North Carolina Box Turtle Conference

It may be a bit early in the year for some good snake herping, but not too early for a Conference! We were invited to be part of the education panel at the Box Turtle Conservation Workshop in Ashboro, North Carolina. It was hosted by the fantastic North Carolina Zoo. We met several wonderful scientists, naturalists, government workers, and zookeepers.

The highlight of the trip ended up being the zoo itself! We received an amazing behind the scenes tour with one of the river habitat zookeepers. Here is Mark and Caroline hanging out at the Sonoran desert exhibit.

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Don’t they look like they are having fun?

I was impressed with how much the exhibit looked like the Sonora Desert. It reminded me of my southwest home.

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This hill is loaded with yucca, cholla (pronounced choy- yah), prickly pear, and barrel cactus.

How cool!

Just goes to show you the amazing things you can grow in a bubble.

The most impressive animal in the desert exhibit was the gorgeous and obviously very happy Gila Monster (pronounced Hee-lah.) Just look at the smile on this guys face. The Gila Monster is one of two venomous lizards in the world. They have venom glands in their jaw and grooved teeth for the venom to flow along. Gilas have been known to eat eggs, birds, rodents, and even snakes.

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I just couldn’t get enough of all the amazing and healthy animals found in this exhibit.

I was most impressed by the native animals of North Carolina exhibit. The otters were definetly the cutest.otteradorableint

Here is an old girl lifting her head up to say hi. She recognized our zookeeper guide, Mark and came out of the water to see what was going on.

Behind the riverside exhibit was a brightly colored coral snake. Check out the lovely colors on this guy. The keepers told us this guy was actually from the zoo property! Good thing he is safe in here now, there are elephants out there little guy!

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If you are in the North Carolina area, you must check out the zoo. i would visit just for the impressive stream side exhibit. The display is amazingly executed. It looks just like someone took a saw and sliced a cross section of a stream and its banks and encased it in glass. The exhibit had fish and turtles swimming in the water, water moccasins, kingsnakes, birds, frogs, toads, copperheads, ratsnakes, and more! To service this impressive exhibit, you have to climb up and down these scary stairs.

Yikes those things are steep!

I was amazed to find they had a hellbender in the back. Sorry folks, no picture as they all came out blurry. The outdoor Carolina exhibits were very nice too. Check out the awesome picture I got of the puma. Caroline and I must have spent a good amount of time watching these big cats chase

ncpumauptreeinteach other around and up trees! He was so close!drinkingpumaint

The best part of the tour came when Mark took us in the forested area to look for salamanders and frogs. It was doubtful this time of year to find many snakes. The zoo sits on several acres of untouched woodland and it is filled with may awesome native animals.

 

Say Hello to Mr. Amphibian! We found many egg masses of salamanders and frogs in the scattered vernal pools back there.

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It is a beautiful zoo. Thanks for the tour Mark!

Back at the hotel room, it wasn’t so beautiful. Check out what happened to one of our sodas in the fridge.

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Uh OH!

Looks like the hotel staff gets an extra tip.

This is the nice thing about being on vacation I suppose. I felt a bit guilty for leaving the mess, but the cleaning crew is going to be better equipped to deal with it. We left a nice note on the fridge informing them it was just soda, really!

 

Pony Island Trip

The Reptiles Alive crew was invited to spend a few days at Assateague Island by park ranger friends. This is where the famous wild ponies wander the beaches. I was excited to try surf fishing for the first time. Caroline was up for some grilling and kicking back on the sand.

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We lucked out on this trip right off the bat. Assateague is notorious for its blood sucking mosquitos in the summer. Our entire weekend turned out to be just breezy enough to keep the little vampires off of us. After introducing us to all of the nice people at the campsite, I wanted to hit the surf.

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Like my bathing suit? My good swimsuit ended up in the dryer, so I made due with shorts and a tank top. The water was freezing cold, but I thought it felt great. It had been a long time since I got to swim in the ocean. I just love those waves.

Next, was to find out what sort of creatures swam around in those waves. We were staying on the national seashore instead of the park, so it was ok to go fishing. There was even a perfect little bait shop for all of your camping and fishing needs right on the other side of the bridge before driving on to the island. There we picked up poles that could hold up to the surf, blood worms, and fake blood worm stuff. I found out that I really liked the fake blood worms. They were little strips not unlike thin bubble gum. They did not wiggle, slime, or bleed. I believe that they did just fine. Caroline told me that we needed to get some small fish to catch some big stuff. Well, what do you know? The bait shop was equipped with a freezer full of them!

Check out the awesome creatures we caught and released!

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rayintThat is Caroline holding what I believe is a dogfish.

That nifty looking thing on the right is a ray or skate. Go ray! Both of them went right back in to the ocean and swam away. We had hotdogs for the eating.

The weather was fantastic on the first day. We even got to build a nice campfire that night and drink some hot cocoa. (one of my all time favorite things for camping)

I slept so well that night in my nice cozy tent, that I was up before dawn, fishing of course! Check out this unbelievable sunrise!

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I caught several dogfish and released them before anyone was awake.

We had a wonderful breakfast. Then to some serious relaxing on the beach, followed by the most important part of a Reptiles Alive vacation. That is, looking for herps.

We walked along the gorgeous secondary dune trail and ran into a little bumpy slimer! I love the bumps on this guy. Nice color!

toadinhandintThat toad took a mighty fine picture. We had a wonderful hike along the dune trail before heading back to the car and back home.

Look at the lovely scenery along this trail!

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On our way out, I finally had my camera ready for a shot at the resident feral ponies. See you soon guys, we had a great time!

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