Sacramento Reptile Rescue Drop-Off Site

Do you have a reptile or amphibian you can’t care for any longer? Maybe you’re moving and can’t take your snake with you? Well you’re in luck, because we’re an established Sacramento reptile rescue drop-off site.

You don’t need to give us reasons why you’re getting rid of your reptile, we simply accept reptiles that need a new home, or perhaps a little rehabilitation. We don’t pay for them, but we’ll care for and re-home them for free.

Sacramento reptile rescue
We’re a reptile rescue in Northern California, and accept all varieties and sizes of non-venomous reptiles.

Our Sacramento reptile rescue can accept snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, scorpions, and tarantulas for re-homing.

You can simply bring your reptile to our facility and drop it off. We’ll give it expert care and will find a new home for it using our extensive network of experienced hobbyists.

There’s no size limit.

There’s no quantity limit.

Imperfections are ok.

Aggressive animals are just fine.

Only non-venomous reptiles please.

Available reptile/amphibian rescue drop-off times:

You can drop-off your reptile(s) or amphibian(s) each Thursday between 1pm and 4pm (PST) at our address:

4970 Rocklin Road
Suite 300
Rocklin, CA 95677

The drop-off is quick, easy, and there are no documents to sign. You can just drop-it off and leave.

Please help protect our hobby–don’t ever release reptiles into the wild. We have plenty of people waiting for a new pet.

Most Common Reptile and Amphibian Care Mistakes

Because we pride ourselves on our knowledge and ability to care for the animals we sell, we answer a lot of questions at Backwater Reptiles ranging from how to care for species X to what to feed animal Y.

One thing we’ve discovered throughout the years is that many people receive false information on their new pet and therefore come to us for help. Often times, this erroneous information is easily corrected and the problem is solved simply.

This leads us to the subject matter of this particular blog article. In the paragraphs to come, we’ll discuss many of the common mistakes people make when caring for reptiles and amphibians as well as how to avoid making them yourself.

Feeding Incorrectly

Probably the most common mistake made by many new or inexperienced reptile and amphibian owners centers on feeding the animal in question.

Clearly not all reptiles and amphibians eat the same thing, so the first thing to take into consideration if you have a picky eater is if you are feeding it the right type of food.

Although it’s true that the majority of pet lizards are carnivores, not all lizards eat insects. Some are actually herbivores and will get sick if you feed them too much protein.

Examples of common herbivores that are frequently mis-fed protein-based diets include: iguanas, Uromastyx lizards, blue tongue skinks, and tortoises. While it is true that many of these species will consume meat if given the opportunity, that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. In fact, herbivorous species can go into liver failure and will also have diarrhea to the point of dehydration if you feed them high protein diets.

juvenile green iguana
Green iguanas are herbivores and should not be fed a protein-based diet. Make sure you are feeding your reptile or amphibian the proper diet by doing your research before adopting.

So, do your research and be sure your reptile is a carnivore before giving it a cricket-based diet.

Another food-related issue we hear about from customers is offering food of the wrong size. While snakes can stretch their jaws and consume prey that is larger than their own head, the same is definitely not true for lizards, tortoises, frogs, toads, and turtles.

Would you give a toddler an entire piece of steak to eat? No, you would most certainly cut it up into manageable pieces that the child can easily chew, swallow and digest. The same should be true of your pet reptiles and amphibians. Baby chameleons should not be given full-sized crickets to consume and large monitor lizards shouldn’t be given tiny fruit flies. It’s basic common sense.

Well, if your pet is mid-sized, you still might be wondering what size food to give it, right? There’s actually a very simply rule to follow when feeding your reptile or amphibian. The size of the insect being offered should be no larger than the width between the eyes of the animal being fed.

So what about if you feed your pet pre-made reptile chow? For instance, commercially made crested gecko, tortoise and turtle pellets, and even vitamin powders for all sorts of reptiles are commonly sold at pet stores. So, are these good for your pet?

The short answer is that, yes, commercially prepared reptile food is perfectly acceptable. However, sometimes pet reptiles, particularly those that were wild-caught and not captive bred, will not eat pet store food. We want our readers and customers to be aware that just because these types of foods exist, they are most certainly not the only option.

Even if your pet does readily consume prepackaged food, we do still recommend alternating and supplementing with freshly prepared food. Variety is key to keeping your reptile happily fed and healthy and anytime your pet refuses food, we always recommend offering a new type of food before taking drastic measures.

Hydrating Improperly

Now that we’ve discussed common feeding mistakes, let’s touch on common hydrating mistakes.

You might not think over-watering your reptile or amphibian would be a problem, but it actually can be!

Did you know that too much moisture in your pet’s cage creates the perfect environment for mold, mildew, and other bacteria to grow? Not only are these pathogens not good for the health of your pet, they’re not good for your health either.

So, if you notice that some mold is growing within the enclosure, clean it right away! More than likely, you’ll also then need to replace your substrate. Odds are it was too wet. An ideal substrate moisture level for most species of amphibians is wet but not dripping. You’ll want to be able to pick up the substrate and feel moisture in your hands but there should never be dripping water.

Too little moisture is also bad for herps of all species. Even desert-dwelling species require some sort of humidity level, albeit it’s usually less than that of a tropical species.

Because different species have different moisture requirements, the best way to know if your pet is getting enough humidity and moisture in its environment is to do your research.

One very specific instance that inexperienced herp owners can encounter is how to hydrate a pet chameleon. Because chameleons are so temperamental, maintaining the proper moisture level is tantamount to keeping them healthy.

male jacksons chameleon
Many people make the mistake of giving their chameleon a water dish to drink from. Unfortunately, this can result in dehydration as chameleons won’t drink from a dish.

You will need to mist the chameleon’s enclosure regularly to provide the lizard with water to drink and to cultivate proper humidity levels.

Giving a chameleon a water bowl is pointless as it won’t recognize it as a source of water. Instead, there has to be enough moisture present in the cage to collect on the leaves so that the chameleon can lap it up.

Providing an Improper Enclosure

Housing and where we live is important to us as humans, right? Well, the same is true of our pet reptiles and amphibians.

First of all, size of the enclosure is a very important factor to consider when keeping a pet reptile or amphibian. Although you’re usually safe if your cage is too big, the opposite rule does not hold true. A vivarium that is too small can be detrimental to the well-being of your pet.

A common mistake many people make is purchasing a juvenile or hatchling monitor, green iguana, or tegu. While these lizards do make excellent pets, they grow extremely fast and when they reach full-capacity, they essentially need an entire room or a custom built enclosure to stay happy and healthy.

young savannah monitor
Many animals like this juvenile Savannah monitor start out small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, but will grow at a rapid rate. This means that they will require a large, custom-built enclosure when fully mature.

Please do your research and be prepared to house and care for your pet reptile for the duration of its life regardless of its size. Know how big your pet will grow and make sure you can accommodate it once it reaches maturity.

It might seem almost humorous if it weren’t true, but we also get a fair amount of emails from customers stating that their pet has escaped. More often than not, it’s a pet snake or lizard as these tend to be escape artists.

So, how would a good reptile parent prevent escape from occurring? You’ll just need to make sure your cage has a tight-fitting and secure lid. Any type of cage that latches should also always be latched and “locked” because reptiles are stronger and more resourceful than they appear.

Here’s another very specific housing mistake that reptile novices can make – many newbies to the reptile husbandry world aren’t aware that chameleons require a special type of mesh cage. They need plenty of air circulation and a glass cage will promote stagnant air rather than fresh air. In the long run, this can lead to respiratory issues. So be sure that if you have a pet chameleon, its cage is constructed of mesh and not glass.

Improper Handling

It might seem silly to have to say this, but not all reptiles and amphibians enjoy being picked up and handled by people. There are a multitude of species commonly kept as pets that we’d consider “look not touch” animals.

There are many species that just do better in captivity when left to their own devices. Being poked and held by human beings just stresses them out and can actually be harmful to the animal’s health.

Some good examples of reptiles and amphibians that we recommend handling minimally include: anole lizards, all species of newts, aquatic frogs, basilisk lizards, and small, skittish species of lizards.

If you do happen to have a reptile that interacts well with people such as a bearded dragon, leopard gecko, boa, python, or tortoise, there is in fact a wrong way to handle these creatures.

The number one rule to follow that many people fail to adhere to is to support the animal fully, no matter the species. For instance, although their body shape might suggest otherwise, snakes don’t like to dangle. When you hold your pet snake, its entire body should be coiled around your wrist, hand, or arm so that it feels secure.

zebra tailed lizard
If you are going to hold a species such as this zebra-tailed lizard that is not well-known for being an interactive and responsive pet, we highly recommend holding it against a flat surface as pictured. This way the lizard doesn’t dangle in any way and can feel fully supported and safe and will be less likely to behave skittishly.

You’ll also want to support lizards, tortoises, and turtles too. If your turtle or tortoise is too large to sit comfortably within your palm, it’s probably best to leave it be as you don’t want the animal to feel like it’s treading air due to having no foothold.

Sometimes reptiles can be nippy or seemingly aggressive when first being removed from their cage. Keep in mind that this behavior is a natural defense mechanism for these animals and if you are determined to hold your pet, exercise patience when working with them.

Through experience we’ve found that moving slowly and making deliberate attempts not to startle your reptile as you enter its cage is the best way to pick up an animal that spooks easily. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that grabbing it quickly will eliminate nipping, clawing, or struggling.

Keeping Multiple Animals Together

Because it can be tough to determine the gender of young reptiles and amphibians if they are not a sexually dimorphic species, it’s always a gamble to keep multiple animals together in the same enclosure.

Do you intend to breed your animals? If so, don’t make the mistake of assuming you automatically have a male and female. Take your pet to the vet to have its gender checked if you are unsure. Many species of reptiles and amphibians are territorial and accidentally placing two males together could actually incite aggression between the two animals to the point that they harm one another.

We’ve also heard customers tell us tales of surprise babies or eggs! They just thought their lizard, snake, or amphibian was chubby, but then they discover that the reason their pet was a little portly was due to being pregnant,  or as we refer to it in reptile terms, gravid. Generally, this is a pleasant surprise and then we get amusement and gratification out of informing them that sometimes the animals are shipped out gravid or that they must have been keeping a male and female together in the same cage unintentionally.

It’s also important to know if the species you are keeping is gregarious or not. Some reptiles and amphibians are more social than others and will thrive in environments where there are multiple animals around, but others will become territorial, stressed out, and even cannibalistic.

We recommend that if you plan to keep several animals of the same species in a single enclosure that it is not only big enough to accommodate them, but that the animals themselves are OK with it.

