Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything
↳ Reptiles & Amphibians

Encountering Racers

Blue Racer

Last month I had the opportunity to encounter some Blue Racers in captivity. They’re one of the many prides and joys of the Scales Nature Park, a small zoo just south of Orillia, Ontario, that focuses on Canadian reptile, amphibian and fish conservation. I’ve known the owner/operator for nearly 15 years.

Racers (Coluber constrictor) are interesting snakes: they’re fast, diurnal, visually oriented, and eat just about anything that moves. But they’re hardly ever kept in captivity, mostly because in addition to the above, they have a reputation for being extremely and repeatedly bitey. Which is kind of a disincentive (not that it’s ever stopped people keeping tree boas, but that’s a different story). I don’t necessarily have a problem with that: there are hundreds of kinds of snakes that would make better captives; keep one of those instead.

Continue reading this entry

More Adventures in Snakekeeping

  1. No worries about her feeding response now.After refusing to eat for two and a half months, Extrovert the wandering garter snake is eating again. With her usual ferocity — viz., a mouse dropped into her cage might hit the cage floor before she strikes. Might. I am happy to see that my worries were unfounded (snakes do go off their feed from time to time, after all: Nic the Everglades rat snake is doing so right now), and that this wizened old garter snake continues to carry on.
  2. Infertile bullsnake eggs, second clutchLucy the bullsnake laid another clutch of infertile eggs — a full dozen of them. In her water dish, so if they were fertile before, they certainly aren’t now. (And they almost certainly weren’t: misshapen and miscoloured right out of the vent.) While this isn’t the first time one of our snakes has double-clutched (Pretzel did it all the time), it’s the first time we’ve seen double-clutching when we’re pretty sure mating hasn’t occurred. (Her cagemate, as I have said on many occasions, is useless in that department.) Chalk this up to a good diet: since Nic has been off his feed himself, Lucy has been getting some of the leftovers. A well-fed female snake will often put the extra into egg production.
  3. ... and here's the other one.Because we have no willpower ...Baby garter snakes are our kryptonite, and also the cutest things in the universe, so when a friend said they had more red-sided garter snakes than they knew what to do with, well, we were weak, and picked up a couple. These were born last year — and you’ll be interested to know, the grandchildren of our original breeding pair, being the offspring of a male from the famous litter of 42. It’s good to have young garter snakes again — our youngest prior to this is nine years old.

Adventures in Snake Missexing

Rat snake eggs (infertile, dried out)

At one point, when both snakes were starting to outgrow their cages, we were considering putting Spencer, our Baird’s rat snake, and Snowflake, our leucistic Texas rat snake, into one large cage, on the principle that two snakes of the same sex and two relatively closely related species would do reasonably well together. (We have three other rat and corn snake cages set up like this, two with two males and one with two females.)

Well it’s a good thing we didn’t, because when we did the big cage cleaning this week we found five dried-out, infertile eggs in the Texas rat snake’s cage. So much for Snowflake being male. Had Spencer been sharing a cage with her, he would almost certainly have tried to mate with her, and the two species are close enough that the eggs might well have been fertile.

We got Spencer’s sex wrong initially as well. When he was much smaller he briefly shared a cage with Snowflake’s mother, thinking they were both female; I separated them as soon as I saw him begin courtship behaviour.

And when I think about it, we — and the people who sexed snakes for us — have gotten the sex of our snakes wrong a hilarious number of times. The anerythristic motley corn snake we named “Little Guy” who grew up to be neither. The pair of speckled kingsnakes who tried to eat one another when put together for breeding; the “male” later coming down with egg binding. The red milk snakes, sold as a pair, who turned out to be two females. The checkered garter snakes, sold as two females, who turned out to be a male and a female.

Really, we suck at this. It’s a good thing we’re not trying to breed any more: it would all end in tears.

Snake vs. Snake: Copperheads in Atlanta

Copperhead

I have already written about the inadvisability of releasing snakes as rodent control, but releasing snakes as snake control is a new one even to me. In Slate, Holly Allen writes about her Atlanta neighbours releasing black rat snakes and kingsnakes to deal with an apparent outbreak of copperheads — the rat snakes to crowd the copperheads out, the kingsnakes to, well, eat them. As Allen (correctly) points out, releasing snakes is a super bad idea, for the usual reasons: translocated snakes have a poor survival rate and have a negative impact on local snake populations (and not just the copperheads). Leaving the copperheads alone is, as usual, the best thing you can do. Via Kingsnake.com.

