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Archive for April 4th, 2007

State commission looking to upgrade tortoise’s status to threatened

Posted by Miqe on April 4, 2007

Don’t bury the gopher tortoise.That’s been the overwhelming response to a new Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission proposed management plan for the burrowing reptiles, one agency official said.

Some say the gopher tortoise is being buried alive by developers who pay for optional Fish and Wildlife “incidental take” permits to build atop the reptile’s habitat rather than relocate the species.

The commission wants to upgrade the reptile’s status from a species of special concern to threatened. As part of that, officials have to compile a management plan, which is required to make the status change. The plan is open for public comment through today.

“Our goal is not to come in and plow over gopher tortoises,” said Lewis Moscovitch, president of Symphony Builders, which is at work on a project in Fort Pierce.

Roads and traffic, intensive agriculture and invasive exotic plants also are among the threats, the agency’s plan reports.

During the past 80 to 100 years, gopher tortoises have declined at a rate of more than 50 percent because of habitat loss, Fish and Wildlife Research Biologist Joan Berish said.

The agency’s management plan includes a proposal to do away with incidental take permits where builders pay fees to build atop tortoise habitat. That money goes toward creating a new home for gopher tortoises, Fish and Wildlife Spokesman Joy Hill said.

Liz Dunleavy, vice president of the St. Lucie Audubon Society, said she agrees with the proposal.

On Sunday, she and Audubon and Vero Beach Humane Society volunteers relocated “number 19,” one of a colony of tortoises that lived on vacant Fort Pierce land where Symphony Builders condominiums are about to rise.

“They’re just so cute,” Dunleavy said. “They’re helpless, and they don’t hurt anybody.”

The reptiles suffer from a respiratory disease that, until recently, required testing before relocating them with other colonies, Hill said. The effects of the disease on the species population have not been measured, she said.

Berish estimates there are 750,000 to 1 million tortoises throughout the state and a little more than 3.2 million acres of potential habitat to accommodate them.

“There’s a big responsibility on county governments, local governments and developers,” Hill said. “Biologists right now are working on a cost for this.”

Gopher tortoises along the Treasure Coast can be found at places such as the Hobe Sound and Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuges and Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

Officials at the Hobe Sound Refuge and Jonathan Dickinson have been working on removing invasive exotic plants and performing prescribed burns to maintain the reptile’s open canopied sand scrub habitat, Hobe Sound Refuge Manager Margo Stahl said.

Archie Carr’s 62-acre Coconut Point Sanctuary could provide a relocation site, Refuge Ranger Joanna Taylor said.

“I’m glad to see the state is moving toward changing or modifying their practices,” Taylor said. “The public has been crying for this for years.”TO COMMENT

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission management plan for gopher tortoises can be viewed at www.myfwc.com and is open for public comment until 5 p.m. April 4.

How to comment: E-mail comments to gt_plan@myFWC.com

GOPHER TORTOISES AT A GLANCE

• Average 9 to 11 inches in length

• Feature stumpy, elephantine hind feet and flattened, shovel-like forelimbs adapted for digging

• Shell is oblong and generally tan, brown or gray

• Inhabit southeastern South Carolina to extreme southeastern Louisiana and in parts of all 67 counties in Florida

From TCPalm

Posted in Herps in the news, International articles and news. | 1 Comment »

Don’t fear snakes, avoid them

Posted by Miqe on April 4, 2007

Billy Halfin

The pecan trees in my neighborhood are budding out, the tomato plants are blooming, and the snakes will soon be on the move.

In fact, during the warm afternoons I’m sure that there are already some old smelly cottonmouths moving about. Don’t fear them, simply be aware and avoid them.

The reason that I mentioned snakes is that now is also a good time to go after bullfrogs. Bullfrogs, leopard frogs, yellow throat frogs, and other frogs for the table share the wetlands with snakes.

When the water is no warmer than it is right now, the frogs will have a tendency to be a little sluggish. They enjoy crawling out of the bayou or lakes on to whatever structure is available.

