Sea Snakes Slurp the Good Stuff

Even though sea snakes spend their entire lives swimming in salt water, they need to drink the good stuff, fresh.

A new study from the University of Florida has shown that even when the sea snakes are dehydrated, they will only drink fresh water (water with less that 20% salt content.)

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081106153629.htm

While the study only used a few species of snakes, it was well done.  It is possible that more ocean-going reptiles may take advantage of fresh water as well.

This completely changes the way scientists think the 60 or so species of sea snakes deal with their watery world.  Sea snakes were once thought to filter out the salt from the water by using special internal glands.

Why is this an important finding?  Many species of sea snakes may be disappearing due to rising temperatures and lack of rainfall.  Either the snakes must crawl onto land and drink fresh water there or they must drink fresh rainfall falling on the ocean.

Wait, these guys drink rainfall in the middle of the ocean?  It just so happens that when rain falls on the surface of the ocean, it sits there for a period of time without mixing. Fresh water is slightly lighter than salty water, this is known as the Ghyben-Herzberg lens. Sea snakes may then drink from the pool of fresh water formed on top of the ocean.

Some species of sea snakes may become extinct due to droughts!

Sea snakes are amazing serpents related to cobras and coral snakes, the elapids.  While they have potent venom, sea snakes are reluctant to bite.  Like all snakes, the venom is used to catch their food, not for defense as many people think.  How easy would it be for you to catch a slippery swimming eel with your mouth and try and swallow the wriggling thing in the vast ocean?

Sea snake venom is potent so that the prey may become paralyzed quickly for the snake to catch and swallow.  Fisherman the world over have often taken sea snakes out of nets with their bare hands without being bitten.  The snakes are probably just happy to be back in the water.  I of course, would have second thoughts before scaring the living daylights out of an animal with powers like that of an elapid.

I sure hope the rains return to the homes of the many species of facinating sea snakes.

North Carolina Herptravanganza

Imagine a blond, brunette, and a red-head visit a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. A horror story, adventure, or comedy?

A friend at a local zoo invited us down to his place in the woods for a few days of reptiles and fun on thousands of acres of protected forest.

So, we packed the car with tons of goodies and headed down early in the morning. Our directions were to: “drive down a road until you think no one could possibly live there, then drive a few more miles.”

We turned on a dirt road with his address on the mailbox, and quickly ended up on a dirt road with the word “SNAKES” spray painted on a board lying on the side of the road. I guess we got the right place. Boy, did we! A few minutes up the road we encountered another sign stating the land is protected preserve. Not far from that were some tin on the side of the road for reptiles to hide under.

No reptile fan would ever in their right mind pass up the opportunity to look under tin. We got out of the car fire drill style and ran to the tin. Notin’ Honey. Our real surprise was waiting for us at the end of the road. What a beaut!

nclogcabin

Notice this gorgeous log cabin is run by solar panels? That’s right kids, this baby is completely off the grid! It comes with all the amenities;

  • All hard wood
  • Huge fireplace
  • fridge
  • hot water
  • giant woodburning stove
  • comfy beds
  • dogs
  • tasteful interior decorations

Did I mention it was off the grid?

We did not hang around the house for long, it was time to look for reptiles! We walked outside laughing and talking, but that did not last for long. Serious herping was happening. The first thing you notice about being in the middle of nowhere is the absolute silence pierced only by the song of a bird, an insect, or a rustle in the grass next to the solar panel. Was that a flash of green I just saw? What the … ? Aren’t those guys supposed to occur in Florida?

carolinanole

I was dazzled, we were in the most northern range of the Carolina Anole! He was gorgeous. We hadn’t even left the front yard. I drooled in anticipation.

Things were gettting serious. Serious relaxation that is.

I have a very exciting job with rooms full of children in sugar induced frenzies and wild life. I love my job. I love the noise, the screaming children, zombied parents and teachers with glazed eyes and stumbling walk, the tortoise with the occasional gas…

my brain needed a bit less stimulus to munch on for a while.

Mark, our gracious host, and I wandered with snake hooks. There were timber rattlesnakes and copperheads around. Mark even mentioned how two rattlesnakes like to sit in the bushes near the bird feeder waiting for rabbits and chipmunks to come in for breakfast. We hoped there would be some use for the hooks today. (We use them to gently scooped up and guide venomous snakes away from us if we find one along the path.)

I was enjoying stories of otters and hawks along our flower scented walk when we found our first group of tin. All of us excitedly began to peak under them. We took turns lifting up a piece while the rest of us squinted in anticipation. Nothing in the first group. We walked up a small hill and soon found a prize.

jenrncking

A gorgeous representative of its species!

The snake is pretty too.

That is Jennifer holding an eastern kingsnake with our host, Mark looking on. This kingsnake is something I would call an intergrade. That is; a mix two subspecies. The snake has characteristics of both the Florida kingsnake and the eastern kingsnake. See the chains of yellow up his side?

Mark tells us that many of animals found in this part of North Carolina are a mix of the northern and southern versions of the species. They are the best of both worlds. How cool!

If you look closely, you may be able to see that this kingsnake is missing its entire tail! It is likely that a hawk or some other animal got a hold of it and bit it off. The snake got away, but not without missing a few parts. Poor guy!