Conclusion

The goal with many of the blog articles we write is to educate the public and potential reptile and amphibian owners before they make mistakes that harm or injure any animals.

We sincerely hope that this article has taught you a thing or two to avoid and watch out for if you do plan on adopting a reptile or amphibian in the near future.

And as always, we highly recommend doing the research on the species you plan to adopt before you purchase.

How To Gift Wrap a Reptile

If you’re wondering how to safely and humanely gift wrap a reptile, you’ve come to the right place!

We’d like to preface this tutorial article by saying that although we think reptiles and other exotic animals can make excellent gifts, we’d very much like to make it clear that you want to be one hundred percent sure that the recipient of any live animal as a gift is fully prepared to handle the responsibility of caring for a living creature.

We love all the animals we sell at Backwater Reptiles and while any one of the Backwater team would definitely love and appreciate receiving an invertebrate, reptile, or amphibian as a gift, we also know how these exotic animals need to be cared for properly.

Although many of the animals sold by Backwater Reptiles are relatively low maintenance in comparison to a pet dog or cat, they are still life long commitments and we want to include a disclaimer in this article making it known that we wish all gift givers to do their research before giving a friend, family member, or significant other a pet as a gift.

Many of the animals we sell can actually have very long life spans and taking on a new pet is not something that should be taken lightly. Again, do your research on the animal and please be sure that the recipient is fully qualified and capable of caring for it.

That being said, this article will focus on the methods we recommend for safely gift wrapping a reptile, invertebrate or amphibian.

gift wrapping a reptile
Unfortunately, it’s not always as simple as placing a reptile with a bow under the Christmas tree! Read this article to find out how to safely wrap a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate for any occasion.

How To Gift Wrap a Reptile

What supplies will I need to wrap a reptile, invertebrate, or amphibian?

Fortunately, wrapping up a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate is not all that complicated. It’s actually very similar to wrapping any other gift, with a few exceptions. What this means is that you probably won’t need many special supplies.  Most of the items needed you should already have around the house.

Supplies needed to gift wrap a reptile, amphibian or invertebrate:

-Scissors. This is a pretty self-explanatory tool. You’ll need to cut your wrapping paper and/or tissue paper. Regardless of whether you wrap your pet in a box or a gift bag, we pretty much guarantee you’ll need scissors at some point.

-Pen, screwdriver, or other strong, slender and pointy utensil. You’ll only need this tool if you are choosing to wrap your animal using the box method.

There are many objects you could use that you’re likely to already have handy around the house – a sturdy pen, a screw driver, or even a letter opener – but the reason you need this kind of tool is to poke air holes in the bottom or sides of the gift box. We prefer a screwdriver or pen as both are sturdy enough to poke through card board and they produce nice, solid, round holes that are appropriately sized.

-Gift bag and tissue paper OR gift box and sheer, breathable wrapping fabric or paper. Again, this is another supply that is pretty straight forward. Your wrapper of choice will largely depend on whether you wrap using a gift bag or a box.

If you use a gift bag, you will essentially only need to place the animal inside the bag with its heat pack and artfully place tissue paper to stick out of the bag to hide what’s inside.

If you prefer to wrap using a box, obviously you’ll need an appropriately sized box. We recommend using a different box than the one your critter is shipped in as the shipping box will be labelled “LIVE HARMLESS REPTILE” and sheer, breathable wrapping fabric will not hide this text.

You will likely need to purchase a special type of wrapping paper or fabric in order to successfully wrap a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate. This is because you need to use a material that allows air to pass freely through the wrapping material. Traditional wrapping paper will block the air holes you poke in the box.

If you’re unsure what types of materials are appropriately breathable, we recommend a mesh or tulle style fabric. In fact, it might be easier to go to a fabric store and purchase the material rather than a box retail store with regular, solid wrapping paper.

-Bows, ribbons, or other decorative accessories. Once more, this item on the list of supplies needed comes down to personal preference. If you wish to add a bow to your box, you certainly can. Ribbons are also nice touches. Be as creative as you’d like!

-Packing tape or clear scotch tape. Just like wrapping any other type of gift, you’ll need clear tape to hold your box shut. You’ll also need it when adhering your wrapping material to your box. Pretty cut and dry.

When should I gift wrap my reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate?

Most people’s first question or concern when gift packaging a living creature is is it safe? In short, YES, it is indeed safe for exotic animals to be gift wrapped, so long as you don’t leave them unattended in a box for an extended period of time.

how reptiles are shipped
Once you’ve opened up your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate, we recommend giving it some time to “air out” and “breathe” before you wrap it.

The appropriate time to wrap your pet for the recipient is the night before. For instance, if you are gifting a snake as a Christmas present, we recommend wrapping it and placing it under the tree on Christmas eve. Just make sure that no sneaky gift sleuths shake the box or bag trying to figure out what’s inside!

As long as you follow the instructions below to safely and humanely prep a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate for gifting, you can leave the animal wrapped for an overnight time frame safely.

How to gift wrap a reptile or invertebrate

The nice thing about packaging a reptile or amphibian up into a neatly decorated little package is that they don’t require as much moisture as amphibians do. This ultimately means less hassle and far less to take into consideration when prepping your pet for the recipient.

Step One – take the reptile or amphibian out of its shipping packaging.

Your critter will arrive in a plastic cup with a lid on it with air holes. It should also contain a heat pack and the proper amount of moisture or substrate within the cup for the animal to live comfortably for a day or two.

We highly recommend taking the animal out of its shipping box and letting it “breathe” or air out in a temperature controlled environment for a few hours before wrapping it.

shipping a live animal
Your reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate will arrive in a box that looks much like this one. The first step in gift wrapping it is to open up the box!

If you are so inclined, the animal would probably appreciate a little bit of time outside of the plastic cup as well. However, if you’re not comfortable handling the animal, it will be just fine in the cup for another day.

Step Two – poke air holes in your gift box. You can skip this step altogether if you are wrapping the animal using a gift bag.

poking air holes
Use a pen, screw driver, or similar implement to poke air holes in the bottom and sides of the gift box.

Remember that pen, screw driver, or other sturdy tool from the supplies list? You’ll need it to poke a fair amount of air holes in your gift box. We definitely recommend poking holes in the bottom of the box, however, if you are not concerned with the aesthetic appearance of the box, you can also poke extra holes on the sides.

gift box with air holes
Your gift box should have at least this many air holes poked into the bottom.

Step Three – wrap, wrap, wrap! Now that you’ve poked air holes, it’s time to proceed as usual. Secure your critter inside the box so that the plastic cup it arrived in doesn’t shift around, make sure the heat pack your animal was shipped with is secured inside the box, wrap your critter’s box with your sheer, breathable fabric, top with a bow, and you’re all set!

Once you’ve finished the wrapping process, we’d like to mention that unless you’ve poked holes in the sides of your box, you should prop it up at a slight angle so that the air holes aren’t directly against a flat surface. This is usually easiest when you are placing the animal under a Christmas tree. Other gifts around the oddly angled box will usually make it appear less strange.

prop up wrapped gift
Although this box has not been properly wrapped, you can see that it is propped up at an angle. The angle allows the air holes in the bottom to be exposed. You can use virtually anything to prop your wrapped reptile at an angle.

You can use virtually anything to prop up the gift. We think other, smaller presents work great! But tissue paper, a door stop, or any other wedge-shaped object will be fine.

How to gift wrap an amphibian

You can wrap an amphibian using the same methods described above, but there is one additional aspect to take into account. Reptiles and invertebrates don’t require as much moisture as amphibians do. Amphibians need to have moisture present in their environment in order to survive, so you’ll want to be sure that there is plenty of moisture present in your amphibian’s temporary plastic carrying cup home before wrapping.

When we ship an amphibian, we will include some type of moist substrate in the shipping cup, usually wet paper towels. Paper towels tend to hold the proper amount of water and are easy to wring out if you accidentally over saturate them.

sheer wrapping paper
This is the type of wrapping paper needed to wrap a living animal. It is sheer, porous, and breathable and allows air to enter and exit the breathing holes poked in your pet’s gift box.

The paper towels in your amphibian’s overnight plastic cup home should be wet but not dripping. You want them to be wet to the touch but if you were to pick up the paper towel from the cup, you don’t want it to be dripping any water. If you include the proper amount of moisture, you shouldn’t have any leakage onto the pretty packaging of the wrapping material.

What species are best or easiest to gift wrap?

Overall, we think it’s easier and safer to wrap a reptile or invertebrate over an amphibian. Amphibians tend to be more delicate – they’re more sensitive to moisture changes, temperature changes, and other external stimuli.

Our top pick for the easiest reptile to gift wrap is the bearded dragon. Not only do they make fantastic pets who enjoy being handled, but they are extremely hardy and won’t mind being in a box overnight.

Most species of snakes that are commonly gifted such as corn snakes, milk snakes, boas, and pythons are also pretty tough little critters. Most snakes are content to sit calmly coiled up in their plastic shipping cup for another night and will experience no additional stress.

Scorpions and spiders are also great animals to gift wrap. Unless you specifically order a mature spider, most will arrive as tiny spiderlings and will fit nicely in cute little boxes or bags with no issues.

What if I’m not comfortable gifting a live animal?

If this article still hasn’t convinced you that gift wrapping a reptile, amphibian, or invertebrate is really not too tough of a task, then there is another option available to you if you really want to give someone a pet as a present.

Backwater Reptiles currently offers gift cards in $25 increments!

Let your gift recipient choose the exact animal they want and avoid having to wrap a critter all at the same time!

Conclusion

Again, we want to stress that gifting a living animal is not to be taken lightly. We want all the animals we ship out to go to loving homes with owners who are fully devoted to caring for the critter for the duration of its life.

gift bag wrapping method
Gift bag wrapping is also an option when gifting a live animal. The tissue paper and open nature of the bag allows the animal to get plenty of fresh air circulating. Just be sure to include the heat pack your animal was shipped with.

Research is essential! Make sure that you are not giving someone something that they are not prepared to handle. Investigate the life span of the animal, what it eats, how large of an enclosure it will require, and any other special care requirements.

Happy reptile wrapping!

Top Ten Most Famous Fictional Reptiles and Amphibians

Reptiles and amphibians have become a part of pop culture appearing in everything from music videos to television commercials. The funny thing is that until you really sit down and think about it, you probably wouldn’t even notice.

Because we’re obsessed with all things herpetology-insired at Backwater Reptiles, we’re devoting this blog article to the topic of the top ten most famous fictional reptiles and amphibians in pop culture.

So, in no particular order, here are our picks for the top ten most famous fictional herps in recent memory.

