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  1. #1
    Don't Push My Buttons JLC's Avatar
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    U-Haulin' Reptiles

    This is an article I recently wrote for the Editor's Desk blog at The Reptile Report. We get lots of questions here from people who are moving and need help figuring out how to do so with their reptiles, so I thought it would be good to post here.
    __________________________________________

    Whether youíre moving across town or across the country--winter or summer--the idea of safely bringing your scaly pets with you can be daunting. This message is dedicated to helping anyone who is moving, or may someday move.

    Step one: Procrastinate as long as you can. If you donít think about it, it canít hurt you!

    Step two: Panic the morning of moving day and go online to post a thread with ď!!!!!!!!!!Ē in the subject line. Surely someone will have all the answers. The very power of their words will somehow produce the materials you need and the time to prepare. After all, thatís what the internet is for!

    Looking at it that way, itís obvious that's not the wisest course to take. And yet, it's what many do. If youíre planning to move soon, please continue reading. If you think you might someday have a reason to move in the future, read on. If you know someone who is moving, please share! Moving with reptiles doesnít have to be terribly stressful or dangerous or costly. But it does take some planning ahead.

    There is no single ďrightĒ way to go about moving your critters, but the suggestions that follow should help you know which safety issues to carefully consider and give you some ideas that you can apply to your own unique situation.

    LEGAL ISSUES
    It is the responsibility of every keeper to know their local laws. If youíre moving, you need to become familiar with the laws in your new area. Make sure all your animals are legal to keep at your new destination, and be fully aware of the consequences if they are not. If you need special permits to keep certain animals, start working ahead as much as possible to attain them.

    Also, be aware that some animals, such as Burmese pythons, are not allowed to be carried across state lines under any circumstances. Casually flaunting such laws puts the lives of your animals at risk should they be confiscated; and it puts the entire reptile-loving community at risk when society gets the impression that its keepers do not respect laws and regulations.

    SHIPPING
    This method of moving reptiles is often suggested. It might be right for some, but not for everyone. It can be costly, especially for multiple animals. If youíre driving a long distance, you may be several days (at least) in between homes, and yet the shipping process should happen overnight. Do you have someone at your starting point that you can trust to hold the animals and then properly pack them for shipment once youíve arrived and gotten into your new home? Or do you have someone at your final destination that you can ship to and trust them to open and house them safely until you arrive? If so, this may be a viable option for you. If youíre flying to your new home, this may be the only option you have.

    If you consider shipping, I highly recommend logging in at ShipYourReptiles. They have all the supplies you will need and instructions on how to properly ship. If you ship through them you do not have to jump through the hoops of getting your own shipping certification. ShipYourReptiles also offers On-Time and Live Arrival Insurance, unique in the reptile shipping business.

    WEATHER
    Each season presents its own challenges when transporting animals long distances. Ideally, every travel day would be heavily overcast and seventy degrees. But that is rarely the case.

    Heat: Most reptiles are far more tolerant of cold temperatures than of hot, and yet the majority of moves take place in the summertime. If at all possible, travel in an air-conditioned vehicle. Keep travel tubs/boxes covered and out of any direct sunlight. In the summertime, the floor of the vehicle is usually a safe and secure place to be.

    Plan your stops carefully. When I travel with my animals in the summer, I stop for gas and very quick restroom breaks, and thatís it. If at all possible, have a second person with you to tag-team with. Then you can leave the car and AC running while taking turns to go to the restroom or shop for snacks. Meals are drive-thru affairs only, or packed sack-lunch style.

    If you can safely do it, consider driving through the night. Darkness allows for longer stops to stretch and eat without endangering the animals.

    Cold: In its own ways, traveling in winter can be trickier than in the summer. The dangers of summer heat are more obvious. In the winter, you donít have to worry about the interior of your car overheating during the ten minutes it takes to fill the tank with gas and run to the restroom.

    You might be tempted to put your travel tub on the floor of the car, near a heat vent. Donít do that. If other stuff gets piled up around them, the heat can become trapped, warming that little pocket of the car to dangerous levels. Have you have had your feet feeling as if theyíre burning, while the rest of your body is waiting for the car to warm up? Place the animals in a well-insulated box or blanket-wrapped tub away from heating vents.

