] didn't realize was that the seller was an undercover Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission agent and their audience included four PFBC officers in two chase cars, a fifth PFBC officer on surveillance duty and two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents..." The man was taken away in handcuffs. This operation continues one which began in Indiana and has resulted in arrests in 12 states so far. The Midwest Reptile Show was halted during trading hours and agents seized more than three dozen species of turtles, snakes and lizards. People who were there report that they were forced out into the hot sun and prevented from leaving or seeking shade. [CHS Bulletin, October, 1998]
  • Meanwhile in Miami, a man pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle large numbers of reptiles from Peru. He and another man face even more charges. Trials will follow. [The St. Petersburg Times, July 29, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wrapped up a five year investigation by arresting people in Arizona, California and Mexico. Among the animals illegally traded by these alleged traders were Komodo dragons, tuatara, ploughshare tortoises and other rare and restricted species. [The Arizona Republic, September 16, 1998]

The quick, the dead and the weirdest

  • While alligators used to live in the Mississippi as far north as St. Louis, they haven't been seen there for many a long year so a report of a gator captured in Gladstone, Illinois was quite surprising. The discoverer said, "We thought we were seeing things. It turned a regular fishing trip into something amazing. We were out looking for catfish and we found a silly gator." They had it in a tank of water at home and were feeding it crayfish and hotdogs. [The Southern Illinoisan, September 18, 1998 from Erik Keyster] Expect a followup story when the animal is confiscated under Illinois Dangerous Animals Act.
  • A 16-year-old girl was standing on her porch in Woodbridge, looked down to see a snake later identified as a monocled cobra slither out from under a wicker table. The girl grabbed her dog and fled screaming into the house. The girl's mother "frantically... dialed 911, and after several tries was able to convince dispatchers that she had a serious problem and they sent an animal warden to the house." By the time he got there, neighbors had cornered the animal and killed it with a "grip it" stick. The man said, "It's a snake; it's your house; it's your family. He wasn't getting away from here alive." Prince William County officials speculate that the snake was a captive animal but recently escaped. [Potomac News, July 31, 1998 from Bryan McCarty]
  • A Dade City, Florida resident found five frogs smashed and arranged in a semi-circle on the hood of his car. He had left the vehicle parked outside a Circle K store but no one seems to have seen a thing. Wildlife officials said there was nothing they could do. A neighbor said that the frog killing was "... like pulling wings off flies for no reason. They could turn out to be a Ted Bundy or somebody like that." [St. Petersburg Times, July 19, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]

Cleopatra and the asp, 90s style

Researchers at the University of Southern California have isolated a protein from snake venom which they feel will work to reduce the rate of growth of breast cancer and other tumors. The lead researcher said, "It doesn't hurt the cells, but suspends aspects of physiology." His team used specially bred mice and copperhead venom for the study. [from Joanne Tinsley] Also from The Daily Oklahoman, August 27, 1998 from Chris Hannaford]

Iguana go to the next island

In an observed first, 15 large iguanas sailed into biological history by arriving at Anguilla on a raft made of storm tossed logs from Caribbean hurricanes in September 1995. It has taken this long to get all the details and get published in Nature. The story was picked up by The New York Times, October 8, 1998 from P.L. Beltz, the Jefferson City Missouri Post Tribune (10/15) from Vicky Elwood and global bounces from Kim and Wes von Papinešu.

It's turtles all the way down

  • "There are perhaps 27 species of tortoises and freshwater turtles occurring in Vietnam. Most of these species are considered valuable within the wildlife trade with prices ranging from 5000VND ($ 0.40) to 1.8 million VND ($ 125.00) per kilo, depending on species, availability, and the market. Turtles are favored for their supposed medicinal value, are consumed as food, and kept as pets. The Chinese market appears to be the end destination for most species of Vietnam's turtles, exceptions being perhaps soft-shell turtles (Amyda spp.) and smaller individuals of several species that are favored as pets (i.e. Geomyda spengleri). Although it is difficult to determine accurate figures relating to the volume of turtles in the trade, it is clear that the trade is unsustainable and responsible for the systematic destruction of natural populations of many species in Vietnam, as well as possibly neighboring Cambodia and Laos. Turtles are particularly vulnerable to rapid and devastating population declines as a result of over-harvesting. This is due to the low fecundity of most species, low annual survivorship, and the relatively long time it takes for young animals to reach maturity. Efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam have focused mainly on enforcement actions by Forest Protection Department (FPD) rangers who routinely seize illegal shipments of reptiles, birds, and mammals from smugglers on their way to China. Reptiles usually comprise the greatest numerical component of the trade with turtles and snakes (Naja spp., Bungarus spp., Elaphe spp., and Pytas spp.) nearly always present in seizures. Up until recently, there has been little concern for the apparent high volume of turtles in the trade, but these attitudes are slowly changing as both international and local attention to the threat to Indochina's freshwater turtles and tortoises becomes more apparent. Vietnam may be a weigh (sic) station for the wildlife trade in Indochina amassing a diverse and geographically disbursed assortment of species from the region for the insatiable markets of China. As one FPD official put it, `The price you can get [for animals] in Laos is cheap so they ship them to Vietnam where the price is good. But the price in China is better.' Vietnam's traders likely see the illegal wildlife trade as a lucrative and profitable venture where the rewards far outweigh the risks along the way. While buses remain the most common mode of wildlife trade transportation, recent confiscation at Hanoi's train station and Noi Bai airport have illustrated that traders probably utilize a much more elaborate transportation network to get their goods north." [September 8, 1998 from Douglas Hendrie from James Harding by email]
  • "You are cordially invited to visit the Inter-American Convention website at Numerous members of the international community of sea turtle biologists and conservationists have collaborated with the development of this regional treaty. The involvement of Latin American specialists - championing the conservation of sea turtles and their habitats, as well as the needs and rights of coastal communities - has been especially important; since 1996 they have promoted accords and resolutions to support this international instrument." [from James Harding by email]
  • Cerro Azul volcano on Isabela Island in the Galapagos erupted in early September spewing out two rivers of molten lava, but not immediately threatening Galapagos tortoises. [Reuters, September 17, 1998] Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that the same eruption was "spewing flames and a river of lava that could reach the 1,670 Galapagos tortoises," and particularly threatened three tortoise nesting grounds, if the lava flowed the wrong way. An airlift of tortoises was being planned if the danger increased. [both from J.N. Stuart]
  • The 19th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation will take place at the South Padre Island Convention Centre on South Padre Island, Texas from 2-6 March 1999. Key features of the 19th will be invited talks on ... "The Promise, the Pain, and the Progress of 50 years of Sea Turtle Research and Conservation," a concentrated Mini-symposium on the Kemp's ridley and an increased emphasis on high quality poster sessions. Hosts for the meeting include Texas A and M University, the Texas Sea Grant College Program, The Gladys Porter Zoo and Sea Turtle, Inc. Co-sponsors include Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, the National Marine Fisheries Service-Southeast Fisheries Center, the National Marine Fisheries Service-Protected Resources Branch, Padre Island National Seashore and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service... Deadline for Abstract submission is December 1, 1998. [from James Harding by email]
  • A World Trade Organization [WTO] Court ruled Monday the United States must accept shrimp imports from countries refusing to equip their fleets with turtle-excluder devices, according to the Associated Press [October 12, 1998] . The ruling upheld an April decision favoring shrimping fleets from Malaysia, Thailand, India and Pakistan. The court held a U.S. law seeking to protect endangered sea turtles placed an undue trade restriction on poorer nations. The decision is a major setback for environmental and trade organizations, who worry it will discourage other countries from restricting trade in products harming endangered species. The article says shrimping without turtle-excluder devices kills approximately 150,000 turtles annually. If the United States continues to enforce its law, it can face trade sanctions from the four countries. [GreenLines, October 13, 1998 from Roger Featherstone] [Associated Press, October 13, 1998 from James Harding]

One of life's little lessons?

