The American alligator is a large reptile native to the southeastern united states Previously the American alligator was a federally listed endangered species. In the early 1900s the alligator was hunted close to extinction which brought it to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The hunting of these animals was prohibited, and their habitat was protected. In the 1980s the species had recovered enough to be removed from the endangered species list. Today, however, the large reptile is still protected due to its similar appearance to the American crocodile which is currently protected due to low population numbers (they are on the rise though!) Hunting of the American alligator is currently allowed, but it is regulated.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have statistics that show alligator attacks have actually increased from around 6 per year in 1971-1986 to around 10 per year from 1987-2017. This is likely due to human population increasing in the areas that alligators call home. Another source showed that human population was positively correlated with alligator attacks - more people, more likely the chance of an encounter. Humans also increase their chances of conflict by feeding alligaors (intentionally or unintentionally - throwing fish off the dock when alligators are present in the area can produce a similar association as feeding the gators), swimming in bodies of fresh water which gators are present in, allowing pets or children to play or drink from open bodies of fresh water, and generally approaching alligators fro photographs or not giving the animals space. The best way to mitigate conflicts with alligators are to simply leave them alone.
More information on American alligators can be found:
The American crocodile is a large carnivorous reptile which can grow to over 15 feet long and up to 2,000lbs. it is an at-risk species throughout its range in North and South America. There is not much information known about their population status except for in the United States, but illegal hunting and habitat loss are two factors that are heavily influencing the populations.
American crocodiles have a global status of “vulnerable”, which means that this species is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances that are threatening the species survival and reproduction are improved. In Florida, the northern most extent of the American crocodile’s range, laws have been put in place to protect the American crocodile and there has been improvement in the reproduction and survivorship which has led them to be state listed as Threatened.
There are 22 species of crocodilians found in the whole world, of these species only 13 of them are crocodiles, and only two crocodilians are found in the United states - the American alligator, and the American crocodile! In the U.S. the American crocodile thrives in the mangrove swamps, bays, and creeks of Florida and tends to spend the winter months further inland than during the summers and breeding season.
The population in Florida, however, is quite a small portion of the crocodiles range. A majority of the population lives in southern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the northern portions of South America. A recent push has begun in Jamaica to protect the American crocodile, which is an amazing step for their conservation. One of the tools being used to conserve this species is to educate residents with “Croc-Wise” – an educational outreach program targeting communities and schools. This program will help to inform residents about the natural history of the crocodile, their preferred habitat, and to help prevent human-crocodile conflicts from occurring.
This is a huge step, considering a VICE article written in 2016 (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8ge4yv/the-rogue-conservationist-trying-to-save-jamaicas-alligators) which discusses how decades of development has destroyed much of the habitat for the crocodiles, overfishing has depleted the food sources of the crocodiles, and a surge in demand for crocodile meat has led to increased poaching (which is still a big issue now in 2019). At the time this article was written the government had not shown much interest in protecting the crocodiles and one individual, Lawrence Henriques, who had taken it upon himself to help the crocodiles out in any way he could.
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is managing the American crocodile population in Jamaica. The management includes a crocodile rescue and research operations committee which are a combination of efforts from NEPA the Hope zoo, and several other NGO's and private individuals. Together they relocate nuisance animals, perform research and general assessments of the crocodile population, and formulate policies and strategies to create effective management plans. All conservation efforts will hopefully keep these creatures from going extinct, and create a happy environment for the crocodiles and human beings to be able to coexist peacefully. To learn more about the American crocodile more information can be found at the link provided below:
The Jaguar is likely one of the most well-known cats of Belize. Jaguars can reach lengths of around 7 feet from head to tail and weigh up to 250lbs. This cat used to be very common in the coastal mangroves, savannas, and shrub lands of Belize, however it is highly prized for its fur and is a persecuted killer of livestock which makes the jaguar a target for hunting and poaching. These cats are rarely seen during the day time, and spend their nights hunting prey along the rivers, lakes, and mangroves. Prey of the Jaguar include peccaries, monkeys, agouties, deer, birds, fish, lizards, turtles, among others. Historically the Jaguar is thought to be a powerful being. They are depicted in many Mayan ruins and art. Since this time of reverence the cats populations have been reduced due to hunting for fur trade, deforestation, and poaching of cats on protected lands.
