"In the end, we will only conserve what we love, we will only love what we know, and we will only know what we are taught." Baba Dioum
I Found a Reptile. What Do I Do?
Reptiles are very hardy and resilient animals. With supportive care, most reptiles can recover from a variety of injuries.
If you find an injured or displaced reptile, place it in a cardboard box, and put it somewhere warm, dark, and quiet. Do not play show and tell. Do not allow children to play with it. Wild reptiles are highly stressed when taken captive and can be injured while struggling.
DO NOT GIVE AND FOOD OR WATER!
Contact Wichita Falls Reptile Rescue or another rescue/rehabilitator in your area. See our Contact Us page.
Do not attempt to handle snakes you cannot positively identify. Place a box or bucket over the snake and contact WFRR through the Contact Us page.
If you find a horned lizard (horny toad) in an unsafe location, it is injured, or does not appear to be acting normally and you are not sure if it is injured; take numerous photos in good focus and bright lighting, and email them right away to firstname.lastname@example.org, then go to the contact us page and call us on the number given.
We will respond as soon as possible and give an assessment. Photos of the habitat are also preferable. In the meantime, keep the lizard sequestered in a cardboard box or sweater box, in a warm (not hot) and QUIET room. Do not handle or observe excessively. This lizard is extremely prone to stress and nervousness and may injure itself or actually become ill as a result of stress if too much interaction. You may offer a small, shallow dish of filtered or bottled water. Do not offer food. If the horned lizard is not in danger, after assessment, it can be returned to the same location within a few yards, at morning or evening when temperatures are favorable for it to be out and reorienting itself. Remember, these animals are not out and about in the heat of the day. They bask and hunt in the morning and evening when it is cooler.
Turtles Crossing the Road
It is very kind to help a turtle crossing the road in traffic. If you do stop to help, be cautious, and ALWAYS place the turtle far off the road and in the direction he was headed, not the way it just came.
A turtle that has been hit by a car and suffered a cracked shell can be rehabilitated. ALWAYS take note of the specific area the reptile was picked up, so it can be returned to its own territory.
Relocation of Reptiles
For many reasons, please do not relocate on your own any reptiles that you may find. Many people want to help when they find a turtle or even a snake or lizard, and will take it miles down the road, off to the country, etc. This does not do them any favors most of the time, and in fact more often than not, does them harm.
Most reptiles have established home ranges, and they continue to use the resources in this home range year round, year after year. They know where the resources are to keep them alive in this home range, they have imprinted on it since they were born. They may return to the same spot to hibernate and to lay their eggs year after year. Many people tell me they see the same turtles return yearly to their gardens, flower beds and back yards; and that they happen to know the particular animal because it has a scratch on its shell, etc.
Studies conducted on relocated reptiles, which were tracked after release, indicate that most reptiles have less than a 10% chance of survival upon being relocated outside of their home range. Another study advanced the figure to possibly 20%, but this is less than half the success rate enjoyed by releases of mammals. In other words, this means the reptile has between 80-90% chances of dying the first winter, if you relocate it outside its original territory.
What Happens When You Relocate A Reptile Outside Of Its Home Range?
It will most likely wander in search of its home. It will cross more roads than usual, exposing itself to more dangers because it is on the move more than it should be. It will not settle and rest when it is supposed to. It will not be foraging or hunting as it should be, thus, it will not be getting enough to eat. It will be expending excess energy, being on the move, and burning more calories than it would be if it were back in its own territory. It will not be prepared with adequate fat reserves for winter and may starve. When winter comes, it will not know where it is in relation to its normal hibernation place, and it may not find a suitable hibernation place in time. It may even refuse to go into a perfectly suited den that belongs to another animal. It may freeze to death.
Most relocated reptiles are likely to not survive their first winter. Relocated reptiles have on average a 10-20% chance of survival the first year as documented by research papers. In one documented instance, a critically endangered Desert Tortoise was tagged and relocated by wildlife officials in Death Valley. This tortoise was documented to have then trekked 11 miles across the Mojave Desert, back to his original den! Tortoises were not meant to walk 11 miles across desert trying to find their home. Many hundreds of other desert tortoises were killed by the US government relocation efforts because, as the tortoises attempted to return to their homes and died of exposure, or when caught in the open by coyotes.
This is why it is important to always note where the reptile was found. If it needs attention, note the location, get in touch with us, and we will make sure that it gets released where it belongs when the time is right. If the location is not safe for some reason, due to development or other, then we can survey the area and make an assessment as to whether it has remaining habitat in the home range it can use, or if it needs sanctuary elsewhere.