Taking Care of Reptiles
Do you know what snakes, turtles, and lizards have in common? They’re all reptiles, and they can all be found in Canada. Whether they live in the wild, in zoos, or as pets in people’s homes, these animals are a very common part of our world.
You might think of reptiles as tropical animals, but every continent except Antarctica has at least a few reptiles. Almost all of these animals are cold-blooded, meaning that they don’t produce their own heat but need rays of the sun or a lamp to stay warm. People who keep reptiles as pets have to remember to provide a source of warmth which will keep the animal from freezing.
Almost all reptile species hatch from eggs instead of being born live, including the turtles, snakes, and lizards that live in Canada. Although some snakes in the United States and other parts of the world are poisonous, none of Canada’s reptiles can do much harm to people. However, one problem for owners of snakes and lizards is that the animals often try to escape, meaning that the cages have to be very well made.
Getting a reptile as a pet can be a very long-term commitment, especially since some turtles and tortoises can live for more than one hundred years. These animals can become very friendly with people, but they can often seem much less affectionate than pets like dogs or birds. When they are afraid, they might run and hide, change colour to camouflage, hiss, or bite anyone who is nearby. Taking care of a reptile as a pet can help you acquire and practice responsibility. Just like remembering your homework deadlines at school every day, you must remember to feed your pet reptile- maybe you can even bring them for show and tell!
One very obvious difference between reptiles and other animals is that reptiles are covered with either scales like a snake or a hard, bony shell that helps to protect them from injury. Turtles, for example, can retreat into their shells whenever they sense danger, and lizards have scales to protect them from harm.
Keeping a reptile as a pet might sound exciting, but it can be a lot of work. Some animals might refuse to eat processed reptile food from a store, and pet owners can spend a lot of time looking for fresh insects or finding other live food for their animals. Many reptiles end up being given away or abandoned because their owners changed their minds about keeping these very unusual pets.
Even if you prefer not to have a reptile as a pet, you can spend time watching them at a zoo or anywhere else where you can observe their behaviour. Despite the often odd and mysterious way they look and act, these animals can provide a fascinating insight into the animal world- check them out, and don’t be afraid!
Canadian Herpetological Society. “Key to the Reptiles of Canada.”
Kaplan, Melissa. “Reptiles as Pets.”
Science Kids. “Fun Reptile Facts for Kids.” http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/animals/reptile.html.
Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Fun facts about reptiles and amphibians. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/ReptilesAmphibians/Facts/.