Are Water Snakes Invading California?

Two species of water snake have apparently been introduced to California. A new study published in PLOS ONE assesses the risk to native habitats and wildlife by identifying local habitat that would be suitable for the invasive species.

Water snakes are mainly found in the eastern half of North America: they come no further west than the eastern parts of Colorado and New Mexico. On the west coast their ecological niche is filled by large, aquatic garter snake species like the Sierra, giant and two-striped garter snakes (water snakes themselves can functionally be seen as large, aquatic garter snakes: fewer stripes, more attitude).

So how did water snakes establish themselves in California? The researchers attribute it to the release of captured pets. I’ve kept both of the species in question — northern (Nerodia sipedon) and banded (N. fasciata) water snakes — but water snakes are not all that popular among snake keepers. I’m amazed that enough snakes were kept in California that a sufficient fraction were able to escape or be released, and a sufficient fraction of that fraction were able to survive long enough to reproduce. Not that I’m saying it’s impossible, or even unlikely — if nothing else, water snakes are seriously r-selected, and can really pump out the babies — I’m just boggled by it.

Montreal Reptile Expo

Montreal Reptile Expo

Dropped in on the Montreal Reptile Expo yesterday — it was held at the Holiday Inn in Pointe-Claire, just off Autoroute 40, so not at all hard to get to. Stocked up the rodent supply, had a look around. It’s a small show compared to CRBE, but to give you an idea of just how much the hobby-slash-industry has grown, the Toronto reptile shows were about this big fifteen years ago. Still lots and lots (and lots) of ball pythons around, though the word is that fad has peaked: these things tend to ebb and flow as breeders chase the latest hot thing. A lot of boa constrictors and geckos, too, plus plenty of arachnids.

Photos? Of course! Here.

Bullsnake Eggs and Other News

Bullsnake eggs

Oh hello, look what Lucy the bullsnake left us this afternoon: eight little bullsnake eggs. Of course, they’re probably infertile: Lucy has laid infertile eggs many times before. We don’t hibernate the snakes to increase their fertility, and Lucy’s male cagemate, Boo, has never shown any interest in mating. Or at least we’ve never caught them at it (and I think we would have).

We’re sticking the eggs in the incubator anyway, at least for a few days, just in case: as you can see from the above photo, one of those eggs is whiter, larger and plumper than the others, so I can’t guarantee its infertility with metaphysical certitude. It’ll become apparent within a couple of weeks whether it is or isn’t, though. (This too is not new.)

In other snake news, Extrovert the wandering garter snake is off her feed, which for her is worrying. It’s been five weeks since she last ate, which in itself isn’t a problem, but she’s always had a ferocious appetite. Not only that: she’s been turning down earthworms, which is bacon to garter snakes. She’s 15 years old, which is a preposterous age for a garter snake, so it may well be her turn. (She can’t be pregnant: her mate died in 2003.)

On the other hand, Pretzel the corn snake has, as of last week, been with us for 15 years. She’s almost certainly older than that, since she wasn’t a baby when I got her, and she shows no sign of slowing down. At least, when she shows herself at all: she’s always been the most reclusive of our corn snakes.

Narcisse Snake Dens

Narcisse Snake Dens

While I was in Winnipeg earlier this month, I had the opportunity to pay a visit to the Narcisse Snake Dens during the spring emergence of their Red-sided Garter Snake population. (As one does.) Photos from my pilgramage are up on Flickr, and I just posted an article about the visit to Gartersnake.info.

Therapy Snakes Redux

Another data point in support of the idea of therapy snakes: CBC News reports on a couple of rescued Burmese pythons that have been put to work by Nova’s Ark, a zoo just north of Whitby, Ontario that focuses on special-needs children.

(Anyone else notice the reporter making the distinction between Burmese and rock pythons? That’s very interesting.)

Previously: Therapy Snakes.

Tracks and Shadows

Book cover: Tracks and Shadows Field biologists’ memoirs can often be a hit-or-miss affair, but Harry W. Greene’s Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art is definitely more hit than miss, precisely because it is much more than a memoir.