Limbs, lily pads, grass, dirt or even floating water moss are all places where the frogs will sit. They seem to just sit around looking for some tasty bug or some other morsel to eat. Crawfish farmers can attest to how fat frogs become if they live on the crawfish farms.

The primary time for the frog’s outings is at night and preferably on still, warm, dark nights. They stay out longer on those kinds of nights and they will usually hold still for a frog hunter’s light when it’s shined on them. Windy nights will dry their backs and they will not stay out of the water very long. They also become spooky on windy nights. Bright moonlight nights are not the better times to go after them. They don’t hold well for the frog hunter’s light whenever the moon is bright. I’ve also found that foggy nights are not good for frogging simply because the fog distorts the Q-beam’s light. It’s just hard to shine a frog’s eye or throat on foggy nights.

Do you need a boat in order to go frogging? No, you do not if you are going after them on a smooth hard open bank. Some ponds and small lakes as well as canal banks allow for some great frogging without a boat.

Whenever you are trying to catch a mess of tasty frogs from the bank be sure to watch for snakes.They enjoy catching frogs too. I use my hands to grab frogs when it is possible. When it’s not possible to hand grab, a good grabber gig or even a fish landing net will work. I don’t use a sticker gig because it will kill the frogs and sometimes I don’t want to clean them until it is daylight and I have rested a bit. When frogs are killed I recommend cleaning and icing them as soon as possible.

Boaters do well, too. Airboats are perfect out in the marshes where the majority of the frogs are yellow throats. It’s best to have a driver, a catcher, and a bagman. They may change jobs as the hunt goes on.

By the way, you do need a hunting license when frogging. Also, be sure to check with the Texas parks and Wildlife Department regarding special permits and limits. (409-892- 8666 or 1-800-792-1112)

Don’t grab a snake and hand it to the bagman as some folks do from time to time.You might get it back down your collar.

Billy Halfin can be seen

on KBMT Channel 12 on

Thursdays at 6 a.m. and heard on KOLE FOX Radio

on Saturday and Sunday

mornings at 6 a.m.

From Midcounty Chronicle

Posted in Herps in the news, International articles and news. | Leave a Comment »

A gecko surprise

Posted by Miqe on April 4, 2007

Cold blooded hitchhiker gets new home.

When Linda DesChamps of Shelburne brought home a new cactus plant from the Yarmouth Wal-Mart she didn’t realize a cold-blooded hitchhiker was coming with her.

Showing off the new plant to her daughters on Tuesday, March 27, she also had no idea that in seconds everyone would be running around the family kitchen and she’d be screaming.

Her daughter Laura noticed something strange behind the plant. She thought it might be a plastic lizard added for decoration and reached out to touch its head.

That’s when the scared gecko sprang from the plant and started running across the counter.

Then the screamfest started.

 

Wally, the gecko, was introduced to the Shelburne family amidst a lot of screaming.

“I can’t tell you what I was saying …but I was definitely screaming,” said Linda.

The wayward lizard was captured after a few minutes of scrambling, screaming and running. A margarine tub was pulled from a recycling bag and holes were poked into it to serve as the gecko’s temporary home.

“We didn’t know what to do with it,” said Linda.

Once the excitement died down, the family called the Yarmouth Wal-Mart to see if the retail giant would provide a terrarium. They also called the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to see if there was any health danger from the wayward gecko.

Both answers were negative.

Relaying the story at the Loyalist Inn, the Shelburne business she and her husband Wendall own, Linda was offered a complete terrarium from an amused customer.

Wally, (named after the store he escaped from), now has a warm home reminiscent of the hot area he came from.

Linda said Wal-Mart representatives said the gecko could have hitchhiked by truck to the Yarmouth store from as far away as Mexico.

She notes that next time she buys any plant or other item she’ll be examining it closely before bringing it home.

Wally, the gecko, was introduced to the Shelburne family amidst a lot of screaming.

