Wednesday, December 17, 2014

First experience handling a snake

Our children sadly and silently suffer from what I call "Nature Deficit Disorder."  
They are growing up sequestered by technology which at this time does nothing to promote the reality or beauty of this planet they will inherit.
L. Jerry Tuttle

"We will only protect what we love, only love what we know, and only know what we experience....."

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provides National and 
International Career Links, 
Articles, Videos & 
Husbandry Information

NM grey banded kingsnake  Status: "Protected"

"For most of the wild things on earth the future must depend upon the conscience of mankind." 
- Dr. Archie Carr


“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from  universal nature and living by complicated artifice,man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.

We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.

They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."  

(Henry Beston,  "The Outermost House")

The goal of Zoo Crew and the links on this page is to excite and provide links for all potential wildlife biologists, veterinarians, conservation and law enforcement officer, private citizens, herpetologists and pet owners encouraging the humane treatment of ALL animals and peak interest in fields of biology, conservation, zoology, marine biology and research.

Friends volunteer animals from their personal collections in up to 12 presentations each year in various locations.  Weather plays the key factor in travel.  I'm working on starting  a donation link directly to the NM Department of Game and Fish for "Grey Banded Kingsnake" survey proposal by NM State Herpetologist Charlie Painter.  There have been only 3 sightings of the grey bands since 1972 and they are now listed: "Endangered" and are protected.

The "ZOO CREW" is a group of friends who visit schools and public events with very special animals including kingsnakes, corn snakes, milk snakes, lizards of many flavors, tarantula, and EXCITEMENT! 

Too often people do not read or learn what an animal requires to thrive, rather, they buy on impulse.  The animals are ALWAYS the losers.  Part of this message is felt as rescued animals... now ambassadors are introduced by the rescuers.  Liam the monitor lizard is a classic case.  Rescued from a dumpster by volunteer and UNM Herpetology graduate Aja, he has become a staple part of outreach as he slurps down earthworms for his audiences.
"Liam" was a dumpster rescue  ***courtesy of volunteer Aja

We work with reptile veterinary specialists to provide the animals health and well-being.

We encourage audiences always to leave the wild in your heart and not in your home.... to support CAPTIVE BORN & BRED.

We do NOT support or encourage possession or purchase of wild caught animals as pets.  We talk to our audience about "Bio-Piracy," the catching the animals from the wild and then smuggling of animals for the pet trade.  

Gila Monsters & Beaded Lizards

Photo by: Dr. Daniel Beck

A special part of my outreach is with "Picasso" the Gila Monster & "Oso" the Mexican Beaded Lizard.  Regarded as in the top 5 most "Critically Endangered" lizards in the world, the beaded lizard is one of two lizards in the northern hemisphere that is venomous.  The other is America's most fabled lizard the Gila Monster. This family of lizards, called:
"Helodermatidae," have been around since the Cretaceous Period.  

Differences between Gila monsters and beaded lizards: 2 animals on top are Gila monsters.  The animals under the top two are beaded lizards:

Print by Tell Hicks
Print by: Tell Hicks


Seeming to crawl from under a 
blanket of shale, the fossil of a 
well-preserved lizard found in 
Germany has been shown to be 
an ancient relative of venomous 
Gila monsters. Modern day Gila 
monsters are found only in the 
deserts of the U.S. Southwest and 
northern Mexico.

The fossil reptile lived about 47 -100 

million years ago near a volcanic lake 
surrounded by a rich diversity of wildlife. 
Researchers with the Senckenberg 
Research Institute in Frankfurt, who 
examined the fossil, say that canals in its 
teeth suggest the primitive creature was 
already producing venom.

Gila monsters and Beaded lizards were alive during the cretaceous
period which is when the mighty T-Rex and Triceratops roamed the

Click the white box directly below to see a Gila Monster Hatching by
Dr. Mark Seward:
    "Click" See a Gila Monster hatching. 

Eggs are laid deep in burrowsHatchlings drink the yolk inside the egg for nutrition before leaving the burrow to begin their lives.


Gila Monsters and Beaded Lizards venom is considered "defensive" and not used to "subdue or kill"
"Bone Clones" provide realistic models of their jaw
Venom glands are located on the sides of the 
lower jaws and envenomation occurs through 
chewing and squeezing capillaries up and into 
the mouth.

The teeth do not conduct venom and are not hollow, 
but are "brittle and tend to break off during the bite.

Both species have been known to roll upside down 
to increase the amount of venom being expressed into 
the harassing animal or human. It helps remind potential predators to not muck with these animals.  
While no fatalities from a bite has occurred it is excruciating, nauseating, causing intense neurological symptoms. 

