Snapping Turtle Invasion!

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Eastern Snapping Turtle

Posting by Caroline Seitz

This past weekend was invasion of the snapping turtle time. Mama snappers left the comfort of their wet homes to invade suburban yards to lay their eggs.  So, here at Reptiles Alive, we got a ton of calls from people concerned about the turtles and wanting to know what to do.

“There is a snapping turtle laying eggs in my yard – what should I do?”

Well, the short answer is, nothing.  If you leave the mama snapper alone, she will simply lay her eggs and leave.  The mama turtle will not guard her nest or take care of the babies.  If and when the eggs hatch, the babies will go on their way.

The long answer:

Snapping turtles spend most of their lives at the bottom of ponds, lakes, and rivers.  They eat carrion, fish, and other creatures that get too close to their powerful jaws.

In the Mid-Atlantic region, female snapping turtles will leave the water to lay their eggs in late May and early June.  The female turtles may walk a mile or more away from the water to find a suitable nesting site.  Once she finds a good spot, she will dig a hole with her back legs.  She might dig multiple holes before laying and she might lay eggs in multiple nests – so just because you see a turtle digging a hole in your yard does not neccessarily mean there will be eggs buried there.

After laying the eggs, the turtle may hang around for a day or so because she is tired, but she will soon leave.  Like most reptiles, turtles do not care for their young or protect their eggs.  The female will simply abandon the nest and head back to her watery home.

Most of the eggs laid by turtles will  never hatch.  Many of the eggs are predated upon by raccoons, foxes, and insects.  Some of the eggs may be infertile.  So, if a turtle has laid eggs in your yard, the eggs may never hatch at all.

Some people ask if they can dig up the eggs and re-bury them in a “better” spot.  This is NOT a good idea.  If reptile eggs are moved or rolled, the embryos inside the egg can die.  Also, the female turtle instinctively knows the right depth, temperature, moisture level, etc… that the eggs need for proper development.  If you dig a hole and “plant” the eggs, they will almost certainly die.  If you feel you must re-locate the eggs, the best chance the eggs will have is for you to artificially incubate them.  There is a good article about turtle egg incubation at http://www.gctts.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Public/CaringForChelonianEggs

If the eggs do hatch, the quarter size babies will usually scatter away from the nest and head for the nearest body of water.  If you have artificially incubated the eggs, you need to release the babies in a pond or other slow moving body of water as close the original nesting site as possible.  Do not attempt to feed the babies or keep the babies for any length of time.  Release them immediately.

If the babies are very lucky, they can live up to around 30 years or more and grow from a tiny quarter size to giant 20 pound turtle.

Memorial Day or Reptile Day?

Memorial Day was a particularly busy day, herpetologically speaking.  I started the day in my garden with a cup of coffee and a Northern Brown Snake basking on top of some thyme.  I was careful not to disturb the little foot long snake, and he seemed happy to hang out.  I love having brown snakes in the garden since they love to eat slugs and snails.  I also just happen to like snakes in general.

As Rachel was getting ready to drive in to work, she spotted her neighbor about to hurt a Black Rat snake that was in his front yard. Luckily, she was able to save the snake and move it to the woods in the back of his property.  Black Rat snakes help control rodent populations and are not dangerous to humans in any way.

Later, while Rachel was loading animals to go to her show, she heard our next-door neighbor scream!  She asked if he was ok and he said he just saw a snake in his golf bag in the garage and would she please come and get it.  Rachel had to leave so she would be on time for her reptile birthday show, so she came and got me.  I went over to my neighbor’s and found the 4 feet long Black Rat snake hiding behind a shelf in the back of his garage.  I gently picked it up, carried it to the bushes in my front yard and released it.

Whew – but that was not all!

As usual, I saw the Five-lined Skink lizards that live in the my compost area.  These beautful blue, yellow, and brown striped lizards are fantastic insect hunters and are a fabulous addition to any garden.  They are also fun to watch.

The grand finale of the reptile day was in the evening.  We had a Reptiles Alive Memorial Day barbecue with Jen Pennington, Jen Rafter, Rachel and a few other friends and family members.  As Rachel was walking in the garden, she found a young Eastern Box turtle!  We all looked at the turtle and noted how young and healthy it looked before returning it to the garden.

So, to review, in one day in one neighborhood we saw:   One Northern Brown snake, one Black Rat Snake, two Five-lined Skinks, one Eastern Box turtle and Rachel saw one more Black Rat snake in her neighborhood before she came to work.