"High school's science snake draws blood, gets the boot" Hermiston, Oregon: One more reason not to bite the hand that feeds you: You might wind up as a pair of boots. That's the unfortunate fate of a boa constrictor that's been a year long science project for students at Hermiston High School. [Their] science teacher ... was getting ready to move the classroom snake from its glass cage last week when the reptile struck at him, biting his index finger. School officials said [he] was not seriously hurt. He got a bandage and later went to the hospital for a tetanus shot ... the school's athletic director said. But the 6-foot-long boa apparently made a fatal mistake in drawing blood. `[The teacher] was going to have it destroyed today and made into a pair of boots,'... said [the athletic director]." [The Register-Guard, Eugene Oregon, September 20, 1998 from Susan E. Stewart; The Oregonian, September 21, 1998 from Joanne Tinsley]

On the other hand

A 17-year-old fed his 8-foot python two rats at a friend's house, then tried to handle the snake. The python then bit the boy's hand, began to swallow and constricted the youth. When the Fire Department Captain arrived, he found that "The snake was constricting on both arms and ingesting his hand. When you tried to move or fight it, the snake constricted harder.... [The youth] was in a lot of pain, and his arm was turning blue." So, after trying some less forceful methods, the Fire Captain cut the snake's head off and released the injured owner. He said, "I hope the animal rights people don't get after me for killing the snake because I sure didn't want to do it. But you don't ever want to endanger the victim." [The Jefferson City Post-Tribune, September 29, 1998 from Vicky Elwood]

USGS Wildlife Health Alert

Earlier this summer, salamander die-offs occurred in Maine and North Dakota. Then in October, the U.S.G.S. press release reports: "A virus is believed to be responsible [for these dieoffs]. The Utah event occurred in early September ... east of Salt Lake City. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists reported finding about 200 tiger salamander carcasses littering the shoreline and lake bottom. Salamanders that were still alive appeared lethargic, swam in circles and were unable to remain upright. The sick salamanders also had red spots and swollen areas on the skin. A small number of seemingly healthy salamanders were also observed, but quickly swam into deeper water. No other species appeared to be affected... a USGS wildlife pathologist [performed tests which] indicated a viral infection ... a USGS virologist, reported isolating a virus from diseased tissues... [the same workers] found a virus in dead tiger and spotted salamanders earlier this year from Maine and North Dakota.... [but] data from these salamander die-offs are still being collected and evaluated. The health alert asks wildlife biologists to report any unusual observations of mortality or disease in salamanders to the USGS center. The die-offs are troubling to scientists because many amphibians (the group including frogs, toads and salamanders) have shown sharp population declines in many parts of the world in recent years. Whether the recently identified salamander disease is related to global amphibian declines is still unknown. Salamander die-offs have been reported previously, but scientists are not sure how common such events may be. USGS biologists say die-offs of tiger salamanders were recorded at the same Utah location during in the early 1980s but these deaths were thought to be caused by a bacterial infection. In 1995 researchers at the University of Arizona reported on a similar die-off of tiger salamanders living in stock ponds in southern Arizona. These deaths were also attributed to an contagious iridovirus infection. Canadian scientists recently announced that they too had isolated an iridovirus from a tiger salamander die-offs near Regina, Saskatchewan, in Canada. ... The international scientific community has expressed growing concern over population declines in all amphibian groups. These losses are now well documented and have occurred in a wide range of habitats, including remote and pristine areas in California, the Rocky Mountains, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and Australia. ... Researchers are trying to determine why amphibians are disappearing. Current hypotheses to explain the declines include widespread infection by viruses, fungi, bacteria or parasites; increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation due to ozone thinning; the spread of non-native predators; contamination from pesticides and other chemicals; and rising temperatures. Many biologists suspect that a combination of factors may be responsible." [USGS Press Release from Wes von Papinešu by email]

Thanks to everyone who contributed this month and to those who are thinking of sending pages of their local paper - please, don't procrastinate! Be sure your name and the publication date are on each piece and mail to me at the address on the masthead. Thanks especially to people who send pictures. I really enjoy seeing my contributors as people (and herps)!
Ellin Beltz is a professor of geology with a particular interest in the tectonics of Illinois. She recently led two field trips for students at the Morton Arboretum/College of DuPage to locations along the Sandwich Fault zone of northeastern Illinois. She is the editor of "Care in Captivity" and a long-term contributor to the Chicago Herpetological Society Bulletin. This is her 46th column for Vivarium since 1990.

Volume 10, Number 3 - 1998

It's not easy being a green salad either

A live toad hopped out of a bag of mixed salad and onto the kitchen table of a 42-year-old teacher in Northumberland, England. The staff at the supermarket was surprised that a live toad was found in the mixed greens which they say were imported from Africa. They promise not to kill the toad while trying to find out where it came from. [The Independent and The Times of London, October 1, 1998 from Mark O'Shea] Meanwhile on our side of the pond, the Brazil, Indiana couple who claimed that they found a withered frog in a taco were convicted of trying to extort money from Taco Bell by placing the frog there themselves and then raising a fuss. They could receive up to 3.5 years in prison and $11,000 in fines - each. [The Sun-Sentinel, September 26, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]

Good news for local rats

"Napganchami, the Hindu festival in honor of the snake god... is lethal to snakes. Thousands of the reptiles are cruelly ensnared, defanged, tortured, starved and later pumped with milk - only to cater to the faith of devotees on this one day." [The Times of India, July 28, 1998 from Wes and Kim von Papinešu.]

Deja snake stories

  • The owners of 24 pet shops in the Washington, D.C. suburbs have been charged with selling native and endangered reptiles and amphibians. The animals seized included an American alligator, barking treefrogs, green treefrogs, spiny softshell turtles and leopard frogs. [The Washington Post, November 22, 1998 from Bryan McCarty]
  • A Mesa, Arizona man has offered a $10,000 reward for the recovery of 68 snakes stolen from his house in broad daylight. The man suggests that news coverage of a seizure of monitor lizards allegedly smuggled by his friend may have focused attention on his reptile collection. [The Arizona Republic, October 31, 1998 from Dominic Novielli]
  • A 6-foot python was captured by a wildlife trapper on the Seminole Vo-Ed Center's tour farm. The trapper said, "If it had lasted through this winter, next summer it could have really been a handful for somebody." [St. Petersburg Times, July 22, 1998 from Alan Rigerman] Pythons not being native (yet) to Florida, one assumes this was a lost/strayed pet.
  • A 16-year-old Brooklyn teenager was "very frightened," and "ran away and called the cops" when he found an eight-foot boa constrictor in the bathroom of his family's new apartment. Officials suspect the animal was left behind by previous tenants. [News-Press, August 29, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]
  • The Okay, Oklahoma police have given up their search for an 8-foot Burmese python which escaped from an outdoor pen and may be hiding in the wild by the Verdigris River. Authorities hope that if it is not found by winter, it will not survive. [The Daily Oklahoman, September 26, 1998 from Chris Hannaford]
  • A 3-foot brown-and-gray ball python escaped from his aquarium in the Woodward Middle School. He was to have been the star of the class reptile and amphibian program. His owner speculated that the snake may be hiding in the dark or somewhere warmer, but wondered if he'd ever see "Jake" again. [The Daily Oklahoman, September 5, 1998 from Chris Hannaford]
  • "Pet python's last supper: Its owner. A Connecticut man narrowly escaped becoming snake supper when his pet python tried to swallow his arm. And rescuers had to kill the muscular beast to save the guy... [The snake] had been loose because [the man] was cleaning its cage." Contributor Alexa Freed writes, "This slightly exaggerated article was cut from The New York Post, October 14, 1998."