The Puma, or mountain lion, is the second largest wild cat found in Belize. The puma can reach 5-8 feet in length and weigh around 100lbs.They are adapted to living in all kinds of areas ranging from the deserts of north America to the tropical forests of central and south America. They are opportunistic predators who rely on ambushing their prey. They hunt deer, agouti, and paca. This cat is an apex predator and plays a very important role in controlling the populations of prey species. Theses cats are also facing population declines as a result of hunting and deforestation.
Ocelots are one of the smaller cats of Belize. They only reach sizes of around 3 feet in length and weights of 30lbs. They are active during the day and night time and live in tropical forest. These cats spend their time foraging on the ground, and are rarely seen in trees. These cats are endangered from poaching for their furs. The trade of Ocelots fur was banned in the United States in 1972, but continued pressure from deforestation and agricultural development are still putting high pressure on the already fragmented population. The name “Ocelot” is derive from an old Aztec word “tlalocelot” which means ‘tiger cat’.
The Jaguarundi is another smaller cat that can be found in Belize. Its color can vary from black to gray, to a yellow or tan coloration. They grow to be a max size of 2 and a half feet and weigh 15lbs. They live in dense forests and open scrub habitat, and feed on smaller animals including rats, rabbits, and mice. Their feeding habits are of great economic importance in Belize since they prey on agricultural pests. Unfortunately they too are facing declines from deforestation and agricultural pressure.
The last of the wild cats found in Belize, the Margay. Margays live from Mexico down into Argentina. They live exclusively in forested areas, and are very tactful climber. These small cats reach lengths of around 2 feet and weigh a whopping 5 to 8 lbs. They may be tiny, but these cats are extremely nimble and spend a great deal of time in the forest canopies. The Margay is strictly nocturnal and has ankle joints designed specifically for climbing down trees vertically. They feed on arboreal prey including opossum, monkey, squirrel, rat, and bird species. These cats do not thrive in human presence, and are threatened by deforestation. They are currently listed as an endangered species, but Belize is home to one of the healthier populations.
For more information:
About the Author: Jenna is a graduate student at the University of Florida. Currently she is studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation while working in south Florida to manage invasive animals. Jenna primarily works with the Argentine Black and White Tegu and other invasive lizards
The Rock iguanas are composed of three species with seven subspecies:
In the Bahamas all of the Rock iguanas are protected by the Wild Animals (protection) Act, and they are all listed by CITES in Appendix 1 meaning they are near extinct or very endangered. Today it is illegal to hunt or harm any rock iguanas, and they can live up to 40 years in the wild.
Reptiles Magazine published an article in 2010 giving a quick run-down of the Cyclura sp. Which can be read here (http://www.reptilesmagazine.com/Cyclura/em-Species-Rundown/)
You can read more about the Rock Iguanas in the Bahamas min their website (https://bnt.bs/wildlife/reptiles/lizards/bahamian-rock-iguana/)
IUCN Redlist profiles of the iguanas are as follows:
Here at Ferrets and Friends, we have the joy of taking care of over 40 animals that run the spectrum of different types of exotic pets. People often ask us questions like "I have a rabbit already, but I have always wanted a chinchilla. How do they compare?" We think these are great questions, but researching the answers can be tough. We hope to write more articles to address these questions, but to start we will compare some of the extremes with the animals we already work with. We answered these questions based on our current experience taking care of parrots, ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, hedgehogs, parrots, tortoises, lizards, snakes, amphibians, and invertebrates.
