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Reptile Handling 101 ...presented by.

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1 Reptile Handling 101 ...presented by

2 Common Reptiles in Captivity

3 Legal Considerations PLEASE NOTE: Be aware of the Provincial and Municipal bylaws in your location, as some of the animals you are rescuing may be prohibited. A Captive Wildlife Permit may be required or the animal may need to be placed with caregivers in a different region or province. Burmese Pythons are prohibited in the HRM; however, they are grandfathered in provided they are microchipped All venomous species of reptiles are prohibited (different than toxic, such as Cane Toad)

4 Zoonotic Considerations
Parasite and protozoan infection Coccidia Flagellates Entamoeba Cryptosporidium Tapeworm and roundworm Mites Organisms can cause a wide range of symptoms, including diarrhoea, dehydration, lethargy, regurgitation Can be fatal if left untreated Bearded Dragons contain the highest levels of coccidia occurring normally in their stool of any reptile

5 Mites Barely visible to the naked eye
Lives/breeds under the reptile’s scales Very difficult to eradicate Can pass on a variety of diseases to the reptile and cause permanent scarring Especially likes to hide and breed in the heat pits of pythons; must be diligent in treating this location

6 Salmonella Series of gram negative bacteria
Causes gastroenteritis (nausea, cramps, diarrhoea) in healthy adults Serious and potentially fatal in young children, elderly or immunosuppressed As high as 90% of reptiles are carriers, harbouring strains specific to reptiles without any symptoms CDC estimates that 74,000 cases per year are associated with exposure to reptiles or amphibians Important consideration, especially for elderly, small children and immunocompromised Reptiles use hind gut fermentation to break down food often salmonella is the natural part of the flora of some species Especially prevalent in Iguanas and turtles

7 U.K. Daily Express – February 1, 2010
Experts have warned that youngsters locking lips with amphibians in real life risk catching salmonella. The advice comes after 50 children were taken ill in America after copying the heroine of Disney’s latest film, The Princess And The Frog. The children were rushed to hospital suffering with the disease, which causes sickness and diarrhoea. Doctors blamed the cases in 25 US states on youngsters kissing frogs after seeing the film. Most were under 10, with half being girls. Experts in the US and UK urged parents not to allow their youngsters to copy Princess Tiana after seeing the animated film, which is out on Friday. Trevor Beebee, president of the British Herpetological Society, said: “Kissing frogs is not hygienic and they also have various toxic things on their skin, which are unpleasant.” The Health Protection Agency advises against kissing any reptiles, saying: “All should be presumed to carry salmonella in their gut, even if they do not show any signs of infection.” DON’T KISS YOUR PET REPTILES! Wash your hands after handling to prevent transmission of bacteria Educate your children regarding proper sanitation and husbandry

8 Pathogenic Considerations
Viral infection Adenovirus Enterovirus Herpesvirus Retrovirus Reptiles cannot spread viruses to humans and vice versa! Can be very serious to a reptile’s health

9 Before You Begin… ALWAYS wash your hands or use a non-citrus hand sanitizer both before and after handling Especially important before handling snakes. Smell is their primary sense and they know if you have eaten meat for lunch! Important to use non-citrus, as it can cause regurgitation! This could be especially serious when trying to manage an already stressed animal and cleaning up partially digested rodent is not a very enjoyable experience

10 Lizards Don’t house different species together!
Stewie and Algee are not housed together; this happened accidentally.

11 Cute baby Iguanas are lightning fast; looks can be very deceiving!
Grow up to 4.5 to 6 feet adult length Can whip tail, have very sharp claws, can also bite! Most common species of lizard in captivity

12 Lizard Communication Dewlap / beard Puffing up or posturing
Tail whipping Open-mouth posture Eyes open vs. closed, small or large pupils, staring or eyes averted Pacing and nose rubbing Voiding or defecating when handled Head bobbing, either fast or slow Tongue flicking Hissing or huffing Iguanas sneeze; of no danger to humans and it does not mean they are ill Ridding themselves of excess salt in their diet

13 Which of these Iguanas would you trust?
DO NOT bring your Iguana in the bathtub with you or kiss them! DO NOT stick your fingers in a reptile’s face Top right: adult male, spines raised and posturing, dewlap is down, aggressive! Raised spines are comparable to a dog’s hackles Bottom right: dewlap in, but open-mouth posture, frightened! Iguana in the middle has dewlap out, but I suspect frightened also Huge male on the top left is most likely the calmest, as well as the juvenile Ig in the bath

14 Which Beardie would you trust?

15 Head Bobbing This is fast head-bobbing; Iguana in the video wants to fight! Slow head-bobbing is an indication of exerting dominance and not necessarily aggression Breeding season in males is often 2 months in late summer/early fall; males (and some females) can become VERY aggressive during this time

16 Special Considerations
If you know or suspect that you are rescuing an Iguana: Do NOT wear a hat, scarf or any other item on your head Wear dark or neutral colours if possible; especially DO NOT wear red, orange or green! When dealing with male Iguanas, especially during breeding season, wearing colours or hats/scarves can be viewed as a threat Sometimes best to wear black

17 Procedure for Handling
…Do NOT be afraid! Does anyone know what type of lizard this is? You will rarely see a green Basilisk in captivity locally. Reptiles do not sense fear, but they can interpret your behavior.