Top Ten Most Famous Fictional Reptiles and Amphibians

Kermit the Frog

Young children to grown adults are probably familiar with the very famous muppet frog named Kermit created by the late Jim Henson.

First appearing in the year 1955, Kermit rose to fame as the leader of the Muppets and became famous for his love affair with an equally famous muppet by the name of Miss Piggy.

Top Ten Most famous reptiles and amphibians
Kermit the Frog is a lovable, green, muppet frog. He is often the sensible leader of the muppets and is in love with Miss Piggy. Definitely one of the most famous fictional amphibians.

Kermit has appeared in many TV shows including The Muppet Show, Muppet Babies, and Sesame Street. He also stars in The Muppet Movie and each subsequent movie incarnation featuring muppets.

Kermit is perhaps most famous and well-known (at least by the older generation) for his chart-topping singles “The Rainbow Connection” and “Bein’ Green.”

Originally performed by the legendary Jim Henson himself, Kermit is now performed by Steve Whitmire since Henson’s passing in 1990.

In addition to appearances on all of his own shows and films, Kermit has been a guest star and made cameos in countless other productions. He has been interviewed on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and also played on Hollywood Squares.

And if fifty plus years of pop culture involvement doesn’t make Kermit famous enough for you, he’s even met Michelle Obama in 2014! Not too many frogs can say they’ve had the opportunity to shake the hand of the First Lady!

Kermit the frog also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and had his own set of collector postage stamps issued on his 50th birthday in 2005.

The Geico Gecko

Although we might not know his name, it’s fair to say that anyone who has a TV or watched an online video has likely seen the Geico Gecko in a commercial. You know him – he’s that little green day gecko who tries to persuade you to purchase car insurance in a very sensible manner.

geico gecko
The Geico Gecko is at heart a salesman, so don’t be surprised when his tagline of “Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent on car insurance” gets stuck in your head.

Making his first appearance in 1999, the Geico Gecko has evolved and changed into an anthropomorphic, computer animated cartoon with a cute British accent.

Although Geico has featured other personalities and characters in its ad campaigns, we think it’s safe to say that the Geico Gecko is not only the cutest and most memorable, but the one with the most staying power as well.

Rango

Rango is the lead character from the animated feature film of the same name. Rango is voiced by Johnny Depp and his tale is that of a misplaced pet chameleon who ends up in the wild west trying to help the locals recover their water supply. Along the way, he encounters many other animated animals including a female desert iguana named Beans and a gunslinging rattlesnake named Rattlesnake Jake.

rango
Johnny Depp voices the chameleon Rango. The film is a western in which the title character, Rango, gets stranded in the desert and comes into contact with some interesting animals.

While Rango might not be as popular a character as other animated animals such as Mickey Mouse or Dory from Finding Nemo, Rango certainly holds his own in the world of animated, anthropomorphic animals.

Rango is such a quirky character with a unique story that the film even won best animated feature in 2011. And we’re all for any movie starring a chameleon – animated or not!

Godzilla

Okay, we’ll admit Godzilla might better be classified as a monster instead of a reptile, but we think he bears enough resemblance to our herp friends that he qualifies for this list.

Godzilla originated in a Japanese film of the same name in the year 1954 and has since become a cultural icon. He has made appearances in many movies (American and Japanese), comics, and even TV shows.

2014 godzilla
This is the modern iteration of Godzilla from the American 2014 film. We think he’s much more menacing here than when he’s portrayed by an actor in a costume.

When Godzilla was first conceived, he was mainly meant to serve as a metaphor and commentary on the threat of nuclear weapons. However, with time, the reptilian monster took on many more nuanced aspects including playing an antihero, a purely destructive villain, and even a defender of humanity.

Godzilla has evolved over time from being played by a man in a suit to his latest American incarnation where he is an elaborate computer simulated masterpiece. No matter how technologically advanced Godzilla might become, he’s still one very famous reptile and we are excited to see the next movie he stars in.

Tick Tock, the Crocodile 

There are many iterations of the classic story of Peter Pan in the film and TV world. And many of the stories have some version of a crocodile that ate Captain Hook’s hand leaving him with his famous hook.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to discuss the 1953 Disney animated version of Peter Pan and the crocodile Tick Tock.

tick tock the croc
Here we see Tick Tock the Croc eagerly awaiting a chance to take another bite out of Captain Hook.

At some point, Tick Tock the croc managed to eat an alarm clock. This has left him with a permanent “tick” and a delightfully catchy tune that accompanies him whenever he appears on screen.

Tick Tock might not get much screen time in the movie, but when he does appear, he definitely steals the scene!

Wally Gator

Wally Gator is an old school Hanna-Barbera cartoon that first appeared on TV in the 1960s. Wally lives in the city zoo and is watched over by the zookeeper Mr. Twiddle who has to make sure Wally doesn’t get into too much trouble when he leaves the zoo.

wally gator
Wally Gator is a famous Hanna-Barbera cartoon that aired in the 1960s.

Nowadays, Wally isn’t really seen too much on TV, mainly due to issues with remastering the series. Fans of this anthropomorphic Cajun alligator still hope that a complete DVD set of the series featuring all fifty two episodes will be released at a future date.

Mr. Toad

The character of Mr. Toad actually originates in literature. He is one of the main characters in the book The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and he is also the title character in the A.A. Milne play Toad of Toad Hall which is based upon the book.

Although he is a famous literary character, Mr. Toad has also made his way into many hearts by being animated into a Disney film entitled The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. The film depicts Mr. Toad as an egocentric chaser of fads who is accused of car theft and ultimately winds up being acquitted. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, there is an entire ride in Fantasyland based around the crazy antics that Mr. Toad gets himself into.

mr. toad
This is Disney’s version of Mr. Toad. As his eyes clearly indicate, Mr. Toad is about to get himself into some trouble.

Ultimately, Mr. Toad is portrayed as a lovable but selfish rogue. He gets himself into trouble, but not too much trouble. The people who live with him put up with him and have come to accept his behavior as normal although he is constantly obsessed with something or other.

Kaa the Snake

Kaa is another famous fictional reptile born out of literature. He makes his debut in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, a tale many of us have come to know through countless adaptations on the big screen.

Probably the most famous incarnation of Kipling’s Kaa is in the 1967 Disney animated feature film The Jungle Book. Not only is this movie filled with memorable songs, but Kaa is portrayed as less of a menacing character and more of a bumbling failure. Each time he tries to eat Mowgli, he is unsuccessful and flounders comically when his attempts are thwarted by Bagheera the panther.

kaa
In Disney’s version, Kaa the snake is not as menacing as he is in Kipling’s depiction.

The Disney animated version of Kaa even gets his very own song in the movie titled, “Trust in Me.”

Kaa’s lisping voice coupled with his hypnotic powers make him quite a memorable reptile, even if he is only a cartoon.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The popular eighties cartoon featuring the four teenage mutant ninja turtles – Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael – has since been adapted to big budget feature films directed by established action-flick director Michael Bay.

The older generation will fondly remember the popular Ninja Turtles animated cartoon TV series that aired in the 1980s until 1996 and lasted a full ten seasons! This was a fairly light-hearted cartoon where the turtles ate pizza and fought crime. The cartoon was accompanied by a series of toys that became extremely popular. While the cartoon was on the air, the Ninja Turtles could be seen on everything from lunch boxes to T-shirts.

Aside from being television stars, the four Ninja Turtles have also starred in several movies. In the early nineties, they starred in three live-action films with partially animatronic likenesses portraying the iconic turtles. Jim Henson’s Creature Shop developed animatronic heads that were placed atop real actors and the result, while considered somewhat “cheesy” by today’s special effects standards, was quite cutting edge at the time.

teenage mutant ninja turtles
The Ninja Turtles got a reboot in 2014. This is how they appear in Michael Bay’s movie.

Since the three films in the nineties, director Michael Bay has resurrected the legacy of the Ninja Turtles within the last few years, giving Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael new life thanks to the magic of computer special effects and digital animation. The Ninja Turtles have become super heroes and action heroes in their own right.

Not only do the Ninja Turtles have quite a presence in TV and movies, they even starred in a series of video games. The Ninja Turtles were first seen in game form on the NES system and have since been found in arcade systems as well as more modern consoles like the Playstation and XBOX systems.

Yoshi

We’re pretty sure Yoshi isn’t a typical reptile. In fact, to be fair, he’s essentially a dinosaur, but we’re still including him on this list because he very closely resembles some of our lizard friends and we think he deserves recognition.

Yoshi is a creation of Nintendo. He’s a cute little green dinosaur who originally started out as Mario and Luigi’s side kick. He has since grown into a character with his own game series and personality to match.

yoshi
One of Yoshi’s talents within the video game world is grabbing enemies with his long tongue.

Yoshi is known in the gaming world for his ability to eat virtually any enemy and produce a spotted egg which can then be used as a weapon. Like a chameleon, he has a sticky tongue that extends very far out of his mouth and allows him to grab food and enemies from very far away. He is also capable of behaving like a horse and Mario and Luigi can ride on his back if both characters are appearing in the same game.

Aside from appearing in the various Super Mario Brothers games, Yoshi has starred in his own Nintendo games such as “Yoshi’s Story” and “Yoshi’s Island.” He is also always a playable character in the Super Smash Brothers games as well as the Mario Kart series, both of which are games that feature a collection of Nintendo characters pitted against one another.

Conclusion

Even though all of the fictional reptiles on this list might not technically be considered true reptiles and/or amphibians, we think it’s great that herps have gotten recognition throughout the years and carved out such notable niches for themselves in pop culture.

So, whether your favorite herp appears on TV, in movies, in a video game, or even in a classic work of literature, be sure to note what a feat it is that they became so recognizable in the first place. The more reptiles and amphibians we see on a daily basis, whether fictional or real, the happier we are!

So, what did you think of our list of the top ten most famous reptiles and amphibians in pop culture? Was your favorite included? Any noteworthy or honorable mentions you think we should have included? Let us know in the comments section!

How Do Snakes Eat?

Even if you’ve never owned a pet snake or seen one up close in real life, we bet you’re aware that snakes can swallow food that is much larger than their head in a single bite. How cool is that? But, how do snakes eat other animals?

As humans, we not only cut up our food into manageable portions, we also chew it until it is the proper consistency to be swallowed. It’s hard to imagine trying to swallow an entire cow or even an entire carrot whole, but that’s what snakes do.

How do snakes eat?