Up to his ____ in alligators

A 77-year-old sleepwalker awoke in the pond behind his house and tried to extricate himself from the mud - but couldn't. His struggles attracted alligators, and when found he was surrounded. Deputies and fire fighters used lights to scare the gators away, grabbed the man's cane and pulled him to shore. His wife plans on locking the doors at night. [The Tampa Tribune, November 24, 1998 from Laura Vietje]

Turtles lost, stolen and slaughtered

  • The annual debate in Florida about beach lighting disorienting baby sea turtles continues both there and in Mexico where environmentalists fear a new beach development on the former protected zone of X'cacel will result in losses for sea turtles. [The Herald, November 19, 1998] In Florida, where houses are already built just about as tightly as conditions allow, baby sea turtles are trapped in all sorts of outdoor structures like window wells and stairways, stuck behind fences, in gratings and drain culverts. [Sun-Sentinel, October 19, 1998] However, in Praia do Forte, Brazil, the TAMAR organization has just shared the J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Award with two other groups for what has been called a "landmark in the history of Brazilian marine conservation." They have turned around centuries old traditions of sea turtle slaughter by sensitive development of nesting beach communities and tourism for 300,000 people a year. Locals are actively involved in the conservation money machine which drives their turtle-based economy. On average each person in the community has a better standard of living by conservation-oriented wildlife exploitation than they did by killing and eating the turtles and eggs. [The Herald, October 12, 1998 all from Alan Rigerman]
  • The spokesman at Miami-Dade Metrozoo said that the three endangered radiated tortoises and two-red footed tortoises stolen from an off exhibit pen collectively have a value of about $3,500 on the black market and speculated that it was an inside job. They are all zoo bred juveniles, weighing about 5 pounds each. Remaining are the parents of the group stolen and feelings of anger and loss for the staff. [The Miami Herald, August 7 and 15, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]
  • A Hawaiian man who killed and butchered five endangered green sea turtles was sentenced to six month probation and 200 hours of community service. The judge noted that the law "did not require proof that the killing of an endangered species was intentional and that he wasn't convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that [the man] had not intended to kill the turtles," according to The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 12, 1998 from G.E. Chow]

Plain speaking

"Tallahassee Memorial Hospital reports a rash of snake bite cases, probably because people and snakes are more active... Lapses in human intelligence may also be a factor: Many cases involve alcohol or people trying to catch poisonous snakes with their hands." [The Herald, August 7, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]

A victim of statistics

A 34-year-old snakehandling preacher died of a snakebite while handling a timber rattlesnake during a church service. He had survived 22 previous bites from venomous snakes. His wife died three years ago from a snakebite. The state is trying to take the orphans from the grand parents because they handle venomous snakes, too. Another "serpent handler" noted that the courts "don't take race car drivers' kids away from them. They don't take boxers' kids away from them." Some of the children are reported to have had nightmares about snakes. [October 6, 1998 Jefferson City, MO Post Tribune from Vicky Elwood and December 6 Pocono Record from Steve Ford]

Pun nets wildlife agents

While only one standholder was arrested and fined $500, media coverage of Pennsylvania wildlife sales and shows in the Lancaster, PA New Era "makes it sound like a major conspiracy," according to contributor Michael Shrom. The same paper reports that "Hunters accuse game wardens of harassment... In one letter read at the hearing [at the state House committee regulating state game officers], a... woman said she had told a friend at a supermarket that her husband `shot an eagle' during a round of golf... [Wildlife] agents came to her house and searched through rooms and [furniture]... looking for evidence of a dead eagle." For those of you who (like me) do not golf, an `eagle' is a score two under par for that hole. [August 21 and 26, 1998]

A Kiwi's glimpse of America

"In May... [we] went on a group tour around the USA... we did manage to find two pet shops... The only food they seemed to sell for lizards was crickets and if they don't like crickets they starve... One day our train had stopped for some reason, [we] saw some small brown lizards darting around the rocks and bushes, also a ground squirrel small and pretty. The tree squirrels in the parks were fairly quiet and also smaller than I expected. We saw a blue jay and two red cardinals - a startling color to see hopping around the ground and in the bushes." [Heather Barton, MOKO, Summer, 1998]

Things to do while waiting for Y2K

  • Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Australian Herpetological Society at their Conference on Captive Husbandry and Conservation October 2-4, 1999.
  • Examine your neighborhood for so-called "smart pollution," the arrival of non-native animals, plants and diseases as hitchhikers on global commerce. Species arriving in areas where they have no predators can rapidly expand to fill, even choke the available niche. Examples in the news in the late 90s include the Asian longhorned beetle (over 1,000 trees will fall in Chicago this winter), the brown tree snake on Guam, cane toads everywhere introduced, water hyacinths and kudzu. About half of the 300 species of plants which have become "invasive" were originally grown in gardens. [The Courier-Journal, Louisville, KY from Gary H. Kettring]
  • Sigh with relief for Ernie the crocodile who was nearly put to sleep until well-wishers found him a new home. He awaits shipment to Colorado. On July 26, a woman found Ernie trying to eat her cat in the backyard of her house. The 3-foot-long crocodile has been living in a shallow pan of water ever since. [August 5, 1998 The San Francisco Chronicle, from Jack Corning]
  • Commiserate with the owner of a restaurant overlooking a scenic swimming lake in Tuscany, Italy on his loss of 75 percent of his business after the lake was closed to swimmers after a reportedly 2-meter crocodilian was spotted being released in the water by a couple who left in a car with Milan license plates. The Little Rock, Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports, "As Italians have fewer and fewer children, pets, including exotic animals, have become increasingly popular. But when people go off for their month-long August vacations, they often abandon them by dropping them by the roadside or near a lake. Thus pythons are occasionally reported in urinals... But... there are plenty [of people] who are enjoying the visit of the unlikely reptile." [September 6, 1998 from Bill Burnett]
  • Figure it could never eat enough to help in Washington, but be on the lookout for a 200-pound, 7.5 foot alligator that escaped from a travelling show at Virginia Beach. In an unrelated case, an eight-foot crocodile monitor lizard is on the list of recent escapes in Hapton Roads, Virginia. [The Washington Post, August 4, 1998 from Andy Via] Use the state of Florida guidelines on how to be "Gator Safe" if you see the escapees. 1.) Don't feed them; 2.) Don't get close to them; 3.) Don't swim or wade where they are; 4.) Don't let your pets near them; 5.) Don't agitate or tease them; 6.) Don't try to catch them; and 7.) Don't approach an alligator nest. [Naples Daily News, August 29, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]
  • Support the Declining Amphibian Task Force. Send checks to "Smithsonian/Conservation and Science of Amphibians," and mail to Ron Heyer, Chair DAPTF, NHB#180, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 20560 USA. The Task Force funds projects and ongoing studies of amphibians worldwide.
  • Cheer the success (so far) of the Nature Conservancy, Western New Mexico University and New Mexico Environmental Department in transplanting more than 350 rare Chiricahua leopard frogs to protected lands. The decline of the species is linked to three factors: egg mortality due to increased ultraviolet radiation, introduction of non-native species and habitat loss. [Nature Conservancy, January/February 1998 from Mark Witwer and Bryan McCarty]
  • Consider the breeding of Komodo dragons at Miami's Metrozoo. The spokesman said, "They bred to the point where all they would do was sleep because they were so happily breeding" and described the hatching of the 29 viable eggs. [The Miami Herald, September 30, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this column and to Vicky Elwood, Michael J. Shrom, Erik Keyster, Charles P. Salmon, Alan Rigerman, Gary Kettring, Jo Ann Dalein, J.N. Stuart, Chris Hannaford, Ernie Liner and Wes and Kim von Papinešu. Send whole pages with media name and publication date as well as your name on each piece to me in care of the AFH at the address on the masthead. Remember the lead time. This column was written December 25, 1998!
Ellin Beltz was recently introduced as an ecogeologist because her class field trips include everything from stars to dirt, frogs, bugs, fish and (of course) rocks. She wrote this column while hibernating over break with her pet salamander and toad, "Zilla."