The Most Clean
Our cleanest animals are our snakes and our amphibians. Weekly spot checks and deep cage cleaning every six months to a year is usually enough to keep their homes clean. Our tarantulas and millipedes also keep their enclosures pretty clean. We could not pick just one animal to say that it is the most clean.
Jubilee, our macaw, makes the list again! Her screams can be heard from other buildings! While Jubilee is pretty quiet most of the day, there is time in the afternoon that she likes to get loud (and also practice talking). Our Eclectus Parrot, Missy, also has some pretty loud calls. Anyone who wants a quiet animal should stay far away from birds.
The Most Quiet
If you covered the enclosures for our snakes, amphibians, or invertebrates, it is unlikely would even know that an animal lived there. Smaller lizards like geckos and chameleons are also extremely quiet. While larger lizards and tortoises don't make vocalizations, they are more active in their enclosures so you may hear them digging, scratching, climbing, or otherwise running about.
There are lots of different qualities that go into what makes a good pet and the exact definition will vary from person to person. Ultimately, you have to do your research and figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle.
The Burmese Python (Python bivittatus), is a snake that is found naturally occurring in a large area of tropical South and Southeast Asia. Their average lifespan in the wild is 20-25 years (NationalGeographic.com), grow to be 16ft-23ft in length, and can weigh an upwards of 200lbs. These snakes are very popular in the pet trade and can be purchased quite easily throughout the United States. Here in Florida, however, they have become a nuisance. Between raging storms destroying warehouses and freeing the captive pythons, and careless owners releasing their pets into the wild once they reach an unmanageable size, the Burmese python has an established population in south Florida – mainly in the Everglades.
Well over 2,000 pythons have been removed from the Everglades National Park (ww.nps.gov) since 2002. This is only a tiny portion of the population that is present down here in south Florida. The pythons have inflicted a devastating impact on the ecosystem in the Everglades – feasting on the native birds, mammals, and reptiles found in the ‘glades. This includes the previously endangered Wood Storks, which are currently listed as a “threatened” species (and are imperiled in the state of Florida). Below is an image showing what a Burmese python needs to consume in order to grow to be 13ft.
Two formal python management programs have been established in south Florida. One program is through the South Florida Water Management District, and the second is through Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). These programs were begun in order to enhance python removal in south Florida by specifically targeting areas and effort for the removal of the pythons, which has been one of the most successful way to remove pythons to date.
FWC Python Removal Contractor Program (PRCP)
This program was developed to involve qualified individuals with python management. These individuals must be experienced with the capture and removal of nonnative constrictors through a previous python permit obtained through a FWC python challenge event, work through a national park or preserve, or as a contractor for the South Florida Water Management District python program. They must also not have any previous violations on any FWC issued permits or wildlife-related citations and project a positive image of FWC and the python program at all times. These hunters also assume all liability for health, welfare, and safety of themselves and those assisting them.
The contractors are paid between $8.46/hour - $15/hour depending on the location that they survey. Each python nest is worth $200, and every python removed is $50 for the first 4 feet, and another $25 for every foot after the first 4 feet.
For more information on the FWC python program:
South Florida Water Management District Python Elimination Program
The South Florida water management district python elimination program began in March of 2017. This program is geared towards members of the public who are capable of identifying removing and youth and Ising pythons in Miami Dade, Hendry, Collier, Palm Beach, and Broward County from SFWMD lands in South Florida.Within this program over 2000 pythons have been removed to date. a majority if these snakes have been Under 4 feet, and only 3 have bee over 17 feet. Compensation for SFWMD hunters is comparable to the compensation provided by FWC. This program is limited to 25-35 participants, and is not currently accepting applicants.
