Sunday, May 27, 2012

Power Outages and Cold Weather Emergencies

 I know it is almost June and most of us won't have to worry about winter storms for awhile. This post is super late but I wanted to share it anyway. Last January, Western Washington got hit by a massive ice and snow storm. This storm caused power outages and seriously dangerous conditions.

As you can imagine, winter storms can cause problems for reptile keepers. They make it difficult to maintain temperatures. If the power goes out and you don't have a generator, reptile lights and heat pads do not work. So how do you keep your critters safe during an emergency or power outage? Here are a few tips.

 Stock up on hand warmers

Hand warmers can serve as emergency heat pads. They can be placed under tanks or under carriers. Be careful when using them because they can get very hot. Monitor cage and surface temps carefully. Keep in mind that most hand warmers get hotter when exposed to more air. DO NOT PLACE DIRECTLY IN TANK!

Stock up on snake bags, critter keepers, and other animal totes

If you have to move your animals to a warmer location or a place with power, you want to make sure you have enough totes to carry all of them safely. This picture shows some of my feed containers and critter keepers. Plastic totes that are not clear are better (darkness reduces stress and thicker, "weather resistant" totes may hold heat better), but clear totes can be used. It may be handy to keep some extra substrate around so that you can easily add some to the totes. Snake bags are great for transporting snakes. Pillow cases can also be used (just make sure you tie them up well)! Cat/dog crates and carriers are another possible way to transport your bigger herps. I brought home Gary the ball in a soft-sided animal carrier (much to the amusement of my coworker). Just a side note: I would strongly caution against adding anything (like cage furniture) to the totes because they can move during transport and hurt your critters.

Try to keep the room warm

Keep all windows and doors shut. Keep blinds and curtains closed. If you are preparing for a storm well ahead of time, you will want to check for and fix any drafts. We were very fortunate because at the beginning of winter, we bought a kit to fix our drafty window in our reptile room (this helped all winter long, not just during the storm)! If you have a "reptile room" or a warmer room, you can use objects (like pillows and blankets) at the base of the door to block it from larger or colder rooms. I highly suggest moving all of your herps into the warmest room in the house. Another thing you can do is blast the heater when the power comes back on. If the power comes back, don't assume it will stay. Turn the heater up as soon as possible.

Try to stay with your animals

Keep an eye on your critters! A local zoo lost all but one of their giant salamanders because no one was there to monitor the aquarium temperature. When the power came back on, the chiller failed to turn on with the pump, and the water was accidentally heated to over 80 degrees! The poor salamanders (which would have happily survived the extreme cold of the winter storm had the power outage continued) overheated. You can avoid problems like this by monitoring your animals and their cage temperatures closely. Don't assume that because you have an animal that can tolerate cold, that he does not require monitoring. Power outages can cause all sorts of problems.

Have a Plan

The most important thing is to have a plan. I talked with a few of my friends after the power outage and many of them were very panicked about their animals during the storm. One of my coworkers had to sleep with her bearded dragon to keep him warm because she had no power and no emergency plan! Decide what you would do in the event of an emergency. Where would you go if your home gets too cold? I have a friend with a powerful generator, but not everyone does. Do you have enough totes to transport all animals safely? Where are your emergency supplies? Keep in mind that while many herps are hardy and can go a very long time without food and water, very few of them can tolerate extreme cold. And if you have multiple animals, some of the may tolerate cold better than others. Decide which animals will need to be moved and when.

So there is my post about cold weather emergencies. It may be a really long time before the next winter storm, but you can use all that time to prepare :)

Living Room Decor

I am going to make a few posts today because my husband returns from his trip this evening and I will no longer have unlimited access to his laptop. Here is a very short post about my reptile and amphibian-themed living room decor.

We don't have much in the way of herp-theme decor in our living room. We have a "habitat stand" (basically an aquarium stand with a solid top and shelves underneath). Snakey's cage is on top of the stand. The shelves are filled with herp books and this little guy:

Isn't he cute? If you can't tell, he is a little frog bookend. I absolutely adore him :)

 And here is a very large (about 32in x 32in) painting of a little boy and a turtle. I bought it for $10 at a sidewalk sale. It was originally priced at $200 but it has a little chip in the frame so they threw it out with a bunch of other "damaged" paintings at the sale. I like it because it is currently right next to our Russian tortoise "enclosure" (a play pool filled with substrate and cage furniture, but more on that later).

10 Must-Have Items for Reptile Care and Maintenance

Over my many years of keeping reptiles and amphibians, I have decided that certain objects are necessary for their care and maintenance. Here are 10 items that I cannot live without. 