Volume 10, Number 4 - 1999

We'll never know why

A 21-year-old Phoenix, AZ man apparently died from multiple bites from his pet rattlesnake. His family had found him dead on the floor and called paramedics who called Phoenix police, who entered the room with shotguns in search of the snake. They did not find it immediately. The Fire Division Chief said, "[he] apparently collected snakes, because there were also boas and other snakes around... There was nothing we could do for him. He was pronounced dead at the scene." [The Arizona Republic, January 11, 1999 from Marc Morris]

Truly venomous cricket fans

Police brought expert snake handlers to the cricket games between India and Pakistan being held in New Delhi, India after threats from the Shiv Sena party to disrupt the games by releasing "poisonous snakes" among the spectators. The group withdrew its threats after protests from the Indian Prime Minister and cricket fans, but police took no chances, stationing snake handlers throughout the crowds. It has been over a decade since India/Pakistan cricket matches were held due to political rivalry between the nations which separated 51 years ago at independence from Britain. [The Oakland Tribune, February 5, 1999 from Matthew Aikawa]

Mascot Races

  • The Berkeley City Council was asked by several environmental groups to consider making a local endangered or threatened creature - including the Alameda whip snake, the Pacific tree frog, or the grizzly bear - their city mascot. The Alameda whip snake is a non-venomous serpent which eats salamanders. The longest one ever found was around 7-feet and was killed by a mountain bike in a park in Contra Costa. A local naturalist said "they need dappled, open habitat, a little sun, a little shade" and salamanders for supper. [The Oakland Tribune, September 22, 1998 from Matthew Aikawa] California has the bear on its flag, so I think Berkeley should take the frog as a symbol of their amphibious or polyphibious lifestyles, leaving the whip snake for the city of San Francisco. :)
  • Students at the Green Lake, WI high school selected a frog as their new mascot for their team, "the Lucky Lakers." Seems the Lakers weren't so Lucky with their old mascot, and want to drop "the Drip" in favor of a new hip, hop mascot. One faculty member disagreed with the students' choice, saying "[frogs] live in stagnant water, they aren't aggressive, and aren't a good representation for the school." [The Miami Herald, September 11, 1998 from Alan Rigerman] Hopefully, he doesn't teach English or Biology!

Biography of a Bullfrog

Researchers in Canada studying Rana catesbeiana, the bullfrog, have found singing males in chorus who emit loud "hick" calls and pair off in a aggressive wrestling match, "often looking like a pair of straining sumo wrestlers, nose to nose, arms flailing. Eventually, one topples the other, sometimes holding the loser underwater for a time and then chasing him away from the conquered territory. Females cruise by these noisy groups and eventually sidle up to a male with a resonant voice and well-chosen territory... [after laying up to 20,000 eggs] the couple soon parts, the female to rest, the male... to his territory in hopes of another conquest..." according to Nature Canada [Autumn 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu].

One froggy, two froggy

In a project which reminds me of my own early nocturnal audio frog surveys, the Friends of Five Creeks and Friends of Baxter Creek are seeking volunteers to survey for amphibian life in Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito creeks. This will be the first project in the Bay Area to use volunteers to survey amphibians and follows a national trend to involve local people in monitoring local wildlife. Contact the Friends at 510-848-9358. [The San Francisco Chronicle, January 29, 1999 from Matthew Aikawa] Or contact the U.S. Geological Survey for more information on frog counting opportunities in your area. If you live in an area without an organized survey, consider following standard guidelines of other surveys (so that your data can be included with all the rest), and start your own frog-count!

E-real or e-legend?

Contributor Brian Wettekin writes: "I'd like to see... if this is true. Of course, if it is, I'm sure it sounds really good to some government office worker who once saw a big snake in a movie. I must say... it appears to be working very well. I have never heard of any Peace Corps workers being eaten alive by any snakes." The following is from Jerry Constantino's Shooting Times, 1999 column: ...directly from the "U.S. Government Peace Corps Manual."...
  1. If you are attacked by an anaconda, do not run because the snake is longer than you are.
  2. Lie flat on the ground, put your arms tight against your sides, and press you legs tight against one another.
  3. Tuck your chin in.
  4. The snake will come and begin to nudge and climb over your body.
  5. Do not panic.
  6. After the snake has examined you, it will begin to swallow you from the feet -- always from the feet. Permit the snake to swallow your feet and ankles. Do not panic.
  7. The snake will now begin to suck your legs into its body. You must lie perfectly still. This will take a long time.
  8. When the snake has reached your knees, slowly and with as little movement as possible, reach down, take your knife and very gently slide it between the edge of the snake's mouth and your leg, then suddenly rip upwards, slicing the snake's head in two.
  9. Be sure you have a knife.
  10. Be sure your knife is sharp.
Mr. Constantino then notes that this story came to him from the Internet, which he says "is often a source of great fiction." I'd agree. Every snake I've ever had much preferred to eat from the head end down as this compresses all the spines, hair, legs, etcetera into a much nicer bundle than eating from the feet end up.

Our throw-away world

Right before Christmas last year, two animal lovers in Readington, NJ noticed a bag along the side of the road. They circled back and poked the bag, expecting to find kittens or puppies, as they had before. But this time it was two ball pythons and a 4-foot boa constrictor. A Police officer who says he's deathly afraid of snakes put them in the trunk of his patrol car and drove them to the home of a fellow officer who has a pet snake. The latter warmed them up gently with a blow dryer and found them homes among his friends and neighbors. [December 1998: 23rd The Trentonian from Jonathan Eglinton; no date The Star-Ledger from Larry Gruber; and 25th The Pocono Record no name on clipping, but "Parts is Parts" on the envelope!]