Gila Monster is named "Tiníléí" in the Navajo Language. It is said that Gila Monster possess mystical power, and its name is used as prayer in one ceremony. Gila Monster are respected and greatly honored by the Navajo People as well as certain Apache Tribes, and is used by Navajo medicine men to diagnose ailments.
    The Diné (Navajo) people believe everything in nature has its own place and purpose in the universe. Animals and other living things play a significant role in the origin and existence of the Diné people. Gila Monsters were created by a very powerful healing song. They possess very mystical powers. Diné medicine men use the Gila monster as a tool to diagnose ailments. Its name is used as a prayer in the healing process, thus the Gila monster is respected and honored.
    It is also believed some Diné women create weaving patterns which are based on the skin designs of the Gila Monster. Apache and Navajo respect and revere gila monsters.
     Similar to Gila Monsters, Beaded Lizards do NOT seek confrontations with humans but are shy, reclusive animals
      Click the white box directly below to hear a Gila Monster warning by Sonoran Desert Museum:
    "Click" & hear a Gila Monster warning

     New Mexico Game and Fish Science in Education Program: 
    "Picasso" the Gila Monster and "Oso" the beaded lizard visit classrooms and venues throughout New Mexico schools, museums, and public venues.  The lizards also visit other states raising awareness for Diabetes and obesity education.  
    Byetta© is the name of the drug derived from the venom of gila monsters to treat diabetes type II.   Oral extended release treatment: Byedureon is now available.

    Additionally, successful treatment with helodermin has been successful in killing the small cells of gastric and lung cancer.
Venom is extracted from a Gila monster & is then placed into a centrifuge and "spun" until various components/proteins settle and can be removed to help find cures for diseases.  No animals are harmed in this process.

Venom is discharged through glands in the lower jaw

Centrifuge spins and separates components




They are believed to possess supernatural powers which cause pregnant women to miscarry.

Another popular myth explains that these animals create lightning simply by dropping their tail to the ground.  People slaughter these animals due to a superstition.

All beaded lizards are listed as "Endangered" and the Montagua Valley Beaded Lizard
H. charlesbogerti is one of the top 5 most critically endangered lizards in the world.
First babies hatched at Atlanta Zoo in 2012

Atlanta Zoo has 8 pairs of Montagua Valley Beaded Lizards and is actively working to breed these animals, successfully hatching babies in 2012.  Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, Lilly Pharmaceuticals, Zootropic and the International Reptile Conservation Fund are working toward preserving the Montagua Valley Beaded Lizard.


Gila Monsters:
It is illegal to molest, harm or capture a gila monster. They are considered: "Highly Imperiled" and illegal to transport across state lines without permit.  The Pet Trade and human encroachment has nearly caused the total extinction of these animals.  Mean spirited people and even feral cats have been cited as causing declines in the Gila monster populations.

To Report smuggling, poaching or cruelty against a native species: Operation Game Thief at:
 (888) 248-6866 
This fellow below got identified and caught within 1 week after killing the Gila monster (a protected species).

Arrested for killing a protected Gila monster in 2012


 Common Behavior of Beaded Lizards & Gila Monsters...   

Sleeping Upside-Down:

Mexican Beaded Lizard
Whether against a branch, in their water bowl, flat out in the open or in their hide these lizards like to lay on their back and sleep

While they MAY appear dead... they are sound asleep or may be day-dreaming.


El Ranchos de los Golandrinas
Reptiles of NM 
BEMP Monitoring Project

Museum of Natural History
Gila Monsters & Beaded Lizards
Alb., NM (All are invited) 

Animal Humane of New Mexico
Reptile Respect


Animal Humane Assn of NM
Reptile Respect

Animal Humane Assn of NM
Reptile Respect

Animal Humane Assn of NM
Reptile Respect

NM Game & Fish Outdoor Expo 
Reptiles of NM 

NM Game & Fish Outdoor Expo 
Reptiles of NM 

NM Game & Fish Outdoor Expo 
Reptiles of NM 


      Past Events:



Valley High School
Reptiles of NM
Spring Zing

University of New Mexico
MESA Science & Career Outreach
Middle Schools across New Mexico
Photo courtesy of Logan Behrman

      1/26/15: Brown-Mackie Veterinary Technician School handling and exotic animal triage:
      1/15/15: The Bosque School (Gila monster/beaded 

      1/16/15: The Bosque School (Gila monster/beaded lizards)

    EcoEd Consortium of Educators
EcoEd is a local New Mexico consortium of groups 
sharing activities and teacher development: