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Archive for April 14th, 2007

Four types of poisonous snakes abide in Illinois

Posted by Miqe on April 14, 2007

Some people were a bit surprised about the fact that Illinois does indeed have poisonous snakes. Last week you might recall the story about the young lab in northern Illinois which was bitten by a Massasauga rattlesnake. “Rattlesnakes in Illinois,” some said. Well, if that surprises you, then I have some more news. Illinois actually has four poisonous snakes. Along with the Massasauqa rattlesnake are the water moccasin, the copperhead, and the timber rattlesnake.

For those who fear snakes, I would not get too worried. Even though these snakes can be found in Illinois, their numbers are relatively small.

I always like to hear stories of those who claim that they have a bunch of water moccasins on their property or they have seen lots of copperheads. Probably a case of mistaken identity.

If you want to see any of these snakes, then your best bet is to head to southern Illinois, as this is about the only place that the cottonmouth and the copperhead can be found. If you are looking for a timber rattler, then you better head to some pretty wild, undisturbed areas that border the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The Massasauga is probably the most widely distributed poisonous snake in the state. And by this, I only mean very small pockets of ideal habitat, which will be marshy. Knox County is said to have a small population of this snake.

All of these snakes are considered uncommon or rare in Illinois. As I said earlier, most sightings of these snakes are actually some other species. For example, some time back I was with an individual who spotted a snake swimming in the water. His first response was “look at that water moccasin.” Well, it wasn’t a water moccasin at all and didn’t even resemble one. But it was a snake in the water, therefore. …

Illinois has 39 species of snakes, with just these four being the only ones which could administer a lethal bite. But fear not, chances are slim that a timber rattler is making its home underneath the outhouse.

— Bird numbers are starting to pick up in the county. I spotted a short-eared owl at Double T about mid-week. A small flock of cedar waxwings paid a visit to the backyard as well. More shore and wading birds are making their way to the marshy areas. Still a few snow and blue geese present.

— Wild flowers are blooming. Trilliums and may apples, along with spring peepers are growing strong. And with that growth comes the weeds and other grasses. Mushrooming could be a bit rough.

From Canton Daily Ledger

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Warm saviour for the cold-blooded

Posted by Miqe on April 14, 2007


Mark Patrick photo
Bo the iguana has a special appreciation for Val Lofvendahl, Richmond’s reptile rescuer.

By Matthew Hoekstra
Staff Reporter

Apr 14 2007
A simple hamster cage outside her front door is a clue that Val Lofvendahl loves animals.

Behind the door, the humdrum of heat lamps is all that breaks the quiet, that is, until you walk inside.

Turtles clank their shells against their tanks and lounging lizards scurry over rocks, while Bo the iguana looks more interested in his pillowy-soft Marvin the Martian toy.

Lofvendahl and her family live in a warm Richmond house among cold-blooded creatures—40 reptiles saved from an uncertain fate and waiting for new homes.

To some, they’re icky, slimy and scaly. But Lofvendahl cared enough about reptiles to form the Reptile Rescue, Adoption and Education Society almost four years ago.

“I love animals, not just reptiles. I’d take in a million dogs if I could.”

Reptiles present a challenge, she says. They need special care, a special diet and a special home.

“They’re unique. Some people just like something that is completely different.”

Lofvendahl had an iguana “years and years ago,” but becoming a passionate animal rescuer started with a bearded dragon—a lizard she still has.

That lizard branded her a “reptile enthusiast.” That was enough for friends to encourage her to attend city council’s 2003 discussions of a bylaw regulating the sale of reptiles.

There was talk of a complete ban, but council instead opted for an educational approach: mandating pet stores to inform buyers of care requirements.

The reinforced bylaw also limited the sale of reptiles to those bred in captivity and banned the sale of certain species, such as venomous animals, large reptiles, crocodilians and aquatic turtles—including common red-eared sliders.

Lofvendahl remembers a representative from Surrey’s reptile refuge offered thoughts on the bylaw, prompting a councillor to suggest Richmond should have a similar group.

Lofvendahl took the ball and ran with it. She posted signs in pet stores and veterinarian offices and soon her basement was a reptile refuge.

“The animals started coming in,” she says from living room, home to tree frogs, a snake and lizard. “Now I can’t look back.”

Unwanted, sick and injured reptiles and amphibians were brought to her from across the Lower Mainland. Animal shelters added her to their speed dials. And Lofvendahl found herself responding to rescue calls where reptiles had been spotted in the wild.

Like “Bondo,” each has a story. Before being rescued, Bondo ran out from a ditch onto a road, where it was completely trampled by a car. A veterinarian was kind enough to give a discount and Bondo is now on the mend.

Lofvendahl found 14 reptiles new homes in her first year. That jumped to 63 the following year and 72 the next.

For reptiles healthy enough to be adopted, Lofvendahl has a rigorous adoption process to determine if a home is suitable.