Greene, who writes far too well for a biologist, is the author of the highly lauded Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature (1997). That book combined science, photography and personal experience in a lyrical and literate fashion, and may well have been the only snake book to win a literary award.

In Tracks and Shadows, the mix is more personal. In tracing the origins of his own career, parallelling it with that of Henry S. Fitch (1909-2009), a major figure in herpetology, Greene ably sketches out the why of fieldwork. Too many stories deal with the travel and the chase but elide the purpose of going out into the field to collect snakes; Greene shows us the science.

It’s a personal viewpoint, but this is not an autobiography; little of Greene’s personal life is mentioned past graduate school. There is plenty to indicate why a former mortician’s assistant and army medic became a herpetologist, less that reveals how he writes as well as he does. The scholar fades into the background of his own work: present as a field biologist in the context of a discourse on field biology.

As for that work, Greene is a snake ethologist: his research focuses on snake behaviour — why snakes behave the way they do, from hunting to defence to reproduction. The best parts of the books are the discoveries: his dissertation showing that primitive snakes all constrict in the same fashion, implying that constriction as a tactic is ancient; the discovery that night snakes predate on diurnal prey during the day; the evidence of parental and social behaviour in black-tailed rattlesnakes. The idea that there is more going on in those little serpentine heads than we expected is frankly quite exciting. Greene’s elegant writing cannot help but make that excitement infectious.

Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art
by Harry W. Greene
University of California Press, October 2013
Buy at Amazon (Kindle) | publisher’s page | Goodreads | LibraryThing

A Snake Science Roundup

  1. Yellow-bellied sea snakes are pelagic: they spend their entire lives at sea — where, it turns out, they get awfully dehydrated. Instead of drinking seawater and excreting the salt, they drink rainwater that accumulates on the surface of the ocean, from so-called “freshwater lenses.” This means they mainly drink during the wet season and get awfully thirsty during drought; prolonged drought (yes, at sea: no rain) could be the reason behind the decline in some sea snake populations. Abstract.
  2. There is evidence that Burmese pythons have a homing ability: invasive pythons in Florida released 21 to 36 kilometres from their point of capture made their way back to their home ranges; some got to within 5 km of the capture site. Abstract.
  3. And here’s everything you wanted to know about the fact that snakes have two penises. (Lizards do too, but so what?)

The Snake Charmer

Book cover: The Snake Charmer Herpetologist Joe Slowinski died on September 12, 2001, in the forests of northern Burma, approximately thirty hours after he had been bitten by a many-banded krait. He was only 38. The Snake Charmer by Jamie James is both a biography of Slowinski and an account of the expedition that cost him his life.

The biography, drawing on family interviews and personal papers, takes up the first two thirds of the book. It reveals a type of character rather familiar to those of us who muck about with snakes: fearless, reckless (he was bitten numerous times) and just a little feral, absolutely fixated on the subject matter, and dripping, perhaps, with a wee bit too much testosterone. A difficult personality who nonetheless engendered fierce loyalty. But Slowinski was more than just Steve Irwin with a Ph.D.: he was stone-cold brilliant, a major contributor to the field of phylogenetics, and in particular to the systematics of elapid snakes — a point that James makes clear, if not at length. (Can’t say I blame him.) The final third reads like a feature article in Outside (and one was written about the incident, by another author), cataloguing the mishaps and bureaucratic nightmares involved in going deep into a restricted area of a country run by a deeply corrupt and paranoid regime, and the heroic attempts to keep him alive once the krait envenomated him while his support networks stateside were dealing with 9/11.

Where The Snake Charmer shines is in its portrayal of Slowinski himself; for all his reckless behaviour, he was not necessarily much for introspection. James has had to do his homework. I would very much have liked to see a bibliography, though, as in several James mentions publications that I wanted to look up for myself. In terms of the herpetology, for someone who is not necessarily well-versed in it James does a creditable job, though it’s clear he’s drawing on secondary sources for his material on snakes, and he makes a couple of minor errors that a herp-aware copyeditor (hi there) would have caught. But I’ve seen much worse. All in all an interesting read.

