National Reptile Awareness Day

by Greg Mayer

It’s a bit late in the day, but I must announce that today is, at least in the USA, National Reptile Awareness Day. Happy Reptile Day to all! I must admit, as a herpetologist who joined all the major American herpetological societies while still in high school (1975), I had never heard of National Reptile Awareness Day before today. Reptiles Magazine, a fanciers outlet, is the only group I can find who are promoting it, although even they admit not to know how or when it started. Despite its obscurity, we’ll celebrate with a few reptile pictures.

First, a wild red-eared slider, a southern US turtle popular in the pet trade, and often released, but less often established, in places outside its native range, like Wisconsin.

Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), Greenquist Pond, Somers, Wisconsin, 14 September 2016.

Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), Greenquist Pond, Somers, Wisconsin, 14 September 2016.

Next, my ball python Vivian, whom I’ve had for about 18 years.

Ball python (Python regius), captive, at alumni event at UW-Prakside, September, 2016.

Ball python (Python regius), captive, at alumni event at UW-Parkside, September, 2016.

A snapping turtle from UW-Parkside, at the same alumni event as Vivian.

Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), Greenquist Pond, Somers, Wisconsin.

Snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), Greenquist Pond, Somers, Wisconsin.

And we’ll finish up with a series of eastern massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) pictures; I believe all the pictures were taken in Cass, Michigan. They were taken by my former student Eric Hileman, who did his Ph.D. at Northern Illinois University with Rich King. Eric successfully defended his dissertation on the population ecology of massasaugas just this past Wednesday, and I was privileged to be able to attend. So we can all take this National Reptile Awareness Day as a day to send this joyous message to Eric: “Congratulations. Now get back to work.”

Eastern massasauga.

Eastern massasauga.

Eastern massasauga.

Eastern massasauga.

Eastern massasauga.

Eastern massasauga.

h/t Alicia Hunt

11 Comments

  1. Jenny Haniver
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    Yippie! I think that Raymond Ditmars would have loved this day.

    The Diamondback Rattlesnake

    Fork in front,
    Rattle behind.
    The lump in the middle?
    Don’t pay any mind.

    Scales up high,
    Scales down low.
    The lump in the middle?
    You don’t want to know.

    Diamonds above,
    Diamonds below.
    The lump in the middle?
    A rabbit too slow.

    Poem ©Douglas Florian. All rights reserved.

    “From Lizards, Frogs, and Pollywoogs,” by Douglas Florian, light poetry not only for children, but for all.

    • jwthomas
      Posted October 22, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      Raymond L Ditmars! There’s a real blast from the past. I was a childhood herpetologist too🙂

  2. ToddP
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Great photos! As a lifelong herper and reptile fan I’ll always celebrate these beautiful creatures.

    I used to own and breed a small collection of North American milk snakes, which I understand have now been re-classified into broader species groups, thereby eliminating many previous subspecies names. That always seemed likely to happen. Though my personal favorite snake will always be the Pale Milk, regardless of the name changes.

  3. rickflick
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I lived in Western Michigan for many years and always heard about the massasauga. Never did I ever encounter one. It’s nice to see they are out there with the birds and mice and chipmunks. What a lovely pattern in their scales.

  4. Christian
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of reptiles did you see the new papers revealing the molecular basis for the loss of limbs in snakes? Mutations in the Sonic Hedgehog gene! Very cool! Two impressive studies:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/10/tiny-dna-tweaks-made-snakes-legless

    -Christian

  5. M Janello
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always loved yet feared snapping turtles. You’d see them lumbering across the road, looking for a place to lay their eggs. They can bite right through a pretty decent sized stick, lol.

    In high school I went on a science field trip to a bog (in NW Connecticut) to look for rare bog turtles. The guy leading us around said once he was sure he’d felt a bog turtle with his foot (they’re about as big as your hand), but then it turned out to be the head of a snapping turtle. HAHAHAHA, I think he jumped pretty high and didn’t lose any toes.

  6. busterggi
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Now I’m missing my son’s albino Burmese python, she was such a well-tempered snake. Gave her away so his girl friend (now wife) didn’t like pets.

  7. Billy Bl.
    Posted October 21, 2016 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    So do reptiles like pumpkin cheesecake?

  8. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 22, 2016 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    ” I had never heard of National Reptile Awareness Day before today. ”
    Nor me, but it’s listed at http://www.daysoftheyear.com, along with – for today – Apple Day, Count Your Buttons Day, and Back to the Future Day (do I detect the hand of a marketroid in that?)

    (And NO, repeat NO mention of pumpkins or cheesecake, which suits me just fine as my reaction to both of those is ‘blah’ and the notion of combining the two is ‘bleeeech’.)

    Yesterday, by the way, was International Sloth Day (I tried, I really did) and tomorrow is CAPS LOCK DAY (oops).

    cr

  9. Posted October 22, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    For about two thirds of my life I lived in places where Massasaugas were the only rattlers. Therefore, it’s hard to take rattlesnakes seriously as a threat, even now.

    I only met a wild Massasauga once in Michigan and once in Iowa. As we’d been trained at the nature center I visited, I froze when I heard the one in Michigan. It slipped away through the grass as expected. I accidentally ran over one with my car in one of the few places the species survives in Iowa. I regret that! The individual is now a specimen at Iowa State University.

  10. Caroline
    Posted October 30, 2016 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Happy belated reptile day! We celebrated with the local geckos.


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