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Preparing Your Amphibian and Reptile Collection for Autumn and Winter

Box TurtleAutumn’s arrival in the Northern Hemisphere brings both opportunities for improving your pets’ health and behavioral changes in many animals.

Seasonal Behavioral Changes

Many species, even those from regions considered “tropical”, slow down during the cooler seasons; in captivity they often respond to autumn’s arrival in a similar manner.  Animals that are native to your area will be most strongly affected, especially if exposed to the local light cycle, but even exotic species may gear their behavior to local conditions. 

Some individuals, especially if born in the wild, will cease feeding as autumn arrives even if temperatures are kept constant year-round.  Captive born animals of the same species, however, often feed throughout the winter when kept warm.  The animals I’ve observed closely in this regard (i.e. Eastern Painted Turtles, Indian Gharials, Box Turtles) lose little if any weight even when temperatures remain high and the animals maintain near-normal activity.  Please see the article below (Bearded Dragon Brumation) for details.

Fall is an ideal time to expose animals to a cooling off or hibernation period in order to stimulate breeding.  Please write in for further information on this topic.

Insect-Collecting Opportunities

I always feed my animals heavily upon wild-caught invertebrates as summer draws to a close, in anticipation of the lean months ahead.  Many insects are in great abundance at this time of the year and are easy to collect – katydids and tree crickets, out of reach in treetops during the summer, begin to show up on the ground and around outdoor lights.  Moths that flock to lighted window screens may become cold-stunned after a few hours, and are simple to pick up; cool, wet conditions bring earthworms up from their deep summer burrows.  Cicadas begin to die off and offer a wonderful bounty of food for larger frogs, lizards and turtles (please see article below).

Raising Native Invertebrates

CicadaFall is a great time to set up colonies of earthworms, sow bugs and other native invertebrates that are easy to rear indoors (please see articles below)…this will ensure a more varied winter diet for your collection.  If you happen upon a particularly rich source of insects, you might even experiment with freezing some for winter use…please write in and let me know if you do.

Further Reading

Hibernation/Brumation in Bearded Dragons and Other Herps.

Raising Sow Bugs and Earthworms.

Collecting Cicadas and other Insects.


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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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