The Snake Charmer: A Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge
by Jamie James
Hyperion, June 2008
Buy at Amazon (Kindle) | author’s page | publisher’s page | Goodreads | LibraryThing

Snake Handling and Freedom of Religion

More on snake handling and religious liberty in the wake of Pastor Coots’s death by snakebite. Snake handling (in the religious sense) is usually banned where it’s practised: is that ban an unconstitutional restriction on religious freedom? Should people be able to put themselves at risk for reasons of faith? Peter Lawler, writing at First Things, and Michael Sean Winters, writing for the National Catholic Reporter, explore whether freedom of religion encompasses snake handling. Via Andrew Sullivan.

Reality Show Snake Handler Dies

Another high-profile snake handling preacher has died from snakebite. But this time there’s a twist: he had a reality show. Kentucky pastor Jamie Coots was one of the co-stars of Snake Salvation, a series on the National Geographic Channel. He was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake last Saturday, and died after refusing medical treatment, as one does when one is a member of a snake-handling church. News coverage: AP, BBC News, CNN, WBIR TV.

Previously: “Praise the Lord and Pass the Rattlesnakes.”

Bali Guard Killed by Python

A python killed a security guard at a Bali resort on Friday, but it would be a mistake to call this a python attack: the 59-year-old guard offered to capture the 15-foot snake, picked it up, and put it his shoulders before the snake constricted him to death. Had the guard simply left the snake alone he would almost certainly still be alive. Experienced snake handlers will tell you two things about handling large constricting snakes: never handle them alone, and never, ever drape them around your neck, from which I adduce that he didn’t know what he was doing.

Snakes Scare Our Primate Brains

How innate is a fear of snakes?

It’s an article of faith among those of us who mess around with snakes that a fear of snakes is something that is learned: a child sees a parent freaking out about a snake and figures it out from there.

But that may not be strictly accurate. About a decade ago I was visiting friends who had a fresh litter of baby boa constrictors (one of whom I would take home with me). Several of them were, shall we say, a little nippy. To my surprise, there was something about even a baby boa rearing, hissing and striking at me that triggered a primal corner of my brain. Whoa, I thought to myself: for a moment there I was a monkey in a jungle, afraid of being eaten.

Turns out there might be something to that. Snake detection theory argues that snakes were early predators on primates, and that snake predation selected us to evolve visual and other brain enhancements so that we could spot them faster. (Boggle at the idea that snakes made us smarter.) New research has found neurological evidence of this: pulvinar neurons in macaques respond more quickly to images of snakes than to other images, suggesting that this is deep, hardwired stuff. Article abstract. Via Kingsnake.com; see also io9’s excellent summary.

A Gartersnake.info To-Do List

I never have enough time to work on Gartersnake.info, my website about garter snakes — I’m behind on everything — but it really deserves more attention than I’ve been giving it. Its traffic is seasonal: it gets a huge number of visits during the spring, summer and fall, but hardly any during the winter. Traffic is already slowing down for the season, and I like to work on the site when fewer people are watching, so I’ve been looking at the site stats in the hope that they might help me figure out what to work on next.

Continue reading this entry

CRBE

Last Saturday we went down to the Canadian Reptile Breeders Expo in Toronto. Our purpose was to pick up a couple of cages — these cages, from these guys. We got a good deal on the cages; they’re frankly not the best in terms of fit and finish but are otherwise quite serviceable, and they’ll allow our Cape gopher snake, leucistic Texas rat snake and Baird’s rat snake to live in larger, more secure dwellings.

CRBE 2013 But this was also the first reptile show we’d attended in something like eight years, so it also gave us an opportunity to see what reptile shows have become. Huge, for one thing: this was the big, annual, two-day event, with special guests. The available selection was also a surprise: it seemed like every other booth was selling ball python morphs. Boa constrictors, crested geckos and hognose snakes also made strong showings. What breeders have for sale ebbs and flows over the years (I remember one show that was just stuffed with carpet pythons, and I hardly saw any of those this time), and the size and expense of this two-day event might limit who can attend (the margins on less expensive captive-bred animals are pretty terrible). We’re planning to attend a smaller show in October to compare.

We also checked in with a few people we hadn’t seen in almost as long, which was nice, and picked up some equipment that we’d been meaning to get for some time, which was handy.

Here’s a far-from-comprehensive photo album.

Python Truthers Are a Problem

When the news broke that a 14-foot African Rock Python had killed two small boys in Campbellton, New Brunswick, reptile keepers were astonished — and some of them were suspicious. Many things didn’t make sense to us: how could the snake constrict two boys at once, they wondered, without them waking up? Why, after constricting them, did the snake release them?

