Creature Feature: Eastern Glass Lizard

Eastern Glass Lizard (aka Legless Lizard)

Ophisaurus ventralis

Reptiles Alive Name: “Ophisaurus”

Hissstory: Ophisaurus was transferred to us in 2005 from the Virginia Living Museum.


RA Diet: Ophisaurus munches on crickets, roaches, earthworms, and super worms.

Natural Diet: Glass lizards enjoy insects, spiders,  small snakes and lizards. They especially love grasshoppers.

Size: Legless lizards can grow 24 – 36 inches long.

Range: Southeastern United States as far north as southeastern Virginia.

Habitat: Legless lizards like to hide in sandy soil in pine forests and mixed hard wood & pine forests.

Lifespan: Glass lizards can live over 10 years.

Reproduction: A female glass lizard will lay 8-17 eggs from June to August.  She will coil around the eggs and hangs out with them until they hatch about 2 months later.

Conservation: Glass lizards are classified as a “State Endangered Species” in Virginia.  This is because they are only found in one small part of southeastern Virginia and the entire population could be wiped out if their habitat there was altered.

Cool Facts: Although the glass lizard has no legs, it is a lizard – not a snake!  Unlike snakes, glass lizards have  eyelids and ears.   They also have the ability to detach their long tail in case they are attacked.  Their tail will regenerate as long as they can find enough food.  Snakes do not have the ability to regrow a lost tail.  Neither do humans.  Some scientists are studying lizards to try and find the secret behind their ability to regenerate so doctors can help people who have been hurt.

Creature Feature: Green Iguana

Green Iguana

Iguana iguana

Reptiles Alive Name: Fritz & Juan Amigo

Hisstory: Fritz is leasing a room with us as his owner, our curator Jennifer, likes having him at work better than having him at home.  Juan Amigo was left at the Alexandria Animal Shelter and we adopted him in April 2010.

Reptiles Alive Diet: Greens, vegetables, some fruit and a special zoo food made for iguanas.fritzheadspines

Natural Diet: Leaves, flowers, and fruit.

Range: Mexico, Central and South America. Introduced into Florida and Hawaii.

Habitat: The canopy of tropical rain forests is the normal habitat of iguanas, but they can also be found in urban areas around homes and hotels.

Size: These huge lizards grow 5-7 feet long from nose to tail and can weigh up to 18 pounds.

Lifespan: Iguanas often live over 20 years.

Reproduction: A female iguana will lay 12-40 eggs buried in the forest floor.  The eggs take 90-120 days to incubate. Babies spend the first part of their life in the under story. They will climb up to the canopy as they grow bigger.

Conservation: Iguanas face threats from the loss of habitat, the pet trade, and they are sometimes hunted for food.

You should know: Iguanas are commonly kept as pets, but most pet iguanas either die from improper care or are abandoned when they get large. Many pet stores buy iguanas bred in “puppy mill” conditions, and sell them for low prices to unsuspecting buyers and without the proper equipment. (Proper iguana housing costs over 500 dollars.) Iguanas have sharp teeth, a strong bite, sharp claws, and do NOT make good pets, especially for children. Thousands are euthanized annualy because proper homes cannot be found for them.

Cool Facts: Iguanas have a big flap of skin under their chin called a dewlap. They communicate to each other by lowering their dewlap and bobbing their head up and down. When threatened, iguanas can whip their spiky tail like a dinosaur. If that doesn’t work, they will leap out of the tall trees and dive into a river below.  They tuck their legs against their bodies and swim like crocodiles.

Back to School Time…

September is a busy month in the office at Reptiles Alive.  After a super busy summer filled with performing shows at summer camps, fairs, libraries and more, we are ready for the change that fall brings.  Summer is very intense – there are many days where all of us start work at 7 am and don’t finish until 10 pm.

In September, the number of shows we do becomes much more reasonable.  Fall festivals and birthday parties still fill our weekends, and scout meetings eat up our nights, but the weekday school programs are just getting started, so we have time during the day to catch up on all the office work we couldn’t get to during the summer.


As soon as the school year starts, our phone starts ringing and our email inbox fills with requests for school assemblies, classroom visits, and after school classes.  Since we work as animal keepers in addition to working in the office, there are many times that the phone starts ringing right when we are opening the door to a large python or getting ready to feed an alligator – YIKES.  There are even times when we answer the phone and take an animal with us, so while we are talking to you, we might have a snake in our other hand.

Most people only think about the shows they see us perform, but a lot of work goes on “behind the scenes” to get ready for your show.  And don’t worry – we will be sure that none of the animals eat the paperwork for your booking.

Exciting New Job for Jennifer Rafter

Posting by Caroline Seitz

Jennifer Rafter was one of the first staff members of Reptiles Alive.  She started in 1999 and has been an important part of our team ever since.  Caring for our animals, rehabilitating injured wildlife, and presenting awesome live animal shows were all part of her contribution here.

Jennifer has moved on from Reptiles Alive to become the Aquarium Curator at the Delmarva Discovery Center. It is a brand new museum in Pocomoke MD that showcases the culture and natural history of the Delmarva Peninsula with a focus on the Pocomoke River.

I had the chance to visit Jen at her new job last week – and I am SO EXCITED for her.  The Discovery Center is fabulous.  The cultural exhibits are up and they are very good.  Children and adults will enjoy the various interactive displays and hands-on activities the center offers.  But the best is soon to come…

A 7,000 gallon aquarium was just installed and Jen is spending all her time getting it sealed, plumbed, and working.  It takes A LOT of work to get an aquarium of that size up and running.  It took almost 12 hours just to the aquarium through the Center’s doors and installed in the display area!

The Pocomoke City Fire Department was called to fill the aquarium for its first water test.  After the test, the tank was drained so that concrete features such as fallen trees and branches can be added.  After the plumbing and concrete work is done, the fire department will re-fill the aquarium.

Jen will then spend time cycling the water to prepare it for the fish.  Live bass, catfish and other fish found in the Pocomoke River will be featured in the aquarium, but the star attraction will be the sturgeon.

In addition to the large aquarium, the Discovery Center also has touch tanks that allow visitors to touch animals such as snails, horseshoe crabs and more.  Jen will also be adding live reptile and amphibian displays.

Special events such as a Haunted Halloween tour, lectures, art classes and other fun activities are offered at the Center.  Activities adjacent to the Center include a special Pocomoke River boat cruise tour, a boardwalk trail through a naturally occurring cypress swamp, and shopping at art galleries and boutiques in the beautiful town of Pocomoke.  Of course you can also visit Chincoteague, VA, Ocean City, MD and Assateague National Seashore which are all about 30 minutes away.

I am sad to see her go – but I am so excited for her too!  Jen’s new home and new job are really awesome and I know she is going to have a great time.  I urge anyone who visits the Eastern Shore to visit the Delmarva Discovery Center and say hello to Jen.