So, how are snakes able to eat this way without choking? What unique adaptations do they possess that allow them to eat so efficiently? Well, if you’re curious about this topic at all, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll cover topics from how a snake’s jaw is built to other special traits they have in order to be such powerhouse eating machines.

how do snakes eat
Snakes are able to eat food that is literally larger than their own head. They have special jaws that give them an enhanced range of movement. This photo shows a Hog Island Boa (Boa c. imperator) consuming a mouse. This particular snake is a picky eater and therefore had to be fed a live mouse rather than one that had been frozen.

What do wild snakes eat?

As is the case with many wild animals, snakes are opportunistic eaters and usually will eat a variety of food based on what types of prey can be found in their vicinity. Keep in mind that all snakes are carnivores though, so there are no species that eat plants or vegetable matter.

Most mid-size snakes will eat small vertebrates, usually mammals. Ground-dwelling rodents such as mice, shrews, voles, rats, and even moles are all excellent meals for snakes in the wild. However, mid-size snakes are also not afraid to indulge in appropriately-sized vertebrates such as frogs, toads, small birds, and even other snakes!

Larger snakes can obviously eat larger food. North American species that don’t grow to extremely large sizes will eat chickens, lizards, rabbits, and other large rodents.

Some of the larger snake species (i.e. boas, pythons, and anacondas) can eat large game animals such as deer, boar, and even goats. However, this is usually reserved for jungle-dwelling species that eat wild game animals.

green anaconda
Snake species such as this green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) will grow so large that in time they will eat small game animals!

We’ve covered what large snakes eat in the wild. But, what do tiny snakes such as ringneck snakes and blind snakes eat in the wild? What prey items are small enough for these nearly earthworm-sized reptiles to consume?

Well, many will eat small invertebrates in place of vertebrates. Small insects like cockroaches, crickets, and even worms are all on the menu for these itty bitty snake species.

Notice anything in particular about this list of prey items? All of them are listed as “prey” and not “food.” This is because snakes actually won’t eat dead matter. They will only eat living food, or in the case of snakes we keep as pets, food that they perceive to be living prey.

How does a snake’s jaw work?

The jaw of a snake is very different from the jaw on mammals and other reptiles such as lizards and tortoises. Most mammals and reptiles that are not snakes have a skull and a lower jaw bone called a mandible.

These two main bones are generally fused together and unable to perform too broad of a range of movement other than opening and closing and perhaps a little shifting from side to side.

Snakes have jaws that are much more flexible and capable of a broad range of movement. This is because instead of two pieces that are fused together, the jaws of a snake are comprised of three pieces that are held together by much more flexible tendons, muscles, and ligaments.

Snakes have a top skull bone and two bottom jaw pieces that are actually not fused together at the chin. Instead, these two bottom jaw pieces are held together by muscle allowing each side of the jaw to move independently of each other.

Getting into the nitty gritty anatomy of a snake’s jaw, the upper bone and lower bones are connected via the quadrate bone. This special bone behaves like a hinge and allows for the snake’s jaw to open 150 degrees!

This means that any snake can open its mouth to swallow food that for all intents and purposes appears too large for it to eat.

snake jaw
This diagram shows the inner workings of a snake’s jaw. Notice the quadrate bone and how it behaves like a hinge allowing the snake to open its jaws to such a wide angle.

One myth that we’d like to clear up regarding a snake’s jaw bones is that a snake’s jaw can actually come unhinged or detached. This is not true. Snakes don’t detach their jaw bones on command.

As we’ve already discussed, they simply have special adaptations that make their jaws extremely flexible and this makes it appear that the jaw detaches.

If you’ve ever witnessed a snake eating, you’ll know that although you’d think it would be a very slow and tedious process, most snakes eat very quickly and will consume their prey in under five minutes.

This is because once the jaws have opened over the prey, the snake’s curved teeth grab the prey and make sure it doesn’t slip forward and out of the snake’s wide open mouth.

The snake then secretes a lot of saliva and lubricates the food while “walking” its jaws forward over the prey one side at a time. The digestive muscles then take over the remainder of the process and push the food further down the digestive tract and proper digestion begins.

How do snakes catch their prey?

If snakes have no arms, legs, or even claws of any sort to catch prey, how then do they capture food to eat? What special abilities do they have to make up for their lack of arms and legs?

As we’re sure you’re aware, some species of snakes are venomous. They have long, hollow, front fangs that grab prey and inject them with venom that allows the snake to eat the prey item at its leisure.

Examples of venomous snakes that most Americans are familiar with are vipers, coral snakes, and rattle snakes.

Did you know that each species of snake actually possesses its own special venom type? The effects of the venom can vary by species, but there are three main types – neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, and hemotoxins.

Neurotoxins affect the nervous system and generally cause respiratory function to cease. Cardiotoxins affect the prey’s heart, causing the muscles to deteriorate and eventually make the heart stop beating.

Hemotoxins cause blood vessels to rupture which results in widespread internal bleeding.

Boa dumerili
This Dumerils Boa (Boa dumerili) is a typical constrictor. It will suffocate its prey before eating it and does not possess fangs like venomous snakes.

When a venomous snake is not biting something, its hollow fangs fold back into the snake’s mouth. This is because if the fangs didn’t lie flat, the snake would either be incapable of closing its mouth or its teeth would puncture through the bottom of its own face.

Most other non-venomous snakes are constrictors, meaning that once they lunge and grab their prey, they begin to squeeze the animal until it has suffocated to death allowing the snake to eat freely. Each time the prey inhales, the snake’s coils tighten and the prey is unable to take another breath.

So, whether the snake injects venom or squeezes its food to death, it’s clear that lacking limbs poses no problems for these reptiles when it comes to grabbing a meal.

How should I feed my snake in captivity?

Snakes are usually not hard to feed in captivity. Most smaller species will happily eat mice their entire life, while the larger constrictor species will eventually move onto rats.

If you’re squeamish about feeding a living rodent to your pet snake, luckily most snakes will eat pre-killed frozen rodents. All you need to do is keep the frozen rodent in your freezer until it’s meal time for your snake and then you de-thaw it.

We usually allow our frozen mice to thaw in warm water, but you can also just allow them to sit out until they’ve completely thawed. Just be sure to NEVER put a frozen rodent in the microwave!

You will have disastrous and rather messy results and end up with a snake that goes hungry.

Sometimes, snakes can be picky eaters. This is usually only true of the ones that are wild-caught. Captive bred snakes will generally accept frozen/thawed rodents with no issue.

If you do end up with a picky eater, you can certainly feed it living rodents. Pet stores sell feeder mice specifically for this very reason. There will be a few extra steps to the feeding process though.

First of all, we don’t recommend throwing a live mouse in with your snake in its normal enclosure. No matter if you’re feeding a live rodent or a frozen one to your snake, we highly recommend transferring your snake to a new enclosure for the feeding process.

This helps your snake to associate being moved to a specific area with feeding time and helps develop a schedule. It also trains your snake to recognize that not every time the cage opens means feeding time and will help minimize accidental striking and biting.

So, the first step when feeding a live rodent is to transfer your snake to a separate feeding container. Once you’ve done this, we recommend stunning your live rodent. This process is certainly not for the faint hearted.

There are many ways to stun a rodent, but many snake owners will strike the mouse against a hard surface to knock it unconscious. The rodent should be stunned because like any animal, it will fight for its life and this means that if your snake doesn’t consume the rodent immediately, the rodent could actually gnaw on your snake and inflict wounds that will get infected.

If you are simply unable to stun your snake’s dinner, then always stick around for the entire feeding process and make sure that the mouse or rat is not injuring the snake in any way.

If your snake turns out to not have an appetite, which can happen often if the snake is preparing to shed, then always remove the rodent from the enclosure and return your snake to its normal enclosure. Never leave the rodent around assuming the snake will eventually eat it.

There are also specific species of snakes such as egg eating snakes, water snakes, and tiny snakes like ringneck snakes that don’t eat mice. Obviously, egg eating snakes eat eggs.

They’re specialized eaters and won’t eat rodents no matter how hungry they are. Water snakes might eat rodents, but usually they eat small reptiles and amphibians in the wild, so we recommend offering feeder frogs and even feeder fish.

green water snake
Specialized snake species such as this green water snake probably won’t eat rodents like a “traditional” pet snake. We recommend doing your research before you purchase any species of snake to be sure that you can properly address its food requirements.

If you ever happen to end up with a snake that proves to be a troublesome eater, we actually wrote an entire blog article dedicated to offering tips and tricks to get them to eat. You can find that particular article here.

Conclusion – How do snakes eat?

Snakes are fascinating reptiles and watching your pet snake eat is usually quite a spectacle. Most snake owners genuinely enjoy observing the feeding process and it’s a huge reason many reptile hobbyists choose to care for snakes.

We hope that this “How do snakes eat?” article has taught you some things about how snakes have evolved to be able to eat food that is much larger than their own head. We think it’s a really cool adaptation and we never grow tired of feeding the snakes we keep at Backwater Reptiles.

 

 

Why Pet Reptiles Aren’t Considered Domestic Animals

Are reptiles domestic animals?

Anyone who reads the Backwater Reptiles blog is more than likely a reptile owner or at least curious about getting a pet reptile. But did you know that even though there are tons of species of reptiles sold to hobbyists that these animals are not domesticated?

Many are not even technically tame. They are still exotic pets even if certain species are commonly sold at large, chain pet stores.

Time and time again we get emails from Backwater Reptiles customers or even just reptile owners who ask us how to make their snake, lizard, or turtle calmer or more accepting of human interaction.

But in truth, pet reptiles have not been around long enough to be tame and domesticated in the same manner that cats, dogs, and even rodents are.

In this blog article, we’ll touch upon topics ranging from why some reptiles just don’t like being held to how to work on taming your own pet.

domesticated blue tongue skink? Perhaps not.
Blue tongue skinks, like the one pictured, are generally fairly docile. But just like human beings, reptiles have various temperaments and moods. As you can see, this skink certainly was not in the mood to be removed from its enclosure.

What constitutes a domestic animal?

Through monitored reproduction and selection for specific traits, humans have created animals that are so different from their wild ancestors that they are not usually suited to live without the assistance and help of humans. Domestic animals usually have specific purposes such as being cultivated for food, raised for companionship, or even to work alongside of people as helping hands.

We’re all familiar with dogs and cats. Clearly, these animals are intended to be companion animals or pets to people. Everything from their size to their personalities indicates that they are meant to live side by side with humans, usually in such a personal manner that they even share our beds.