As more news filtered out, it became clearer how it happened. The boys had been to a petting zoo the previous evening and presumably still smelled strongly of farm animal, which offered a plausible explanation to anyone who’s been chewed on by their pet snake because they had the smell of rodent (or fish, or earthworm) on their fingers. And the preliminary autopsy results indicated asphyxiation. The remaining mysteries do not strike me as impossible: the boys could have been sleeping very close together (they were described as inseparable); it can be awfully difficult to wake small children up; and snakes do release after constriction if they can’t swallow them — a 14-foot python can kill an adult but not swallow one.

Even so, some people still insist — usually in the comments of news articles and social media posts, look around and you’ll see it — that there’s something fishy about this: that the snake could not have been responsible. Without actually coming out and saying it, they’re essentially saying that the boys were murdered and the snake was planted to cover up the crime.

Truthers, in other words, have come to the reptile community.

Continue reading this entry

Ontario to Review Exotic Pet Laws

I am utterly unsurprised that Ontario is forming a working group to review exotic pet laws in the province after the python incident in Campbellton. As I mentioned in my Ottawa Citizen op-ed last week, exotic pet ownership is subject to a patchwork of by-laws: in Renfrew County alone, the rules range from a total ban on reptiles to no ban at all depending on the municipality. Provincial law has to date only covered native species in Ontario. It’s a safe bet that’s about to change.

In Quebec, on the other hand, exotic pet ownership is already regulated at the provincial level: venomous snakes and lizards, crocodilians, sea turtles and soft-shelled turtles, for example, are prohibited without a permit; see the Règlement sur les animaux en captivité. (Large snakes are not prohibited by this regulation — at least not yet.)

More Updates on the Python Incident

Preliminary results from the autopsy performed on Noah and Connor Barthe suggest that the two boys died of strangulation (CBC News, Canadian Press).

That may not be enough to convince some reptile-keeping skeptics who have convinced themselves that the python cannot have done this; they may never be convinced. But there appears to be narrative emerging that explains what may have happened. News reports have said that the boys had spent the previous day at the petting zoo. They would have gone to bed smelling like farm animal. The python, encountering them, may have mistaken them for food, killed them, and then lost interest when it realized either that they weren’t food or that they were too big to swallow. (A snake can constrict much larger than it can swallow: a 14-foot python can kill an adult, but not swallow one.)

Meanwhile, a warrant was executed on the property today; 16 animals not legal in New Brunswick — including 10 crocodilians — were seized for relocation to other zoos (CBC News, Canadian Press). We’re learning that Reptile Ocean has had a complicated history: the python was handed to them by the Moncton SPCA in 2002, when it was still a zoo. It gave up applying for a zoo permit and changed to a pet store, at which point a permit for the python was no longer possible, but it didn’t have a pet store permit either, according to the CBC story.

I’m in the Ottawa Citizen

Hey! I have an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen on how reptile keepers should react to the Campbellton python incident; it’s a heavily revised and rewritten version of this morning’s blog post on the same subject. It’s online now and will, I’m told, be in tomorrow’s print edition.

At the Pointy End of a Moral Panic

It’s always uncomfortable to be a snake keeper whenever a misbehaving snake makes the news.

The public freaks out and the media goes into overdrive. Headlines are made across the country.

But this time it’s not simply news of a deadly snake escaping its cage or being found in an apartment; this time, children have died.

And the headlines have gone global.

Continue reading this entry

Campbellton Python Incident Update

Today we learned that the African Rock Python responsible for the deaths of two small boys in Campbellton, New Brunswick has been euthanized and sent for necroscopy. It was somewhere around 14 feet (reports vary) and weighed around 100 pounds. It’s been described as “extremely nervous” around people. Contrary to initial reports, its enclosure was in the upper-floor apartment, not the main floor; it still came down through the ceiling into the living room. CBC News, Global News, National Post, La Presse, RCMP news release.

African Rock Pythons are prohibited in New Brunswick; the Globe and Mail is reporting that Reptile Ocean didn’t have the necessary permit.