Snakes learn fast

A researcher at the University of Rochester has found that snakes can learn more than previous workers thought, and that older and younger snakes collect information differently - and seem to interpret it differently in some cases. The study involved 24 captive bred corn snakes. The snakes were filmed during the tests which sought to find how quickly snakes discovered the exits from the first chamber and how they remembered where they were over time. Young snakes were more adaptable, finding exits by a variety of means while older snakes relied on visual cues and became confused if the cues were changed. [The Democrat and Chronicle, February 6, 1999 from Kevin Wiebeld]

Crash with crocodile

A 71-year-old wildlife park owner in England was taking a crocodile from his park to the vet when he drove over an embankment and crashed his car. According to The London Evening Standard, the police opened the door, found the 5-foot reptile swishing his tail and just as quick shut the door and drew lots to decide which officer would carry the croc's cage to their police van. The owner said, "I was thinking about my crocodile... and I got lost going the wrong way... I tried to turn around, but I drove over an embankment... I'm a good driver on the wide open plains of Africa, but put me on a narrow road, and I'm helpless... I doubt if the police get many crocodiles as road accident victims." [February 6, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Down the tortoise hole

Scientists at the Tall Timbers Research Station, near Tallahassee, FL and Auburn University, set up cameras at the entrances to gopher tortoise burrows to see where and how they use their space. Gopher tortoises were once so common that people ate them during the economic Depression of the 1930s, calling them "Hoover chicken." But now the tortoises have declined due to development and disease, and are listed as a species of special concern in Florida. The Auburn cameras "caught gophers leaving their burrows for no more than a half an hour at a time. It was long enough for the tortoises to make every date on their social calendar: Browse the buffet, greet neighbors, and ... find a mate... the pictures ... paint a far more detailed portrait of what their lives are like," according to The Herald. [December 15, 1998 from Alan Rigerman]

Bogged down by tiny turtle

"The bog turtle never asked for much. Just a patch of muck... and [to] snack on larvae and grubs... a spot of sunlight for basking and a pillow of sedge on which to lay its few eggs. Wanting so little, it got even less," writes Sandy Bauers in The Philadelphia Inquirer [November 15, 1999, no name on clipping]. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have had laws on the books protecting the turtles for 25 years, but there was no enforcement and the turtles continued to decline. A year ago, bog turtles were federally listed, now the species has stopped the expansion of Route 222 in Berks County, PA and halted a dam project in Lebanon County. Some turtles have apparently been "planted" in an effort to halt other projects, but their placement in suboptimal (or even fatal) habitat is usually a dead give-away of the stunt. Even so, the turtle continues to lose. It has been listed among the "top 10 most wanted" species of pet by one wildlife organization which claims that the turtles fetch up to $1,000 on the black market.


Andy Via writes that Hank and Brenda, his romantic Rankin's dragons, have hatched the 16 eggs which were mentioned in a previous column, adds "glad you liked the picture... I was very surprised (and proud) to see it mentioned. I took this picture of their offspring..." Shown are three, very cute - very young dragons. Thanks Andy! I love baby pictures!

At least it's not a Komodo

A Tampa, FL woman thought something was amiss outside her house for quite a while. The ducks stopped having ducklings, the local armadillos disappeared. Then one day, she saw a large scaly black lizard slide under her house. Next it started sunning itself on her deck. At first advised it was a vegetarian iguana, comparing some photos with a wildlife book showed it was either a Nile or Savanna Monitor - either one a carnivore with claws. She said, "I won't sit out there at night and look at the stars.. we don't barbecue... we haven't trimmed the hedges... It's like the monitor has taken control of our neighborhood." It has foiled every trap and trapper sent to catch it and is now interfering with the woman's homebased Mary Kay Cosmetics business. She says that she's been told it would be illegal to shoot the monitor, but adds, "They have a septic mouth, they have teeth that can sever limb, they have a tail that can whip around and rip your leg open. I want this thing out of here." [St. Petersburg Times, January 24, 1999 from Robert E. McGrath]

At least one real one

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports that a man turned in a 4-foot-long boa constrictor to the Hawaiian Humane Society. Loose snake reports continue to be called in on Maui, although traps using live mice as bait have, so far, caught nothing. [September 5, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

From an African Friend of Snakes

The Times of Zambia ran a whole series of articles in the spring and summer, all obviously written by someone who knows snakes well, and loves them. The very best was from March 30, 1998 sent by Major Martin Mumbi of the Zambian Army: "Man is fascinated by what he finds fearful and strange. Looking at the snake, it is without limbs, eyelids, swallows its food whole without taking bites out of it...[the snake] lives in water, trees, on the ground and under ground... [it] stare[s] with unblinking eyes at the world, wearing a permanent cunning looking straight smile... depending on the society, tribe and religion - snakes are seen as symbols of evil, good, peace, war, fertility barrenness, demons etcetera. It al lies with one come from. So, those of the readers interested in myths, legends and beliefs, I must let you know that it is a complex topic due to the complexity of human society both locally and international. The fact is, whether most of us like to admit it or not, snakes somehow fascinate us... I am pretty sure a number of you on visiting a zoo will not go to first see the lion. You will inquire where the snakes pets are; why? After satisfying your fear and curiosity, lion and leopard are next on your list... The question I am always asked about my work is `what about snakes?' Look, dear reader, going to a national park does not mean you will find snakes falling over each other. You probably will spend a week or two, without seeing one. Perhaps a longer stay may produce one, probably a smashed representative, a victim of someone's battering. You could maybe see one crossing the road or vanishing down a hole. Don't go after it, you might find yourself grabbing the tail end or following a mamba or cobra... [you] are aware that these two are not pleasant customers to provoke... Snakes do not... go out to attack you deliberately... a snake bite is not cured by sexual union. It is cured by applying medical treatment... It really is funny what myths pop here and there... There is the spitting cobra myth that if it spits at you - you spit back... Cobras are very unpredictable... Just avoid them as they prefer to do the same to you... Shed snake skin when held does not cause one to start losing his skin..." I wish I could tell you the author of this series. I enjoyed it immensely and hope someday to read them all in a book.

Thanks to everyone who contributed material to this column and to Alan Rigerman, Don Wheeler, Mark Banas, David Schultz and Kim and Wes von Papinešu for material I enjoyed but did not use. You can join our six new contributors this month! Send pages of newspaper with reptile/amphibian articles. Be sure the date/publication slug and your name is on each piece. Mail it to me in care of the AFH at the new address on the masthead. This column was written in February, so you can calculate the lead time until your contribution will be seen here! I'm looking forward to hearing from more and more AFH members.

