Reptile Training

We just received a question from Chrissi, “How do you train and handle the animals when you rescue them?”

Many of the animals we receive as rescues never get any training at all because they are going to be released back into the wild. These are injured native animals that we rehabilitate and then released where they were found.

Sometimes, though, we receive rescued exotic animals (usually unwanted pets). These animals can never be released into the wild. The first thing we do with any new animal is to give it a physical exam.  If it seems healthy, then we determine if it is comfortable being handled by humans.

In Quarantine

Animals that seem comfortable at being handled are put into quarantine for three months.  During this time, the animal’s behavior and health is monitored daily.

Most of our animals, like the snakes, cannot be trained to “sit” or “fetch” like your dog might be.  Instead they are conditioned to do a show.  What does this mean?

Let’s Pretend:

Imagine you are afraid of sunflowers.  Every time you see a sunflower, you run away and scream at the top of your lungs.  Even a picture of a sunflower gets you upset.

If I gave you a cookie every time you saw a sunflower, after a while you might think sunflowers are not all that bad.

sunflowerequals

sunflwercookiesmile

How we do that with the animals?

The first day an animal arrives at Reptiles Alive, it begins training for shows.

Every day we briefly pick up each animal, put it back in its home and immediately give them a food treat, or, put them back in their favorite place – their hide box!  The animals soon find out that being held does not hurt them, and they get a treat afterward.  Soon, the animal is no longer afraid of being held and relaxes in our hands.

The conditioning continues by holding the animal for longer periods of time and in different locations.  After a while, the animal will have met many different people, heard new noises, and seen many new things.  Now it is ready for showtime!

Hawksbill Turtle Project Offering Volunteer Positions!

The hawksbill is quite rare in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1998, only 38 nests were documented on the Big Island. They need volunteers for the 2009 nesting season, which runs from May to December. You will be monitoring hawksbill nests on remote beaches in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and adjacent lands. They prefer stays of 8-12 weeks, but will consider shorter periods.

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Volunteers camp 3-5 nights a week. Duties include monitoring nesting hawksbills and basking green turtles, rescuing stranded hatchlings, excavating nests, and trapping and euthanizing predators (mongooses, feral cats, and rats). Some nesting beaches can be reached only by hiking a 6.6 mile trail over recent lava flows, but others can be reached by 4-wheel drive truck. The weather is hot and very windy.

Shared dormitory-style housing is provided near Park Headquarters at the summit of Kilauea Volcano (4,000 ft. elevation). A small stipend is provided, so you will need some of your own money.

Contact Will Seitz:

Will_Seitz@contractor.nps.gov

Swamp Stroll Gets Dangerous

It started out lovely, as they all happen to do.  Our camping visit to Congaree National Park in South Carolina began perfectly.  The campground was deserted, the mosquito meter was on low, and the temperature was pleasant.  Little did we know that an innocent hike would become potentially life threatening.

anolescongaree

Both of us have been primitive camping and hiking since before we could walk.  We were well prepared with several layers of clothes, first aid, compass, water bottles, map, flashlight, knife, multi-tool, emergency fire making equipment, water purification, extra batteries, a German shepherd, and a gps.

We decided to do a loop known as the Oakridge trail.  Download a trail map here:Congaree trail Map page.

A simple 5 hour hike through the swamp.

Bad Decision #1

It was in the high 40′s with a bit of chilly wind as we were hiking through behemoth cypress and tupelo trees. When a bit of swamp crossed our path.  No problem, just take off your shoes, cross the water, wipe off your feet, and return shoes to proper location. The crossing was slippery, cold, and wet.  The dog didn’t care.  This was our first bad decision. Thus:

Bad Decision #2

Several miles after the short crossing, something a bit larger got in the way.trailmarkers

The other side could not be seen.  The smart thing would have been to turn around now.  We looked at the map and found we had nearly completed the entire loop.  Turning back now would put us back in camp several hours after dark in near freezing temperatures.  We would also be crossing the water in the dark.

