Friday, July 27, 2012

The Demise of Snapperfest

It appears that Snapperfest, the notoriously cruel "family fun" event that takes place in Ohio County Indiana, has been cancelled forever. So far, not too many news websites have picked up on this story but, an online news catalog that specializes in reporting about all things reptile and amphibian talks about it in some detail. "SNAPPERFEST IS DEAD!!!!!! Today Collette Adkins Giese, the Herptofauna lawyer for the Center for Biodiversity got a call from a DNR enforcement official who said that they've been told the event is cancelled and that they are closely monitoring the situation to ensure that it is actually cancelled. So a victory for snappers. And on their behalf a big thanks to all the people who created petitions, promoted them, went to the various meetings that resulted in this decision. You know who you are. As Collette said "I was late to the game, everyone else deserves the praise." But as the DNR says"They are closely monitoring to ensure that it is actually canceled." Which to me shows they don't trust their word as much as many of us do. So keep up with your monitoring of advertising, planned visits, whatever. Just do it quietly. Let's give them a chance to be true to their word.

 Allen Salzberg Publisher/Editor HerpDigest: The Only Free Internet-Only Weekly Newsletter that reports on the Latest Reptile and Amphibian Scientific and Conservation News Go to HerpDigest to subscribe.

Committee Chair Conservation & Media Committees New York Turtle & Tortoise Society Member of the IUCN Species Survival Group for Tortoises and Fresh Water Turtles" What does this mean? Between the sudden demise of Snapperfest and the reformation of the Claxton Rattlesnake Roundup, which has now become the Claxton, GA Rattlesnake and Wildlife Festival, it has become apparent that the protection of "less charismatic" animals such as rattlesnakes and snapping turtles is actually being recognized as having importance nearly on par with that of more popular animals, such as dolphins and tigers. People are no longer focusing solely on how "cute" or intelligent an animal may seem when advocating for its protection. They want all wild animals protected for the appreciation of future generations. Think about that. The worm may have finally turned. Earth's biodiversity may yet stand a chance. I hope that we are not being to optimistic in thinking so.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Northern Fence Lizard

This prehistoric-looking little lizard is a Northern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus) which is a subspecies of the Eastern Fence Lizard. They occur from New York, south to South Carolina, and west to Texas. In Missouri they are called Prairie Lizards (Sceloporus consobrinus),biologists have revised its taxonomy. Now, it's considered a distinct species. They are common and found in the Southern half of the state.

The ones in this article were photographed in Tennessee where they are still considered Northern Fence Lizards.

These lizards reach up to 7 inches in length with females being bigger than males. The males are dark gray or brown with very little or no pattern visible. They also possess bright blue belly patches and throat during mating season. Females have an obvious zig-zag or wavy pattern across their back and a white belly. There will be orange or red at the base of the tail. Some specimens may have some faint blue markings along their side.

Sometime between April and August males will seek females and mating will occur. Females will produce two separate clutches of up to 17 eggs. Males will bob their heads and do push-ups as a form of a mating dance. Mating will only occur if the female allows the male to approach her. Females may mate as early as one year of age but will only be able to produce one clutch of eggs. In the second year of life she will begin producing a second clutch.  Even though this species has been renamed and categorized in Missouri, the reproductive cycle is the same. The first clutch of eggs in Missouri are laid in May or June with the second clutch being laid in July. The female will dig a hole in loose dirt and lay her eggs in layers. A few eggs on the bottom layer, covered by dirt, then more eggs, covered with dirt, then more eggs and more dirt until all the eggs are laid. The total depth of the nest will be 4 inches or less. This species is even capable of retaining the eggs within their body and put off egg laying. This is beneficial during the second brood as it shortens the time needed for them to incubate and hatch. This allows the young lizards to grow some before the first frost sets in. These little lizards rarely live beyond three years in the wild as they fall victim to predators or harsh environments. They may live several more years in captivity.

These lizards are most active early in the day from about 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM, once the day becomes hot they go for cover  and will become active again towards dusk. They begin appearing in March and will remain active until October (weather permitting). Males are territorial and will often protect a small range that contains a few females. These are extremely fast lizards and difficult to catch or approach. As soon as they see a potential threat they run rapidly for cover or to opposite side of a tree or post.
Look for them along forest edges or within open woodlands. They are very common on rocky glades. They will hide out in fallen trees, old logs and stumps and in rock piles or brush piles. They will use "lizard highways" which will include fence rails, split rail fence, firewood piles, lumber piles, and railroad ties.
Fence lizards are beneficial to humans in the form of insect control, as they eat a wide variety of insects and spiders. They will also consume centipedes and snails.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Radio Show about Opp, Alabama's "Rattlesnake Rodeo"

Last night, Michael Crabtree, who hosts a reptile related radio show, invited me to converse with himself and Randy "Ransnakeman" Jones about the events that took place in Opp, Alabama during what they call their "Rattlesnake Rodeo". This is one of the last remaining rattlesnake festivals in the East where the rattlesnakes are still mistreated and killed. Randy attended and has quite a story to tell. So listen in on this podcast and you'll find out some gruesome facts that have remained elusive for years. Ransnake at the Roundup There are only two lethal rattlesnake festivals left in the East and Opp, Alabama is one of them. Given that there have been so many outright lies propagated by the organizers of this "Rodeo" about regulations, mistreatment, and even killing indicates that they are aware how showcasing animal abuse in the same manner as roundups in Texas and Oklahoma would cast them in a very negative light. This could actually work towards the advantage of reform. The biggest obstacle would be the leather contractors that the town is currently obligated towards. The listing of the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake as an endangered species would certainly end the "Rodeo" in its current form and perhaps then they would be open to suggestions.