Reptiles Alive LLC 2011 Annual Wildlife Exhibitor Report

Wow – what a ssspectacular year we have had here at Reptiles Alive LLC.  Between September 30, 2010 thru October 1, 2011  we performed 857 educational live animal shows for approximately 55, 500 people of all ages.

As always, we had great fun at all the venues we traveled to including:  schools, libraries, birthday parties, scout meetings, libraries, camps, nature centers, animal shelters, senior centers, and tons of  fairs, festivals, and special events.

We added two new animals to our collection this year.  A Pacific gopher snke we named “Carl Spackler” was donated to us by a former staff member and an anerythristic corn snake we name “Anakin” was an unwanted pet that we were able to provide a home to.  Both animals were quarantined for 3 months while we assessed their health, but now, both snakes are a permanent part of our education collection.

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Carl Spackler the Gopher Snake

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Anakin the Anerythristic Corn Snake

Look for the Gopher snake to star in our “Deserts Alive!” show and for the anerythristic corn snake to help you find out the special secret of the black rat snake in our “Backyards Alive!”show.

Two of our animals passed away this year.  Mr. Pituophis (aka Vader) the Bull snake and our little buddy Schneider the Schneider’s skink.  We loved both of them.  Mr. Pituophis was a big bluffer:  he would huff and puff and hiss, but he was so tame that he was used in making videos with actors who were afraid of snakes!   Schneider was so personable and seemed to always love the attention from our keepers and other people too.  What a great lizard!  We miss them both very much.

Reptiles Alive LLC 2011 Animal Inventory

Common Name Scientific Name Qty
African Spurred Tortoise Geochelone sulcata 1
American Alligator Alligator missipiensis 2
American Toad Bufo americanus americanus 2
Ball Python Python regius 1
Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps 1
Blue Tongue Skink Teliqua scincoides 2
Boa Constrictor Boa constrictor constrictor 2
Bull Frog Rana catesbeiana 2
Burmese Python Python molurus bivittatus 3
California King Snake Lampropeltis getula californiae 2
Central Asian Tortoise Testudo horsefieldi 1
Cope’s Gray Treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis 3
Crested Gecko Rhacodactylus ciliatus 1
Corn Snake Pantherophis guttatus 2
Earthworm Eisenia fetida 25+
Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene carolina carolina 1
Eastern Rat Snake Pantherophis obsoletus 1
Eastern Snapping Turtle Chelydra serpintena serpentina 1
Garden Slug Limax maximus 5
Green Iguana Iguana iguana 2
Haitian Brown Tarantula Phormictophis cancerides 1
Haitian Cockroach Blaberus sp. 25 +
Honduran Milk Snake Lampropeltis triangulum hon 2
House Cricket Acheta domestica 1000
Kenyan Sand Boa Eryx colubrinus loveridgei 1
Leopard Gecko Eublepharis macularius 1
Leopard Tortoise Geochelone pardalis 1
Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches Gromphadorina portentosa 25+
Malagasy Giant Hognose Snake Leioheterodon madagascarensi 1
Mealworm Tenebrio molitar 1000
Mexican Red Leg Tarantula Aphonopelum bicoloratum 1
Nelson’s Milksnake Lampropeltis triangulum nelso 1
Nile Monitor Lizard Varanus niloticus 1
Pacific Gopher Snake Pituophis catenifer catenifer 1
Prehensile-tailed Skink Corucia zebrata 1
Spiny Softshell Turtle Apalone spinifera 1
Spotted Salamander Ambystoma maculatum 1
Spotted Turtle Clemmys guttata 1
Sudan Plated Lizard Gerrhosaurus major 1
Tegu Lizard Tupinambis teguixin 1
Tokay Gecko Gekko gecko 1
Uromastyx Lizard Uromastyx acanthurus 1
Water Monitor Lizard Varanus salvator 1
White Line Gecko Gecko vittatus 1
Amazon River Turtle Podocnemis unifilis 1

The Hognose Heaven Zone

There is a mysterious area very near to that place which is known as Washington DC. It is an area as vast as about  1 or 2 square miles and as timeless as infinity (or at least a few million years.) It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between city an country.  Journey with us now into this wondrous land. It is an area which we call the: “Hognose Heaven Zone.”

Our story begins with a foursome of herpers, Caroline, Charise, John W and Jon K, hiking to an undisclosed location near Washington DC.   Years before this journey began, former Reptiles Alive Wildlife Educator and Keeper Jeff Stryker discovered  a population of hognose snakes and eastern milk snakes (two awesome snake species that are not very common in the suburbs) living in this strange spot and named the place “Hognose Heaven.”

