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Archive for April 26th, 2007

Beware, it’s s-s-snake season…

Posted by Miqe on April 26, 2007

An 18-year-old Safed resident was hospitalized in the Ziv Medical Center’s intensive care unit on Wednesday, after being bitten by a viper, Israel’s most dangerous species of snake.

The spring is the most active time for snakes here as toxins produced by glands are most plentiful and high grasses provide good hiding places for the reptiles. The Safed hospital said that every year, especially in the spring and summer, it receives about 30 snakebite cases, with approximately 70 percent of the cases treated in intensive care.

Dr. Yosef Ozeri, one of the doctors who treated the patient, said the teenager was fortunate, as he was bitten by a small viper rather than a large one and was immediately treated to an antidote supplied by the Health Ministry to all hospitals specifically for this purpose. It is essential, said the doctor, to treat snakebite victims immediately, as those who have not received immediate assistance have died or suffered damage to the liver, nerves and blood vessels.

The first signs of a viper snakebite are a sharp pain or burning sensation, swelling and redness on the skin. The toxins from the snake can lead to nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness and/or a change in mental state. Later signs include gastric bleeding, irregular heartbeat, kidney failure, cramps and even loss of consciousness.

Dr. Amar Hussein, head of the hospital’s emergency medicine department, warned that those who go on hikes during the spring should be aware of snakes awakening from their winter slumber and if bitten, should remain calm, as stress increases the rate at which the toxin reaches the vital organs. It’s also important, if possible, he said, to note the type of snake, or if it cannot be identified, at least be able to give a description of it so
doctors can know which antidote to prescribe.

There are 41 snake species in Israel, however only nine of them are poisonous, with the viper being the most dangerous. The most common type of viper has a triangular head, a brown V on its head and diamond shapes along its body. If you see a snake, back slowly away and try not to move suddenly as this may make the snake feel threatened.

From The Jerusalem Post

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Watching out for an original Texan

Posted by Miqe on April 26, 2007

When pioneer settlers from the south and east first reached central Texas, they found a particularly appropriate creature already occupying the area. The prehistoric-looking reptile, now known as the Texas Horned Lizard, seemed to reflect the land itself—rugged, fearsome, spiny, tough—and wondrously friendly, all at the same time.

Many of us who grew up in Texas spent countless hours watching and studying “horn frogs,” or “horny toads,” with their distinctive, protective spikes and horns, as they scuttled in their brown and tan camouflage through arid territory. Being cold blooded, they love hot weather and they’ve always been part of the Texas mystique.

The Texas Legislature declared the Texas Horned Lizard—one of three lizard species found here—the official state reptile in 1993. But their fame extends even further.

William Porter, who wrote under the pen name ‘O. Henry’, popularized the Horned Lizard in a 1911 short story titled: “Jimmy Hayes and Muriel.” Hayes was a young, green Texas Ranger working the border. Muriel, a Horned Lizard, was his beloved “side partner” who traveled inside Hayes’ blue flannel shirt. Like most of O. Henry’s stories, this one has a surprise ending.

Among non-fiction Texas Horned Lizards, “Old Rip” is the most famous. It’s an article of faith in Eastland County (between Abilene and Fort Worth) that Old Rip hibernated for 31 years while trapped in the cornerstone of the county courthouse. As the story tells it, he slowly revived when he was freed in 1928, and lived another happy year as a celebrity. Old Rip can still be viewed in a locked case in the Eastland courthouse.

In 1897, four students at AddRan Christian University in Waco were asked to find a school mascot. Looking for something distinctively Texan, they narrowed the choices to the cactus and the Horned Frog. Lizards were overrunning the football field, so the nod went to the reptile.

AddRan became Texas Christian University in 1902, and the school moved back to Fort Worth a few years later. The students’ decision proved inspired. A few years ago, ESPN declared the ferocious-looking and unique Horned Frog to be the best college mascot in the country.

Athletic Horned Frogs may be thriving at TCU, but the rapid growth of Texas has created major problems for the real thing. Urbanization and population growth have dramatically diminished their native habitat. Horned Lizards are now almost impossible to find in Waco and much of central Texas.

Their allure is their ferocious appearance, coupled with an amiable personality. Horned Lizards are three to five inches long. They appear to enjoy human company, and that’s led to misguided efforts to keep them as pets.

A more recent danger has been increased agriculture and pest control efforts, particularly those combating the onslaught of the red fire ant.

Spiders, beetles and grasshoppers are suitable, but the first food choice of a Texas Horned Lizard is an ant—specifically, the common harvester ant. As we use more pesticides to battle fire ants, however, harvester ants are dying as well. That deprives Horned Lizards of an important food source.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is moving to safeguard these valued reptiles. The Horned Lizard now enjoys protected status. That means they can’t be captured, possessed, transported or sold in Texas without a special permit.

The Department has enlisted volunteers across the state to look for Horned Lizards and monitor their well-being. Sightings east of the Hill Country are now becoming rare. To lend a hand, or learn more, visit

Horned Lizards look frightful, but they’re friendly, unique creatures that share our heritage and contribute to our appreciation of nature. There’s still plenty of room for them in the vast expanse of Texas. With care and attention, these original Texans will be with us forever.

From East Texas Review

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