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  1. #1
    BPnet Senior Member jglass38's Avatar
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    Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    Seeing a Fauna thread regarding animals being improperly shipped and arriving overheated and with their health compromised made me want to post a story and some suggestions.

    A while back I was running my own technology business and was overwhelmed. I felt that my snakes weren't getting the best care possible. I believed that things would get better and I didn't want to sell them at the time. A good friend of mine who keeps and breeds hundreds of snakes offered to house everything for me until things settled down. Fast forward to almost a year later. Things had quieted down and I wanted to get all my animals back. I rented a Uhaul cargo van and drove to pick everything up. All the snakes were bagged and packed into 4 rubbermaids. I was also picking up all of my racks which were used to hold them while they were on "vacation". I placed the rubbermaids on the floor, not thinking anything about it. When I got home and started to unload them, the bottoms of the boxes were burning hot. I hadn't even thought that the floor of the cargo van would get hot. I quickly brought all 4 boxes inside and began pulling bags out. Only 2 of the rubbermaids were touching the floor of the van. The animals in those 2 rubbermaids were extremely hot. I would guess the temp inside the box was well over 100 degrees. Amy and I began quickly opening bags and checking animals. We had a tub of cold water standing by and placed them one by one. Two of the snakes were nearly dead when they came out of the bag and no amount of cold water could save them. I lost a Het Caramel male and my beloved breed male Pastel (my first morph ever). It was a tragic day but not nearly as bad as it could have been. I could have lost 70 or so animals that day. I later found out from my friend that he had heard of this happening before to another breeder and that he didn't even think of it before I left.

    This brings me to my second point. There is no excuse for incorrectly shipping snakes. It doesn't matter what season it is, if you are going to ship an animal, do it correctly.

    1. Use the correct carrier - Snakes don't get sent through the USPS. If you feel the need to cut corners and risk the life of animal to save a few bucks, you probably shouldn't be entrusted with the care of any living creature. I personally wouldn't ship any reptile or amphibian through USPS however I am aware that some are accepted and some people do it regularly without incident. Either get certified to ship via FedEx (the process is pretty easy), get certified to ship Delta Dash or use www.shipyourreptiles.com to ship UPS.

    2. Use the proper boxes - That means a new box (or very clean and not structurally compromised used box) with at least 1/2" insulation. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, insulation is always necessary. If you don't want to go to Home Depot and buy sheets of insulation to make your own insulated boxes, go to www.superiorenterprise.com . They have every size and type of insulated box you could need. Mark your boxes as live animals and with any other information necessary to comply with any regulations for shipping animals.

    3. Padding - Carriers are legendary for being less than gentle with boxes, even those marked as live animals. It's a fact of life. If you use the proper padding the animal will be fine. I prefer polyfill from a craft store. It is the stuff used to fill pillows. It is breathable and very good at filling up a box. It costs about $4 for a big bag which gets me through about 3 or 4 boxes. If you must use crumpled newspaper, make sure you use A LOT of it to fill up the box. You want the container the animal is in to not shift when the box is tilted. Some people use packing peanuts. I just hate them in general so it's not my first choice.

    4. Use the right container for the animal - Most snakes are best shipped in snake bags. Not plastic bags, not nylon bags. Snake bags made of a breathable cotton material or even clean pillowcases. Baby Colubrids may be better off in small deli cups (someone who is more familiar with Colubrids will probably chime in on this one. Lizards and Amphibians should go in the proper size deli cup. The deli cup should have holes along the sides for breathabilty and should be taped so they don't open up during shipping. Bags should be tied in a knot or secured with a heavy duty rubber band. I like to use a piece of folded paper towel in the bottom of the deli cup and snake bag to soak of any waste material if it occurs during shipping and to provide a little extra cushioning.

    5. Heat packs/cold packs - This is a judgment call. Some people won't ship below 40 degrees or above 80 degrees. The fact is, animals can and are shipped year round safely. Look at the weather in your zip code and at the destination. This will help you to determine whether you need any supplemental heat or cooling.

