UPDATE ON OUR SUPER REPTILES!!

New Youtube Channel!

Alexis Stauring

 

January 7, 2018

 

Hey Folks!

Since y’all like our icy alligator video so much, we made an update video of our scaly friends. Check out our new Youtube channel! Don’t forget to hit that Subscribe button! Both videos are down below! Would you like to learn more? Follow the link below! This will direct you to our blog about how reptiles have adapted to the winter season.

 

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Wetland Animals Surviving 2018’s Sub-freezing Winter!

Alexis Stauring

 

January 6, 2018

 

Oh, Father winter, how you constantly remind us of the season!  You’ll probably find yourself all bundle up, and sipping on hot cocoa while the world outside has a bitter chill. But what do animals do when winter arrives? Don’t they have a nice cozy home with central heating? Aren’t they all snuggled up, and sleeping under a snow tip pine tree with an open lit fire?  

Good questions! Most of us assume that all wildlife sleeps through the winter months until spring. This is true for some mammals like groundhogs, bears, and bats, but not everyone is dreaming throughout the long winter nights.  

For the month of January 2018, we will discuss the variety of animals in our swamp, and their clever adaptations during this chilly season.  PLUS, this week’s topic will be about our reptilian friends.

Reptiles are vertebrate animals that include snakes, lizards, turtles and alligators. They tend to have dry leathery scaly skin, and lay soft-shelled eggs on land. They are cold-blooded, and rely upon the sun to increase their body temperature. This increase will stimulate their metabolism (ectothermic).   

There are so many interesting facts about alligators! So for this week, we will focus on alligators’ adaptations during the winter. Tune into our future blogs for more “mind-blowing ” facts about alligators.  

Here at the park, we know for a fact alligators LOVE to sunbathe! Take a look at our photographic evidence!

Some Lazy Gators!

Be a Fearless Turtle!

Where does one gator begin or other gator end?

  

When alligators aren’t sunbathing, they’ll spend the other half of their life in water. They can live in water temperatures as low as 40-degrees F.  So, what happens when the water or air temperature is too low for them to be active?   Alligators will go into a state of brumation. This is where a reptile’s metabolism slows down dramatically and will go into a lethargic state. Often during this time, an alligator will stay at the bottom of a body of water. An alligator can hold its breath underwater for 1 to 24 hours. If they need to breathe, then they’ll slowly surface and peak their nostrils at the top of the water.  Just like in this photo:

They are just doing enough to keep their nostrils above water!

They’ll keep the rest of their stationary body suspended in the water. Sometimes alligators will burrow deep in mud holes along banks of the water, for added warmth. During this time alligators will not be apt to eat because of their slow metabolism. An alligator can become very sick if they have food left in their stomach.  The food becomes stagnant and rots, instead of being properly digested. Since digesting can take a lot of energy for an animal to process, sometimes maintaining body temperature will take all of an animal’s energy.  At the end of this blog there will be a video link to our Facebook page. Check it out! The video showcases the park’s alligators surviving the first brutal snow storm in NC of 2018.  

Let’s shift our attention to turtles and their adaptations during the winter. Turtles will also brumate like their cousins during the colder months. However, there are some key differences in how they maintain their body’s temperature and energy. Turtles will remain underwater and stay alert to changes in sunlight.  They’ll monitor the light so they can surface on warmer days to sunbathe.  Often, they will stay underneath the icy water at 3 to 4 months at a time. Since the water is cold and dense, it can be hard for a turtle to surface and to breathe oxygen. But don’t worry the turtle has adapted to their icy surroundings!  To maintain their minimal oxygen levels, turtles will slowly paddle around underwater to keep their blood vessels flushed. This eliminates the need to surface and to breathe with their lungs. What’s amazing is that the turtle’s most vascular area on their body is in their – butts. That’s right, turtles breathe oxygen through their butts and the technical term is called cloacal respiration.

Swim on butt breathers! Swim on! 

Yep, you guessed it, like their cousins, lizards, and snakes will also go through brumation.

Oh me o my a Skink!

Be careful where you put your hands!

Often snakes and lizards will burrow themselves into their dens and wait out the colder days. They will make themselves at home in rocky crevices, caves, rodent holes, underneath trees, rotting logs, and sometimes they’ll sleep together in groups. They will creep out of their dens on warmer days to sunbathe.  

If you ever find yourself taking a walk on our hiking trail on a warm winter day, stay alert! You might see some sunbathing reptiles.  Also, check out the links below for further information about reptile brumation from experts.  Come back next week as we will discuss birds and how they survive the winter months.  

Swamp Park’s Facebook Page Video: 

“Alligators in Ice!” https://www.facebook.com/shallotteriverswamppark/videos/767656473434331/ 

Video Link: 

Herd, T. (2012, February 25). American Alligator in Winter. Retrieved December 20, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0wdtipM5WU 

Sources:  

AT, Denise. “When Do Snakes Hibernate?” Snake Protection, 28 Nov. 2014, 06:29 pm, www.snakeprotection.com/snake_bite_blog/view/1074/when-do-snakes-hibernate-. 

