Monday, December 8, 2014

"All My Friends Are Turtles" or "People, let me tell you 'bout my best frog"

Since I totally blew it and didn't go out since the springtime (or my last post), I figured I'd introduce everyone to my home herps: my pets. It's beyond the point where I can get out on a relatively warm day and unearth anything else but regret for not making better use of the warm weather months. So what better way to bring the herps to you than to bring the herps I already have! That reads so wrong...

I got this idea last week during feeding time. My grandfather bought me, my father and cousin headlamps to use for hunting/fishing, which he gave to us last week. I of course had to try it on, so upon entering the dark room where my tanks are, instead of turning the lights on like a normal person, I tested my headlamp.

I have issues.

I'll introduce them, even though they all do not have names (something I've been yelled at for before), talk about the species, and about them individually. That'll be fun, right?...RIGHT?

Painted Chubby Frog/Banded Bullfrog (Kaloula pulchra)

"I is chubbeh."

This lil guy is one of my favorites. Banded bullfrogs (AKA painted frogs, chubby frogs, bubble frogs, and other offensive names) are awesome. I've had about 3 or 4 of them over the years, and this one I inherited with buying the Exo Terra tank he's housed in. I've had him for at least 2 years now, and he's still going strong and as fat as ever.

Painted frogs are native to South East Asia, so this one was obviously store bought, as I have not been overseas to stock up on amphibians recently. They hide out on the forest floor or in rice paddies (hence them also being known as "rice frogs"). As you could imagine of a Southeast Asian frog, they love warm and humid weather. They're buried or hidden during the day, and most active at night. Slow, as his plump physique would suggest, he's not the most agile hunter, but he's voracious. Those love-handles didn't come outta nowhere.

"I'm too sexy for this blog."

This flubbery fella is buried most of the time, except for when he hears the pitter-patter of little cricket feet above him, or it's night time, or I just spray-misted the tank. Sometimes he'll have his head poking out of the soil, awaiting a meal. Above is a rarity for him to be out and about.

Also, Google the male's mating call. They sound like those moo cow cans. Ya know, the little toy cans that you flip upside down and they make a cow sound? They moo. The frogs moo.

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus or Bufo americanus)

"I'm a dirty, dirty girl..."

They went and changed the scientific name for these guys for whatever odd reason (as stated in a previous blog), but whatevs. Always have a soft spot in my heart for these. This one, I admit, was a wild one I saved from a parking lot at my old job. I really don't trust slow animals around people, so instead of letting her sit out in plain view only to be stomped on, I commandeered her. I haven't had a wild toad since I was much younger, and she's doing very well since I scooped her up a year ago.

I won't go into much detail about the species, since they're really common around the area, and I did a whole blog entry on them already, so I'll just reiterate how fond I am of them, and how hearty they are as species. 

This little lady has quite the appetite. She's usually stays hidden or completely buried, but since I dug her up to eat, she's not submerged herself back down and kinda just sits out in the open. Maybe she's waiting for more food...

Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina orientalis)

"What you want, round eye?"
I've always loved this little exotic critters. Hailing from China, or Korea, or south Russia...or sometimes Europe (there are different sub-species that are all over the darn place), these guys are pretty common in pet stores. This fella was a PetSmart special, and are often considered beginner, or "expendable", starter pets due to their abundance and ease of care. I've had this one for a while now, and usually have pretty good luck with them in captivity.

This guy has been moved around from different habitats, now finding himself in a giant 50+ gallon freshwater tank shared with a red-eared slider and a paddletail newt. He's pretty active and eats well. He loves going after crickets that are more than half his size...and wins every time. He also usually is the one to get the special "treats" (i.e. bugs that either get in the house, are near the light fixtures outside in the summer, or what I find in the backyard.) I spoil him.

I'm actually going to be moving him (and possibly the newt) into their own, smaller enclosure that's more suitable to their needs. For now, all parties seem to be content.

