Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 1   
January, 2007
Encouraging Bearded Dragon Hatchlings to Eat
In this Issue

by Helena Brusic

I was at the pet shop the other day getting more heating equipment for my new bearded dragon hatchlings. The shop keeper asked me about them, and I told her, that they are new, in a new environment, and not eating. She told me that many people were complaining of the same thing.

I told her that I am turning up the heat as the recent cold snap probably had a big say so in their appetites. She passed that information on, and suddenly there were feeding dragons.

In my case, I knew it was a bit more than that. Firstly, the dragons had come from interstate by plane. They were out of their usual environment, in unfamiliar territory. AND, suddenly they could smell snakes. Pretty scary stuff for a hatchie.

I knew it would take a couple of days for them to eat, so in the interim, I sprayed them with a water and vitamin mix. I also moved their habitat to as far away from any of my snake vivariums I could. You shouldn't handle hatchies when you first get them, but after 4 days of them not eating, I was hand feeding 2 of them crickets - they would only take one or two. The littlest one was the most stubborn and wouldn't eat at all. I sprinkled calcium and vitamin powder in the cage, had their special UVA/UVB light trained above them, and then upped the temperature steadily. They started eating when the cage temperature reached 40 degrees. It took them a week.

Since then, they have been making up for it. The smallest hatchie is so round all he/she wants to do is sleep and eat. Remarkable how quickly that hatchie moves when there is more food in the bowl.

Its also remarkable how quickly they learn to recognize what is their feeding area, and how to tell me that they are hungry. I bought a vibrating bowl - best thing since sliced bread - as it sits in a nice basking rock. I feed crickets, throw them in the fridge (some do manage to survive), but the dragons don't mind, as they have a developed a taste for cold crickets, turn on the vibrating bowl (only in the morning) so they shrug off sleep and know that breakfast is ready.

By the time they are hungry again, they are all waiting on the bowl, bodies facing prospective food, heads over shoulder looking at me... they don't even move when I dump in the crickets.... and its only week 3 with them....


Helena is an reptile enthusiast and owner of very friendly and playful jungle carpet pythons called Alex, Hayden, Rowan and Bella and a number of bearded dragon hatchlings. Helena is the founder and creative director of Kali7Design


Snake Fishing

By Anonomous snake fishing expert

My family was camping in a State Park in the Pisgah National Forest and my daughter and I decided to go a bit further up the river to try our hand at the fishing up there. The area is mostly deciduous forest with some pines and plenty of under story vegetation. There are ample fish in the river, including trout and bass, thanks to the stocking efforts of the local fish and wildlife officials. Along with these, there are plenty of more native fish like bottom feeders, minnows as well as salamanders and frogs.

So getting back to our trip up stream, we were climbing along the rocks at the waters edge when we suddenly saw a flash of orange (in the shape of a snake's tail) as it disappeared under the ledge of a large table rock (this would be a large slab of rock as big as a table that is held up or supported by smaller rocks). There was a fairly good-size opening on the one end of the rock so I tried to get a good look under there but couldn't see a thing.

It was just too dark in the cavernous space under the rock. Being impatient and not wanting to hang around all day to see if the mysterious orange snake was going to come out, I turned on the old digital camera (don't leave home without it!) and shoved it into the opening and flashed away in various directions until I got a picture of the sneaky snake. There it was in one of the photos, snug in a crevice at the back of the cavern staring back at me nervously.

After getting even more excited by the photos we just HAD to come up with a way to get a better look and that's when we came up with a plan. While my daughter set to work down the river, trying to catch one of the slender creek chubs with her fishing pole and worms, I climbed up on a tall rock wall adjacent to the table rock and watched and waited patiently for the orange snake. I didn't want it to slip away when we weren't looking. After about 10 or 15 minutes of waiting silently, he popped his head out and looked around cautiously. He even came out about a third of his body length but eventually retreated back under the rock. He repeated this peeking and retreating in 2 other spots from under the rock but never did come out and slither away.

Actually, I should mention that when my daughter tired of trying unsuccessfully to catch some "snake bait", she brought me some worms and I tried my hand at catching a fish from the river while perched atop the rock wall. The snake did most of it's peeking out from under the rock while I was apparently busy and not looking at him, though of course I was secretly watching intensely the whole time I was fishing too. It's just like others have reported with their snakes. If you appear to NOT be looking they will go about their business of eating, or exploring or drinking or whatever, but if you are staring intensely then they get spooked and won't do anything in front of you. While I was fishing the snake made the most attempts to slither out unnoticed, though as I said, he never did go all the way.

Once we caught a creek chub we stunned the fish with a good thump to the head and hooked it thru the skin near the tail. We climbed behind the 4 foot high rock wall so that we would be visually concealed from the snake and downwind. Then, with our fishing pole and line, we dangled the snagged fish near the large opening of the table rock.

It only took about 30 seconds for the snake to come investigate. I'm assuming he probably smelled the fish as we were preparing to hook it's tail and then when it was dangling in the opening it was all too much for his hungry belly and he came charging out after it. We lowered the fish to the ground and watched with fascination as he briefly tongue-flicked the fish a couple times and promptly began to swallow it head first.

The plan was to wait for him to get the fish half way down, then while his mouth was full we would dislodge the hook by hand if necessary. Just as planned, the snake greedily began the swallowing process, which took some effort as the fish was about 1 1/2 times the width of the snake's body. I snapped some pics as the snake came after the fish. By the time the snake got the fish halfway swallowed, I was ready to get that hook off the fish. We didn't want the snake to make off with the fish and accidentally swallow the fish with the hook. Becky had a blast "battling the beast" as the snake worked that fish and tugged at the line. As I climbed over the rock wall the snake made a great effort to back under the rock and in so doing the hook began to de-sleeve the fish's tail.