18 Handling Techniques If a large lizard, wear welding gloves or have a large towel ready to cover Have pet carrier open and ready to receive reptile, warming device under a towel to provide some heat Remember to cover the face with a towel or blanket; never allow the reptile to breathe cool air as can cause respiratory infection (RI) Keep stress level to a minimum

19 Handling Techniques Seize from behind. Never handle a lizard from face on! Support whole body, holding upper torso just behind forearms and sliding other arm under base of tail if large lizard Do not grab the tail, although you can place it under your armpit when holding large lizards. Some species can drop their tails! Geckoes are small and can be very fast! Be careful not to get bit, as looks can be deceiving.

20 Handling Techniques Less painful to be bitten by a Savannah Monitor than a Tokay Gecko Size can be VERY deceiving; smaller is sometimes much faster! Some monitor lizards (bottom left) have a very long neck and a long reach; must restrain head in order to avoid being bitten Many varanids will shake their heads during a bite!

21 Handling Techniques Lizard leashes - beware of “alligator rolling”. Must use a pet carrier to contain animal Never place around lizard’s neck or constrict abdomen to harm vital organs, best placed in front of hind legs or use a harness Can easily break tail Safer to put in a pet carrier or container unleashed so they cannot become tangled or injure themselves Prefer not to use leashes because many lizards can “alligator roll” and/or drop their tails

22 Bottom left: leash is too thin and Iguana could likely alligator roll to escape or break the harness
Bottom right: leash is too loose and the Bearded Dragon can easily escape (may also be on backwards).

23 Tricks and Special Handling
If socializing pet Iguanas, including males NOT in breeding season: ALWAYS keep your head above theirs (also during rescues and seizures). NEVER allow a lizard to stay above your line of vision! Hold animal securely to prevent escape or retaliation Head bob SLOWLY until reptile closes eyes. NEVER head bob quickly or abruptly – states your intent to fight NEVER attempt with males during breeding season – futile and you will get bitten Special Note: Never pet or touch a monitor lizard on its head, especially if a female. You are dominating or “bullying”. Males do this to females in the wild when greeting or mating.

24 Large or Aggressive Lizards
Monitor lizards and Iguanas especially, approach with caution Have VERY powerful bite, claw, tail whip Remember - rescues are often afraid or hostile due to hunger, neglect, abuse or injury It is very difficult for an untrained eye (and even for those who are trained or experienced) to tell if a reptile is sick so take extra precautions to avoid injury and transmission of infection

25 Large or Aggressive Lizards

26 Large or Aggressive Lizards
Beware of claws - can cause serious damage to skin! Trim with nail clipper (only clip the tiny tip off the end, too much can bleed) Use cornstarch to stop bleeding Always remember to bring nail clippers! Your arms will be grateful Instructor to demonstrate proper technique for nail clipping

27 Large or Aggressive Lizards
Pet Flex bandage (also called veterinary wrap) or hockey tape can be used for short term to wrap around mouth and eyes, has calming effect and lizard is unable to bite Do NOT cover nostrils, ensure reptile can breathe!

28 Supplies Pet flex bandage (vet wrap) or elastic hockey tape
Pre-heated heating disc, hot water bottle or magic bag (REMEMBER - if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the reptile! Always keep it insulated.) Nail clippers and cornstarch Disinfectant and antiseptic cleanser Appropriately sized pet carrier Towels and 1 or 2 blankets Welding gloves

29 Frogs & Toads Turtles & Tortoises

30 Frogs and Toads Frogs streamlined with smoother skin, toads fatter and have a bumpy or warty appearance Some species can be toxic to humans Do not handle if possible, use rubber or latex gloves – safer for amphibian also Seize from behind Wash hands afterward! There are always exceptions, ie. some frogs will have bumpy skin, etc.