Dogs and cats are just one example of a species that has been bred through generations in order to coexist with people symbiotically. Both humans and the domestic animal benefit from this relationship. In the case of dogs and cats, the benefit to people is usually just camaraderie and company, however sometimes specific dog species are bred to work on farms, to serve as service animals, or even to protect people. While the benefit we get from pets is pretty  clear cut, the animal also benefits by being given food, a home, and protection from the elements.

french bulldog
Believe it or not, this French bulldog puppy’s ancestor was the wolf. Through human selection, this breed has become domesticated and drastically altered from its ancestral form in order to suit the needs of humans. Reptiles have not undergone this process yet and are thus not considered domestic animals.

So, because reptiles haven’t been kept by people long enough to be bred for generations to retain specific traits that make them anything other than more colorful than usual, we can’t truly classify them as domestic.

However, that doesn’t mean that individual pet reptiles don’t get along well with their human owners. Many become tame and can behave like a dog or cat. If you continue reading, you can find out the difference between what makes an animal tame and what makes it domestic.

“Tame” versus “domestic”

We’ve already covered the definition of a domestic animal and explained why reptiles simply don’t fall into this category at this point in time. But you might be wondering about the tegus, iguanas, and bearded dragons who come running up to greet their family members just like your average dog. Why aren’t these pet reptiles considered domesticated?

The answer is simple really. Although individual pet reptiles can certainly grow fond of and acclimated to people, they have not been bred in captivity for many generations and altered from their wild state in order to suit the needs of people. A lizard, snake, turtle, or tortoise that enjoys human companionship has become tame and docile rather than domesticated.

A good way to look at the difference between tame and domestic is to again draw from a source that we are familiar with – the pet dog. The wild ancestor of the dog is the wolf. Dogs are descendants of wolves that have been selectively bred through many generations by people to express very specific traits that we desire. With the exception of a few species, dogs no longer resemble the wolf in either disposition or appearance. On the other hand, if you capture a wild chameleon, iguana, or alligator lizard, it will look much the same as a captive bred specimen. There will be little to no physical difference other than specific examples where certain species have been bred a few generations to exhibit definitive color morphs.

Captive breeding of reptiles

We’ve already mentioned that certain species of reptiles are captive bred in order to display different morphs. A few common examples are corn snakes, leopard geckos, and bearded dragons. All of these reptiles are available through breeders in a multitude of unique and special morphs that change their color but no other physical attributes.

This is different from the selective breeding of a domesticated animal because usually these morphs only have to go through two or three generations in order to achieve the genetic makeup that causes their coloration to be different from their “normal” brethren. Furthermore, other traits such as docility, work ethic, companionability, etcetera are generally unchanged. We selectively breed these reptiles just to aesthetically please us.

Which species of reptile are the closest to tame and domesticated?

We would like to point out that there are many species of reptiles that tend to be more docile. This can be because the species is more laid back in general or it can be because the parents were captive bred.

If you wish to have a pet reptile that you can hold, pick up, and train to eat from your hand, we do have a few recommendations.

Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius) – Leopard geckos are very commonly sold at pet stores as well as specialty breeders. They are available in a seemingly endless number of morphs including a “jumbo” size. They are very docile as a species and are overall pretty healthy because nearly all of them are captive bred.

Corn Snake (Elaphe g. guttata– Like leopard geckos, corn snakes are commonly available at large pet stores. You can get many morphs that result in colors ranging from lavender to bright red.

albino cornsnake
Corn snakes, like this little albino beauty, are usually captive bred. This means they are accustomed to humans and are actually healthier overall. As you can see, holding a baby corn snake can be quite fun!

Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps) – Beardies love being held! They love to sit on your shoulder, lap, or near your warm laptop computer. They are very hardy lizards and feeding time is always fun.

Argentine Black and White Tegu (Tupinambis merianae) – Although they can be a tiny bit skittish as hatchlings, tegus will generally warm up to their owner and become very tame. When mature, they reach large sizes and can be trained to behave much like a pet dog.

Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus– Keep in mind that although Savannahs are very cute when young, they eat voraciously and grow to large sizes very quickly. Be prepared to provide a very large enclosure and lots of attention as these lizards truly enjoy going for walks outside with their owner and being given plenty of attention in the form of baths, petting, and other interactions.

My reptile doesn’t like being held. How can I train or teach it to be more docile?

First off, we’d like to say that not all reptiles can be tamed. This is particularly true of the species that already have ornery dispositions and double true of species that have been captured from the wild and not bred in captivity. Again, reptiles are not tame or domestic animals so there is never a guarantee that your pet will like being held or handled.

Patience is key when it comes to teaching your reptile good manners. You will need to devote time to taking him or her out of the enclosure and socializing with people. Be warned – you’ll likely experience some aggression if you’re working with an animal with a poor disposition and snakes tend to be particularly prone to nipping their owners when first being removed from the cage. Our best advice is to wear gloves if your reptile has sharp teeth or you are afraid of being injured.

pictus gecko
One way to help tame your reptile is to adopt it as a baby. Start handling him or her from a young age and it will be easier to get it accustomed to you.

Don’t be deterred if it takes time for your reptile to become accustomed to you. In addition to patience, you’ll need to be calm, collected and ready to confront your pet’s mood swings with compassion and understanding.

A very useful trick to use when acclimating your reptile to people is to associate the cage opening with feeding time. Most reptiles love to eat and if you teach your pet that treats come when the cage opens, they will receive positive reinforcement and become used to being picked up. Just be sure that you avoid getting your fingers in the pathway of your reptile’s mouth!

If you want more specific tips and tricks on picking up your pet lizard or picking up your pet snake, we wrote blog articles about both topics.

Which species should I avoid if I want a pet reptile that behaves like a cat or dog?

Snakes can be somewhat jumpy or nervous when you remove them from their cage. Sometimes it’s because they’re being woken up from sleeping and sometimes it’s just because you accidentally took them by surprise. However, there are certain species that are actually known for their aggressive nature such as anacondas and a few species of pythons.

Many small lizard species also don’t like interacting with people on a regular basis. Smaller lizards tend to be flightier because they have more natural predators in the wild. They will view you as a predator and most likely try to hide or become aggressive. Many of them are too small to inflict pain or draw blood if they attempt to bite, but it’s best to avoid causing any unnecessary stress to your pet if it’s not necessary.

Here’s a short list of lizards that make rewarding “look not touch” pets:

Anoles – These little lizards are known for being great beginner lizards. They are inexpensive, pretty, and overall healthy little critters. However, they usually don’t like being held and would much rather hide from you than play with you.

Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko– While very colorful and striking at maturity, Tokays are actually known for being particularly grumpy. They can pack a pretty mean bite when they feel threatened and they don’t particularly enjoy the company of people either as babies or adults.

Ameivas – Although ameivas are bright and colorful lizards, they are extremely fast and pretty agile. Most of the time, they will bolt and try to hide if you attempt to pick one up. They thrive in captivity but we do recommend that you give them space and don’t try to interact with them on a frequent basis.

Conclusion

Ultimately, reptiles of all species are NOT domestic animals. Many are not even tame. When you adopt a pet reptile, you should understand that these creatures still have their wild survival instincts in tact. They will do anything to survive ranging from dropping their tail, biting, snapping, and hissing at you, and even defecating and/or urinating on you!

baby bearded dragon
Bearded dragons are one species that nearly always has a friendly disposition towards people. We recommend them if you want a mid-size lizard that enjoys being held.

Not all reptiles have bad manners though and many can be worked with to develop good habits. If you are willing to put forth the effort to tame your reptile, you’ll find that they can make quite entertaining and rewarding pets.

How to Set Up a Chameleon Cage Habitat

We love chameleons at Backwater Reptiles. In fact, we specialize in these quirky, colorful, and always fascinating lizards. If you’re wondering how to setup a chameleon cage habitat or enclosure, you’ve come to the right place.

We’ve bred and hatched thousands of chameleons over the years, everything from common species to extremely rare. We’re experts on everything from breeding, feeding, and even hydrating these reptiles and we’re going to pass our knowledge on to you!

Many people are drawn to the bright complexions of chameleons and their ability to alter their color, but they don’t always take the time to research and find out the specific needs of their new pet lizard.

What might seem like common sense to experienced herpers is often like learning a foreign language to new reptile enthusiasts. They often need help getting started. That’s where this blog article comes in!

Not only will we provide written instructions on how to set up your pet chameleon’s enclosure, we’ll explain to you why things need to be done this way. And we’ve even thrown in a video tutorial for good measure!

So read on to find out how we set up our chameleon cages at Backwater Reptiles as well as learn some tips and tricks even if you are an experienced chameleon owner.

Overview of setting up your chameleon’s cage

Before you get into the nitty gritty specifics as detailed in writing below, we wanted to give you the chance to watch a video we made detailing how to set up the perfect enclosure for your pet chameleon. Watch the tutorial video and then read our FAQs for even more details!

What type of cage should I get for my chameleon?

Unlike many species of reptiles which will thrive in glass tanks, all chameleons (with the exception of the pygmy chameleon) should have a mesh or screen cage.

Although there are cages that have mixed glass and mesh walls, we recommend an enclosure that is completely screens with no glass walls to ensure your pet chameleon’s optimum health.

Are you wondering why your chameleon should have a mesh cage? The answer is simple really – ventilation. A glass cage prevents air from circulating properly and creates a stagnant environment within the chameleon’s home.

If the air doesn’t circulate properly, your chameleon can develop a respiratory infection due to stagnant, humid air. Once an infection takes hold, they’re not easy to eliminate.

If you’re wondering where to find a specialty chameleon cage, you can purchase them right on our website–the same ones we use so successfully. Each chameleon page has a supplies section if you scroll-down just a bit.

Many types and brands of chameleon cages exist, but we usually go for ones that give easy access to the animal with secure latches and swinging doors on the front. Some will also have sliding screen tops, although we prefer the front access kind.

simple chameleon cage setup
This is a classic chameleon cage. Notice how it has an aluminum (no corrosion) frame and all screen walls. Chameleon cages shouldn’t have glass walls to encourage air circulation.

Usually we also prefer mesh cages that have two separate swinging front doors – a larger top door for gaining access to your chameleon itself and a smaller, lower door. The lower door is opened to slide out your cage liner so you can wipe up dead insects and any feces that might collect.

Backwater Reptiles has a simple selection of cages and cage requirements that you can purchase at the same time you buy your pet chameleon. As mentioned, just scroll down a bit on any of our chameleon pages.

What size enclosure should my chameleon have?

Most chameleons are relatively small lizards with the exception of a few species such as Oustalets chameleons (Furcifer oustaleti), Parson’s chameleons (Calumma parsonii), and Mellers chameleons (Chamaeleo melleri). This means that you can house most species in small to medium-sized cages.

