Adam and Eve didn't know snakes

by Stephen Stelmak

Cougar Daily Staff

They come out of our childhood nightmares and appear on people's necks at festivals – looking cold, slimy and mean, they stare unblinkingly.

To many people, the increased popularity of snakes is something beyond comprehension. Natural predators, many people consider snakes unable to be domesticated. Despite this reputation, many students are becoming interested in having snakes as pets.

To most people's surprise, snake skin is not slimy. If you've ever felt a snake-skin boot or belt, you know their skin is hard and smooth. It feels much the same on a live snake.

Living in a state littered with rattlers, copperheads and water moccasins, Texans know that many snakes are aggressive. However, these are not the type of snakes usually worn around people's necks. In fact, certain types of snakes make excellent pets for college students who have little time to take care of an animal.

Snake cages are relatively small and rarely need to be cleaned. An adult snake needs to be fed once a week or less depending on its size. As a bonus, they don't need to be taken for walks.

There are many snakes that are nonaggressive and make good pets. Milk snakes, gardener snakes, corn snakes, boa constrictors and pythons all have small teeth and are docile. Many boas and pythons are easygoing and seem to be the best in social settings. These are the type of snake one might see curled up around someone's neck or arm. Harmless as a cat or dog, they can be touched with the owner's permission.

"Unique and undemanding, snakes are becoming more popular. I think that as more people become environmentally aware, they will open their minds to animals living in different environments, like the rain forest or desert," said Mike Senske, owner of Tropaquarium in Southwest Houston.

If you're interested in a snake as a pet, experts recommend one of the abovementioned types. If you're interested in a snake you can take out and show off, a ball python, red-tailed boa or a rainbow boa is generally recommended.

Ball pythons are inexpensive ($50 to $60) and stay small, reaching a length of about four to five feet. Red-tailed boas are bigger, reaching from 12 to 14 feet, and are more expensive. The price of a red-tail depends on the snake's coloration.

Colombian red tails are dull, surinames are the prettiest, and there are a variety of hybrids. Rainbow boas are beautiful and grow to a decent size of about 6 feet long, but they cost anywhere from $300 to $600. Another popular snake is a Burmese python, which grows up to 24 feet long, and is impractical for most people to have as a pet.

If you want a snake that is smaller, can be held and kept strictly as an indoor pet, milk, king and corn snakes are docile, less lethargic than boas and come in a variety of colors.

When looking for a snake, make sure it's healthy. The eyes should be clear, and there shouldn't be secretions around the nose. Look in the mouth to see if there is any black mucus, a sign of mouth rot, which is sometimes fatal.

Finally, run your hands along the side of the snake, feeling along the ribs to see if they're broken. If a rib is broken, there will be a noticeable irregularity in the gap between two ribs.

There are many pet shops and private dealers who sell snakes in the Houston area. Be sure that the pet store or dealer is reputable. Aside from checking the animal's health, check to see if the cages and water are clean. Snakes should not lie on cedar or pine because it hurts their skin. (The wood releases oils and natural repellants that irritate the animal's sense of smell. It can also cause respiratory problems.)

If you have any questions, you can call Tropaquarium at 995-7387. Tropaquarium offers a 10 percent discount to UH students.

Lizards not just for Spielberg films

by Stephen Stelmak

Daily Cougar Staff

"I'm sick of plain old cats and dogs," said Dave Urquhart, a freshman biology major.

Looking like they have been left alone by evolution for thousands of years, lizards seem like modern-day dinosaurs. As a kid, I was fascinated with lizards and dinosaurs.

Kids are still fascinated with dinosaurs, and with the recent success of <I>Jurassic Park<P>, it is obvious that adults are also intrigued.

Walking around campus, people gasp and stop to stare when they see a pet iguana on a student's shoulder, timid at first, thinking the lizard will bite, scratch or just feel slimy. People stare and tend to keep their distance when an iguana is around.