Exciting Times for Reptiles Alive Staff

May has been a crazy and busy month so far at Reptiles Alive.

Our Curator, Jennifer Pennington, and her husband Aaron recently bought a new house.  They and their German Shepherd Heidi all love the new place and are very excited about the move.  Of course, any move requires a ton of time and Jen has been spending any free time she has: cleaning, packing, unpacking, organizing, etc…  Whew – it is hard work to move!

At the same time Jen has been moving, I have been away on two trips.  First, I flew back to my other “home” in Reno, NV where my Dad lives.  I love Nevada, and I typically go back there about 2 or 3 times a year.  The desert is AWESOME, and hey, Reno is the “Biggest Little City”.  But this trip was not just about going back to visit Dad and hang out in the desert.  This time – my brother Will had bought tickets to the Dead concert at Shoreline in Mountain View, CA as my birthday present.

So, I flew to Reno from here, Will flew from Hawaii to Reno and we both borrowed my Dad’s Monte Carlo and drove across the Sierra Nevadas to the concert.  There was still a lot of snow in the Sierras, so I did not find any reptiles there.

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Mt. Rose Highway, Sierra Nevadas, Nevada

I looked for herps in the hills surrounding the Shoreline Ampitheater and I didn’t find any reptiles, but I did find a ton of large and pretty snails.  The concert, by the way, was smokin’ – even without Jerry, the Dead rocked!

As soon as I flew back from Reno, I drove over to Rehoboth Beach, DE to meet up with some of my friends and go on a kayak trip sponsored by the Dogfish Head brewery.  On the kayak trip we saw quite a few northern water snakes, red-bellied slider turtles, osprey birds, and beautiful Fringe trees in full bloom.

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Northern Red-Bellied Cooter, Milton, DE

So, while Jen Pennington, Jen Rafter, and I were all out of the office – who was taking care of our animals and performing shows?  Rachel Walker!  Today is the first day she has had off in more than two weeks!  Whew – she has been working hard!  Well, luckily, she has some trips coming up soon.

Ssssee you all out there at the shows soon!

Earth Day at Reptiles Alive

The weekends at the end of April and early May are always very busy at Reptiles Alive.  Earth Day events, Arbor Day events, Spring festivals and more keep all of our Wildlife Educators extremely busy.

Last Saturday, April 25 was a very exciting day.  Tony Bulmer performed three Live Reptile Birthday shows in Takoma Park, Arlington, and Vienna.  Rachel Walker drove all the way down to Maurertown, VA to perform two Reptiles Alive shows at the Shennandoah County Park Earth Day Festival.  Jennifer Pennington and Jennifer Rafter set up a Live Reptile Zoo Exhibit at the Northern Virginia Community College Earth Day/Arbor Day Festival in Annandale, VA.  The exhibit featured live reptiles and amphibians from Fairfax County, VA.

I performed three Reptiles Alive shows at my old park – Mason Neck State Park in Lorton, VA.  Besides our show, the Eagle Festival featured live birds of prey, live bluegrass music, a magic show, and more.  It is a great event that I look forward to every year.

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It was a lot of work to get ready for the shows and the exhibits – but we all love meeting people and sharing our enthusiasm for reptiles.  We especially love meeting our fans, so be sure to check out our Upcoming Public Events section so you can come out and see us too!

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UPCOMING EVENTS

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    July 22 @ 10:00 am - 10:45 am
We had a great experience with Reptiles Alive for my daughter’s 6th birthday party. Rachel arrived exactly on time, set up quickly, and immediately engaged the group of curious children. We had an impromptu dance party while waiting for last minute guests and Rachel was very accommodating. The children LOVED the show!! And my soon-to-be 11 year old wants them to come for his birthday! I highly recommend Reptiles Alive for your next event!read more

Kelly Maguire

Kelly Maguire

22:57 12 Mar 18

We just had Reptiles Alive come to our preschool and the kids loved it!! We had 4 shows over 2 days to accommodate all our children and everything went great! Caroline was very easy to work with and quick to respond to all my emails. She was our presenter too and was early each day and ready to go when the kids arrived. She really geared her show towards our audience (2-5yr olds) and had them laughing and answering her questions and touching the animals. It was perfect… we would definitely book them again!!read more

Lauren Dolinski

Lauren Dolinski

20:47 01 Mar 18

We booked Reptiles Alive for our son’s 7th birthday party. Miss Rachel put on an amazing show for the 20 kids we had over. The highlight was when my son and I had the chance to hold a long and surprisingly heavy boa constrictor named Sunflower. The show was both educational and fun for the kids, and it kept them captivated for a full hour – priceless!!read more