Babies and juveniles obviously don’t need as much space as their adult counterparts. In fact, we recommend smaller cages for babies because it can be hard for them to find their food source (i.e. catch the tiny crickets and fruit flies that they eat) in such a large cage.

However, there are certain instances where you can get one size cage and keep it for the entirety of your chameleon’s life.

Most common species of adult chameleons that are kept as pets such as Jackson’s chameleons (Chamaeleo jacksonii), Panther chameleons (Furcifer pardalis), and Veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) do just fine with a mid-size cage.

We recommend an enclosure that is eighteen inches deep by eighteen inches wide and thirty-six inches tall for sub-adults and adults. However, smaller cages can be used successfully.

Panther chameleon cage
Here’s one of our more prolific Ambilobe Panther chameleon breeders (a male). Females are much less colorful–you can see one on the left side of the picture.

Notice that the cage we recommended is more tall than it is wide? That’s because chameleons are arboreal species and they will spend most (if not all) of their time up in the branches and foliage you provide for them. You’ll very rarely, if ever, see your chameleon on the floor of the cage.

This means that height is far more important than floor space when keeping a chameleon’s life style in mind. More height means that the chameleon has more room to thermoregulate.

It can choose to be up high close to the heat source and UV lights to bask or it can descend further down into the enclosure to cool off.

What kind of accessories are safe to put inside my chameleon’s enclosure?

When it comes to decor and accessorizing your chameleon’s cage, we’re of the mindset that natural is beautiful. In other words, although it might not harm your chameleon to add cute little cage decorations, there certainly is no benefit to doing so.

We prefer our set ups to mimic the conditions of the chameleon’s natural habitat as closely as possible, which means plants and vines are our go-to accessories.

We recommend either artificial or living plants as your main cage decor. This is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Chameleons needs lots of foliage to climb on as they are arboreal lizards and having plants inside the cage will satisfy this need.

Many cage set ups actually come with some artificial vines and foliage and these are perfectly acceptable options.

If you do choose to go with living plants, please make sure that you are not buying a toxic plant. Below is a list of a few species that we have used successfully in our set ups at Backwater Reptiles:

Hibiscus – This tropical plant has fairly large, green leaves and very gorgeous flowers when it blooms.

hibiscus
This is a mature hibiscus plant growing in the wild, but you can purchase much smaller, potted hibiscus plants from your local hardware store.

Ficus benjamina –  This species of fig is commonly known as the weeping fig, Benjamin fig, or even simpler yet, the Ficus tree. Although this “plant” will eventually grow into a tree, if you purchase a young one at a hardware store, it will last you many years inside your chameleon’s enclosure.

Pothos Plant – Considered by many to be a classic house plant, the pothos plant is very easy to care for. It will grow quickly and “outward” unless you give it something to grab on to though, so we recommend a sturdy stick or branch to make it grow upwards within your chameleon’s cage.

Schefflera arboricola – We highly recommend this species if you want living plants in your chameleon cage. This species does very well under stress and doesn’t require much care to thrive.

The verdict – although we think living plants are more aesthetically pleasing, they can also add another layer of care to your chameleon set up. Not only will you have to care for a chameleon, but you’ll also have a plant to water and provide sunshine for.

Plastic foliage requires no additional care and is also easier to spot clean for feces and dead bugs.

What type of lighting and temperatures will my chameleon need?

Make sure that you provide a UVB light for your chameleon. It should sit atop the cage. You will also need to make sure that the foliage and climbing areas within the enclosure allow the chameleon to be within six inches of the UV light.

This distance is important because you don’t want to allow the chameleon to get too close to the light because it could unintentionally burn itself. But on the opposite side of the spectrum, if your chameleon can’t get close enough to the light, it won’t be able to properly absorb the rays and synthesize the vitamins that help it to develop strong bones.

At Backwater Reptiles, we prefer to use Zoo Med Reptisun 5.0 bulbs. We’ve had great success with these bulbs and we highly recommend them whenever people ask us. You can purchase the ones we use right on our website.

One quick note regarding all UV lights, whether they are used for a chameleon cage set up or for some other reptile – they need to be replaced every nine to twelve months. They lose their efficacy if you don’t replace them. We recommend changing sooner rather than later if you ever have doubts.

As far as temperature is concerned, we’ve found that room temperature tends to be just fine for most species of chameleons unless your ambient room temperature drops below seventy or above eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit.

You can provide a basking heat lamp in addition to a UV light. The ambient temperature around the basking area should be between one hundred and one hundred ten degrees Fahrenheit. You should invest in a reptile heat gun in order to monitor both your ambient cage temperature as well as your basking spot temperature.

Does my chameleon need a water dish?

The shortest answer to this question is no, your chameleon does not need a water dish.

Chameleons actually don’t drink water from a bowl. In fact, they will die of dehydration before drinking water from a dish. They simply won’t recognize it as a source of hydration.

How then do you get a chameleon to drink water and stay healthy and hydrated? The answer is simpler than you might think. All you need to do is regularly mist inside the cage or provide some sort of drip system on top of the cage.

Because we have many cages and many chameleons to care for, at Backwater Reptiles we have automatic misters called monsoons on top of all our chameleon enclosures. However, these are rather pricey misting systems and we only really recommend them if you have multiple animals and a very busy schedule.

If you just have a single chameleon or even a breeding pair living in a single enclosure, there are many ways to make sure your chameleon gets water. The first way is to simply manually use a spray bottle and mist the cage several times per day.

You’ll want to make sure that in addition to creating humidity, you are spritzing in areas to collect water droplets on the leaves.

chameleon drinking water
This Parson’s chameleon is lapping up water that has collected on the foliage in its enclosure.

You can also buy an inexpensive drip system from just about any pet store. These drip systems are usually tubs with a spout that allows you to control the intensity of the drip.

And if you’re real thrifty, you can even hydrate your chameleon using a small, plastic, disposable cup! All you have to do is poke a small hole in the bottom of the cup, fill it with water and set it in a place atop the mesh cage where it will drip onto leaves and create small pools of water for your chameleon to lap up.

So, we’ve learned that you can choose to hydrate your pet chameleon using several methods – manually misting, setting up an automatic mist system, or creating some sort of dripping apparatus.

However, one thing is definitely clear – a water dish is not necessary and your chameleon will not drink from it.

Conclusion – Setting up a chameleon cage

Chameleons make fantastic and rewarding pets. They are so fun to show off to friends and family and many can even be trained to eat from your hand!

Setting up a proper environment where they can thrive is paramount. We hope that this blog article has helped you out with your own chameleon’s set up, whether you’re brand new to keeping chameleons or an experienced herp enthusiast.

 

Endangered Reptiles Hobbyists Wish They Could Have as Pets

Many species of reptiles kept as pets are commonly bred in captivity. Many are easy to care for because they are hardy animals both in captivity and in their natural habitats. There is no shortage of these critters either in captivity or in the wild.

However, just like there are endangered mammals and birds, there are also endangered reptiles. Although we’d never keep a critically endangered species as a pet or encourage trade in these animals, we can always fantasize about how cool it would be to keep some as pets in a perfect world.

In this blog article, we’ll name some of the critically endangered reptiles that we think would make amazing pets for one reason or another. Since we’ve never kept or seen these reptiles in real life (except for maybe at a zoo if we’re lucky!), this article won’t focus on care tips or handling techniques.

Instead, we’ll discuss why these endangered species are unique and what makes us so interested in them. Perhaps we’ll even raise some awareness and inspire conservation efforts to protect them.

Gharial/Gavial (Gavialis gangeticus)

The gharial or gavial is a crocodilian known for its very unique snout and appearance. Unlike typical crocodiles and alligators, the gavial’s mouth and nose are long and narrow rather than triangular in shape.

The narrowness of the mouth combined with sharp teeth that lace together in an interlocking pattern makes it perfectly suited to catch fish, which just happen to make up this reptile’s main diet.

Topping off the long mouth is a bulbous snout which is said to resemble an earthenware pot known as a ghara in Hindi. This is where the gharial’s common name is derived. It’s believed that this nose bulb is used in mating behaviors such as bubbling water to attract a mate and as a visual indicator of gender.

gavial
This photo very clearly shows the prominent bulb on the gavial’s nose. It also lets you see that the gavial’s mouth is longer, more tapered, and more pointy than any other crocodilian’s. And although those teeth protrude and look quite fierce, the gavial’s primary diet is fish, which means that it’s less likely to view you as an appetizer.

The gavial is native to India. While this fascinating creature used to inhabit nearly all the major rivers in India, it can now only be found in two percent of these waterways. The numbers of the gavial have been declining largely due to hunting for trophies, indigenous medicine, and consumption of the reptile’s eggs.

We think the gavial would make a cool pet because of its very particular mouth and nose. Unlike a croc or gator, the gavial actually doesn’t possess a whole lot of jaw strength. This means that although we’re not sure we’d recommend it, you could probably hold a gavial with much less fear of being bitten.

We’re sure that a gavial’s bite would still be pretty painful, but probably not nearly as bad as that of a reptile with as much jaw strength and ferocity as a crocodile.

Cayman Island Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi)

As its name suggests, the Cayman Island blue iguana is a lizard with a stunning color palate. At rest, these iguanas have a grayish complexion, but when breeding season hits, or when the iguana becomes agitated or excited, it transforms into a brilliant azure blue color.

The Cayman Island blue iguana is endemic to the Cayman Islands and is actually considered to be one of the most endangered lizards alive today. Back in 1940 when this reptile was originally described taxonomically, it was considered to be on the brink of extinction, and with human interference, whether accidental or intentional, its numbers have dwindled even further. In fact, in 2002, the population of these lizards remaining in the wild was estimated to be a mere ten to twenty-five animals!

cayman island blue iguana
This photo captures the true azure blue coloration of the Cayman Island blue iguana. Who wouldn’t be proud to show off such a beautiful lizard to family and friends?

Efforts to preserve the species have definitely been ongoing. As recently as 2004, a wildlife conservation group released hundreds of animals back into the wild. Additionally, at least five separate nonprofit organizations are working with the Grand Cayman government with the hope of preserving this colorful iguana.

Considered to be the largest native land animal living on Grand Cayman, the Cayman Island blue iguana maxes out around twenty to thirty inches in body length with a tail that is usually around the same length, putting the average animal anywhere between forty to sixty inches in total length. Despite this large size, the iguana is still preyed upon by non-native, invasive species such as feral cats and dogs.

While there are certainly blue iguanas available to reptile hobbyists nowadays, these are just variants of the very common green iguana and are still of the genus and species Iguana iguana. We think it would be beyond rewarding to be able to keep a breeding population of these “true” blue iguanas and be able to help contribute to the conservation efforts as well as enjoy the beauty of such a flashy lizard.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

We admit, having a pelagic reptile of any kind as a pet seems no easy feat. But, in a perfect world, wouldn’t it be cool to have a salt water aquarium full of tropical fish and a sea turtle or two?