Paddletail Newt (Pachytriton labiatus)

"I know Kung-Fu."
This feisty bastard is pretty elusive, as are most paddletails. He doesn't come out often, but when he does, he's on the prowl.

Another Asian amphibian immigrant, I've developed an affinity for this species due to their heartiness and stout little bodies. They're extremely territorial and have a ravenous appetite. Being naturally aggressive, he's even nipped at my red-eared slider before, which amuses me, because that guy is a jerk.

This dude loves him some blood worms, and usually gets the entire cube to himself. I'm fairly certain he's picked off a few guppies as well, as some magically go missing.

I will also say that I'm not too sold on the idea that you can't house these guys with other species. I've had paddletails in cohabitation with fire-bellied newts, African clawed frogs, and my current fire-bellied toad above, and never had an issue with aggression. Go figure.

Coincidentally, these guys are often mislabeled as "fire-bellied newts" in pet stores, and he was no exception the day I got him (I of course corrected the employee there).

"I'm king of the world!"

Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina)

I've always had an affinity for turtles, despite being more of an amphibian guy. They interest me, and I loves them. I got my first box turtle when I was in 3rd grade and lived for years. I had one that I got in grade school (about 7th grade) up until last year. His name was Happy. Happy liked to climb into our neighbor's yard. Happy got stuck in an empty flower pot in the July heat one day and I came outside too late. Happy was a rebel until the end.

Box turtles are awesome pets. Good luck getting one now, though. They're protected in the wild and they don't sell them at pet stores. I found both from my current lot on Craigslist: Peanut and Herman. Peanut I got from a family who had him for like, 12 years, and their kid didn't want to take care of him anymore. Herman, well, I got Herman from some rednecks in Jersey who I'm fairly certain found him in their yard and decided to sell him. They were drinking PBR at the time when they answered the door.

I've found a few box turtles in Jersey in the woods, but never any in PA. I've only found old shells. Eastern box turtles are now protected in the wild due to over-harvesting for the pet trade. I'm pretty sure both these dudes were wild at one point. That probably explains their adventurous nature.

Every turtle I've had likes to climb through the iron fence into my neighbor's yard and dig into the mulch, despite having more than enough cover via garden plants and soil in my yard. Happy and Peanut spent a lot of time together, and Happy taught Peanut his escape route. They both at one point got through my neighbor's door into the alleyway and went to the other end of the block into another neighbor's yard, because fuck me, that's why. Happy used to prison break a lot, and that wasn't the first time I lost him to the alley. At one point, he was gone most of the summer. Since Happy is no longer with us, Peanut passed the Andy Dufrene escape route to Herman.

"Get busy livin', or get busy dyin'." - Peanut
Herman is slower, and bulkier, and therefore less nomadic. He doesn't always follow Peanut and more or less is chill. When I let them out to walk around the house (which has both startled and amused my mother and roommate when living with them respectively), Herman pretty much finds a spot and stays there. He also has a deformity on his left cheek that makes his jawbone jolt out, but other than that, these two are healthy and content.

They pretty much eat anything. I keep mine in a tank in the cold months, and out in the yard in the warm months. Warmer months make it easier to care for them. I dig them worms, find them slugs (that grossed my roomie out, but not his girlfriend. Pansy.) They get all sorts of food and treats. They get a mix of proteins and fruits and veggies. They were devouring crickets in these photos.

No bug is safe.

I truly enjoy watching and interacting with these guys. Box turtles are definitely my favorite species of reptile, and one of my favorite pets to have. They even get along with my parents' dog. Hopefully these guys live long enough for me to show my hypothetical children.

Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea)

"I'm very photogenic."

I couldn't even begin to count how many green tree frogs I've had over the years. From my first two as a pair as a wee lad, Kermit and Flip, to my current one, tree frogs have fascinated me. They can climb vertical surfaces like Spider-Man, for cryin' out loud!