This elimination program targets the following species:
Burmese Python (Python bivittatus)
Northern African Python (Python sebae sebae)
Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus)
Southern African Python (Python sebae natalensis)
Amethystine/Scrub Python (Morelia amethistina)
Boa Constrictor (Boa constrictor)
Yellow Anaconda (Eunectes notaeus)
Green Anaconda (Eunectes murinus)
Beni Anaconda (Eunectes beniensis)
DeSchauensee’s Anaconda (Eunectes deschauenseei)
For more information on the SFWMD Python program:
For article written about the hunters and hunting programs above:
Large python capture:
Python hunting program:
My last update on the Argentine black and white tegu front was back in May 2018, where I talked about the different tegu species that have been introduced into Florida. For this update I am going to be talking about removal efforts that I am involved in directly as part of my work and school thesis.
The Argentine black and white tegu is a large lizard native to South America – specifically Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. These lizards can reach up to four feet in length, spend most of their time on land, but can swim and remain submerged for long periods. These critters are intelligent, and when kept as house pets can be very attached to their owners and quite docile – making them wonderful pets. However, as the tegu grows very large it can become more work than their owners care to give, many owners and individuals who sell animals in the pet trade become irresponsible and release their Tegu into the wild. Occasionally, beloved pets are lost when not kept in a secure outdoor enclosure, not watched appropriately, or accidentally get loose and run away.
Currently there are removal efforts in place by several agencies including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, private trappers, and the University of Florida. Over the past fove years there have been several interagency tegu management meetings and workshops which helped to establish cohesive management objectives, plans of action and budgets, and research and resource gaps. Ideally, tegu removal will be as efficient as possible – increasing tegu removal while minimizing cost.
Trapping efforts by the University of Florida involve a trap line of 125- 150 live capture traps in a targeted area. These traps are deployed in February and are checked every day for new captures. The area being trapped is near two ecologically important areas – the Everglades National Park and the Turkey Point Power Plant – both which are home to very important and some imperiled species like the American Crocodile, which is threatened in its range. In 2018 University of Florida trapping efforts removed 360 tegus from the targeted area of trapping, and efforts are continuing in 2019. In addition to this effort there is currently a bill filed with the Florida senate that would ban ownership of Argentine black and white tegus (and sale) all together.
*All photos are from camera traps the University of Florida has set in south Florida to capture images of tegus in the wild.
We often get asked if ferrets make good pets. Our honest answer is that it depends what you are looking for in a pet. If you are looking for a simple, low maintenance pet that can be kept caged for most of the day, then then ferrets would be a poor match. Ferrets are more comparable to keeping a cat or a dog than keeping other small mammal pets. Like cats and dogs, ferrets require annual veterinary exams and rabies vaccines. While ferrets can be housed in a large cage, they require significant out of cage time for exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization. Ferrets may be a good match for individuals who are unable to have a cat or dog due to allergies, limitations with an apartment, or long work schedules. While ferrets are surprisingly tough, they tend to play more roughly which may not be suitable for families with young children. As a pet for older children, ferrets are more tolerant than other small pets that are typically advertised for children.
While it is not unheard of for a ferret to reach the age of 9 or 10, it is incredibly uncommon with most ferrets living between 5 and 7 years. Ferrets are prone to a variety of health issues which can be very expensive. We wrote about the veterinary cost for three of our oldest ferrets here: www.ferretsandfriends.org/blog/what-does-it-cost-ferret-health
Ferrets are incredibly mischievous. Creating a ferret-safe space for your ferrets to run around can be quite a challenge. Anywhere their skull can fit, they can fit. In our experience, we have ferrets that could fit under doors or cabinets. Certain types of furniture such as reclining chairs can be hazardous for a pet ferret. Ferrets can also cause a great deal of damage to furniture, carpeting, and other possessions. Even with their musk gland removed, ferrets still have their distinctive odor which is impossible to completely eliminate.
Like dogs and cats, ferrets can eat appropriate dry food or wet food that can be found in most pet stores. They should have access to food and water at all times. Ferrets have a very fast metabolism so their body may start breaking down fat reserves if they go more than four to six hours without eating. Ferrets tend to eat frequently throughout the day and night. This means that they may go to the bathroom more frequently. Many ferrets can be trained to use a litter box with some effort. For our ferrets, we use both puppy pee pads and litter boxes.