However, the few brave souls that overcome their fears to touch an iguana realize that reptiles are not mean, slimy creatures. Instead, they find that reptiles do have personalities and that their skin, like a snake's, is not slimy.

Nile, savana and mangrove monitors are large meat-eating reptiles that are very reminiscent of dinosaurs. Savana and mangrove monitors grow to a little over 3 feet and don't take up a tremendous amount of room. Nile monitors are prettier than savanas, but they are twice the size of the other monitors and are more aggressive.

As a kid, I often tried to catch the small lizards that run around my home. If the little green or brown lizard were caught, it found itself in an old jar, with little holes poked in the top. A cheap, small and low-maintenance lizard, if you can catch one, is called an anole. Feed it small crickets and give it only dew drops to drink; a spray bottle of water can be used to mist the tank.

If you want a setup with different lizards about the same size, then try geckos. They're not expensive, about $15-$50 each. They are pleasant to look at; however, most will never feel comfortable enough around people to be held.

The small, fan-footed gecko, which has large suction cups on each toe, and the flying gecko, which can glide from tree to tree, are just a few of the unusual smaller geckos.

The larger leopard and fat-tailed geckos have good personalities and become accustomed to their owners. Like anoles, geckos eat crickets and other small insects.

Once seen in low-budget movies chasing cavemen, iguanas can be observed sitting on people's shoulders. Iguanas can be fed a vegetarian diet of carrots, kale, squash and other items found at every supermarket.

Like other lizards, they require vitamin supplements sprinkled on their food and a natural light source to process vitamins. Price ranges depend on their size. Baby iguanas will cost $15 to $25 while a full-grown adult will cost $450 or more.

Given proper vitamins and light, iguanas will live for about 16 years, doubling in size each year until reaching their full growth. Male iguanas can reach 6 feet from head to tail, so they are not typical aquarium pets.

Bearded dragons are a great choice for a friendly, exotic lizard. Native to Australia, they have recently become popular in the United States. Omnivores as well, they eat small insects and a variety of vegetables. Growing to about three feet from head to tail, they are able to stay in an aquarium. Their main drawback is the cost, about $140 for a decent-size juvenile.

There is a wide variety of other lizards one can keep as pets. Before putting them in the same tank, be sure the larger lizards won't eat the smaller. Also, find out how they do in captivity and check to see if the lizard is healthy. Some lizards have strange dietary requirements and just don't survive well as pets.

Choosing a healthy lizard is much like choosing a healthy snake. Check to make sure the eyes and nose are clear, and check to be sure the mouth is clear of any black substances.

Lizards shouldn't be lethargic, but they don't need to be hyper in order to be healthy. The lizard should be a little plump and is too thin if the hip bones are showing.

Lizards are a great alternative to your average dog, cat or fish. Some can be friendly and personable, while others can only be intriguing. Coming in a variety of colors and sizes, there is a lizard to suit any person or decor.

Just froggin' around

by Stephen Stelmak

Daily Cougar Staff

If frogs are more your speed, then look into small and slimy, but easy to take care of amphibians. Frogs and salamanders can be kept in a small space, are interesting and can be colorful.

Frogs are probably the most colorful and popular amphibian. To care for frogs, one must keep the cage moist and occasionally feed them crickets. The long, thin-legged, red-eyed tree frog has a spectacular striped green body and might be worth the $60 some people have been known to pay.

Mantellas are dwarf frogs, which are small, colorful and much less expensive. Larger frogs are not as skittish and usually remain visible in a tank. White tree frogs and tomato frogs are different-looking, and because of their personality are some of the more popular pet frogs.

Salamanders and newts are more aquatic than many frogs. Needing a large amount of water and a small bit of land, they are much like fish with a more interesting setup. The mixture of land and sea gives even a small aquarium a relaxing look to it.

Red-belly and green newts are cheap and the easiest newts to care for, while tiger salamanders are black with intense yellow spots and are also easy to care for.

Amphibians won't warm up to their owners, but are as interesting and exotic as snakes and lizards.