    Spring/Fall: These times of year are tricky because the temperatures can swing dramatically even on the same day. Be aware and keep an eye on your animals, and realize that even on what seems like a ďbeautifulĒ day to you, the interior of the car can become excessively hot if left parked in the sun for too long.

    PACKING ANIMALS
    Consider the size and configuration of your collection. One snake? Many snakes? Lizards and geckos and snakes and a couple of turtles? Based on what you have and how far youíre traveling, youíll have to figure out what works best for you. But here are some basic tips and hints.

    Snake Bags: Each snake should get its own bag to travel in. They can be ordered from various sources online, including SYR. You can also make your own, or use pillowcases. Turn a pillowcase inside outÖcheck the seams carefully for weaknesses and reinforce with a few stitches if necessary, especially the corners. Keep the case inside out to prevent the snake from tangling with any loose threads. Place a wad of paper towel(s) into the bag with the snake. This gives it something to curl up around or hold onto, as well as helping to absorb waste if/when the animal eliminates. Tie the top into a secure knot. Adding rubber bands or zip ties around the top is a good idea as well. A determined snake can and will escape from a poorly secured bag.

    Lizards of moderate size (bearded dragons, skinks, etc) also do well in bags, as do turtles and tortoises.

    Deli Cups: Frogs, amphibians, tiny snakes like baby colubrids, little geckos, baby lizardsÖpretty much baby-anythingÖshould be placed in small deli cups just large enough to allow a little bit of movement. Paper towels should be added to minimize movement so the animal is less likely to be knocked around, as well as absorbing waste. Damp or wet paper towels can be used for animals that prefer a wet environment like some frogs or water turtles. Have a few small holes punched into the cups, and make sure the lids are taped down securely.

    Small Tubs: Some animals do well in individual tubs. They should be just large enough to allow the animal to lie down in. A lizard's tail can curl around its body. There should be minimal "head room". Paper towels or other soft cloth should be used to fill in empty areas. The key is to allow as little shifting as possible. If the ride gets bumpy, you don't want your critters tossed around.

    Once each animal is bagged, cupped, or tubbed, they can be placed together into a larger travel-tub or box. I like to use a flat under-bed storage type of Rubbermaid tub. You might need multiple tubs to safely carry larger snakes in one and smaller snakes in another, or separate the lizards from the snakes. Never stack animals on top of each other. One layer of critters per tub, please!

    Be careful packing small bagged animals with larger bagged snakes, as shifting and crushing may occur. Deli cups can be tucked in between snake bags. Fill the empty space of the travel tub with old towels or newspaper, and cover securely. I like to use very tight bungee cords wrapped around the ends and middles of a travel tub, just in case a critter should escape from its bag.

    If you have the room, the best way to pack the animals is as if you were shipping them via FedEx. Using an insulated shipping box is the surest way to regulate temperatures and offers structural integrity against accidental smooshing. They also keep the animals in a dark and quiet environment, which can significantly reduce stress levels.

    OVERNIGHT TRAVEL
    If you know your trip will involve hotel stays, plan ahead!

    A single overnight stay is simple. If the weather is mild (nighttime temps in the 70ís or 80ís) you can leave the animals in the car overnight. But if you do so, you MUST be up and out the door very early in the morning. Once that sun comes up, the car will heat up fast. If the weather is too cold, or you donít think youíll be out early enough, carry the travel tubs into the hotel with you. So long as you keep the room temperature in the mid 70ís or so, you can safely leave the animals exactly as they are, tucked securely in their bags. Just set the tub(s) in an out-of-the-way place, away from the AC unit (or near to the heater if itís winter). In fact, the animals will be far less stressed if you just leave them alone. Resist the temptation to ďcheckĒ on them.

    An extended stay in one location along the route, or multiple nights on the road in different hotels is more challenging. If this is your trip, then pack some overnight tubs for each animal. They donít have to be large tubs, just big enough to allow the animal a secure place to sleep outside the bag, and have a drink of water. Be sure to also carry some kind of small water dish for each animal, and newspaper or paper towels to line the tubs with. Try to keep ambient temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70ís. Just about every reptile species will be fine for a few days under those conditions, if allowed some fresh air at night and water to drink.