Like all sea turtle species, hawksbill turtles are endangered due to human interference. Believe it or not, people eat sea turtle eggs and mature sea turtles around the world, despite the protected status of these majestic ocean reptiles. Hawksbills in particular also have very beautifully designed shells which people love to collect. The fishing industry is also a factor in the endangered status of the hawksbill. Often times, these turtles will become accidentally entangled in fishing nets which can lead to drowning.

hawksbill sea turtle
The scutes or hard, bony plates that make up the hawksbill’s carapace are visible in this photo. People hunt the turtle to keep the beautifully patterned shell as a trophy.

Out of all the sea turtle species, the hawksbill turtle is one of the smaller species. Adults will grow to be around forty-five inches long and weigh around 150 pounds.

Hatchling hawksbill sea turtles have heart-shaped carapaces which eventually elongate. When mature, the shells have overlapping serrated scutes, or bony plates. They also have unusually sharp points on their nose/mouth area that resemble a bird of prey’s beak, which is how they received their common name. And yet another characteristic feature of the hawksbill is a pair of claws that adorn each flipper. Overall, the hawksbill sea turtle is a very visually striking reptile.

As reptile lovers, many of us are familiar with the struggle infant sea turtles of all species must undergo when it comes to safely making their first journey to the sea. The mother turtles lay their eggs in a hole dug into a sandy beach and some months later, baby turtles emerge. Because sea turtles make mass migrations to beaches to lay their eggs, the baby turtles tend to all hatch around the same time, meaning that tons of baby sea turtles end up crawling out of the sand and into the ocean.

Because there are so many, they wind up being easy prey targets for predatory animals, namely birds and crabs. In addition, due to human encroachment and installation of street lights and hotel lights along beach fronts, baby sea turtles often wind up crawling towards civilization instead of their true home, which also has an impact on the wild populations.

We’d truly enjoy raising a baby hawksbill sea turtle and watching it grow into a regal adult. But we’ve got to admit that “Finding Nemo” has us a little biased towards that idea. Can’t you just picture them swimming around and speaking in surfer lingo?

Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus)

What makes the tuatara so fascinating to scientists and reptile enthusiasts alike is that this animal is part of its own distinct lineage – the order Rhynchocephalia. This means that although the tuatara very much resembles a lizard, it is in fact, not a lizard!

From a scientific stand point, the closest living ancestor of the tuatara is the squamates, which of course are lizards and snakes. Scientists study the tuatara in order to learn more about the history and appearance of early reptiles called diapsids.

Tuataras are endemic to New Zealand. Because they are so isolated geographically coupled with the fact that they take many years to reproduce, the population of these reptiles has dwindled placing them on the endangered species list.

tuatara
Although it resembles a common lizard such as an iguana, the tuatara is in a family all its own.

Quite possibly one of the coolest things about the tuatara is that it possesses a third eye! This third eye appears in the middle of the reptile’s forehead and is called a parietal eye. Just like normal eyes used for seeing, the tuatara’s parietal eye has its own lens, cornea, retina with rod-like structures, and is connected to the brain via a degenerated nerve.

When tuataras are babies, the parietal eye appears as a translucent spot in the middle of the animal’s head, but sadly, as tuataras mature, the eye becomes covered with scales and pigment. This is why you don’t see photos of adult tuataras with three eyes, although we think that would be pretty freaky!

As far as function is concerned, scientists have deduced that the purpose of the parietal eye is to help with absorption of UV rays to help the tuatara produce vitamin D. It’s also been postulated that the eye helps with thermoregulation as well as determining light and dark/day and night cycles.

Unlike other reptiles, tuataras thrive in much lower temperatures. They can be active in temperatures as low as forty-one degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures over eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit can actually be fatal to them. This unique animal has the lowest resting body temperature of any reptile. This also means they have a particularly slow metabolism.

Tuataras have unusually long life spans. In captivity, they are estimated to be able to live up to two hundred years old! In fact, Henry the tuatara, who lives in the New Zealand Zoo, became a father at the ripe old age of one hundred and eleven!

Since they have such low metabolic rates (as we already mentioned), tuataras take a long time to reach sexual maturity and a long time to reproduce. Tuataras aren’t ready to mate until they are ten or twenty years old! From start to finish, the entire reproductive cycle can take two to five years, which is the longest of any reptile.

So, if the abundance of weird factoids and cool tidbits of knowledge about this “living fossil” reptile hasn’t convinced you that a tuatara would make a fascinating pet, we’re not sure you’re reading the right blog!

Conclusion

We have already mentioned that this a purely hypothetical blog article. As reptile lovers, we are definitely not endorsing capturing any of the endangered species, exporting them, and/or keeping them as pets for our own entertainment and pleasure.

We are fully aware that these reptiles are in need of serious help and this article is written from a place of wishful thinking. In a perfect world, these wonderful and rare species wouldn’t need our help to survive in the wild and we wouldn’t have to feel bad about having them be a part of our families as pets.

But alas, all we can do for now is discuss how neat it would be to care for these reptiles and hope that this article inspires people to try and help with conservation efforts.

If you want to help preserve these magnificent animals, we recommend donating to a conservationist group. There are multitudes of organizations that focus on protecting specific species as well as plenty of groups that specialize in general endangered species preservation efforts.

Rather than have us tell you who we donate to, we feel you should do your research and find a group whose goals, morals, and standards are in line with your own.

Misrepresentations of Snakes in Movies

Welcome to our ultimate guide to snakes in movies. We’re a reptile company, so naturally we have a better perspective on the subject than your average Joe.

It’s a given that we all love reptiles at Backwater Reptiles, so it also makes sense that we love seeing some of our favorite scaly, slithering snakes on the big screen in movies. Don’t you?

However, one thing that kind of bugs us is when the critters we love get misrepresented in cinema. For instance, being snake fanatics, we know that often times non-venomous species of snakes are depicted as venomous in order to create a sense of danger because non-snake folks don’t know any better.

So, in this blog article, we’ll discuss some common tropes associated with snakes in film and why their incorrect portrayal of our scaly companions can sometimes be annoying.

snakes in movies
We’re always happy to see snakes in movies, but they do tend to be misrepresented or stereotyped.

Snakes in Movies – The Ultimate list

Oversized or Giant Monster Snakes in Movies

It’s common knowledge that members of the boidae and pythonidae families (boas, pythons, and anacondas) are the largest species of snakes in the world.

However, often times, these snakes will be depicted on screen as enormous, monster, killer snakes. If you’re going to put a snake in a movie, why not use a huge one, right?

There are a few SyFy channel original movies starring killer giant snakes such as “Piranhaconda,” “Mega Snake,” and “Boa Vs. Python.” However, although these films are relevant to this discussion, we’re intentionally leaving them out due to their intended gimmicky nature and the fact that they played on television and not in movie theaters.

Probably the best example of an oversized killer snake within recent memory is the 1997 flick “Anaconda” starring Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, and Ice Cube. While this movie does in fact place the anaconda in the correct native habitat, the snake itself is depicted as larger than life.

In reality, the largest reported anaconda was twenty eight feet long and had a recorded girth of forty-four inches. This is obviously a huge snake, but the killer snake represented in “Anaconda” was large enough to consume Jon Voight’s character whole in one bite with no trouble or resistance.

While anacondas can eat large prey items like deer and pigs, it’s highly unlikely one would get big enough to accomplish this feat so easily.

anaconda movie poster
It’s clear from the tagline of this movie poster that “Anaconda” is a movie where a giant snake is out to “get you.”

We’d also like to mention that a snake so large would most likely not be as energetic or active as the anaconda in the film. Sure, anacondas are quick to strike, but they are not typically considered speedy.

Perhaps in water they are nimble, but overall, these heavy animals lie in wait for their prey and don’t tend to seek it out or chase after it.

The bottom line is that oversized, gigantic and monstrous snakes in movies can be fun but they are also misleading. People who don’t know better might actually think that anacondas commonly grow to the proportions shown in the film, which is just not true.

And because we sell snakes to the public and believe in educating our customers, it can be annoying to have incorrect portrayals of the creatures we love so much in the media.

Overly Bad Tempered Snakes in Movies

While it’s clearly not a film meant to be taken seriously, “Snakes on a Plane” is an epic misrepresentation of the temperament of snakes as a whole. No matter the species of snake, the ones on Samuel L. Jackson’s plane are mean and out for vengeance which is a completely inaccurate picture of the disposition of snakes in general.

Whether they’re attacking people in the lavatory or actively chasing potential victims down the crowded aisles of the plane, the snakes in this film are certainly overly aggressive. Even in real life, venomous snakes don’t chase people or seek out ways in which to harm them, no matter how small the space they are in.

While there might not be too many other films specifically dedicated to multitudes of snakes murdering people in confined spaces, we feel that it’s safe to say that in general, snakes cast as the “bad guy” or meant to be a threat to a character in some way or other are nearly always shown as being unrealistically bad tempered.

Because we handle snakes on a regular basis at the Backwater Reptiles facility, we know that in real life, most snakes prefer to hide and be left to their own devices.

Some species don’t mind interacting with people, but many snake species that are not bred in captivity will only bite as a last resort. They will usually choose to try and escape from you rather than seek you out and come after you.

The bottom line is that snakes chasing down humans – whether the snakes are normal-sized like those in “Snakes on a Plane” or monstrous like the previously discussed killer snake in “Anaconda” – is a myth.

While we know the truth about how to handle snakes of different dispositions ranging from grumpy to docile, not everyone does. We think portrayals of snakes with bad tempers gives people the wrong idea and more reason to vilify these already misunderstood animals.

Snakes as Comic Relief in Movies

There are several instances where snakes are cast as comic relief in films. Have you seen “City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold”? There is one scene in particular in this comedy where a character believes he has been bitten on the rear end by a rattlesnake, when in reality, he just sat on a cactus. Clearly, the rattlesnake is the butt of the joke so to speak in this scenario.

If you’ve seen any of the original Indiana Jones flicks, you’ll remember that our hero Indie has quite a dislike for our slithering pals, and there’s an epic snake pit involved (full of snakes that have no business being in Egypt, by the way).

While the actual snakes present in the film never do anything that makes them seem funny or silly, their screen time is met with a laugh from the audience due to how they make Indiana Jones so uncomfortable.

The sentiment behind the joke being that such a masculine, virile, explorer who can tackle life threatening situations daily can’t handle a few serpents makes the snakes funny.