It's Gamera, the flying turtle

by Stephen Stelmak

Daily Cougar Staff

Carrying a protective shell on their backs, turtles and tortoises often require little care.

Water dwellers the nap turtle, and red-eared and yellow-bellied sliders are all common and friendly turtles. Starting out as small and cute babies, they quickly grow to large sizes. Many people do not have the money, space or desire to house them when they get bigger.

If you want something for the kids, try box turtles or small tortoises. They aren't much on personality, but they eat vegetables and don't take up much space.

As a large, mobile conversation piece, the spur-thighed tortoise weighs 150 pounds or more. The largest of the mainland species, they are easy to care for and have good temperaments.

Tropaquarium pet-store owner Mike Senske's spur-thighed tortoises are so attached to their owner, they follow him out to the kitchen when he eats breakfast, then to his bedroom when he gets ready for work.

Leopard tortoises are smaller, weighing about 50 pounds, about the size of a watermelon, while red-footed tortoises reach 30 pounds.

Not turtles, but not falling into any of the other categories, Caimens are basically a legal alligator. Tearing into mice when they're small, they will grow to 6 feet and eat large rats or Guinea pigs.

When they get that big, they cannot be kept in an aquarium because at full growth, their tail can shatter most glass. They are diggers, so they have to be kept in the yard or a large pond. A fence and cement trench must be built. Caimens get fairly large, are aggressive, and are for a limited group of people.

Unless you get a box turtle or small tortoise, these other reptiles require a lot of space. Not for everyone, they are unique pets that might make you the envy of all your friends.







by Robert L. Arnold

Daily Cougar Staff

A 300-foot area of pavement inside Entrance 1 is slated for major repairs to begin after Thanksgiving.

Equipment and machinery are scheduled to be moved in this weekend, with excavation to start on Dec. 2. Architects are planning to complete the repairs before the first class day of the spring semester.

According to UH Staff Architect Jon Kinsella, the soil underneath this area has formed air pockets that are causing cracks and differences in the elevation of the pavement.

"The concrete is laid down in panels and floated on top of the soil. Since the air pockets have formed, and heavy vehicles travel over this area, the panels have broken, and there may be some pipes crushed underneath," Kinsella said.

The construction zone will stretch from the intersection crossing in front of the Information Center booth to just before the turnaround in front of the University Center on the north side of Entrance 1.

During the time of excavation, all westbound traffic will be routed to the other side of Entrance 1, with the traffic flow running both ways.

Also during this time, no cars will be allowed to park on either side of the street or in the turnarounds in front of the UH Hilton or UC.

The area will be marked off by a containment fence, but there will still be the need for caution by students.

"The curious will definitely be intrigued, but students need to realize this is an extremely dangerous project, and they should not enter the construction zone at any time," Kinsella urged.






by Niki Purcell

Daily Cougar Staff

The UH Speech and Debate Team amassed 140 awards, including first place overall, at the 1994 United States Air Force Academy National Forensic Tournament, held in Colorado Springs, Colo., Nov. 11-14

The awards received at the event include trophies, plaques and ribbons on various placements in competition. The victories in this competition are among the most numerous for the team to date.

The team was formed only a year ago, although there have been teams at UH in the past. At this time last year, the team had 41 awards – three times less than what they won this year.

The UH team has won first place overall at national invitational tournaments hosted by colleges like McLennan Community College (Oct. 7-9), St. Mary's University (Oct. 28-30) and the U.S. Air Force Academy (Nov. 11-14).

Team members include Chris Aspdal, 1994 UH team captain; Raymond Blanchard; Jason Cryer; John Dies; Gretchen Denker; Tshara Gardner; Charity Lakey; Vanessa Quirino; Andrea Rachiele; Matil Sakr; Vivek Shetti and Tony Sullivan.

Consistent performances in the Air Force Academy competition's final rounds earned UH first places in Individual Events Sweepstakes and Overall Tournament Sweepstakes, team members said.



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