Reptile experts contacted for this story invariably express astonishment at how this could have happened. Full-grown African Rock Pythons are not safe snakes, but this is unusual even for them. This has led to a certain amount of expressions of doubt and suspicions that there is more to the story than it seems, as La Presse’s Marie-Claude Lortie intimated on Twitter:

That said, it’s very hard even for reptile specialists to judge what happened: we’re not privy to all the details, and what details we are privy to are filtered through police officers and reporters, who aren’t reptile specialists. And we should keep in mind that as snake keepers, we’re also feeling a bit threatened and our self-interest may be colouring our response to this incident. As Mme Lortie said, let’s see.

Update: Indian River Reptile Zoo curator Bry Loyst, who is assisting the police investigation, told the Toronto Sun that (1) the python had escaped before and (2) “police told him the children had been at a petting zoo until as late as 10 p.m.” Which is to say that the kids smelled like food: “He guessed that the snake, after escaping its pen, followed the scent of those animals.”

Update #2: The National Post looks at reptile experts’ stunned disbelief.

About the Python in New Brunswick

What the hell happened in Campbellton, New Brunswick this morning?

The media is reporting that two boys, aged 5 and 7, are dead after an African Rock Python got into the apartment they were staying in for an overnight visit: CBC News, Global News, National Post. The apartment is above Reptile Ocean, an exotic pet store in Campbellton, from which the python apparently escaped, climbing into the building’s ventilation system until it reached the upstairs apartment. Global News quotes the store owner saying that it crashed through the ceiling into the living room. Whether you’re terrified of snakes or love them, this is a horrifying story. The python has been seized; an autopsy will be performed on the boys tomorrow, which should shed some more light on what happened.

More light is needed, because a lot of this story doesn’t make sense. Even though African Rock Pythons don’t enjoy a good reputation (they’re a lot grumpier, I’m told, than the rather serene Burmese Pythons you usually see in captivity), it’s quite unusual for any large captive snake to attack and kill human beings like that. If it does happen, it’s usually either because it felt threatened or because of what’s called a “stupid feeding error”: the dumb snake smells food and sees movement, and launches itself at the keeper rather than the rabbit or guinea pig the keeper is holding. A python killing two sleeping children isn’t just an awful nightmare, it’s astonishingly unexpected. It’s so unexpected that I’m having a hard time believing it or understanding how it happened. I have so many questions.

Snake Update: Dead and Injured

The odour of decomposition is strong and pungent. When it wafts from the room in which most of our snakes are kept, it means one of two things: one of the snakes has thrown up its last meal, or one of the snakes has died. Yesterday it was the latter: the eastern garter snake I blogged about three months ago was dead in his cage. We’d just fed him on Saturday, so: aw, man.

Eastern Garter Snake This was unexpected, but not necessarily a total surprise: he was 11 years old, which for a garter snake isn’t bad. We have five garter snakes left, all of whom are getting up there: a 9-year-old blue-striped garter, three 10-year-old checkered garters, and a 14-year-old wandering garter. Any of them could go at any time, or be with us for years to come.

Meanwhile, there’s a problem with our Everglades rat snake, Nic (aged 14), who seems to have acquired a neck injury. He’s been refusing his meals (medium-sized rats), which for a mature rat snake is unheard of. It occurred to us that the injury was making him reluctant to tackle big meals, so we fed him a smaller rodent — an adult mouse — on Saturday; he took that. From what I can determine this is the kind of thing that heals on its own, and Nic still has good weight, so we’re hopeful that he’ll be back to strangling previously frozen meals of the proper size in due course.

Hummingbirds and Other Creatures

Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1

We have a hummingbird feeder; occasionally, hummingbirds visit it. But they’re there for so short a time that I’m never able to take a photo of one of them. Even if I had the digital SLR in hand, by the time I said, “hey, a hummingbird,” powered up the camera and pointed it at the feeder, the little bird would have been long gone.

Continue reading this entry

Winnipeg’s Proposed Reptile Restrictions

The City of Winnipeg has proposed a new animal control by-law. The Winnipeg Free Press reports on the new reptile restrictions, which are getting some pushback from keepers: they call them arbitrary, confusing and unnecessary. The proposed by-law would ban exactly the same reptiles that Ottawa does: boas and pythons over two metres and other snakes over three metres, as well as teiids, iguanids, and monitors over a metre long. So you don’t have to ask where Winnipeg got its list from. (It’s amazing how these by-laws are such a copy-and-paste affair.)