In a little wetland area, we met a cute little critter of the slimy variety. Isn’t he a cutie

ncfrog

Flowers were blooming everywhere. We walked over footbridges, across streams, meadows, and through grass. After crossing the same stream several times, we all stopped. “What smells like strawberry banana smoothie?” A native plant with tiny flowers all over it? Boy, do we have some fascinating plants in the States.

“Quick Caroline!”

“I see it!”

“I think it just ran under that log.”

He found a much better hiding place.

“Is it okay to come out now?”

“Time for me to make my getaway while no one is looking.”

That was one cute skink.

We decided to walk to Mark’s closest neighbors place to check out a yurt they were building next to some very nice ponds. I have never heard of a yurt before. I found out that it was a round house with a domed ceiling and a hole in the top for a chimney, or in this case, a skylight.

I was amazed at the amount of space the building had.

This building was to be completely off the grid as well. Three cheers for green living!

Past the house in progress and up the hill was the one thing that all hikers in the south fear! Watch what happens when I lightly tap the sandy area with my snake hook

Stay away from that ant mound. They look small, but they are fast and fierce!

Next, it was time to check out an old barn in the middle of a field that fell down. Boards were everywhere. For the first time for all of us, we found the elusive cornsnake!

Why is this snake considered hard to find. Believe it or not, its people! One of the reasons for the snakes declining population is collection for the pet trade. There are many people who like snakes, but please Leave them in the Wild where they Belong! The main reason these snakes are disappearing is likely just the presence of people. We are building houses where animals used to live, and bulldozing over and killing thousands of animals. Cornsnakes do not occur in the Washington DC area because of this. Check your field guide however, and it will list the snake as occurring in the region. Sad. Hopefully little guys like this wild animal will make a comeback and continue doing its job eating mice!

We had a wonderful day herping. Now it was time to light a fire and cook some fajitas. I think Caroline was so excited about finding the corn snake she fell asleep on the couch first. Gradually we all staggered up the blue spiral staircase into our warm and cozy beds.

What an adventure!

Vader the Gopher Snake

We have recently added a new snake to our show cast! Here is a video of Vader while he was in quarantine soon after arriving at Reptiles Alive. He has calmed down quite a bit since we filmed this video.

Gopher snakes are one of my favorite types of snakes. We had a lot of them in New Mexico where I grew up. We would get calls all of the time at the Rattlesnake Museum ( www.rattlesnakes.com ) about a rattlesnake in someone’s yard. Nine times out of ten it would be a gopher snake. They are non-venomous and great to have around to eat those pesky rodents.

It’s Spring

I finally got a nice day out in the sun. The grass was delicious, although I got it all over my front legs. The clover and chickweed was especially tasty this morning.matt

My next few hours will be spent as follows:

Exactly two and three-quarters laps around the yard.

Have a staring contest with the dog until he gives up. (I think he is more interested in barking than in staring.)

Eat some grass found next to the garden.

Try and climb in to the garden to eat the savory cabbage and garlic.

Sit in the sunniest spot I can find for two hours or for however long I nap for. I really like to nap.

Then I am going to go for a nice soak in the pool.

Life sure is nice for a tortoise.

Uh oh, time to go. One of the woodpeckers is trying to get a grub out of a tree. I am going to ask him for a nice shell tapping. There is one itchy spot I just cannot reach!

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TESTIMONIALS

"It was fantastic and the whole party was into it. Tony was truly a wonderful educational presenter."

Rachel Karnes, Mom, Potomac Falls VA

5.0
2016-11-16T17:25:35+00:00

Rachel Karnes, Mom, Potomac Falls VA

"It was fantastic and the whole party was into it. Tony was truly a wonderful educational presenter."

"Thank you! The information provided to the kids was so educational and fun. I am a homeschool mom and the way the material was presented...

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2016-11-16T17:28:52+00:00

Patty Coote, Mom, Herndon VA

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2017-01-02T09:08:56+00:00

Marcie Blackstone, Mom, Clarksburg MD

"Thank you for an incredible birthday party! All of the children had a wonderful experience. Caroline was so easy to work with and Tony did a great job presenting to the kids!"

"Liz was great. She was prompt, organized, knowledgeable, friendly and fun. Having her do the show in our home was effortless, entertaining, and overall a...

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Tammy Berkon, Mom, Alexandria VA

"Liz was great. She was prompt, organized, knowledgeable, friendly and fun. Having her do the show in our home was effortless, entertaining, and overall a wonderful experience for everyone!"

"I loved it so much. They teach you about the animals and you get to touch them! Rachel did a really wonderful job" 

Birthday girl and Mom, Chantilly VA

5.0
2017-01-02T09:12:19+00:00

Birthday girl and Mom, Chantilly VA

"I loved it so much. They teach you about the animals and you get to touch them! Rachel did a really wonderful job" 

"I am so glad we hired Reptiles Alive for my son's birthday. CobraCaroline and all her reptiles were a huge hit! All the kids loved...

Elizabeth Poppi, Mom, Reston VA

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2017-01-02T09:12:52+00:00

Elizabeth Poppi, Mom, Reston VA

"I am so glad we hired Reptiles Alive for my son's birthday. CobraCaroline and all her reptiles were a huge hit! All the kids loved it! Even those who seemed a little reluctant were reaching out to pe the animals at the end. Caroline's energy and enthusiasm was contagious and we couldn't have asked for more!"

"The program was outstanding. Caroline was so knowledgeable and was able to teach the children at their level. She handled the animals very professionally and...

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Joan L. Mancuso, Director Potomac Nursery School

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