I was fortunate enough to catch a few wild ones whilst vacationing in Florida and South Carolina. I'm a sucker for tree frogs in general, but I'm a little biased towards these little dudes.
"Yo bo, it ain't easy bein' green." - Kermit the Frog's Soufilly cuzin

To say that green tree frogs are "spry" would be an understatement. I have to keep an eye out for this guy springing out every time I open the tank. Although he stays fairly active when I'm looking, he mainly sits out in the open and on the vines suction-cupped to the side of the tank. These guys get along with other species, as they're small enough to not try to eat anyone else, but big enough to not be lunch. He holds his own at feeding time against his other, bigger roomies.

Can YOU spot all the frogs? Camouflage in action.

Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)

The dbag of all my pets.
My silder has a first name, it's W-A-L-T-E-R...and he's kind of a dick. Walter has an insatiable appetite, he's aggressive, and has claimed the lives of 2 African clawed frogs since I've had him. Water turtles eat anything they can capture, although he mainly lives off of pellets, flakes, and a special water turtle food blend with mealworms and shrimp in it. The thing is, he's not a very good hunter, as he half-heartedly chases the guppies around the tank for a minute, only to admit defeat and start shit with the other animals in the tank. Since I moved him into the bigger fish tank, giving him more room to swim freely, he's calmed down a bit. He doesn't bother my fire-bellied toad, and the paddletail newt is never really out to have a confrontation with him, so he's a little less of a jerk. Before, he was constantly eyeing up whatever I housed with him, despite their size.

I'm full aware that sliders are actually not indigenous to the East Coast (they are actually from the Midwest), and these pets are often given up or released by owners who have no clue how to care for them, or don't know that they don't say silver dollar-sized forever, or get too lazy for the upkeep required to house them. With that being said, I have no intention of giving him away or releasing him as an invasive species into the local habitat. He's just...such a dick.

"I run this shit."

White's Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea)

My most exotic, and perhaps, almost favorite pet. White's tree frogs (or dumpy tree frogs, or smiling frogs, because they're TOTES ADORBS).

Totes adorbs.

Meet Carl. Carl is my White's tree frog, who I've had for quite some time. Carl hails from Australia and New Guinea. Still young, Carl will eventually become a Jabba the Hut-like behemoth of a tree frog.

I've had a few White's tree frogs over the years and have always thought they were great pets. They (along with the green tree frogs) can stand moderate temperatures and humidity, so you don't need a misting system or elaborate setup to keep them comfortable. They're not the most agile bunch, so they make for some good pets you can take out of the tank and let roam around without them darting under a radiator or behind your entertainment center. Calling them "cumbersome" is accurate.

Carl treats me to his mating calls random nights. I can't pinpoint if he's doing them under certain circumstances (temperature changes, moisture in the tank, etc.), or certain times. I'll say the loud bellowing croaking doesn't even startle me in the middle of the night anymore since he does it most nights (for the first time in a long time, my pet tanks are in my bedroom). Carl is also a bit of a celebrity with my friends, as he's met some of them, and they love him...for the most part. My roommate and Carl didn't see eye to eye on very much.

The epic staredown of 2014. Carl won.

As you can imagine by now, I love all my pets. I've cared for them since I was a youngin' catching frogs up the Poconos. I enjoy being able to observe them on a daily basis, talk to them even though have no fucking clue what I'm saying, and be their caretaker. As dumb as it sounds, my pets have always been able to teach me about both the natural world, and life in general, small and simple as they may be. They keep me balanced, and having them around always reminds me to do what I can to help conservation efforts, and give me a respect for life, no matter how big or small they are. 

They also make me want to go herping, but it's December, so I'm ultimately fucked until the springtime. I plan on using that headlamp a lot during the early spring months. So thanks for the motivation, fellas, along with putting a smile on my face when you do something interesting...or stupid, like jump into the top of the tank and faceplant.

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