Previously: Keeping Reptiles in Winnipeg.

The Dragon’s Bite

That thing about the bite of a Komodo dragon being so deadly because their mouths are a cesspool of deadly infectious bacteria? Turns out, not so much. According to Bryan Fry, Komodo dragon mouths are clean; the infections come when water buffalo bitten by a Komodo flee into the water, which is stagnant, filthy and full of bacteria — just the sort of thing to finish off an animal bleeding from many fresh bite wounds. Article abstract. On the other hand, Fry contends that Komodos are mildly venomous, which is apparently controversial in the field. Via io9.

Rattlesnake Venom as Cancer Treatment

The Loveland, Colorado Reporter-Herald reports on the doctoral research of Anthony Saviola, who’s looking into how proteins in rattlesnake venom called disintegrins, which the snake uses to locate prey after it’s been bitten (a mouse may wander off before dying; the snake follows), can be used in cancer treatment.

The disintegrin protein in snake venom, when injected into cancer cells, binds the outside of the cell via these integrin receptors. Chemotherapy, used most often to help stop the spread of cancer, not only kills cancer cells but also the healthy cells. The disintegrin from snake venom acts differently. “It doesn’t kill the cell,” says Saviola. “It binds the outside and doesn’t allow the cell to communicate with surrounding cells. That’s when cancer becomes cancer … when it spreads throughout the body.”

Via Kingsnake.com.

Older Entries

An Amphibian Typhoid Mary
Frogs and Toads in Shawville
Saturday at Little Ray’s
Reptiles in Renfrew County
A Snake with No Name
Python Season: The Results
Therapy Snakes
Red Milk Snake
Rat Snakes and Climate Change
Snakes and Lizards ‘Hit Extremely Hard’ by Cretaceous Extinction
Python Season
Boa Constrictors Invade Puerto Rico
A Plague of Pythons
Glades Herp Partners Charged
A Guide to State Laws on Herp Collecting
The Last of the 42
Regrown Tails Aren’t Perfect Replacements
Garter Snake Mortality
‘Because Snakes Have Value’
Boa-Killing Virus IDed?
About That ‘Penis Snake’
A Cretaceous Snake with a Lizard’s Head
Lonesome George
Trapping Toads with Their Own Toxin
Pythons in the Park
Part Snake, Part Fish, All Syfy
Not Really All That Sudden, Actually
Gartersnake.info Redesign Launches
‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Rattlesnakes’
Fungus Spreads to Wild Snakes
Rattlesnakes’ Family Ties
How Snakes Drink
Smallest. Reptile. EVAR.
Pets vs. Collections
Never Mind the Bears
Boa Constrictors Are Looking for a Pulse
Joe Collins
That’s Gross, Snake
Rattlesnakes and Climate Change
Hellbenders Bred in Captivity
One of Our Snakes Is Lumpy
Snakes in a Cave
Two Lost Snakes Turn Up in Toronto
Snake Parthenogenesis
Fortyn’s Orinoco Crocodiles Head South
Biting Your Cagemate Is Wrong, Snake
Live Snakes on the Path
The Nile Crocodile Is Two Species
George: No Longer Still Not Dead
Steve Irwin Anniversary
Dead Snake on the Path
Saving Lizards by Burning Forests
Lake Erie Water Snake Delisted
Caimans Seized in Quebec
Rare Snake Found Near Whistler
Because Everyone Needs a Plush Nudibranch
Lenny Flank’s Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Venomous Snakes
Judge Rules on Seaway Serpentarium Reptiles
Bill Haast
Abandoned Tortoise Numbers Up in Arizona
Seaway Serpentarium Reptiles in Custody Battle
Books About Reptile Smuggling
Keeping Reptiles in Winnipeg
Garter Snake Spring
Snakes in Winnipeg Apartment Seized
Missing Boa Found
About the Baby Boa Constrictor in Saskatchewan
What Invasive Pythons Eat
Bronx Zoo Cobra On the Lam
Two New Pit Viper Species
Hitting the Garter Snake Reset Button
Snotty the Snot Otter
The Butler’s Garter Snake Has Died
Aesculapian Ovulation
Reptile Taxonomy and xkcd
Hunting Snapping Turtles in Ontario
Lizards and Lyme Disease