Do reptiles make good pets? That depends on the person, she says.

Crested geckos or leopard geckos are good first-time reptile buys, as they don’t require the extra care other lizards do.

Her primary advice is that people should educate themselves before buying a reptile as a pet.

“Educate yourself. Get on the Internet and don’t believe the first thing you read,” she says. “Parents, ultimately, have to take the responsibility.”

Pet stores, she says, don’t always educate their shoppers as they should. She says some local stores still sell red-eared sliders (the city’s bylaw was meant to ban their sale), and not all buyers will be made aware that a twoonie-sized turtle will grow to the size of a dinner plate.

In Lofvendahl’s perfect world, pet stores wouldn’t sell animals at all, and instead make space available for rescue groups.

As more reptiles are sold, Lofvendahl’s work and costs increase. She can spend up to $100 on food alone each week for the animals. Adoption fees and some donations have so far kept the society alive, but she is looking for help. She would also like more space for her society—something the city looked into in 2004, but found nothing.

To donate (the society is a registered charity), volunteer or adopt a reptile, call 604-290-4158 or visit

From The Richmond Revue

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Snake cure could kill you

Posted by Miqe on April 14, 2007

By: Reuters

(Pic)- A snake hunter uses a snake stick to grab a snake as it comes out of its den in Sweetwater, Texas March 11, 2006 (Enlarge Pic). REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Capsules containing powder made from dried rattlesnake meat can be tainted with bacteria that make them as deadly as the snake’s bite and perhaps should be pulled from the U.S. market, a researcher said on Saturday.

Sold as a popular cure for what ails — it is rumored to treat everything from acne to AIDS — the Hispanic folk remedy has been associated with reports of salmonella poisoning for years. Now, a study has found conclusive evidence.

“We’ve used DNA molecular testing to prove definitively that the salmonella bacteria found in the dried meat was the cause of a life-threatening case of salmonella blood poisoning in a patient treated at our hospital,” John James, a microbial epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital in Denver, said in a statement.

That patient was a child with systemic lupus, a chronic disease of the connective tissue, who contracted salmonella after taking the tainted capsules and survived.

The most common symptoms of salmonella poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems. The infection becomes especially deadly if it spreads to the blood.

Rattlesnake meat used in the capsules is typically raw before it is dehydrated and ground into a powder. They are widely found in the United States in Hispanic stores called botanicas that sell alternative medicines, the researcher said.

“Unfortunately, the rattlesnake capsules … are often given to people whose immune systems already are compromised,” said James, who presented his findings at a meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America in Baltimore.

He said he also found the bacteria in four additional batches of rattlesnake capsules purchased at the same botanica.

He said many salmonella cases — even deadly ones — have been linked to the capsules, and he urged the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to require makers of the product to irradiate the rattlesnake meat, an inexpensive way to kill the bacteria.

Short of that, he urged the agency to take steps to ban the product.

From Macon Daily

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Girl in hospital after rattle snake bite

Posted by Miqe on April 14, 2007


A five year old girl has a long recovery ahead of her. She’s getting back on her feet after a rattlesnake bit her big toe Wednesday night. 

The little girl’s parents quickly came to her aid, killing the snake with a shovel.    

They had the presence of mind to keep the snake so emergency crews would know what kind of anti-venom to give the little girl.   

All it took was a two second encounter with a rattlesnake for five year old Amelia Gillette to end up at Tucson Medical Center.   

“I put one foot out and it bit me,” she said.   

The rattler bit Amelia as she headed outside to look at kites blowing in the wind.

“She walked out the back door, opened the gate and right there was a young snake that bit her,” said Amelia’s mother, Lynne Gillette.

Amelia added, “I screamed and I ran inside.”

Her mom described what happened next: “She came running right back into the house and I saw the two little puncture wounds on the top of her toe and it took her about ten seconds to calm down enough to tell me it was a snake.”     

Emergency crews rushed Amelia to the hospital in an ambulance.     

The girl’s toe quickly turned black and blue and her entire leg began to swell.  

“They gave us some anti-venom serum and the anti venom serum is helping control the swelling,” her mother said.     

Emergency responders worked with poison control to figure out what dosage of anti venom to give Amelia.

The Gilette’s say they’d heard stories about rattlesnakes in the bushes, but they never actually thought that someone in their family would get bit. From now on, they say when they’re near tall grass, they’re going to bring a stick and rustle it in the bushes. That way if there is a snake, it’ll bite the stick first and they’ll know if it’s there.

Amelia’s experience, they say should be a reminder for all of us to be more aware.

“Really watch the ground instead of the kites when you’re walking,” said Gillette.

Gail Barry, the woman who killed the rattler with a shovel added as she looked at Amelia, “It’s something we all need to be aware of, here’s a good example laying here in this bed.”

From KVOA News

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