“Brumation.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brumation. 

Litzgus, Jacqueline. “The Secret to Turtle Hibernation: Butt-Breathing.” LiveScience, Purch, 25 Nov. 2017, www.livescience.com/61018-turtles-breathe-through-butt.html. 

“Lizard Hibernation.” All About Lizardswww.the-lizard-lounge.com/content/library/behavior/hibernation.asp. 

“Loyola University New Orleans.” Where Do Alligators Go In Winter? | Center for Environmental Communication | Loyola University New Orleanswww.loyno.edu/lucec/natural-history-writings/where-do-alligators-go-winter. 

Feb 27, 2014 — by Natural Selections, in Canton, NY. “Natural Selections: How do turtles survive a winter underwater?” NCPR, 27 Feb. 2014, www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/24195/20140227/natural-selections-how-do-turtles-survive-a-winter-underwater. 

“Preparing Reptiles for Winters Sleep.” Reptiles Magazinewww.reptilesmagazine.com/Reptile-Health/Habitats-Care/Preparing-Reptiles-for-Winters-Sleep/. 

“Reptile Brumation.” South Carolina Aquarium, 25 Apr. 2017, scaquarium.org/brumation/. 

 

wetland-animals-surviving-2018s-sub-freezing-winter

 

http://www.shallotteriverswamppark.com/wetland-animals-surviving-2018s-sub-freezing-winter/

To The Alligator Rescue

To The Alligator Rescue
Written by: Elizabeth Knight

When guests come to The Swamp Park one of their favorite things to do is visit with our alligators. The Swamp Park is currently home to ten American alligators located in two natural outdoor enclosures and one tank indoors. Our congregation range in age from just over one year old to approximately fifty years old and from roughly ten inches to over eight feet!
The American alligator can be found in the US from North Carolina to Texas and in slow moving rivers, marshes, ponds, lakes and swamps. About once a year you will see a news report of an alligator being removed from one of the Brunswick County beaches. While it is true alligators are freshwater reptiles they do have the ability to tolerate salt water for a brief period of time but not much more than that. Alligators do not possess a salt gland.
These freshwater dwellers are carnivorous creatures feeding on mostly birds, frogs, snails, some fish, and mammals that find themselves at the water’s edge. Our gator residents enjoy a diet of chicken and fish. Feeding time is fun time!
The Swamp Park is home to North Carolina’s only privately operated licensed and certified alligator and reptile rescue sanctuary. We work closely with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission to ensure these prehistoric beauties enjoy the leisurely life here in the swamp. All our rescued alligators were previously kept in captivity under human care and therefore cannot be released in to the wild (the only other alternative being euthanasia). Either through confiscation or surrender these fantastic gators have come to be with us and are now enjoying the good life-no bathtubs or concrete ponds for these kings and queens of the swamp.

What is a bladderwort

There are times you hear something and you think to yourself, “What on earth is that?”. For some of our guests taking a trip on the Swamp Boat Eco Tour that word would have to be bladderwort. It is most certainly a funny sounding word. What does it mean and exactly what is it?

Let’s examine the word itself. A bladder is a sack (of sorts) and wort is an Olde English word that means plant. This sounds simple enough, right? However, the bladderwort is anything but simple.

A bladderwort is a carnivorous plant that is found in swamps, lakes and streams. There are hundreds of different varieties of bladderworts but they all function in basically the same way. The bladders are traps that are a part of the underwater structure where the plant catches and processes its food source. Special bacteria and enzymes inside these sacks break down and aid in the digestion of its food. The staple diet of a bladderwort includes: small animals like; insects and their larvae, water fleas, mosquito larvae, crayfish and EVEN small tadpoles. How amazing is THAT-a plant that eats animals?! It sounds like something out of a Sci-Fi movie and we have them right here in our swamp!

The bladderwort plays another significant role in the ecosystem of our swamp. It provides a place for swamp critters to lay their eggs and shelter for animals like turtles, salamanders and bull frogs. While the bladderwort is not a main staple of any creature’s diet, there are a few animals that occasionally feed on them such as wood ducks and turtles.

If you take a trip through the swamp in early spring you will likely see “floating” plants with beautiful yellow flowers that resemble snap dragons. These are our beloved bladderworts. In the other 3 seasons of the year you will see large masses of green “plants” just under the surface of the swamp waters. That is the bladderwort when not in bloom.

Why not make a trip to the Swamp to check out these magnificent animal eating plants today? Call or go online to make your reservation. We’ll see you in the swamp!

Spring Fever

By: Elizabeth Knight

You know that feeling you get, a warm fuzzy glow, the feeling of joy and optimism, sometimes maybe a little restless and anxious, too. Winter is coming to an end and Spring is just over the horizon. Sunny days and cool breezy nights will have you aching for a day out in the sun. It’s Spring Fever and we have got the cure for you!
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The Swamp virtually comes ALIVE this time of year. Flowers and trees are in bloom, the grasses are greening and the birds are singing. Our resident gators enjoy lounging on the banks soaking up the sun while visitors to the park lavish them with attention and snacks. No, not their fingers and toes, but turtle and gator food available for purchase. The wood ducks have been busy setting up housekeeping in their boxes throughout the swamp and I have it on good authority the wild turkeys are back in town.

