Alligator Alley


Q: What's a FAQ?

A: Frequently Asked Questions are provided here as an informational service. They are not intended to replace veterinary or other professional advice. They are a starting point for further research. Your mileage may vary...

Q: Do reptiles need to go to the Vet?

A: Yes.
There are now many vets who will treat reptiles.  Some have more knowledge and experience than others. A good place to start looking for a vet is the  ARAV , a professional association for reptile and amphibian vets.  Keep in mind that health problems in any animal are much easier to prevent than to cure.  It is a good idea to establish a relationship with your vet before you have a problem.  Reptiles do not need vaccinations like dogs and cats, but a good vet can do things like check for parasites and injuries.  There are several vets in central Oklahoma who see reptiles.   Dr. Simmons  in Yukon is one of our favorites.

Q: My Ball Python stopped eating. What can I do?

A: First, check the temperature.  Ball Pythons do best when the daytime temperature is around 85 degrees (with warmer and cooler areas at each end) and the night-time temperature is 70-75 degrees. In the wild, they go through a dormant period during the cooler months and don't eat, so your animal may have figured out that it is winter.  There are two ways this can happen.  One is that the cage temperature has been too low. The other (more common) reason is that the day length is too short.  Even if the cage temperature is correct, the snake will frequently stop feeding if the day length is less than 12 hours.  This may occur if the cage lights are on less than 12 hours, or if window light is brighter than the cage lighting. If the cage lights are on 24 hours a day, the same thing may happen.  Remember that snakes have no eyelids, so it is important for this and other reasons that they have a darkened cage at night.  If your home is too cool (below 70 degrees) you may want to get a red or purple nocturnal bulb, or a ceramic heat emitter that produces heat, but no light.
Keep the lights on for 14 hours daily and feeding will often restart. As long as there is not another health problem, a fast of a couple of months will not hurt a healthy ball python.

If you purchased your snake recently and it has never eaten since you bought it, contact the person who sold it to you. Alligator Alley sells only snakes that are feeding properly, but some dealers--especially flea markets and other quick-buck sellers, will sell freshly imported snakes that have not been acclimated to captivity. They can be much more difficult to get started. The best resource for getting a wild-caught adult to feed is The Ball Python Manual by Phillipe De Vosjoli. you can pick up a copy at Alligator Alley or at most reptile specialist stores.

Q: My iguana won't eat. What can I do?

A: First, check the temperature. Iguanas must have a body (cage) temperature of 88 degrees F to function optimally. Second, look for swelling in the back legs or bottom jaw. These indicate a low calcium level. (Often associated with an unsupplemented diet.) Third, look for sources of stress in the environment. A new dog, a recent move, or high noise levels can impact appetite. Finally, is she gravid (pregnant)? Well-fed, unmated females can produce (infertile) eggs in quantity and stop eating a few weeks before laying.

Q: I've heard that iguanas carry a disease that people can get.  Is it safe to keep one?

A:  Iguanas, along with most other reptiles, and most other animals (including dogs, cats, birds, hamsters etc.) can carry the Salmonella bacterium, which causes a type of food poisoning.  People with weakened immune systems (children under five, the elderly, HIV infected individuals, those on immuno-suppressant drugs) are at a greater risk for contracting this disease.  Even healthy individuals should practice good hygiene (wash your hands) after handling any animal. Alcohol based hand sanitizers such as Purell are available from many stores and are quicker and easier to use than soap and water.
     To become infected, a person must get bacteria from the animal's digestive tract into his own.  To be very graphic, this means getting fecal material into your mouth.  Keep cages clean and wash your hands!