It was decided to continue along this mass of water in hopes that we would find a narrower crossing or the other trail that it should meet up with in a half mile.

Continuing North with the water on our left, we came face to face with the major creek running through the park, Cedar Creek.  Several hundred feet wide and over our head deep.  This became impossible crossing number two.  Even in warm weather I would not brave this as swamp mud can sink you down over your head.  A person could become immobilized under water and dead very soon.

That led me to:

Bad Decision #3: Trusting the GPS

My gps claimed the trail crossed to our side of the water about a mile from where we were stading.  This was easy to believe as we had crossed many bridges throughout the day.  I confidently headed straight ahead with Cedar Creek on my left.

Giant wild boars grunted and dashed through the leaves as the sun sank.  We had nearly completed another loop inside the first one made by the trail and should be back to where we crossed the water earlier in the day.  My husband stopped at a creek stretched in front of us insisting the trail was just on the other side of this very steep banked deep water crossing.  I did not believe him as my gps said the trail was somewhere on THIS side of the water.logacrosscongareeA giant tree had fallen across the water, he wanted to brave it.  A fall in would have left a person drenched and exposed to hypothermia on the hike back.  The map said a large bridge crossing was to our south, if we could just get to that we could see it in the dark easily and get back to camp.

I marked the fallen log on my gps and we continued. We were nearly back to were we crossed the water earlier and would find our trail again when, yes another bit of water was in our way.

Trusting Intuition

We could be weaving our way around fingers of water all night long just to get back to the water crossing to be made in the dark and bitter cold. Once found we would have a two hour hike back to camp. My husband mentioned the log crossing. For the first time that day, I made a good decision.  I trusted him.

We crossed in the dark with our amazing german shepherd between us.  The trail markers were less than 50 feet ahead of us.  We were saved.

What We Didn’t Know

We could have died.  It was 30 degrees that night.  My husband was quickly becoming an expert fire maker with his flint and magnesium.  If the trail was not on the other side of that log, my husband was going to make a fire and we would camp for the night.  Hypothermia can kill at temperatures well above freezing.  With a fire, we could live.

What was it that we didn’t know?  That the swamp was in flood stage from rains days before in the mountains to the northwest.  The spot we were stuck in the night before was underwater by the next day.  Our fire would have been drowned, we would have been soaked, lost, and very possibly dead by morning.

tupelo

What We Learned

Gps’s give only a vague idea on where you are.  Do not trust it, but use the information it gives WITH a paper map.  Learn to use a map and a compass.  Note where you are at all times by paying attention to the distance you have walked, your surroundings, the distance you will need to walk back, and reference this with what you see on the map.  As prepared as we were, we were just lucky. Very, very stupid, but very, very lucky.

The Wiki on Hypothermia

 

First Wildlife Rescue of 2009!

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On Wednesday, January 7, Joanne Fugito found a nearly frozen five-lined skink lizard in her driveway. Lucky for the lizard, Joanne knew just what to do since she is a vet tech at Great Falls Animal Hospital – a veterinary clinic that works with Reptiles Alive and other wildlife rehabilitators to save injured wildlife.

After rescuing the skink from the freezing cold driveway, she did some research and set up a temporary enclosure for it inside of her house. She then called Reptiles Alive and brought the lizard right over. It is the first wildlife rescue we have received in 2009.

The skink appeared healthy, but it could not be released into the bitter January cold. So I set up a warm home with plenty of hiding places for it to live until spring, when we will release it back to its home in Joanne’s front yard.

The heavy rains the day before probably washed the skink out of its hibernation burrow. If the temperature had been 55 or above, I would told Joanne to release the lizard, but the cold air paralyzed the reptile and would have killed the lizard very quickly. After being kept indoors for more than 24 hours, the skink would probably not be able to re-acclimate to going back outside in the winter, so we will wait until April to release it.

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UPCOMING EVENTS

  1. Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Park

    July 21 @ 10:00 am - 10:45 am
  2. Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Gardens Park

    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