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Come on out and see for yourself what a little fun in the sun can do for your Spring Fever. We’ve got the cure for what ails you. Call or make your reservations online.

Barred Owls

Written by: Elizabeth R. Knight

One of my personal animal favorites is the owl. There is something so majestic and mysterious about this bird of prey. Their seemingly secretive nature and haunting calls in the night have fueled imaginations over the years.

The Swamp Park is home to a species of owl known as the Barred Owl. The Barred Owl is the second largest owl in North America. Found in abundance in Southeastern, US the Barred Owl has in recent years began moving northwestward to the Pacific Northwest. While some have begun to move westward their overall preference is for thickly forested swamps in the southeast.

True to typical owl behavior Barred Owls are mostly active at night, however, don’t be surprised to see one of these beauties checking you out during the light of day as you travel through the swamp on our Swamp Boat Eco Tour. If you keep your ears open there is a good chance you can hear them too. Barred owls have an extensive number of calls they use to communicate with each other, and boy do they ever.

The Barred Owl is known to be something of a home body. They are non-migratory birds and typically travel only short distances from their homes. More often than not, these owls choose natural cavities in trees or abandoned nests from other owls or bird species to call their own.

When it comes to the family, Barred Owls stick together for life, with the daddy owl taking care of mommy and babies, by hunting and providing food. Speaking of babies, it will soon be Spring and we hope to see some new owlets here at the Swamp.

The Swamp Boat Eco Tour and The Walking Trail are great opportunities to view these enigmatic creatures and so much more. Call or go online to make your reservation today.

Meet Tommy Turtle

Tommy Turtle

Tommy Turtle is an Alligator Snapping Turtle who calls the Shallotte River Swamp Park his home.  Tommy Turtle visited us last year when we were building the swamp park, taking up residence in the retention pond we built by the Birthday Party Activity Center Building.

He immediately developed a liking for Sea Bass heads, coming to him fresh off the OIFC charter fishing fleet.  Apparently he has awakened from his Winter nap and is ready for some dining on our area’s best eating fish.

The charter captains need to get to work fishing as Tommy is hungry!  Although Tommy Turtle prefers the heads, the filets will be available at the Ocean Isle Fish Company and the Fish & Wing Company in Shallotte.  Think about Tommy as you dine.

Who Needs a Groundhog Anyway

Who Needs A Groundhog Anyway

We all know about Groundhog Day. This cute, lil furry critter crawls out of his hole and peaks around looking for his shadow and promptly crawls back in. But, has anyone ever introduced you to Sammy and Sally? No, well let me be the first. Meet Sammy and Sally Snake, Shallotte River Swamp Park’s very own weather forecasters and SssSssseriously cool creatures.

 

snake

Sammy and Sally have been in brumation during the winter. What is that? Well it is a similar state to hibernation. Cold blooded animals like snakes brumate during the cold weather months. Their body systems slow down-eating, drinking, etc. stops or nearly stops. When temperatures begin to rise, snakes will leave the protection of their homes in search of a nice, sunny area to warm their weary bones and grab a bite to eat.

 

Sammy Snake

It has been a bit lonesome around here this winter without our friends Sammy and Sally. But, here at Shallotte River Swamp Park we have it on very good authority that spring will be here before you know it. How do we know this? Well, Sammy and Sally have been spotted peaking from their homes recently. So, again I say, who needs a groundhog anyway? Shallotte River Swamp Park has some SssSssseriously cool weather forecasting snakes. Oh, I nearly forgot to mention in the anticipation of Spring, we are OPEN now Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays by reservation.

What is a Swamp? Why Should You Care?

Swamps throughout the years have commonly been looked at as a waste and a nuisance, but that just isn’t the case. Swamps are a necessary part of our ecosystem and should be respected for what they are and not just what they can do for us.

Throughout the world you can find swamps of many varieties: Saltwater, Freshwater, Forested and Shrub. Most are found located near rivers or streams and others can be found on tropical coastlines. What is a Swamp? Well, it can best be described as uncultivated, generally low-lying area where water gathers. A wetland if you will. These waters can be slow moving or still and their water levels vary with season, weather, and tides. Some swamps are former lakes or ponds, others are formed by ancient sinkholes or tidal flooding. The portion of the Green Swamp where the Shallotte River Swamp Park is located is a forested (Cypress Tree), freshwater swamp located on a river on a sub-tropical coastline. Phew, now that was a mouthful.

whatisaswamp2

So why should you care about swamps? Well, swamps serve a very important role in flood protection by storing excess runoff water and often act as a natural water treatment facility, filtering water through its dense vegetation. They prove to be an essential part of our ecosystem housing a variety of vegetation and animals-some endangered. Without swamps, loss of entire species would be guaranteed.

Here’s an idea–why not come and visit a swamp and see what all the fuss is about. There’s lots to do and see.