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Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 8   
April, 2005
Snakes - Feeding Safety
In this Issue

Snakes are very powerful creatures -- possibly the strongest, pound for pound, of any vertebrate on Earth. You don't want to get in the way of a hungry snake when it's expecting food. It's not that the snake means you any harm. I'd bet that it's not even thinking about you. The snake just wants the food that it sees or smells.

Small and medium-size snakes are not generally a safety concern. (We're talking about non venomous snakes, of course.) Even though they are strong for their size and very quick, they are still very little compared to a human, and their striking range is short. If one did bite you, it may draw blood, but it wouldn't be any worse than a scratch from a house cat could be. Just wash and disinfect the wound.

A large snake, however, has the potential to do substantial damage. Pythons and boas are statistically much safer pets than dogs, and especially horses (which are very dangerous), but it's still best to err on the side of safety. With their incredible sense of smell, a snake will usually know a meal is on the way as soon as the food is brought into the room. When feeding an aggressive snake, you should use a cage hook to move it away from the door of its cage. That way you can toss the food item in without the snake coming outside the cage after it.

It's important that we all take responsibility for our animals and that we are thinking about safety every time their cage doors are opened. When working with long, heavy constrictors, another person should be nearby, just in case you need help. All it takes is one unfortunate incident, caused by a careless snake keeper, to generate lots of bad press. If we can't police ourselves, some government agency may eventually end up doing it for us.

Next Issue: Conditioning your snake.

Extract from "Snake Keeping - Proven Techniques Everyone Can Use" by Barry Neilsen

The previous articles on can be found at:

Salmonella and Reptiles - Part 1

What Is Salmonella?
Salmonella is the name given to a number of bacteria commonly associated with food poisoning from contaminated or undercooked foods. In food-related cases, most people suffer from gastroenteritis, often experiencing vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and cramps.

In a case reported by the New York Health Department in 1995, a pregnant woman with fever and diarrhea went into preterm labor and delivered a baby who died 12 hours later. Follow-up blood samples of mother and child, in conjunction with samples from the family's pet iguana, tested positive for the salmonella strain associated with reptiles.

Like most other reptiles, iguanas carry salmonella in their intestinal tracts. The bacteria are 'shed' periodically in the animals' feces, and other materials they touch.

Good hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of salmonella.

"Wash your hands with warm, soapy water immediately after handling iguanas or any reptiles and their cage litter, and before touching food or anyone else. It is now known that the bacteria need only be present on surfaces or on the hands of others to infect individuals indirectly.

In one recent case, 20 patients were diagnosed with the disease within eight days of visiting a Komodo dragon exhibit at a Colorado zoo. Zoo officials believe that the dragons had licked several handrails at the zoo while being moved to their cages. Those areas were then touched by zoo visitors who subsequently ate lunch without washing their hands.

Why are you picking on reptiles?
Almost ALL pet species -- not just reptiles, but cats and dogs as well -- can carry some form of Salmonella bacteria. However, because more people are buying reptile pets and many do not understand how to keep reptiles, there has been an increase in the incidence of the disease caused by reptiles. Most of these cases would have been prevented with a few simple guidelines.

Iguanas and other reptiles typically do not show signs of the disease. In the process of handling these animals, cleaning their food dishes, or cleaning their cage, fecal material (even in small amounts) may be transferred to human hands, or the mouth, resulting in a human infection.

Symptoms of salmonellosis, the disease caused by Salmonella, vary widely. There may be mild abdominal pain, nausea or cramps, or more severe signs such as diarrhea, vomiting and fever. Occasionally the symptoms can be very serious, including meningitis, especially in very young children. It is much better to prevent infection in people, than to prevent and control infection in reptiles.

Animals should only be purchased from reputable sources and all animals should be quarantined until they can be checked by a veterinarian. Salmonella is difficult to culture, even with repeated fecal tests. It would be safest to just assume that most reptiles have Salmonella and to always practice good hygiene with all reptile species.

Handlers and owners of reptiles should follow some basic rules.

Next Issue: Hygiene guidelines for reptile owners.

How to Make a Turtle Table - Part 1

David T. Kirkpatrick, Ph.D

One of the major problems with keeping land turtles indoors is providing adequate space to assure their wellbeing. Turtles, unlike snakes, need a large amount of floor space to be happy, especially if you intend to breed your turtles. A snake can utilize almost all of the cage space with the addition of a few well-placed branches. Turtles, on the other hand, are not very good climbers. (Although they are persistent, and this persistence can sometimes overcome any climbing handicap!) Thus turtles need a proportionately larger amount of floor space than do snakes.

One solution to the space problem is to devote a whole room to the turtles and allow them freedom to roam. However, even if you have a spare room, which most people don't, there are still problems with such a solution. For example, the turtles are harder to observe without interfering in their activities. Drafts and difficulty of maintenance are other problems associated with this approach.

Another solution has been to use glass aquaria of various sizes and shapes. This brings the turtles closer to eye level, where they quickly become used to the occasional observer, while an optimal environment is easily maintained. Unfortunately, a glass aquarium of sufficient floor size in which to keep a medium-sized land turtle weighs quite a lot, making it hard to manipulate, which can cause problems with cleaning. They can also be quite costly.

After attempting both of the above methods for keeping land turtles, I finally opted for a solution that works as well as an aquarium while being larger, easier to clean, and cheaper - the turtle table. On a base of low bookshelves I rested a frame made of 2x4 inch wooden studs on which was placed a 4x8 foot sheet of plywood. The plywood had rectangular holes cut out of it, in which rested deep trays containing soil, soil and plants, or water. The trays were supported by their edge or lip on all four sides. To keep the turtles from wandering off the edges of the table, 16 inch high Plexiglass sheets were screwed onto all four sides, and the four corners were sealed with aquarium sealant. The result is a large open area, with transparent yet sturdy sides. The inclusion of the recessed trays allows areas for the turtles to drink, hide, dig or lay eggs. If you have large trays, and thus a large hole, you can even get under the table and stand up in the hole, allowing easy access to the interior for scrubbing down the surfaces, which are water-resistant due to a polyurethane finish. Finally, with some care in building and a good staining prior to applying the polyurethane coat, the turtle table blends in nicely with most room decors. (for a complete list of materials used, click here.

Next Issue: How to make a turtle table - part 2

This article copyright 1990 by David T. Kirkpatrick. Originally published in Reptile & Amphibian Magazine, July/August 1990, pages 16-19.

Reprinting of this article for non-profit purposes is permitted provided that it is unaltered and appropriate attribution, including copyright information, is included. Please notify the author of any reprinting.

Iguana Cage Plans has launched

The feedback on these plans has been very positive. Made by a recognized iguana cage maker with many years experience and a wealth of knowledge about keeping Iguanas. These cages are fabulous and could be easily adapted to large snakes and large lizards or arboreal species.

When you purchase reptile cage plans you also get access to a copy of these plans as part of your purchase. They can be used for large lizards and large snakes quite easily, but you do need some room to put them in as they are quite large

They are easy to make and it does take a little time. But you get a great cage in return. You can alter the cage to suit your own personal style and there are hints and tips throughout the book.

If you have already purchased reptile cage plans you can collect you copy of this eBook for free. Simply email me and let me know you would like a copy and I will send you a username and password so you can download your own copy.

Otherwise, go and make a purchase now and get a copy of this fantastic resource as well as the original plans plus all of the great bonuses. You will not find a better deal anywhere.

Tell Us What You Think!!

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And of course, if you have any suggestions for upcoming issues that you'd like to share with us, please send those, too!

These could include:

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Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans


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