Rick Jandrain

Rick Jandrain

01:53 06 Feb 18

Rachel is an awesome instructor and very good with many kids. The reptiles were fascinating. This was a great birthday party for my daughter and her second grade class.read more

Robert McKeon

Robert McKeon

23:26 26 Feb 18

We invited Reptiles Alive for our birthday party. Ms. Rachel did a wonderful job to educate the kids about the fun facts of Reptiles and also kept them entertained and focused. It’s not a easy job facing a bunch of 7-year-old boys and 3-year-old preschoolers. We highly recommend Reptiles Alive show. It’s fun and full of knowledge!read more

Tianchan Niu

Tianchan Niu

22:09 17 Dec 17

We had Reptiles Alive join us for a country club event and they did an outstanding job! Ashley was amazing and so professional. She was very interactive with the children and played the role perfectly. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience!read more

Chelsea Barb

Chelsea Barb

20:20 28 Mar 18

We’ve been working with Reptiles Alive for the past 4 years now and they show up and show out every time. Everything from booking to the day of is efficient and friendly. At our past event, presenter Liz did 6 shows back to back for our campers, which is truly impressive and phenomenal. We will continue to work with Reptiles Alive for years to come and really appreciate the work and educating that they do!read more

Lydia Vanderbilt

Lydia Vanderbilt

21:09 05 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive gave an awesome show at our elementary school! The presenter was so much fun and really engaged the children. Very cool reptiles and a great interactive meet and greet at the end. The kids loved it!read more

Jonathan Grau

Jonathan Grau

14:52 07 Apr 18

I am in charge of grade level assemblies at our school and our 3rd grade has RA in for their Rain Forest show every year to reinforce the things they have learned about in class. This is my second year working with them and I have been absolutely thrilled with the interaction to book the event and with the presenters. They engage the kids and help make them a part of the show. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program and the amazing people that work there.read more

Kim Painter

Kim Painter

23:32 07 Apr 18

We love this show at our preschool!! The kids have so much fun and learn a lot! They are very organized and always start on time. We have always had a wonderful experience with Reptiles Alive and can’t wait to have them back again!read more

Melissa Jones

Melissa Jones

15:06 20 Apr 18

Reptiles Alive LLC visited our 1st grade friends and did the “Reptiles Alive!” show. They exceeded all of our expectations and were excellent at keeping the students engaged. The students have talked about it for days after, even repeating some of the facts they have heard! I would highly recommend Reptiles Alive!read more

Brittney Gjorgjievski

Brittney Gjorgjievski

16:12 14 May 18

Reptiles Alive was a MAJOR hit at the Mattie Miracle Walk & Family Festival. Rachel was incredibly professional, engaging, and clearly loves what she does. She made the show and meet & greet fun for both kids and adults. Can’t wait to have Reptiles Alive back next year to our event. We received a lot of positive feedback from our guests and we were thrilled to see how well attended the show was at our event. Thank you Reptiles Alive!!!read more

Peter Brown

Peter Brown

01:58 22 May 18

Caroline did an awesome job for our kindergarten Reptiles Alive performance. She held their attention and told fun stories. The reptiles are so cool! Every time she introduced a new reptile, the kids were amazed. I recommend the “meet and greet” time as well. My students will never forget touching a boa constrictor! Thanks Reptiles Alive!read more

Michelle Baldwin

Michelle Baldwin

03:00 09 Jun 18

Reptiles Alive! came to our elementary school for a 3rd grade assembly. Nothing ruffles this organization — they can handle kids of all ages, big groups or small, and bring a *ton* of animals. They are engaging, age-appropriate and bring their own mic system so hearing is not a problem. I highly recommend the meet and greet afterward.read more

Stacey Evers

Stacey Evers

19:25 22 Jun 18

The show was a success, we had around 20 kids between 5-12. Lizzard Liz was great, she was able to keep all of them really interested. The reptiles were amazing, she even brought a small alligator and a boa constrictor.read more

florencia behrensen

florencia behrensen

14:39 02 Jul 18

Caroline at Reptiles Alive! always gives us the best show! It is fun and informative with a variety of reptiles each time she comes. We LOVE Reptiles Alive at Happy Faces Daycare in Centreville, VA!read more

Jessica Roberts

Jessica Roberts

13:56 12 Jul 18