Creature Feature: Pumpkin the Pueblan Milk Snake

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Pueblan Milk Snake

Lampropeltis triangulum campbelli

Reptiles Alive Name: Pumpkin

Hisssstory: Pumpkin was an unwanted pet that was donated to us.

RA Diet: Pumpkin eats 1 frozen mouse that is thawed and warmed once per week.

Natural Diet: In the wild, milk snakes will eat rodents, lizards, eggs, and even other snakes – including rattlesnakes!

Range: Pueblan milk snakes are native to southern Mexico, including parts of Puebla, Morelos, and Oaxaca.

Habitat: The natural habitat of the Pueblan milk snake is varied – they can be found in tropical woodlands, rocky areas, farmlands and in urban environments as well.

Size: Pueblan milk snakes reach a length of 2-4 feet.

Lifespan: Pueblan milk snakes live an average of 20 years.

Reproduction: Female Pueblan milk snakes lay 2-14 eggs annually. Like most snakes, after laying her eggs, the female leaves and does not guard the eggs or care for the babies.  When the babies hatch, they instinctively know how to survive.

Conservation Issues: Many people falsely believe that all brightly colored snakes are venomous, however brightly colored milk snakes are non-venomous and completely harmless to humans.  This confusion sometimes leads to the unnecessary killing of milk snakes. It is important for people to leave all snakes alone – whether they are venomous or not.

Cool Facts: The old poem “red touches yellow kills a fellow, red  on black is ok Jack” is a FALSE and misleading way to identify venomous vs non-venomous snakes.  There are around 3000 different species of snakes that come in all colors and patterns.  There is no quick and easy way to identify which snakes are venomous or not.  It takes years of experience working with and learning about snakes to reliably identify them. So, unless you are snake nerd, when you encounter a snake, remember this poem written by CobraCaroline:

Red touch yellow, stay away fellow
Red touch black, just stay back
No matter what color you see, just let snakes be


Spring Changes at Reptiles Alive!

We are having a spring full of changes here at Reptiles Alive LLC.  We are welcoming some great new animals into our animal star collection and a great new animal keeper to help care for our critters – new and old.

Coming out of quarantine this month are two new snakes:  Sunglow the albino boa constrictor and Pumpkin the Pueblan milk snake.  At Reptiles Alive LLC we quarantine our new animals for at least 3 months before taking them to public events.  During this time, the new animals are given thorough health checks and evaluated for temperament.  We want to be sure the animals we bring to our education programs are healthy and relaxed before we take them out into public.  Look for Sunglow and Pumpkin to begin starring in shows this month.

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Pumpkin the Pueblan Milk Snake

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Sunglow the albino Boa Constrictor


We also received two new animals that will be starting their quarantine period.  A young tegu lizard and an American toad have just joined our collection.  We have named the new toad “Toad Truck” and are thinking of naming the tegu “Alex” since we adopted him from the Alexandria Animal Welfare League (AWLA).

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Toad Truck the American Toad

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Keeper LizardLiz with Alex the Tegu

Joanne Fujito, a full-time animal nurse at Southpaws Emergency Veterinary Clinic, has joined our animal keeper staff as a back up keeper. Jo brings with her a tremendous amount of experience caring for and handing all kinds of animals and we are very excited to have her assisting in the care of the Reptiles Alive animals.

On sad note, we said a final goodbye to a long time animal team member.  Our water monitor lizard Splash was euthanized at the beginning of the month because of severe arthritis.  He was at least 15 years old- possibly older. We received him from the AWLA back in 2006 when he was found stuck in a drain pipe in Old Town Alexandria, VA.  He was very curious, intelligent, and had a great personality.  All of the RA staff that met him have a special place in their heart for this awesome lizard. Splash – you will be missed.

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Goodbye old buddy



POSITION FILLED – Job Opening at Reptiles Alive LLC

Job Opening at Reptiles Alive LLC


Wildlife Educator / Reptile Show Presenter

We are looking for a reliable, responsible, and energetic person who loves reptiles, kids, and public speaking.


5-10 (more or less) hours per week (primarily weekends and evenings, with weekday work available in June/July/August)

Pay: $75 – $125 per program performed

Location: Our facility is located in Annandale, VA. Educator will perform programs throughout the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. area.

Duties: The educator will present educational live animal shows for a variety of audiences including: childrens’ birthday parties, preschool & school programs, camps, special events, and more. The educator will safely handle a variety of live amphibians, invertebrates and reptiles (including non-venomous snakes.)


-Must be extremely responsible, reliable, safety conscious and able to work unsupervised

-Comfortable speaking confidently and enthusiastically while entertaining large audiences of all ages, especially young children

-Comfortable handling live snakes, large lizards, and other exotic animals in a safe and professional manner

-Pass a national background check

-High school diploma

-Valid driver’s license with clean driving record

-Ability to lift 50 pounds

-A reliable car, van, or covered truck that will be used to drive with live animals to show locations

Preferred applicants will have experience:

-Developing and presenting animal/environmental education programs

-Working with reptiles and amphibians 

-Driving in the Washington DC Metro area

-College courses in biology, natural history, public speaking or communication

Please send cover letter, resume, and three references to:

Caroline Seitz


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Fun With Kids & Nature: Vernal Pools!

Fun With Kids & Nature: Vernal Pools!

Are the kids antsy for winter to be over? Are you looking for a fun idea for the family to get outside and welcome the change to spring?

Head out one evening to a vernal pool near you and introduce your children to an epic annual event. The massing of millions of amphibians to mate and lay eggs only occurs once a year. In the Washington DC area, this would be during mid to late February through March on a warm evening (55 F or above) during or after rain.

Vernal pools are special habitats that fill with rainwater in the fall, winter, and spring and typically dry up in the summer.  Because these pools are not permanent, fish are not able to survive. Without fish to eat their eggs or larvae, amphibians such as spring peeper, wood frogs, and spotted salamanders are able to utilize vernal pools to lay their eggs.

A vernal pool is probably closer to your home than you think.

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Wetlands area behind ballfields – perfect for Spring Peepers or Chorus Frogs


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Spring Peeper


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Vernal Pool in ditch filled with Wood Frog eggs


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Wood Frog Eggs


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Wood Frog


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Vernal Pool with emerging Skunk Cabbage behind an office building next to the Beltway in Fairfax VA

A great way to find a vernal pool is to listen for the loud, piercing “PEEP!” of Spring Peepers peeping, usually in the evening, but occasionally during the day as well. Follow the frog chorus and it will lead you to an area where there is probably a vernal pool or at least a wetland of some sort.


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Spring Peeper Peeping

If it is close to dark, give everyone a flashlight or headlamp and head out. Once you arrive at the vernal pool, let your family know to keep their eyes and ears open.  You may see see the tiny Spring Peeper frogs, but you are more likely to hear them. Larger and easier to see are Wood Frogs which make a call similar to the quacking of ducks. Spotted Salamanders are silent, however they are spectacular!  They grow up to 8 inches in length, are shiny black and usually have rows of bright yellow spots on their back.

Kids may want to catch or handle the frogs and their eggs. Teach how to be respectful of animals while encouraging excitement about the natural world. Be sure hands are wet and chemical-free when handling amphibians or eggs. Be gentle and return any captured animals or eggs to the spot they were found. To stop the spread of disease among amphibian populations, when you get home be sure to wash hands with soap and water after touching any animals and disinfect shoes and any nets, buckets, or other materials that came into contact with animals, eggs, or the habitat with a 10% bleach/water solution.

The awesomeness of an up-close experience in the wild with amazing animals that only appear once per year is an activity your family will never forget.