Q. Why is your store is called Alligator Alley.  Do you really sell Alligators?

A. When we began business in 1988, it had just become legal to sell American Alligators again, after decades when they had been unavailable.  My favorite reptile had always been the alligator, the word "alligator" starts with the letter "a"  which is good when people are looking through a long alphabetical list of businesses, and it is more memorable than a name like "Bryan's Pet Store", while emphasizing the fact that we specialize in reptiles.
     We have sold a number of alligators over the past years. The Wildlife Department of the State of Oklahoma has always regulated their sale, requiring every sale to be documented, owners to be licensed and inspected etc.  In 1997, they decided that Title 29 of the Oklahoma State Statutes (our wildlife laws) had always been interpreted incorrectly in the past, and that it was illegal to keep alligators in the state.  We were granted a grandfather letter allowing us to "keep and/or sell" our remaining alligators, since they had been approved already, but we were no longer given the required permits to bring them into the state. Not wanting to be "Alligator-less Alley", we decided to keep all the animals we still had in stock.
     We reluctantly went back to selling South American Caimans (something we hadn't done when we had alligators).  I say reluctantly, because so many buyers of caimans are not adequately prepared to house them in the long run.  But we felt like we should carry a few, because other stores in the area had them, and we felt that we could at least educate potential buyers with accurate information when they came to the store (something that didn't always happen at some other stores).
     In 2000, it became illegal to house crocodilians on residential property in Oklahoma City.  We are still allowed to display our animals at the store, but people who live in the city are no longer allowed to buy them.  It was with some relief that we no longer felt the need to carry any Spectacled Caimans to compete with other stores.
     You can still see alligators here, and if you live out of town, we can still arrange to sell Dwarf Caimans (if you can convince me that you are prepared to care for them properly), but we will no longer sell any of the Spectacled Caimans.

Q:  My dad bought me an Asian House Gecko.  And I would like to know how to take care of it correctly.  Would you please tell me what they eat besides crickets if they do, what you need for housing purposes, all I have is the terrarium moss that was used for my green tree frog.  Do I need to mist it every morning?

A:  You should keep house geckos much like other small lizards in a glass or plastic tank with a screen lid and a heat lamp over one end.  They need to have a place in the tank that reaches 80-90 degrees so they can properly digest their food.  Keep the floor of the tank covered with long-fiber sphagnum moss or reptile bark and mist the cage at least once a day, both for humidity and because these small lizards prefer to drink from water droplets as opposed to a water bowl.  Feed small (1/2") crickets at least twice a week (every day is ok).  If you coat the crickets with a vitamin and calcium supplement or feed the crickets a vitamin-loaded food your new lizard will stay healthier, longer.  You can save money by catching wild insects, but you should be aware that they may have been sprayed with poison and/or be carrying parasites like roundworms or tapeworms. 

Q: What do South American Firebelly Toads eat besides crickets?

A:  Firebelly toads, Bombina orientalis and other Bombina are actually Asian (not South American) despite what some part-time reptile dealers might say.  Crickets (along with vitamin and calcium supplements) make up a good basic diet.  You can also feed other captive raised feeder insects such as waxworms/moths, houseflies and (sparingly) mealworms.  Some firebellies will also eat feeder fish such as guppies and small goldfish.  A few will learn to take Reptomin (a prepared diet made by Tetra) when dropped onto the surface of the water.
     Be extremely careful about using wild-caught insects, as they may have been exposed to poisons and they frequently carry internal parasites that may harm your pets.

Q: I just bought an alligator.  How should I take care of it?  How big will it get.  How large a tank will it need?

A:  Those are all questions you should have asked before you made the decision to take on responsibility of an extremely large, potentially dangerous carnivorous reptile.  Baby crocodilians are quit cute and appealing, but if they are cared for properly they will quickly grow to a size that is unmanageable by all but the most experienced and dedicated owners. In the Southern states, you may be able to build a secure outdoor enclosure around a pond to house an American Alligator.  If you are in an area of the country where winter temperatures regularly fall below 15 degrees, you will eventually need to remodel your home, or build a heated building for your animal.  If you have a South American Caiman, wintering it outdoors is out of the question, except in the very warmest sections of the country, as they are killed by temperatures near 32 degrees.  For more information, visit the Crocodilian care FAQ sponsored by the Crocodilian Specialist Group. 

Q: If I keep my Burmese Python in a small cage, won't it stay small?

A: Yes.  Until it dies a premature death.  The same holds true of other giant reptiles.  When an animal is imprisoned in a cage that does not allow for adequate movement and exercise, it will usually eat less and its growth rate will slow dramatically.  Some misguided reptile owners actually plan to keep their captives small in this way, rather than simply purchasing a smaller species in the first place. (Do they also buy St. Bernards and Great Danes, and then try to force them to stay the size of Spaniels?)  Animals which are stressed in this way are much more susceptible to disease and infection and they seem to exhibit signs of aging long before they should be expected to.  That is not to say that a few animals can't survive in a stunted condition and live a near normal life span.  Just that the vast majority do not.  There are probably several variable which determine whether an animal survives poor husbandry and stunting, but it would be exceptionally cruel to experiment and try to learn what those variables are. 

Q: My crickets keep dying, how can I keep them alive longer?

A:  For starters, keep them clean, dry, fed and watered in a spacious, well ventilated container.  For more information, see our Cricket Care Page.

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