“I can’t tell you what I was saying …but I was definitely screaming,” said Linda.

The wayward lizard was captured after a few minutes of scrambling, screaming and running. A margarine tub was pulled from a recycling bag and holes were poked into it to serve as the gecko’s temporary home.

“We didn’t know what to do with it,” said Linda.

Once the excitement died down, the family called the Yarmouth Wal-Mart to see if the retail giant would provide a terrarium. They also called the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to see if there was any health danger from the wayward gecko.

Both answers were negative.

Relaying the story at the Loyalist Inn, the Shelburne business she and her husband Wendall own, Linda was offered a complete terrarium from an amused customer.

Wally, (named after the store he escaped from), now has a warm home reminiscent of the hot area he came from.

Linda said Wal-Mart representatives said the gecko could have hitchhiked by truck to the Yarmouth store from as far away as Mexico.

She notes that next time she buys any plant or other item she’ll be examining it closely before bringing it home.

From Nova News

Posted in Herps in the news, International articles and news. | Leave a Comment »

Snake Bites Boy At Miami Seaquarium

Posted by Miqe on April 4, 2007

MIAMI — A 3-year-old boy posing for a photo with a boa constrictor at a South Florida theme park was taken to the hospital after the snake bit him on the face. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said the attack happened Monday afternoon at the Miami Seaquarium.A fire-rescue spokesman said the injuries were minor, but the boy was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

Officials said the boy and his parents stopped to take a picture with the snake for a souvenir. But when the trainer placed the snake on the boy’s shoulder, the animal snapped at his face.

Boa constrictors are not venomous. They wrap around their prey and suffocate them.

Miami Seaquarium officials are investigating the attack.

From WTVJ

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Just don’t call them ‘slimy’

Posted by Miqe on April 4, 2007

TEN years ago, Phil Elliott got bored with breeding fish. From that, developed a penchant for pythons.

It started with two baby pythons. Now his backyard reptile haven accommodates 30 pythons, four dragon species of lizard, two legless lizards, five goannas and two geckos.

In addition, he has a dozen guinea pigs, a couple of rosellas and two cats.

“It’s quite a little menagerie,” Mr Elliott said last week.

The modest Newport home he shares with his “very understanding” partner is soon to be extended, along with the wildlife accommodation

During peak season, Mr Elliott breeds up to 100 mice and rats each week just to feed the pythons.

“It’s a full time job on its own,” says the former engineer and now maintenance manager.

He is treasurer of the Victorian Herpetological Society, a reptile appreciation group with 130 members.

Members share a love for creatures regarded by many as slimy and damp.

“In actual fact they are clean and smooth,” Mr Elliott said affectionately.

Mr Elliott has always had some sort of animal, but first discovered his love for fish and reptiles during high school in Wales.

“I started to expand 10 years ago with fish, but I wanted to breed a more difficult species.”

“When I achieved that I lost interest in them, so I went back to reptiles with the thought of two.

“I found out fairly quickly it was even more addictive than fish.”

These days, the pythons occupy the couple’s spare room, the lizards have taken over the back shed, and the rodents sleep in the laundry.

The reptiles are treated as if they were in the wild, some weeks being fed a lot, other weeks not at all.

“It’s constant research – I’m building up a collection of books,” Mr Elliott said.

Visitors to the couple’s home tend to end up in one of two categories: freaked out or converted.

Because Mr Elliott “never shuts up” about his unusual passion, most of his friends know what to expect.

But when it comes to visiting tradesmen – of whom there have been a few lately – things can get interesting.

Mr Elliott said a kitchen renovator recently left the house with a new-found love of snakes, swearing he would soon start his own collection.

On the other hand, a visiting air conditioning expert couldn’t pack up fast enough, not even cleaning up after himself before darting out the front door.

For more information on reptiles, see the Victorian Herpetological Society website at www.vhs.com.au

From Star News Group

Posted in Herps in the news, International articles and news. | Leave a Comment »

 
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