As the group’s journey began, they spotted their first herps of the day. There were many turtles and frogs living in the wetlands along the trail.

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Nesting eastern painted turtle

Soon, the  group of herpers veered off the main trail onto a little-used trail that led to the heart of Hognose Heaven. They began turning over logs and rocks.  A four-toed salamander was discovered!  The salamander’s creamy white and black spotted belly helped with its identification.

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Four-toed Salamander

After arriving at Hognose Heaven, something very unexpected appeared to materialize out of the rocks, sticks, and leaves – something that even four experienced naturalists could hardly see until they were right on top of it!

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Newborn Fawn

The fawn was only a few hours old. Its camouflage was remarkable! The baby deer was nearly invisible – the perfect survival strategy for a small animal that can not yet walk or run. Its mother was nearby and would return as soon as the coast was clear. Even though the group was in a strange place, it is normal to find fawns alone in the woods without their mother. As soon as the people vanish, the mother deer will come back to care for her fawn.
After observing the baby deer, the group continued searching for snakes. Caroline quickly found the hognose snake’s favorite food item: toads.

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Toad

As Caroline approached John W to inform him of her find, she noticed he was holding something in his hands. Something about 3 feet long, with orange spots on a black body and a pointy, upturned nose. “Hognose! Hognose!” she yelled with joy!

John W and Caroline yelled for Jon K and Charise to come and see the spectacular serpent. When they arrived, however, the snake was acting strange.

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Does this Hog-nosed Snake Need Help?

As the group excitedly discussed the behavior of the hognose snake, the snake in question seemed to miraculously get better!

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It’s a Miracle! (or maybe just a Hognose)

After making his miracle recovery from his apparent death, the snake made his move and slithered back to the safety of his rocky home.

Now, the group needed to make a decision. Continue the search? Or have lunch? Caroline suggested having lunch after a short hike over to a nearby bizarro-world she called: CACTUS ISLAND!
Believe it or not, (believe it), the prickly pear cactus is native to the Washington DC area. Much of its habitat has been lost to urban development, but it can still sometimes be found in certain micro-habitats around our nation’s capital. That day, the cactus was in bloom!

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Prickly Pear Growing Near Washington, DC

Does the story end here? Did they find an eastern milk snake? Did they have a good lunch? Only they know the answer to those questions. Questions from the Hognose Heaven Zone.

Reptile Survey at Mason Neck State Park – 5/22/10

We had a ssssspectacular Saturday as part of a Virginia Herpetological Survey (VHS) team for Mason Neck State Park and National Wildlife Refuge.  Tony & Caroline along with about 20 other VHS members participated in the day long search for reptiles and amphibians.  Each animal found was documented along with the location and  micro-habitat it was found in.

We started the day around 8:30 am.  We were divided into 5 teams that were given 5 different sections of the area to survey.  Our team was assigned to the areas of the Wildlife Refuge that are closed to the public.

We drove to the end of the main Refuge access road to an area that used to be a farm.  Five foot tall grass, poison ivy, and millions of deer ticks awaited us.  We were not deterred!  Almost immediately an eastern box turtle was found.

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Eastern Box Turtle

And then in a very short period of time, we found a brown snake, multiple worm snakes, more box turtles, two spotted salamanders, and giant native millipedes (I know – they don’t really count on a herp survey, but they were so cool!)

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Northern Brownsnake

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Spotted Salamander

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Eastern Wormsnake

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Millipede

We also found two black racers – snakes that are known for being fast.  One of the racers was in a somewhat odd micro-habitat.  It was about 5 feet off the ground hanging on a small tree growing on the edge of a cliff.

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Northern Black Racer

We continued herping (searching for reptiles and amphibians) throughout the morning.  It was hard work hiking through the brush, lifting logs and turning over rocks, but we were dedicated to our mission.

 

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Jon the Dedicated Herper

We drove a few miles down to an area of vernal pools, marshes, and wetlands.  We found more herps, including cricket frogs and green frogs.  One of the green frogs was also in a somewhat strange spot (for a green frog), he was about 3 feet up on the side of a tree stump.

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Northern Green Frog

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Northern Green Frog on a Stump

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Northern Cricket Frog

While in the wetlands, we also found some frog predators.  Many painted turtles were spotted basking on logs.  A large snapping turtle was found in a pond under a log – but he foiled our attempts to take his picture.

Many people believe the myth that venomous cottonmouth (water moccasins) live in the Washington DC area.  They do not.  Our area is too far north for them to survive.  We do, however, have harmless northern water snakes which are often confused with both cottonmouths and copperheads.  Like many snakes, northern water snakes will flatten their bodies and heads to appear more “viper like” when they are threatened which can lead to their mis-identification as a venomous species.