 Detachable Shower head

This is one of the most important items on the list. Since we live in an apartment, I can't just take the cages outside to hose them down. We have no hose or backyard! So we have a detachable shower head instead. It makes cleaning cages and cage furniture a snap. Plus, we don't have to worry about dumping bleach water on the lawn. It just goes down the drain! And the high pressure setting really helps wash off stubborn bits of eco earth. In my opinion, this is a must have for anyone with caged animals.

 Huge Mister

This is pretty self-explanatory. Reptiles and amphibians (even desert species) need the occasional misting. This monster of a mister makes it very easy.

  Probe Thermometer

Let's face it: most of those sticky cage thermometers suck. They aren't very accurate and they constantly fall off. Heaven help you if one of the adhesive-backed cage thermometers falls into eco earth. It will never stick to the glass again! While I do use sticky cage thermometers to get a general read of the cage temps, I prefer probe thermometers because they can move and they are much more accurate. I have hung this one on a tack stuck into a cork board. I can remove the thermometer easily to test cage and water temps. When I am not using it to test cage temps, it measures the room temperature for me. Very handy!

 Hand Sanitizer, Paper Towels, and Enzymes

Paper towels are an obvious must-have. Same thing with hand sanitizer. The enzyme cleaner is a little unusual, but it is one of those things I cannot live without. Unlike many reptile cleaners, it is completely harmless to the animals. And while I would never spray it on an animal or in their water bowl (duh), I can use it while the critter is in the cage. It doesn't sanitize the cage (I use a small amount of bleach and a lot of water for that), but it is very good at reducing odors! It works very well with care fresh. When combined with a paper towel, it also helps remove stuck-on snake poo.

 Spare Light Bulbs

Because you never know when a light will go out. And most pet stores aren't open 24-hours.
Feed Tongs, Sand Scoop, and Scrub Brush

Feed tongs are useful for more than just feeding. They can be used to move objects in cages (like when you are feeding your pacman frog and accidentally drop the cricket cardboard in his cage and don't feel like losing a finger) or as an "emergency" snake hook for rowdy snakes after feeding (or whenever). You may think, 'who owns a reptile and not a pair of feed tongs'? But trust me, I have met plenty of people who own snakes and not feed tongs. Sand scoops can be used to scoop up all kinds of substrate. They can also be used to separate meal worms from the material they are packaged in (especially when you are down to your last few). Scrub brushes are awesome for cleaning water dishes (don't use cleaners, though)! As a side note, you can also see a thing of calcium supplement in the drawer. I didn't include that in the list because then I would have to include reptile food in the list.

So there you have it. 10 must-have items for reptile care and maintenance.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I know it has been a really long time since I last posted. My laptop decided awhile back that it wouldn't read SD cards so getting pictures on to the internet from my camera required the use of my husband's laptop. Since he uses his laptop for work and my free time comes when he is at work, that meant I had little opportunity to upload photos. And what is a blog without photos? So I kind of gave up. But my husband went on a trip for the week and left me his laptop. And now I am back :)

I will start with a quick post about Petpalooza. A few days ago, I went to a pet festival with my little sister. The free entertainment included two reptile shows. I had pretty low expectations. A lot of "reptile guys" in zoos and pet stores seem to know very little about the animals they care for (I had a guy at Petco once tell me that I should feed my corn snake crickets). Why would a traveling reptile show be any different? But I was actually very impressed. The first guy made no obvious mistakes and only failed to mention the species name of one of his animals. The guy in the second show did fail to mention the species name of a few of his animals. That is a little pet peeve of mine. Don't give a bunch of facts about a species without telling your audience what the species is.

Impressive...but it would have been more impressive if you had remembered to tell us what you were carrying.
 The other thing that really bugged me about the second show was that the guy kept saying poisonous snakes. Snakes use fangs to inject venom. I will not be affected by eating or touching the snake. I have to be bitten to be affected. So that means snakes are venomous, not poisonous. Same thing goes for bees, spiders, and any other creature that uses a delivery system for their toxin. Anyway...rant over. Here are some pictures

Massive Corn Snake

Beautiful Mexican Black Kingsnake

Later the Gator
 After watching both shows, I realized that I would love to do a reptile show. Not as my career, but as a hobby. I am going back to school to get a teaching degree. How cool would it be to do reptile shows in the summer? And how even more awesome would it be to have a reptile show performed by a woman? I have mentioned before how men seem to dominate the world of reptile keeping. I think it would be awesome to show little girls that women can love reptiles, too! After all, isn't that what this blog is all about?