    These tubs can also be used to house the animals at your final destination if you have to wait for their permanent housing to arrive and be set up. If necessary, you can pack a strip of wired heat tape and a thermostat. Unroll the heat tape across the floor, lay the tubs in a row with one end over the tape, and hook it up to a reliable thermostat. This would really only be necessary if the animals must be fed before their permanent homes are set up, or if the local ambient temps are too cool for safety.

    For my bearded dragon, I got a large, deep, plastic tub; cut the center out of the lid and installed hardware cloth; and then placed a domed heat lamp onto the wire mesh. (Use plain-wire hardware cloth. Plastic coating can become a stinky mess if you place a heat lamp on it!) During travel, the dragon was kept in a small shoe-box sized tote just barely big enough to hold him, and his bigger overnight tub was used to hold all the overnight supplies for everyone, including paper towels, water bowls, heat lamp, thermometers, etc.

    When I travel with my critters and have to stay overnight somewhere with them, I do NOT inform the hotel staff that I have reptiles. I discreetly carry them into the room, and then leave again the next morning with none the wiser. If a stay is longer than a single night, I put the do-not-disturb sign up and donít let the maids in.

    SUMMARY
    I could probably write a whole book on moving with reptiles. The subject is a gold-mine of ideas and DIY projects. And this little blog has no room for exceptional issues like moving a 150 pound sulcata tortoise or a breeding facility consisting of 2000 snakes. But regardless of the number and species you keep, every move can go smoothly and safely with some careful thought and planning ahead.

    Iíll leave you today with a few specific tips:

    DONíT buckle a glass tank onto the seat with an animal loose and roaming inside.
    DON'T drive with an animal loose in the car or being held in someone's hands.
    DONíT place a travel tub or box anywhere that it will be in direct sunlight shining through windows.
    DONíT place a tub or box on the floor against a heater vent in the winter.
    DONíT stop the car for more than a few minutes on a hot OR sunny day.
    DONíT pack animals in the back of a moving van or in a towed trailer.
    DONíT feed snakes the day before travel begins. Give them at least 72 hours to digest a meal. A week would be best.

    I know all of you read that and think "Duh!" But you'd be surprised...

    DO carefully consider each animalís minimal needs for the time in travel: security and steady temperatures; water if traveling longer than 24-48 hours. Most reptiles can easily go several days without food, and some much longer.
    DO plan ahead and make sure you have all materials in hand, organized and ready to go.
    DO plan for emergencies, such as a break-down along the way. Get some heat packs or cold packs from SYR to use if the unexpected happens.
    DO allow for a new settling-in period after the move is complete, just as if they were newly purchased.

    As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different ways to do this right. Think things through and plan ahead, and youíll be miles ahead of your journey before you even begin.

    Good luck!

    Read more from the Editor's Desk!
    -- Judy

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  3. #2
    Registered User DestinyLynette's Avatar
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    Question: I'm moving an hour and a half away from my current location on Friday, my usual feed day. Should I see if they'll take from me after the move, feed a day late, or skip this week all together? I know not to feed too long before, but is soon after okay, if they'll take it?
    Last edited by DestinyLynette; 08-11-2013 at 03:08 AM.
    ​Females
    0.1 wildtypes [Rosca]
    0.1 pastave [Persephone]
    0.1 mutt redtail boa [Serendipity]
    0.1 false water cobra [Artemis]
    0.1 white lipped python [Pandora]
    0.1 super tiger retic [Callie]
    0.1 leopard gecko [Adelita]
    0.1 diamond dove [Pidgey]
    0.1 hairless dumbo rat [Scarlett No Haira]
    0.2 dumbo rex rat, fancy rat [Fern, Harley Quinn]
    0.1 gerbil [Katrina]
    0.1 mouse [Snow White]
    0.1 cat + kittens [Mama Cat]
    0.1 African Dwarf Frog [Zelda]