Animal Care Costs (2018 Prices): Setup
Animal Care Costs (2018 Prices): Annual Maintenance
The central American river turtle, also known as the Hickatee, is a species that is critically endangered according to the IUCN red list. Their population trend is decreasing in the wild, making them of extreme concern for conservation. Historically this turtle is the only surviving species of a family of turtles which used to be wide spread. However, now this turtle is restricted to parts of Central America, Southern Mexico and Guatemala. It is a large freshwater turtle that is nocturnal highly aquatic and completely herbivorous feeding only on plant matter. Unfortunately due to its large size it has been hunted in its range and over exploited for centuries. This over exploitation has led to the critically endangered status of this turtle and reduced its populations to the point where it is likely that they may become extinct.
Habitat and Reproduction
These turtles tend to live in deep rivers and lakes and a travel using areas that are flooded during the wet season. As the floodwaters recede they will occasionally become trapped in small ponds and lakes until the next wet season occurs and floods allow them to travel back to the deeper rivers. Not much is known about the reproduction of these turtles. Females of the species like to nest at the peak of the wet season and can lay up to a for clutches of eggs. Not much is known about the nesting and reproduction of the species due to the low numbers of populations, how fragmented they are in Central America, and the lack of research done on them. It is known that the nests are often laid below high water points and often flood for weeks, but this flooding of the nest is not shown t cause any kind of negative impacts on the survival of the hatchlings.
Hunting and over exploitation
The biggest threat to these aquatic turtles is over hunting of mature turtles and their eggs. This turtle has been hunted since the time of the Mayans and Hickatee with rice is a traditional meal that is widely eaten, especially in Belize, to this day. It is relatively easy to hunt the hickatee since it is inactive during the day time and when sold at market can bring in much profit. There are laws in place that the hunting of the turtles to be illegal in Central America since 1975, but there is a lack of enforcement which leads to the over exploitation of what populations are left.
Research and conservation
There has been some research done on these turtles, but not much is known about them. They have not had a formal population assessment throughout their range in years, and studies are extremyl difficult to perform due to lack of funding and since they have a highly fragmented population. There is a need for sites and areas to be protected to protect these turtles resources and habitat. Protection to is needed for their food sources and the water quality of the homes that these turtles live in. Management of the areas where the Hickatee is found, as well as restoration of some natural processes in highly developed areas. Species management and recovery plans are heavily needed in order to direct conservation efforts including species reintroduction where they have been exploited and conservation in the form of captive breeding and head starting. Other efforts for education include formal classroom education, training and awareness, and communications in the community where these turtles are being hunted and exploited. Encouragement for compliance and enforcement of laws to protect this animal is also heavily needed. It is also suggested that further research be done on the actual population size distribution and trends within those populations how often these turtles are harvested what they are used for and how they contribute to the livelihood of locals who are harvesting them as well as general population trends throughout their range.
It has been another big year for Ferrets and Friends, LLC. This year, we debuted a new package system to create more flexibility for our customers. Our macaw parrot has been a popular new addition to our already diverse and colorful crew. We updated our reptile enclosures to a great new setup from Animal Plastics. We also moved to a larger and more spacious location to provide more space for all of our animals friends.
We added three new species to our shows this year including our African Pygmy Hedgehog, Harlequinn Macaw, and Mexican Red Knee Tarantula. For 2019, we are not planning on adding any new species to our collection. Instead, we will be partnering with Astoria Dressage to add pony party packages next summer.
Unfortunately this year, we said goodbye to quite a few of our cherished animals stars and an excellent animal educator. Miss Lina is no longer with Ferrets and Friends and has relocated with her animals. Over the past couple years, she shared her passion for animals at a total of 122 events and worked hard on our social media accounts and marketing. We thank her for her hard work and wish her the best in her future endeavors!