Volume 10, Number 5 - 1999

Not just the missing link, but the clasp

A study published in Science suggests that turtles may be closer relatives of crocodiles than previously thought - and that turtles and crocodiles are the "most modern of reptiles, leaping past lizards, snakes and birds into the top branches of the reptile family tree." [The Times-Union, February 12, 1999] According to Reuters, the researchers said "that an animal that lived in the Triassic era, the Aetosaur, shared some characteristics of both turtles and crocodiles. They said they hoped scientists who study physical characteristics will take another look and perhaps confirm their findings." [February 11, 1999 both from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Nearly eaten - but spared

A turtle hunter caught a white snapping turtle in Elkhorn Creek near Frankfort, Kentucky. According to The Evansville, Indiana Courier, the hunter originally considered eating it - as he usually does with the turtles he catches, but then decided to spare the white one and gave it to a local nature center. [March 22, 1999 from Gary Kettring]

Tortoise tales

  • Claiming that previous estimates of desert tortoise populations in the area are too high, the U.S. Army is seeking to expand tank warfare training facilities into 175,000 more acres of tortoise habitat in the Mojave Desert. A professor at Cal State Fullerton, said that dust generated by tanks would choke out plant life and tortoise respiratory systems and pointed out that translocation - while a nice idea - often do not work. [Greenlines 865, April 19, 1999 from Roger Featherstone]
  • Telling male from female snapping turtles is usually easy. But, in the Great Lakes "toxic hotspot of Hamilton Harbour... [sexing snappers can be difficult, because] some males are even smaller than females and biologists now have to pick them up for a gender check. A snapping turtle's manhood can also be judged by the size of the place he keeps his sexual organ when it is not in use. The area under the tails of Hamilton Harbour turtles that houses the penis is as much as 15 per cent shorter than that of their brethren who live in the relatively unpolluted Algonquin Park. These findings, in a recently-published study of the Great Lakes, document the effect of pollutants common in the Great Lakes -- PCBs, dioxins and furans." Concentrations of PCBs in turtle eggs can be 100 times greater than in a nearby, relatively unaffected, park. Other species are also showing the effects of gender-bender chemicals including sea gulls, fish and (perhaps) male humans. [The Ottawa Citizen, March 7, 1999 from Mike Rankin]

Rare but cool

A leatherback turtle laid eggs on a beach near 25th Street in Miami, Florida. The Herald reports: "The endangered turtles are a rare sight in Florida. To observe them laying eggs in the daylight is even more unusual." The accompanying picture shows about 30 people and a Jeep in front of some palm trees and high rise buildings. [April 1, 1999] Meanwhile, three subadult sea turtles were released off Cocoa Beach after rescue and treatment at Orlando's Sea World. They are the 43rd, 44th and 45th rescues this year. [The Herald, April 22, 1999 both from Alan Rigerman]

Froggy facts

  • There are more than 3,000 species of frogs and toads.
  • Frogs and toads are nearly 90 percent of all amphibians.
  • Frogs and toads can be found on all continents except Antarctica.
  • Frogs are not just green, but all colors - including blues, yellows, reds, purples and an amazing array of patterns.
  • Several species of frogs, including the common wood frog, can survive weeks with as much as 65 percent of the water in their bodies frozen solid.
  • Some frog sounds can be heard at distances up to a half-mile.
  • Frogs and toads use their eyeballs to help them swallow, seeming to blink as they push food down their throats.
  • Many frogs have teeth, not for chewing, but to keep their prey from escaping as they swallow.
  • Frogs breathe with their lungs and skin.
  • Frog skin secretes mucus which helps oxygen pass from the air into their bodies.
  • Some frogs carry their young on their backs, others in their mouths; some frogs carry tadpoles in their stomachs until they reach adulthood. (This one may be extinct... E)
  • An adult of the smallest species of frog can fit on a dime.
  • Chemicals recently isolated from the skin of the South American frog led scientists to the discovery of a pain killer more powerful than morphine. [San Francisco Examiner, February 11, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • "For 200 million years, frogs ribbitted and hopped on every continent but Antarctica. They survived a fiery comet 65 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs. But now amphibians are dying off, and scientists believe humans are to blame." San Francisco Examiner [February 11, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • The mystery of why poison dart frogs (Dendrobatidae) lose their toxin in captivity and in subsequent captive generations may have been solved. As reported in Chemistry and Engineering News, researchers have found that alkaloid profiles of dart frogs show that environmental factors influence toxin composition and production. Researchers have found that ant toxins are probably being modified in the frogs' bodies into dart frog toxins. Mapping the alkaloids shows a close similarity in structure and the ants are found in habitats also used by the frogs. [February 8, 1999 from Jon Covel] I'd remind readers of that wonderful, old Department of Agriculture publication "The Usefulness of the American Toad" where it said that each toad tummy examined contained about 1,000 recognizable food items - mostly ants. I wonder if our captive toads lose their toxin if we don't feed them enough ants? Anyone know?
  • "Stymied and divided over what's causing widespread disappearances and deformities among the world's frogs, scientists are seeking help from some of the world's foremost froggers: kids. A federal frog task force today will launch a program called Frog Force -- featuring a Web page and a cartoonish mascot (Captain Ribbit) -- to enlist volunteers to gather information that might help avert an environmental catastrophe. `We're going to involve the public as part of a larger solution,' said Sam Droege, a U.S. Geological Survey research biologist. He formerly directed an 8,000-volunteer network of bird-watchers and will oversee the froggers. `In no way can we do it all ourselves.' ... Recently, an adult volunteer in urban Minneapolis used a Hamline [College website] frog-call recording to rediscover a type of frog that scientists thought had disappeared from the Twin Cities for 17 years." [Columbia Daily Tribune (Missouri), February 25, 1999 from Oliver J. Sieckman]
  • An Australian researcher has found a way to determine the concentration of certain chemicals in cane toad skin which is used in traditional Chinese medicine for heart conditions. It is unlikely that Chinese demand will result in a cane toad sales boom because the Chinese are establishing a cane toad farm on an island off southern China. [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, February 26, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • China's Xinhua news agency reported that a 120-million year old fossil frog was found in Mesozoic strata in Liaoning Province. The species has been named Callobatrachus sanyanensis. The oldest known frog species before this discovery was found in Spain in the 1950s. [Inside China Today, February 9, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • It seems that a parasite may be the cause of frog deformities widely reported for the past few years. Science Magazine printed two articles by researchers which documented trematode infections leading to deformity. Tadpoles were infected with trematodes. Sadly for the frogs, the more parasites, the more deformities in their appendages. One researcher suggested that while trematodes may appear to be "natural" causes, increases in fertilizer runoff may have caused an increase in vegetation and an increase in the number of water snails. The snails host the parasite which is crippling the frogs. [Jefferson City Post-Tribune, April 30, 1999 from Vicky Elwood]

Thanks for the memories

After 12 years of peregrinations with pythons and other pet snakes, "The Snake Lady" of Vermont has decided to retire. She wrote the 60 schools and libraries at which she'd done programs and told them her snakes were "getting tired," although they will occasionally do a local show. [States News Service, February 9, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Nature's revenge?

"Public health officials in Beijing warned local citizens to be cautious when eating fresh aquatic products in order to avoid possible acute intestinal infectious diseases... [including] bullfrog, trout, soft-shelled turtle, carp and loach," reports China Daily News. [February 2, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Asian economy good and bad news for herps

  • Demand for snakes in Malaysia is so high that smugglers are moving thousands across the border from Thailand every month. What's the buzz? Many Malaysians believe that snake blood is a natural form of Viagra and demand fresh snake blood for holidays including Chinese New Year and Valentine's day. The Times of London reports: "Ideally a shot of warm snake blood is mixed with whisky and followed with a snack of snake gall bladder. The deadlier the serpent the better the results, according to local belief - so the favored prey is a live cobra. But if there are no cobras to hand, then vipers or banded kraits will do... Cobras are designated a protected species, but they are so valuable that it is worth the risk of prosecution and a fine...catching snakes is legal. But numbers have fallen sharply. An old snake catcher, Bidin Mat Hashim, told the New Straits Times that he had caught 25,000 in the past 30 years and could bag 25 a day in the 1970s. Today he is lucky to snare two a day. A cobra fetches M$120 now, compared with M$2.50 in the Seventies." [February 16, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • Gator trappers are bummed because the Asian economic crisis has reduced demand for gator skins to the point where it's no longer profitable to hunt nuisance gators. One trapper said, "It puts me in a position of working for nothing." He added that right now a 10-foot gator is worth only about $135US. [Beaufort Gazette, February 17, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

More big snakes on the Big Island

The Honolulu, Hawaii Star Bulletin reports that a man dropped a bulging pillowcase on a counter in a pet store and left. When the assistant manager opened, a 5.5-foot Burmese python poked its head out. He called the State Department of Land and Natural Resources and they came and took it away. This surrender follows one the previous week when a many dropped off a 4-foot boa constrictor at the Hawaiian Humane Society. An amnesty program was in effect during these surrenders, so no one will be prosecuted. [September 8, 1998 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

And back in the (former) U.S.S.R.