    ?? molly fish
    Males
    1.0 fiancee [Patrick]
    1.0 Argentine b&w tegu [Emrys]
    1.0 hypo red bearded dragon [Zammy]
    1.0 bumblebee [Zerok]
    1.0 albino king snake [Dumbledore]
    1.0 diamond dove [Julius]
    1.0 dumbo rat [Ratrick Stewart]
    1.0 gerbil [Sven]
    1.0 betta fish [Casanova]



  4. #3
    Registered User Banana's Avatar
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    U-Haulin' Reptiles

    I fed my boy the day he arrived and he are it immediately and chowed it down like a champ. I'm new and sure there are many differing opinions but in my experience it was just fine to feed him after we received him and right after getting him settled in. Now from what I understand about feeding, it wouldn't be good to feed before he ships.

  5. #4
    Don't Push My Buttons JLC's Avatar
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    Definitely skip feeding the week of a move. You need your critters to move on an empty tummy. If you want to try and feed a ball python immediately after the move, that is a personal choice. Some might eat, but many may not. It won't hurt them at all to wait and give them a week to recover from the stress of the move. But if they choose to eat, that won't hurt them a bit either. It's up to you if you want to risk being left with a refused rodent or not.
    -- Judy

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  7. #5
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    Re: U-Haulin' Reptiles

    Thanks for the article. It answered many of the questions I have about moving a ball python from Montana to California. I especially liked the inside out pillowcase. Who would have thought. I read that a Styrofoam icechest is good thing for helping with heat issues in the winter. My spouse said that it would need air holes poked in the bunged lid, any ideas? It would be a 2 1/2 day time. Thank you. Scatt

  8. #6
    Do I get Paid for this??? LadyOhh's Avatar
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    I would tie the snake up in a bag loosely and put that bag in a tub that will not allow for the snake to move around (aka out and over the tub edges).

    I would not put it in an icechest covered. If anything, leave the top off. If you have to, yes, put holes in the top of the styroform, or every few hours open the chest to allow for airflow.

    As long as the car is warm and comfortable to you, the snake should be fine until you get to your destination.
    Heather Wong
    I AM the Wonginator
    Heather's Herps Website
    READ MY BLOG!!!
    Balls for Life, Baby!!!

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    Re: U-Haulin' Reptiles

    Quote Originally Posted by LadyOhh View Post
    I would tie the snake up in a bag loosely and put that bag in a tub that will not allow for the snake to move around (aka out and over the tub edges).

    I would not put it in an icechest covered. If anything, leave the top off. If you have to, yes, put holes in the top of the styroform, or every few hours open the chest to allow for airflow.

    As long as the car is warm and comfortable to you, the snake should be fine until you get to your destination.

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    Moving a BP....continued

    LadyOhh, Thank you. I understand about the tub with the snake inside. This boy will be coming in a big rig with a driver that is doing a favor transporting him. I think it make be best to have the tub covered. Now that means air holes in the tub cover - right?
    Last question: If it takes 2 1/2 to 3 days to get him here, will he need water? I need to let the driver know how much he will be involved in care taking. The rig will be warm and comfortable, but it will be 2 to 3 days.
    Any information is appreciated. I knowing nothing about snakes except what I have read online. This the first time I have "threaded"! Rather fun.
    Scatt

  11. #9
    BPnet Veteran Lady mkrj58's Avatar
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    Re: U-Haulin' Reptiles

    Tanks for this thread.

    Lady M
    Lady Mkrj58

  12. #10
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    Getting a new BP

    I have moved my regular BP before but that is when he was about 4 years old and only for about 20 min.

    We are about to get another BP

    Albino Yellow Belly by closhusan, on Flickr

    but she is only about 3 months and we are moving her in winter and trip should be about 3 hours. Is bagging her and putting her in a small container necessary?

    Here is what I had planned...let me know if this is okay....

    Transporting in a small cage that I used for crickets when I had a chameleon. Cage is plastic with secure lid and ventilation.

    I plan on heating a small heat pad and wrapping it in towels so there is no direct contact with the heating pad.
    I was going to put a separate towel in a pouch shape under a small hide for her to coil up in.

    Since I don't think that the heat pad is going to last three hours, I was going to get one of those portable hand warmers to swap out when I break (or when the first heat pad gets cold).

    Let me know.

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