While we said goodbye to some of our animal friends due to this change, we also experiences some significant deaths. Two of our ferrets, Samson and Ramona, passed away this spring. Samson retired earlier this year due to the progression of his insulinoma. We lost Samson shortly after his sixth birthday. Ramona had an unexpected and unknown illness for which she was humanely euthanized during an emergency veterinary visit. She was five years old when she passed. We regret to say that ferret lifespans are far too short and healthy ferrets can suddenly become extremely ill in a short amount of time. It is important to find out in advance about what emergency veterinary services near you are equipped to care for ferrets.
Our Friends' Health in 2018
In 2018, our animals have had fewer illnesses than they did in the previous year. This is mostly due to the average age of our ferrets. In 2017, we had four ferrets over the age of three years old which is a common age for ferrets to become ill. After our two oldest ferrets passed in the spring, our oldest ferret is now Jack who is three years old. Unfortunately, Jack was diagnosed with adrenal disease this summer. The good news is that his hormone implant has been working great so he has been his happy, active, and fluffy self!
This year, two of our new bunnies had their spay surgeries and both went well! Jessica even had a bit of a surprise for our vet as she actually had internal male parts instead of female. Our vet was very confused when he couldn't find what he was looking for originally. She's a very special bunny! After the spay, some of Wednesday's territorial behavior significantly decreased. Getting bunnies spayed is important for their health as it eliminates their risk for uterine or ovarian cancer.
Jasmine (Chinese Water Dragon) and Domino (Green Cheek Conure) have continued laying eggs this year. Our leopard gecko, Cici, has stopper laying eggs. In her older age, she seems to be slowing down and has been struggling with a cyst on her eye which we have been monitoring with our veterinarian. She is currently being retired from animal shows as our younger leopard gecko, Fiona, takes her place.
Our Partnership with Pets on Wheels Maryland
This fall, the owner of Ferrets and Friends met with the Executive Director of Pets on Wheels. Pets on Wheels is a nonprofit organization that provides pet therapy visits to a variety of settings. After a an wellness check from our veterinarian and a thorough examination from Gina (Executive Director at Pets on Wheels), we are excited to announce that two of our ferrets, two of our parrots, and our panther chameleon have all passed the temperament screening to be therapy animals. We couldn't be more proud of our animal friends! So far, Jubilee has been popular with Hospice of the Chesapeake making her visits to patients in a variety of settings.
New to the Zoo in 2018
This year, we added eight animals to our care. Four of our new additions have been doing a great job as animal ambassadors and we are waiting for the remaining four to finish their quarantine period. We added two ferrets (Aurora & Logan), a Harlequinn Macaw (Jubilee), a Veiled Chameleon (Bruce), a Chinese Water Dragon (Hiccup), a Blue Tongue Skink (Loki), a Colombian Red-tail Boa (Thor), and a baby king snake (name pending). Of these animals, only one had a previous home. Thor is a two year old albino boa constrictor and already measures an impressive five feet in length. We are excited for him to make his official debut next year!
Currently, Ferrets and Friends has 45 animals in our care. Of those animals, about 40 animals are being used in shows at the time of writing. Next year, we hope to start offering packages with some Equine friends. Rebecca, our animal educator, has been hard at work rehabilitating two ponies and training them to interact with people. They have made great improvements this past summer in riding lesson and camps. We hope to feature them in some new packages for 2019.
World of Pet Expo January 25-27
Have you been waiting for an opportunity to see our animal friends in person? Check us out at the World of Pet Expo on January 25th-27th. It is located at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, MD. There will be lots of vendors and performances. For more information, visit www.worldofpets.org. Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in 2019!
About the blog
Ferrets and Friends, LLC has four writers bringing you information on a variety of topics from pets to wildlife, education to conservation, and from new developments in our business to information about our industry. Learn something new each week!