Tips to Protect You and Your Dog in Snake Season

snake-on-a-trailCobraCaroline recently spoke with Laura Cross at Vetstreet.com about how folks can help keep themselves and their dogs safe during a snake encounter.  Read the fantastic article here:

http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/practical-tips-to-help-protect-you-and-your-dog-during-snake-season

Wonderful Wood Frogs

Woodfrog-floating

At the end of winter, just when you are thinking spring will never arrive, an ancient amphibian ritual begins to reassure us that spring is finally here. Wood frogs are an amazing amphibian that are found throughout the Washington DC area, the eastern United States, and most of Canada and Alaska all the way to the Arctic Circle.

To witness this froggie ritual, head outdoors as the days are reaching the 60 degree mark and the nights are rainy. There will be about a 2 week window when millions of adult wood frogs emerge from hibernation to sing and mate. You just need to take a walk into a wooded area where there are puddles of water, also know as vernal pools. These special pools dry up in most summers and fish are not able to live in them, so they are perfect for variety of amphibians to lay their eggs.

Male wood frog songs sound a bit like a quacking duck. As you approach a wood frog filled pool, their songs may stop, but if you sit or stand quietly, they will begin again. And it is amazing. Some pools may have hundreds of frogs right in front of you! During daytime, you will mostly see males. At dusk and nighttime, the more secretive females become active and available for all the males to court.

In just a few days, millions of gelatinous eggs will be laid by the female wood frogs. The eggs will hatch into tadpoles in about 1-4 weeks, depending on the weather and water temperature. The tadpoles will go through metamorphosis lasting about 2 months and then hop out of the pool as teeny frog-lets. The frog-lets disperse into the surrounding woodlands to feed on tiny insects and hide from predators. If they survive, they will return to the same pools as adults to repeat the cycle.

These small to medium sized, leaf colored frogs spend most of the winter buried under ground or at the bottom of vernal pools where they may actually freeze solid. It is this amazing freezing ability that has many scientists so intrigued.

Frogs are vertebrate animals. Just like people, they have muscles, bones, blood, and all the same internal organs (heart, liver, kidneys, etc…) too. This is why so many high school biology students dissect frogs, not to learn frog anatomy, but to learn human anatomy.

Wood frog anatomy is very similar to humans, just like other frogs. However, wood frogs have a very special physiology. Wood frog physiology allows ice crystals to form in their cells without rupturing the cell walls, as would happen in other vertebrate animals.  And even more amazing, when they defrost, their bodies defrost from the inside to the outside!

Scientists are studying wood frogs to learn this secret and possibly figure out how to apply this ability to humans. Imagine if we could freeze humans, keep them in frozen hibernation during long space voyages, and then defrost the space-goers with no ill effects from the freezing. Kind of like Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back!

Wood frogs are toadally wonderful!

 

 

 

 

Inspiring Children to Love Learning – with Reptiles

Do you know a child who loves snakes? How about a child who loves exploring in the park and asks questions about every leaf, rock, and worm?  Or a child who wants to know how an airplane flies or what makes the trash truck so loud?  If so, you know a child who is interested in science.

While hiking in the cold winter woods the other day, I began thinking of all the family members, teachers, and other adults who encouraged my interest in snakes , reptiles, and the natural world when I was a child.

Although no one in my family loved (or even liked) snakes, my parents allowed me to explore the woods and swamps near my house,  bring home and even the keep garter snakes and frogs I found.  My grandparents brought me to reptile lectures at the zoo  and baked cakes in the shape of snakes and lizards for my birthdays.  When I was 9 years old, my grandma even snake-sat for me while I was on vacation – and my pet brown snake gave birth to over 20 live baby snakes while under her care!

Due to the encouragement of my family, I developed a life long love of and respect for nature and science.   My goal in creating Reptiles Alive over 16 years ago was to inspire the same interests for science in other people – especially children.

Watching television shows or looking at a computer screens are two dimensional experiences that have little impact on our senses .  Seeing a snake or lizard in a picture will not inspire the same excitement as seeing a real, living, breathing animal up close.

Imagine the difference between looking at a picture of an apple on a computer screen and holding a real apple in your hand.  Which experience will give you a better appreciation for what an apple really is?

A child who comes home from a Reptiles Alive show wanting to learn more about reptiles,  is a child who has been inspired to learn.  An interest in snakes and animals can lead to interests in other aspects of science.  A love of nature and animals can lead to compassion for all living creatures and our planet itself.

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Snake Heads (and we’re not talking fish!)

You are in the garden.  As you bend down to pick a tomato, you see a:  snake!  Whoa – that snake has a triangular shaped head!  Is the snake venomous?

Many people mistakenly believe that all snakes with triangular shaped heads are venomous.  And not just people: a recent study in Spain has even shown that predators such as hawks and eagles will often avoid snakes with triangular heads!  Valkonen, J., Nokelainen, O., & Mappes, J. (2011). Antipredatory Function of Head Shape for Vipers and Their Mimics PLoS ONE, 6 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022272

The fact is, however, that many harmless snakes mimic the viper-like head shape when they are frightened.   Harmless snakes including garter snakes, rat snakes, and water snakes will flatten their heads and bodies when they feel threatened.  And snakes in the garden feel threatened when they see people.

So is there an easy way to know if a snake is venomous or harmless?  No, not really.  Herpetologists and snake experts learn to identify snakes using a variety of physical characteristics.  There is also individual variation within species: albinism, melanism, and pattern variations that occasionally occur can cause confusion when trying to  identify a snake.

At Reptiles Alive, we suggest that people  just leave all snakes alone.  If you leave snakes alone, snakes will leave you alone.  That way it  does not matter whether the snake is venomous or not  – even venomous snakes will leave you alone if you don’t bother them.

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Comparison of Snake Heads

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Northern Brownsnake

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Harmless Eastern Gartersnake

northernwatersnakehead-300x211

Harmless Common Water Snake

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UPCOMING EVENTS

  1. Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Park

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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