I reached down and quickly dislodged the hook the rest of the way, though it would've come off in another moment anyway since we only hooked it enough to hold the fish initially, not to reel in the snake really.

Once the fish was free, the snake pulled it just under the edge of the table rock and finished it's free meal as we snapped a few more photos. It was great fun seeing this snake in action and because we were able to get it to come out we were able to identify it as an albino northern water snake. It took great will power to leave it in the wild, as it was a fascinating bright orange and white, much like an albino corn snake here in the states, but since it was clearly in excellent health, and at least half grown already, I felt it was the right thing to do leaving it in the wild. Later that same day, another albino water snake was spotted further down the river so they must be thriving in that area.

I've since encountered a number of people who objected to my leaving this snake behind. Arguments ranged from "You could've made a fortune on that snake. I saw one for sale recently for $2,000 at a reptile show" and then the main argument from others being that I should've collected it because it wouldn't survive in the wild because it was bright orange. I don't necessarily agree with this because there were more grown or half-grown snakes sighted, meaning they are successfully reproducing. And in that area, there are native venomous snakes, some of which are brightly colored (coral snakes) so perhaps that affords this snake some protection by mimicking bright colors of local venomous snakes. Anyway, it was my call and I chose to leave it to live out the remainder of his days in the wild.

Besides all this, it was in Pisgah National Forest, a wildlife protected area so it would've been very unlawful for me to take this snake. I'm very curious about your honest opinion on this. Should I have taken it and found it a "better, safer home"? My hubby was also a little annoyed that I didn't take this snake and try to profit on it, since I've spent plenty of money on my snakes over the years and he'd like to see me make some money back. As snakes are creatures of habit, I'm fairly confident I could locate it or another albino in the area next year when we return, especially if I went looking for it on purpose. I'm just not sure what is really the "right"
choice of action.

Anyway, aside from this, it was just pure fun literally "fishing for snakes"
LOL He was a vigorous, healthy snake and put up a good fight to claim that fish. My daughter will NEVER forget the time her mom hatched this goofy plan just to get a better look at a snake in the wild. It was so goofy, we felt a bit like the Irwins and how they perform so many goofy, if not foolish antics, all in the name of curiosity about and love of nature.

Honestly, we didn't really know what kind of snake it was at first, so I suppose it might have been a venomous snake, but that's why I figured we wouldn't hook the fish too securely so we could simply tug the hook free, and if we needed to manually dislodge it we'd wait till the fish was good and "stuck" half way down the snake's throat before attempting to remove the hook.

When I saw the snake I mistakenly thought it was an Eastern Kingsnake, another non-venomous snake. Luckily, though I was wrong, it was a different non-venomous snake. You know, this was the whole foolish thing about it, because I really DIDN'T know for sure what kind of snake it was. I knew it wasn't a rattler, or a coral snake, or a water moccasin, so the chances were pretty good it wasn't a venomous snake since there aren't many others in the area. Copperhead's came to mind at the time because I was wondering if the copper color they are known for could have mutated and become bright orange all over, but the pattern still wasn't a match so I was pretty confident that's not what we had. Besides all this, when we were dangling the fish about, the snake didn't react as you would expect a venomous snake to behave.

It didn't strike at the fish or gnaw at it as if to inject any venom so I was even more confident that it was NOT venomous. It simply swallowed it without delay. I was thinking about this a lot and have since decided to be sure and learn all the venomous species of an area before we go anywhere new again. This way we can be safe and more relaxed about what we encounter in the future. I know, it's sort of a late epiphany, but we'll be more prepared next time.

Well, that's about it for my rambling today. Not so sure I want you to print THIS story in your newsletter. I don't want to hear from all those out there about how dumb we were. (because the snake COULD have ended up swallowing the hook somehow or we COULD have ended up being bitten by a possibly venomous snake) But, aside from it being a foolish act, we had a great experience and loved watching this snake doing what snakes do best, swallowing that food! :)


How not to house reptiles


Hi Mark,

Two years ago I took my family to the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, after seeing it advertised on Animal Planet. It was about a 3hour drive from where I live in Indiana and upon our arrival there I could tell that this place was a reptiles nightmare.There was a guide that showed us thru the different sheds and barns that housed the snakes and other reptiles.Upon entering a large barn there were cobras in glass aquariums with screen tops held down by bricks and most cages had mulch with old sheds and fecal matter in the cages. We were taken outside to a cover pen area that housed an American Alligator that was about 6 feet long and he had a mud hole about 2 feet in diameter to try to swim in. This was only a small example of the terrible conditions we saw and they are to numerous to try to list.

I e-mailed the Animal Planet and advised them of what I had witnessed and they contacted me and thanked me ,but I never heard anymore about if they did any investigation and I also contacted the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources about this and have heard nothing from them either.

If there are any other readers out there that have visited the Kentucky Reptile Zoo and saw these horrible living conditions for the reptiles ,please contact authorities and make them aware of this problem.

Then there was an incident in Indianapolis,In. where a man had been keeping 35 poisonous snakes and had been bitten by a green mamba and then I see on TV the local DNR had contacted Jim Harrison from Kentucky Zoo to take the reptiles and the only thing I could visualize was how he was going to house these reptiles and it makes me sick to think of what will become of these reptiles.

P.S. If anyone would like to see how not to house reptiles of any kind visit the Kentucky Reptile Zoo!!!!

Thanks ,John


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