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Common Watersnake

In the same wetland location, we also found beautiful ribbon snakes.  Ribbon snakes are similar in appearance to their close relatives the garter snakes, but the ribbons are much more slender.

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Common Ribbon Snake

Whew – after all this success we started to get a bit hungry.  So we decided to head back to the meeting site,  eat lunch, and find out how the other teams were doing.

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Hungry, Hungry Herpers!

After our short lunch break, we headed back out into the field for more searching.  We discovered more worm snakes, more box turtles, lots more green frogs, more spotted salamanders and we had an encounter with a rarely seen in Fairfax County lizard species, the ground skink.

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Little Brown Skink

Deep in the woods, far from any roads or trails, we also discovered a sign of the past.

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Dial S for Snake

We did, however, find a venomous species of arachnid hiding under a log:

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Black Widow Spider

Around 5 pm, we headed back to meet up with the other teams and share our data collection for the day. The VHS president Kory Steele was there adding up all the numbers from each team. Soon, we would learn which team found the most animals.
Guess which team won? Well, as Kory reminded me, this was not a contest. Our mission was to collect data to assist with the conservation of reptiles and amphibians. (Ok, but our team won – we found 57 individual herps representing 17 species – woo hoo woo hoo!)
All of the animals we found that day were left in the spot we found them. Well, except for two animals – alien invaders were found in a turtle sampling trap.

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The mouth of an ALIEN!

The aliens were the Frankenfish – the Northern Snake-head! Apparently, there is now a large breeding population of these introduced exotic fish in the Potomac River and its tributaries in the Mason Neck/Pohick Bay area. This new invader could cause unknown consequences on our native fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects and possibly even birds and mammals. Surveys such as the one the VHS teams completed at Mason Neck are crucial for the protection and conservation of our wildlife.
We had a sssssssuper ssssssssuccessful Ssssssssssaturday. It was snaketacular.


Information on Mason Neck State Park:
 http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/mas.shtml

To see more pictures of our herp search at Mason Neck, visit our Facebook page.

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Hmmm, I wonder if he will become Prince Charming?

Herpetological Spring has SPRUNG!

Last weekend we had some beautiful early April weather here in Northern Virginia.  After our brutal winter – we deserved it!  We headed out to Hemlock Overlook Regional Park to look for some signs of herpetological spring.  And we found it!

Our first find was one of the most common vertebrate creatures in the eastern United States:  the red-backed salamander.

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Red-backed salamanders come in three different colors:  red backed, yellow backed and black or “lead” backed.

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An unstriped or “lead-back” red-backed salamander.

Red-backed salamanders are different from many other amphibians.  They are members of the lungless group of salamanders – so they get all their oxygen absorbed into their blood stream through their slimy skin.  They also lay their eggs on land and the the larvae go through metamorphosis in the egg.  So, red-backed salamanders never have to leave the land to lay eggs in the water the way most amphibians do.

Toads, on the other hand, must return to the water each year to mate and lay eggs.  At Hemlock, the woods were alive with the pleasant music of male toads singing to attract females.

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American Toad

The male will “hug” the female (the science word for this toad hug is amplexus), and the female will lay hundreds of eggs encased in gelatinous goo into the water.

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In a few weeks, the temporary pools in our area will be filled with millions of black tadpoles that will quickly grow tiny legs and metamorphose into tiny toadlets.  To attract insect and slug eating toads into your garden, consider adding a toad home

We did not find any snakes on our trip at Hemlock, but the next day, one of Caroline’s neighbors called her to come and get a visitor out of her bathroom.

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Baby Black Rat Snake removed from a bathroom!

Yep, I would definitely say that herpetological spring has sprung!

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UPCOMING EVENTS

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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...

Patty Coote, Mom, Herndon VA

5.0
2016-11-16T17:28:52+00:00

Patty Coote, Mom, Herndon VA

"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 felt like we were at a fun event! The parents even remarked that they learned something. My son has a lifetime memory because of your program."

"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...

Marcie Blackstone, Mom, Clarksburg MD

5.0
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...

Tammy Berkon, Mom, Alexandria VA

5.0
2017-01-02T09:11:36+00:00

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

5.0
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...

Joan L. Mancuso, Director Potomac Nursery School

5.0
2017-01-02T09:13:30+00:00

Joan L. Mancuso, Director Potomac Nursery School

"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 the hands on experience for the children was well received. I would highly recommend this program--both for our age group (3-4 yr olds) and for elementary school children."
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