Fall Changes at Reptiles Alive

Fall is always an exciting time at Reptiles Alive.

We all feel a sense of relief and accomplishment that we have made it through another super busy summer.  We presented approximately 500 shows in June, July & August at libraries, festivals, and tons of summer camps.  Whew!  It is always nice to get the break in September to re-group and get ready for the school year.

The emails and phone calls from PTA representatives and teachers begin flooding into our office as the new school year gets started.  Assemblies, classroom visits, and family fun nights are all being scheduled now, so our office staff works hard to keep up with all the bookings.  If you are interested in booking a program for your school give us a call at 703 560-0257 or send us an email at reptilesalive@gmail.com.  You can find out all about our programs for schools on our Schools Page.

Although we may not be quite as busy doing weekday shows in September as in other months, our weekends are always booked solid for us with all the fall festivals and birthday party shows and we do a lot of scout programs in the evening. You can check out which festivals we will be at on our Public Events Calendar.

More fall changes at Reptiles Alive include a new school assembly show called “Wetlands Alive!”, a new Honduran milk snake that has not yet been named, and a new assistant Animal Keeper we just hired – Amaya Perez.  Look for more information about the new show, animal, and keeper in future blog posts.

Happy Fall Everybody!!

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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?

Name that Boa Contest

We have some new scaley faces here at Reptiles Alive this summer.  The new arrivals will be in quarantine for a few months while we double check that they are healthy and ready to go to shows with us.

Our first new arrival is a baby albino boa constrictor we received from a reptile facility in Tennessee.  She is healthy, gorgeous and we named her Sunflower.  Sunflower is only about 15 inches long right now and weighs less than a pound.  She will grow to over 6 feet long and could weigh over 50 pounds.  She is an up and coming star.  You may begin to see her next fall.

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Sunflower the albino boa constrictor

Our next arrival is a 14 pound, 6 feet long albino burmese python – the same kind of snake as Sunshine.  We have decided to name this new python “Moonlight.”  Moonlight was rescued from a pet store that was not taking care of its animals.  The python is relatively healthy, despite the neglect, but it does have snake mites.  Snake mites are not contagious to humans, but they can spread to many different species of reptiles.  As soon as I received Moonlight, I soaked him for about 2 hours and picked off all the mites I found.  After his bath, Moonlight then recieved an massage in canola oil.  He is doing great and his skin will be oh so soft.

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Moonlight, the albino Burmese python

The third new arrival is a “normal” colored boa constrictor that was an unwanted pet.  This snake is very pretty and he seems healthy as well.  But, he needs a name.

We know for sure he is a he (he was breeding with a cage mate before we received him.)  Boa constrictors come from Mexico, Central and South America.  So, we are looking for show name that would be good for him.  If you can think of a good show name for our new boa – please let us know.  If we like your  idea, we will use the name you chose.

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Name this boa constrictor

Wandering about in the Winter Woods

The staff and friends at Reptiles Alive have a great time hiking in the winter.  While many of the warm weather loving reptiles are hidden away, other wonders of the natural world reveal themselves. Last week, while my brother Will Seitz was visiting from his home in Volcano, HI, we went for a hike down Difficult Run to the Potomac River in Great Falls, VA.

You might not think about it, but poison ivy is still around in winter. Poison ivy is deciduous, so it loses all its leaves in winter – but BEWARE – the bare stems and vines still contain the poisonous oil that can cause itchy rashes in many people. This fuzzy looking vine might look fun to touch, but trust me, don’t do it!

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Lichen is a combination of plants and fungi living together. You can find lichens growing on rocks and branches throughout the forest. The gray tree frog is a native frog that has camouflage to look like a lichen. The tree frogs are hibernating now, but lichens are out for you to enjoy.

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There are many native plants that produce berries, but there are also certain landscape plants that have escaped and begun to grow in the wild. Some of these exotic plants can out-compete native plants, which can create problems for native wild animals.

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We had a GREAT time at GREAT Falls! The winter is an awesome time to get outside and take a hike in the woods.

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