31 Turtles and Tortoises Turtles mainly aquatic, tortoises are terrestrial Both species can BITE! Pick up by the carapace (shell) at least halfway down body to prevent injury, use rubber or latex gloves and seize from behind Place on a clean towel inside of a Rubbermaid container or pet carrier Wash hands afterward! Use a towel when transporting so turtle doesn’t slide around in the container during the move Not necessary to transport in water, although should mist every 2 hours or provide some humidity

32 Snakes DO NOT handle large snakes alone or allow your children to handle reptiles unsupervised Always use safe practices when dealing with large reptiles and take extra precautions at all times no matter how docile the animal’s temperament Treat reptiles with respect and handle responsibly

33 Snake Communication Snakes are not completely deaf, even though they have no ears and cannot hear sounds! Have middle ear bones (malleus, incus and stapes) same as in humans, but attached to the jaw so they can sense vibrations Poor eyesight, not the same as in humans Rely heavily on sense of smell – Jacobson’s Organ

34 Snake Communication

35 Contrary to what many people believe, snakes do have bones!
Must handle them carefully to prevent further stress Tell the story of Oringo, a Kenyan Sand Boa that was seized by the Nova Scotia SPCA and surgically treated for a broken rib

36 Snake Communication “S” stance Hissing Tongue flicking fast or slow
Relaxed or fast movements, highly alert and excited behavior Tail vibrating Defecating or musking * Can do temperament testing with pet snakes * (touch nose with palm to test recoil) Show how to do temperament testing (flat hand, palm to the nose to check recoil) Sometimes can be head-shy and not aggressive

37 Handling Techniques If unsure of species or temperament, wear welding gloves and/or use snake hook Have pet carrier open and ready to receive reptile, warming device under a towel to provide some heat Tie in a pillow case or cloth bag and place inside pet carrier; never allow the snake to breathe cool air as can cause respiratory infection (RI) Keep stress level to a minimum

38 Handling Techniques ALWAYS seize from behind. Never handle a snake from face on! Hold with 2 hands, grasp fingers firmly just behind head to prevent bite Snakes can strike lightning fast, often with no warning. They are nocturnal and cannot close their eyelids so they can be startled from sleep during the daytime Many snake bites happen at the fault of the handler, ie. failure to wash hands and smelling like food, breeding season, handling face-on, not knowing the species. There is a variety of temperaments between species, but each individual animal has its own personality. Using safe handling techniques can prevent MOST bites, though be prepared for the inevitable.

39 Snake Bite! Some snakes have fangs; vast majority kept locally are non-venomous Teeth curve backward into mouth in some species DO NOT pull away, push into mouth until teeth are out of the skin, then pry mouth open to remove finger or limb Citrus or pure whiskey poured onto nose will cause snake to release immediately, may also regurgitate

40 Snake Bite! Very sharp teeth! Some species have rear fangs
Teeth curve backward into the mouth (open the mouth of a large snake to show teeth) Most snakes can strike 1/3 of their body length so be extra careful to grab the neck and base of the head

41 Supplies Pillow cases or cloth bags of various sizes
Pre-heated heating disc, hot water bottle or magic bag (REMEMBER - if it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for the reptile! Always keep it insulated.) Disinfectant and antiseptic cleanser Appropriately sized pet carrier or vented container Snake hook or tongs Welding gloves Towels and blankets Lemon extract or whiskey (pour onto snake’s nose, causes it to release if you are bitten)

42 Top middle is the only example of the “S” stance; other snakes are just coiled
Would likely be accompanied by hissing, tail shaking, etc. Safe to pick up some species by the tail, but not others, especially arboreal snakes who can climb up their own body length

43 In Conclusion… Be aware of federal, provincial and municipal bylaws in your area Research most common species of pet reptiles If unsure of species or temperament, use extra precautions and handle very carefully If you are the rescuer or first responder, some reptiles can be imprinted negatively by your scent Tell the story of Casanova, a rescued albino Bullsnake, that negatively imprinted on me after a particularly bad bite (he had been starving). Children could pick him up and he was extremely docile to everyone but me; would go into the “S” stance and hiss very loudly whenever I was in the vicinity

44 Herp Resources Websites
Melissa Kaplan’s Herp Care Collection: Nova Scotia Herpetoculture Society: Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC Canada) Ssafe Haven Society for Reptiles and Amphibians: The Merck Veterinary Manual:

45 Herp Resources Books Green Iguana-The Ultimate Owner’s Manual – by James W. Hatfield III Iguanas for Dummies – by Melissa Kaplan Manual of Exotic Pet Practice – by Drs. Mark Mitchell and Thomas Tully Jr. Reptile Medicine and Surgery, 2nd Ed. - by Dr. Douglas Mader The Reptile Keeper’s Handbook - by Susan M. Barnard

46 Any questions?

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