About 1,000 tortoises bound for Moscow were seized on the Tajikistan-Uzbekistan border. the tortoises were in a dozen canvas sacks and are valued about $25-30US in the Russian capital. The shells are used for decoration, while the meat is served in upscale Muscovite restaurants. Traffickers snare the tortoises as they leave underground burrows in spring. [Russia Today, March 24, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

A reader's tale of smart snakes

Contributor Kevin Wiebeld wrote: "... about 30 years ago... I convinced my mother to allow me to keep, in the house, the slithering treasures I was always bringing home. The subjects of the study were a pair of red-bellied snakes, Storeria occipitomaculata. It took them a very short while to discover that a particular hole in the aquarium cover I had made was indeed large enough to squeeze their diminutive selves through. As is often the case in these circumstances, it was my mother, en route to the kitchen, who discovered their escape. My father returned them to their cage, but before I got home from school, they repeated their breakout; again seeking out my mother, as if to show off their underappreciated intellectual skills. Thus ended my first attempt at housing herps. After some time had passed, and with the purchase of a latching screen aquarium cover, I was again able to convince my parents to let me keep herps. With the knowledge gained from my first attempt, and a little luck. I never had another escape." You remind me of my favorite "found, lost, found" snake. It was a milk snake (natch!) and how exactly it got out we don't know but we suspect a house guest "lost" it and didn't `fess up. About two years later, my septagenarian father called me at work. "Hello, Ellin? One of your friends is loose and slithering across the floor." (You have to imagine his voice getting higher and higher until "floor" comes out at a high C!) "O.K. dad. It won't bite you. Pick it up. Put it in a trash can, put something on top and I'll get it when I get home." What I found was a 35 gallon trash can with paper liner, water bowl, rock and hidebox, with two 2x6 boards, two chunks of plywood and two concrete blocks on top! The snake's tag for museum deposit read, "collected by K.S. Mierzwa, recollected by P.L. Beltz." We figured somebody would get a laugh out of it in 100 years.

Thanks to everyone who contributed clippings, letters, cards and photos this month and to Chris Hannaford, Gary H. Kettring, Vicky Elwood, Kim and Wes von Papinešu, and Alan Rigerman for stuff I enjoyed - but couldn't figure out how to use. You can contribute, too. Just send whole pages of newspaper (it doesn't weigh much) to me in care of the new address on the masthead. Be sure your name is on each piece. Those little address labels work great! Please don't delay. My clipping folder is just about empty. Thanks!

Volume 10, Number 6 - 1999

Letters from you

  • New contributors Paul and Kristin Shoemaker wrote, "[your column]'s a great mix of interesting a hopeful clippings side by side with articles that make you wonder where natural selection went wrong in allowing some people to stay members of the human gene pool."
  • Contributor Andy Via writes, "The people who live below me... are Asian, and know I have `many turtle,' since I showed them one of my animals [but it was not a turtle, and I keep no turtles]... For my neighbors, with little English, `turtle' seems to encompass all [herpetofauna]. This morning they handed me this [clipping] and said `turtle.' I don't know what paper it's from." The picture shows an alligator playing with a soccer ball; as nothing but the date is in English, I leave the rest to your imagination. [April 23, 1999]
  • "When fire fighters [near Boston, Massachusetts] responded to a call... they weren't surprised to find a fire. They were surprised to find a 10-foot, 100-pound boa constrictor, being dragged out of the one-room apartment by its owner... The snake suffered minor burns in the fire, apparently caused by an electrical overload and resulting in $20,000 worth of damage," According to the Boston Herald, March 22, 1999. Contributor Gerald G. LaPierre, Sr. wrote, "Looks more like a Burmese to me. Keep writing!"

Et tu, brute?

  • "When an alligator gets too interested in its neighbors, it's not the humans who have to go," according to the Clearwater Times of St. Petersburg, Florida. Trappers took out a 7-foot plus gator which had eaten the bossy swan in a mobile home park lake in Largo. [May 30, 1999 from Robert McGrath]
  • About 150 University of Florida Gainesville students gathered along the shore of Lake Alice to watch a 12-foot alligator which had killed a smaller alligator in the morning and continued to feed until early evening. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, from Alan Rigerman; The Trentonian, May 18, 1999 from Jonathan Eglinton]
  • A woman in the Evanridge, Florida mobile home park is trying to save her alligator friend who has lived in the park's pond since he was a wee one. He's friends with the lady's poodle and comes when called, but now that he's 5-feet long some of the neighbors are spooked and want him destroyed. An official spokesperson said that the neighbors who habituated the animal to humans should not have fed and encouraged it. Buddy is too big to relocate according to wildlife trappers. [Citrus County Chronicle, July 1, 1999 from Alan Rigerman]
  • Some stories get picked up by every newspaper in the world. Here is one: "A 10- to 13- foot saltwater crocodile terrorized surfers on a remote Northern Territory [Darwin Australia] beach for about 30 minutes... The crocodile chased [one surfer] ashore before beachgoers drove it back into the water with stones... [one said] `this croc kind of surfed in and he came right up on the beach.'" [June 27, 1999: Sun-Sentinel from Alan Rigerman; The Courier-Journal from Gary H. Kettring; and the Jefferson City, Missouri News Tribune from Vicky Elwood]

Birds versus frogs?

According to a paper in the journal Science, the life cycle of the trematode which seems to cause some, if not most, frog hind limb deformities is slanted in favor of the avian host. The worm starts out in the gut of birds which dine on frogs; comes out the other end and into frog ponds where predation occurs; goes through an aquatic snail host; hatches and bores into tadpoles making a beeline for developing hind limb buds and causes deformity. With deformed limbs, frogs are "sitting ducks" for predation by birds and the cycle continues. [San Francisco Chronicle, April 10, 1999 from Jack Corning]

Got `em caiman and goin'

"Using a K Mart fishing net, their own shoelaces and a touch of adventurism, two men yesterday afternoon captured the 3-foot crocodile that had been set loose in Lake Accotink Park in Fairfax County, [Virginia]. The men then carried the thrashing reptile to one of their homes... placed the animal in an inflatable plastic pool and called parks officials to let them know the croc had been caught," according to the Fairfax Journal. One of the men is from Moscow, former Soviet Union, and he said that it was "the most exciting thing that has ever happened to him," and "there's not a lot of caimans roaming the streets [in Moscow]." County Park officials were less than thrilled, however, because it is illegal to trap wildlife in public parks and it could have been dangerous. Officials also said they thought the animal had been released in the park by someone who had kept it as a pet. [May 11 and 12, 1999 both from Bryan McCarty]

Police wore respirators to remove the cages

"The badly decomposed body of a man was found... in the apartment he shared with as many as 15 snakes, most of them poisonous [sic], police said... [He] had been bitten at least once by a rattlesnake... Animal control officers... removed eight rattlesnakes, two king cobras, two corn snakes, one desert snake and two others that had not been identified," according to the Wilmington, Delaware News Journal. The police spokesperson said that the rattlesnake that they think administered the fatal bite was loose in the apartment when they arrived. All 21 units in the housing complex were evacuated while police searched for the loose snake. Neighbors claimed to have seen loose cobras and other snakes in and around the buildings during the two years that the man lived in the unit. Venomous snakes not native to the state of Delaware cannot be kept under that state's Department of Agriculture permit process. [June 9 and 10, 1999] After that, authorities got serious and have seized three pythons because their owners did not have permits. Police had notified animal control about "complaints of juveniles harassing a neighbor with snakes... two 3-foot long pythons belonging to a 16-year-old boy [were confiscated]." [June 16, 1999, all from new contributor Anakin Rullens]

Decline due to disease?