In our opinion, this is one of the few snake-related jokes in a movie series that’s okay by us. Because we handle, feed, and ship out snakes on a daily basis, it’s old hat for us to be around snakes of all personality types.

While we know that many people do have a phobia of snakes, we can’t say we understand it since we love these animals so much. It’s hard for us to sympathize with anyone, let alone an action hero, who is afraid of these amazing reptiles.

Another more well-known instance in which snakes are cast in a humorous light is in Disney animated films. We’ve all seen “The Jungle Book” and know of the snake Kaa’s scenes with Mowgli. Kaa’s attempts to hypnotize Mowgli and eat him are met with disapproval and ultimately humiliation.

Another animated Disney snake of note is Sir Hiss from “Robin Hood.” Sir Hiss is the henchman of Prince John and as a rule of thumb, henchmen tend to be silly, stupid, or foolish characters in cartoon movies. Sir Hiss is no exception as his attempts to warn Price John are always met with temper tantrums and punishment.

sir hiss
This screen capture from Disney’s “Robin Hood” shows that Sir Hiss is definitely cast as comic relief in this scene.

Granted, Disney animated cartoons with anthropomorphic critter characters are obviously not meant to be taken as serious representations of what animals are really like, but these caricatures are usually based on stereotypes.

Although it might be entertaining to cast snakes as nitwitted characters that always over-pronounce their “S” sounds in their speech, we think it’s a definite over simplification of the true nature of these fascinating animals.

Snakes have personalities just like other pets, plus they should definitely be respected regardless of whether or not they are a non-venomous constrictor or a dangerous black mamba.

While casting them as comic relief doesn’t cause them to be misunderstood in the same manner that casting them as villains does, we still think it’s an unjust, albeit far more pleasant role for them to play in film.

Snakes as Villains in Movies

The most well-known, recent example we can think of where snakes are credited as being villainous is the Harry Potter series. Obviously these movies were books first, but the representation of snakes as evil or wicked remains true in both the novels and the films.

In the second Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” a giant snake called a basilisk is running rampant throughout Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The entirety of the film is spent trying to locate the “monster” that resides within the Chamber and save the students from being killed or petrified. This is an example of two common snake tropes in action – both the gigantic snake and the villainous snake are at play in the character of the basilisk.

Although there is no such animal in real life, the mythical basilisk is known for being able to kill with a single glance, which is also true in the Harry Potter film. What could possibly be more malevolent than a creature that kills you before you can even see it coming?

harry potter basilisk
Harry Potter is battling the evil basilisk in this scene.

Aside from the basilisk, the all time worst villain in the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, keeps a “pet” snake that he actually instills with part of himself. This snake is akin to Voldemort’s “familiar” and actually helped him be reborn and ascend back into power by giving its venom to sustain and feed him when he was weak.

And while we’re on the subject, Lord Voldemort himself can speak Parseltongue, which is the language of serpents. And it is a well-known fact within the wizarding community that the ability to speak to snakes tends to mark one as being a practitioner of dark magic.

In addition, Voldemort’s dark mark that he brands all of his followers with is the image of a snake intertwined with a skull. And the crest of one of the four houses of Hogwarts, Slytherin, that is reputed to have produced all the wizards who ultimately end up siding with Voldemort and practicing the dark arts, also features a snake as its center piece.

While we’re fully aware that Harry Potter is clearly a work of fiction and fantasy, there is no doubt that snakes are a symbol and representation of all that is evil in this particular series of movies. They have no redeeming qualities or facets. Snakes in movies don’t get much love, do they?

Aside from Harry Potter, snakes are often cast as villains in films where massive amounts of them are out to get the often unsuspecting and otherwise innocent human beings. A few examples of this are the aforementioned “Snakes of a Plane,” “Snake Island” (2002), and “Rattlers” (1976). All of these movies feature large groups of snakes that for some weird reason just want to kill people.

While we’re not incredibly alarmed by snakes being depicted as villains in either fantasy or science fiction films, we would like to reiterate that real snakes would much rather flee from humans than seek them out and murder them.

Again, these wonderful animals are being shown in a bad light and we just wish there were more instances in film where snakes are not mean or malicious.

Rattlesnakes in the Western Genre

It’s pretty much a given that any movie in the Western genre will have a rattlesnake in it at some point or other. We have no real problem with this trope as it’s not necessarily untrue, but we do think that rattlesnakes in Westerns has gotten sort of cliche.

In most dramatic Westerns, whether they are more recent or from thirty plus years ago, rattlesnakes are simply part of the terrain. A character will often encounter one in some capacity or another.

Sometimes the hero will interact with the snake by either killing it, eating it, or being bitten by it. Nothing too alarming about that, although we still think that more often than not, rattlesnakes would rather hide from cowboys than bother them.

A good example of a snake character that utilizes nearly all the tropes listed above is Rattlesnake Jake from the 2011 animated film “Rango.” We’re a fan of this movie not only because it’s funny and appropriate for many ages and audiences, but also because many of the main characters are cartoon reptiles!

rattlesnake jake
Rattlesnake Jake clearly looks pretty villainous despite being an animated character.

Rattlesnake Jake is of course initially depicted as the villain in “Rango,” although it later comes to light that he is not as evil as some other characters, so that takes care of the “snake as villain” trope.

Jake is also comic relief at times, although we’d say “Rango” is a comedy in general, so nearly all the characters have humorous moments on screen. Jake also has a bad temper, although he doesn’t set out to hunt down innocent bystanders like many other ferocious snakes in cinema.

Conclusion – Snakes in Movies

Overall, we’re happy to see snakes in movies at all and therefore we can’t complain too much when they are easily type cast and tropes are over utilized.

However, we do think it would be nice to see snakes cast in a more positive light from time to time. What do you think? Are you happy with the way snakes are often seen in movies? What would you change? Can you name any films where snakes are portrayed as more dynamic entities?

 

Aldabra Tortoise Care (Geochelone gigantea)

If you’re reading this, you want to know all about Aldabra tortoise care (Geochelone gigantea), and rest assured, you’ve come to the right place! These tortoises are very intelligent, responsive, and interactive pet reptiles. Many people are attracted to the larger species of tortoise because they can let them roam their yard much like a dog. Many are even trained to come when you call them!

No matter what your reason for keeping an Aldabra tortoise, clearly you’ll need to know how to care for such a long-lived animal. In this blog article, we’ll set out to detail how to best care for an Aldabra and hopefully prepare you for a tortoise of your own.

Aldabra Tortoise Care Explained

Aldabra Tortoise Description

Did you know that the Aldabra tortoise is the second largest species of tortoise in the world? The only other tortoise that grows larger is the Galapagos tortoise. On average, a mature adult Aldabra can weigh around 500 pounds, although the Aldabra at the Fort Worth Zoo weighs in at around 800 pounds!

Aldabras are very long-lived. Some have been reported to live 200 years and there is currently one in captivity that is 170 years old. So be prepared to pass your Aldabra down to your children and possibly even grand children!

aldabra tortoise care
Aldabra tortoises grow very large and for proper care will need a large amount of space in which to roam around. We highly recommend setting up a backyard enclosure if you plan to keep one as a pet. Pictured is one of our 5-inch beauties.

Aldabra tortoises get their name from the location from which they hail – the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles islands in the Indian ocean. They can be found in a variety of habitats ranging from mangrove swamps to coastal dunes.

Overall, Aldabras are quite remarkable as far as physical appearance is concerned. They have domed carapaces with super long necks and pointed heads. They range in color from dark grey to black and sometimes even dark brown.

Creating an Aldabra Tortoise Enclosure

Like many of the larger tortoise species, the best way to keep an Aldabra is outdoors if possible. Tortoises older than two years old do best with a large space to roam, backyard vegetation to nibble on, and natural sunlight and weather conditions to absorb.

If your backyard doesn’t have a fence, you can create boundaries for your tortoise using cinder blocks or even wooden planks. Your wall should be just over two feet tall and contain as much square footage as you are able to provide.

Using see-through fencing is risky because a tortoise will almost always try to get somewhere it can see. Aldabras aren’t big on digging, like the Sulcata tortoises, so that’s not too much of a risk. We recommend solid wood or cinder block walls.

Your Aldabra will also require a little tortoise home or hide to escape from cold or too hot weather. You will also need to provide a heat source if you live somewhere where the weather drops below seventy five degrees Fahrenheit.

Large heating pads will suffice–we use pig blankets, which automatically heat 20-degrees (F) warmer than the surrounding temperatures, unless it’s already warm out, in which case they don’t activate. You can also simply bring your tortoise indoors during bad weather.

Keep in mind, cooler temperatures generally aren’t overly dangerous to tortoises, it’s cold and wet that’s dangerous. If your nighttime temperatures are dipping below 60F, we recommend bringing your tortoise into a warmer area such as a garage for the evening, unless you’ve got a tortoise house with a heat pad already set up.

If temperatures go below 50F, regardless if you have a tortoise house and heating pad, just take the tortoise indoors.

aldabra tortoise
Pictured is a young Aldabra tortoise, but they can live up to 200 years and weigh up to 500 pounds! Make sure you are prepared for such a long-term pet before purchasing.

It’s not necessary, but if you can provide a mudhole for your Aldabra, that is ideal. Surprisingly, Aldabras enjoy wallowing and soaking in a mudhole if one is provided.

Feeding Your Aldabra Tortoise

Many people enjoy keeping pet tortoises because they are vegetarians, which means no insects or mice to feed them.

Aldabra tortoises nibble as they roam on everything from backyard grasses and weeds, but they will also thoroughly enjoy prepared foods. Leafy greens high in nutrition such as collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, and spinach are all excellent options.

Some fruit is also a treat for them, but avoid acidic fruits as they can harm intestinal biotic balance. They are particularly fond of melons. Hay is a great food for them as well. Remember, they are grazers and aren’t used to highly nutritious foods. Mazuri tortoise pellets are also great for supplemental feeding.

Fun fact: If your Aldabra tortoise knows you have food or a treat ready for it, it will come running to greet you. Be prepared – Aldabras are not slow movers, despite what you might believe!

aldabra tortoise
Aldabra tortoises are vegetarians that will eat as they roam your yard. However, they always enjoy it when you prepare them meals of leafy greens mixed with the occasional fruit treat.

Conclusion – Aldabra tortoise care

Aldabra tortoises are known for their large size and unique personalities. They are fascinating and rewarding animals to keep as pets. They make excellent backyard companions who will absolutely learn to recognize you.

If you are up to the task of caring for such a long-term pet that you can literally pass down to your grand children, then an Aldabra tortoise just might be the reptile for you!