Researchers at Texas A and M University at Kingsville announced that they may have discovered that malaria may be the reason for the rapid loss of the horned lizard throughout the state. Scientists have found that the reproductive rate of these cute little critters (often misnamed "horned toads") has dropped. Other lizards in Texas have been found to have malaria in their systems - so the remaining horned lizards will be checked. [The Trentonian, May 18, 1999 from Jonathan Eglinton]

Jungle legend, or actual fact?

With no provenance other than "central Tolima province, Colombia," Reuters reports that "A Colombian boy died over the weekend after being locked in the bone-crushing embrace of an Anaconda snake, authorities said Monday. The victim was fishing with his father... when the snake -- a South American boa that can grow to more than 20 feet (six meters) -- grabbed him and pulled him into the water... The boy's body surfaced later... An autopsy showed he died of asphyxiation... [authorities said] at least two [anacondas] were believed to inhabit [the] lake... and may have been put there to ward off unwanted fishermen or poachers. `All we know for sure is that one person is dead, several have disappeared and empty boats have been appearing on the lake,' said [the spokesman]." [Yahoo! News, May 24, 1999 from Paul and Kristin Shoemaker]

Take one snake and two aspirin...

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Tirofiban for use on patients May 14. The drug is made from the venom of the African saw-scaled viper and is marketed under the brand name Aggrastat. Tirofiban must be taken with aspirin and heparin blood thinner; the combination reduces the chance of heart attack better than any of the drugs alone. [U.S. News and World Report, June 1, 1998 from Chris Hannaford]

Meaningful tombstoning

Old time news hounds will recall that the practice of reading only the headlines on a page is called "tombstoning," and that some combinations are truly hilarious. Alan Rigerman sent this example from the Citrus County Chronicle, April 8, 1999. "Wanted: Women in the outdoors." Apparently the National Turkey hunters group is hoping to interest more women in outdoor activities - like hunting. Meanwhile, the adjacent headline reads, "Springtime means snakes, ticks and dreaded skeeters." Any other questions, guys?

Eggs-elent catches

  • The owner and an employee of a Miami restaurant were charged with buying and selling endangered loggerhead sea turtle eggs after they sold six to an undercover agent. The charges are both felonies and misdemeanors because the eggs were destroyed while being transported and by refrigeration. The eggs were purchased by the restaurant for 80 cents each. [The Miami Herald, June 27, 1999 from Alan Rigerman]
  • A 39-year-old Hilton Head Island resident was arrested for poaching endangered loggerhead sea turtle eggs, according to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. He had collected 114 eggs and was charged with 114 counts of illegally possessing an endangered animal -- the Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle. Disturbing the eggs is punishable by state and federal fines and may result in jail time. The eggs are considered aphrodisiacs and are sold on island bars for from $1 to $5. [Savanna Morning News, June 15, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Lost and found

  • After friends called and told her, "We just saw your snake on TV, you better go look," its owner found the snake hale and hearty at the Fort Lauderdale police department. A police officer had retrieved the 8.5-foot white and yellow Burmese from the engine compartment of a truck parked near a local movie theater. The homicide officer who retrieved the snake has nine snakes and an iguana and so is the officer most likely to be called out on loose snake calls, in addition to his regular duties. [Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald, July 8, 1999 from Alan Rigerman]
  • "A Cleveland fire fighter was called to the rescue of a particularly slippery customer when Stanley, a three-year-old boa constrictor, escaped on to the roof of a detached house. Owner John Scott alerted the fire brigade after the snake escaped from his home in Lancaster Avenue, Billingham. It was left to [the] Station officer... to rescue the creature. He said, `It was certainly one of the more unusual things I've been asked to do in the job.'" [Newcastle, U.K. The Journal, June 18, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Tortoise and terrapin tales

  • The Newcastle, U.K. Evening Chronicle reports that a local pond has been saved from "terrapin terror. "Shell shocked rescuers saved unwanted Ernie the terrapin, and the pond he was left in. For the red-eared terrapin has been causing havoc eating everything in the pond at Burradon in North Tyneside. Terrapins have huge appetites and he was munching his way through all of the wildlife. Now the search is on to find a home for Ernie, and ... [the] rehoming coordinator with the RSPCA, appealed for help. She said, `A few years ago there was a craze and lots of turtles ended up getting dumped in ponds like this. If he had stayed there any longer there would have been serious problems for the local wildlife as turtles will eat almost anything. Some of the larger terrapins, which are only the size of a 50p coin when they are born but can grow to the size of a side plate, have even been known to eat ducklings. We're not sure how old Ernie is as it is difficult to tell, but he is still growing. We just want to find him a home.' [May 14, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • "A turtle became stuck in track switching equipment on the JR Taketoyo Line in Aichi Prefecture, [Nagoya] central Japan on Sunday, temporarily halting train services, Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai) said Monday. JR Tokai officials said the turtle was found dead in the point-switching equipment after a train traffic signal at Ogawa Station in the town of Higashiura halted a train at around 5:10 p.m. Sunday. The victim was identified only as a 20-centimeter-long tortoise." [Kyodo News, June 7, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]
  • "Near the town of Wenden, 80 miles west of Phoenix, fire fighters were also finishing off the remains of a separate 15,980-acre lightning-sparked fire [which] blackened an area that serves as habitat for endangered desert tortoises... Bureau of Land Management biologists have not found any dead desert tortoises... a BLM spokesman... said it's possible that most escaped the blaze because they were in their burrows. Tortoises can tunnel as deep as 10 feet into the ground when the weather is dry." [Arizona Republic, June 2, 1999 from Kim and Wes von Papinešu]

Thanks to all my contributors, this is the fiftieth "Herp News" to be published in Vivarium since Sean McKeown and I hatched this column in 1990. This issue, I'd like to thank W. Scott Bazemore, Bryan McCarty, Jeff Moorbeck, "Nick," Alan Rigerman, Vicky Elwood, Chris Hannaford, Oliver Sieckmann, Gary H. Kettring, Wes and Kim von Papinešu, and Michael Mastison for things I received since the last column, but couldn't summarize. You can contribute too. (In fact, I hope you do - since I used every clipping I had to write this!) Send whole sheets of newspapers or magazines with the date/publication slug firmly attached to each one. Write your name on each page so I can give you proper credit! Send to me in care of the Vivarium at the address on the masthead. Thanks again!

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