    6. Contact info - Confirm before shipping that the buyer will be home when the package is to be delivered and get a phone number for them. I shipped a few animals last week and in 2 of the 3 shipments, the package was left at the door by FedEx and the buyer didn't contact me all day. I had to track them down to confirm that the animals were fine. Some people don't need to know, I do.

    If you are at all uncomfortable with shipping whether it's because the temperature is too high or too low or you aren't sure you can do it successfully, ask someone to help you. Ask here on the forum, check out the information on www.shipyourreptiles.com and prepare as best as you can. Remember that this is a live animal and deserves nothing short of the best care in packaging to make it safely to it's destination.

    Thanks for reading through my rambling...

    Jamie

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  3. #2
    Steel Magnolia rabernet's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    Sticky worthy and STUCK! Thank you Jamie!

  4. #3
    BPnet Veteran twh's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    i had the same thing happen when i transported two tubs of rats on a 150 mile trip.i only lost a few rats but when i checked the floor temp in my mini van with my temp gun it was 110 degrees.i now put down a 2" piece of styrofoam when transporting herps or rodents.i also put a thermometer probe with the animals and tape the unit to my dash.

    good post jamie,could save someone from frying there herps.
    TIMOTHY W. HURKMANS

    " Do you really believe that what you believe is really real ? "

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  6. #4
    Cloacal Popping Engineer xdeus's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    Great post, Jamie!

    I just wanted to add that more often than not people shipping reptiles should be more conservative when it comes to supplemental heat. It seems that more snakes die from overheating than they do from being too cold. Heat packs are great in cool climates or seasons, but can be deadly if a snake is delayed in a warm environment.

    Thanks again for the informative post.

    -Lawrence

  7. #5
    BPnet Senior Member jglass38's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    Thanks Robin and Timothy!

    Lawrence, you are right on. Definitely be conservative with supplemental heat. A good insulated box goes a long way. There are also other things you can do like cover half of the heat pack with packing tape to keep it a little cooler, or put extra holes in the box if you like to do that (I do). You also don't want the animal right on top of the heat pack. Your goal with a heat or cool pack is to raise or lower the ambient temperature, not provide a hot spot or cold spot for the animal to sit on.

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  9. #6
    Steel Magnolia rabernet's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    I've started taping the heat pack to the top piece of foam, rather than the bottom. Heat rises (and thus the reason I tape it to the top, so that the snake isn't having heat rise from beneath hit), but the insulation does help to hold heat in. I also have a layer of the polyfill between the heat pad and the animal itself, in case the box is set down upside down during shipping for any reason.

    I also would err with no heat in a slightly "warmer" situation, even with cooler night temps, especially with babies, who I've been told are less susceptible to developing a RI in a short period of time (ie, time it takes to ship) than an adult would be. I'd much rather them be a little cool to the touch where they can be immediately set up in an enclosure with proper heat upon arrival, rather than to arrive overheated and with possible neurological problems as a result.

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  11. #7
    BPnet Veteran CoolioTiffany's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    Wow nice!
    Tiff'z Morphz

  12. #8
    BPnet Lifer sho220's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    Great post/info... Thanks...
    Lucifer Sam, Siam cat...
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    Always by your side...
    That cat's something I can't explain...

  13. #9
    BPnet Veteran monk90222's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    Great Post Jamie.
    I can't stress enough to make sure to put ventilation holes in the boxes. Otherwise it can essentially cook the reptile by time it gets to the destination.

  14. #10
    BPnet Veteran redpython's Avatar
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    Re: Some words of advice regarding heat, reptiles and shipping

    i have another tip to offer which may be useful. Be proactive in knowing fedex/carrier zones. Just because you select next day by 10:30 am doesn't mean it will be there by 10:30 am if the receiver lives in the boonies.

    I sent out two awesome snakes for 10:30 delivery and the only way of knowing that it wasn't going to make it by 10:30 was the fedex shipping code, which i didn't know at the time.

    Anyways, the snakes sat on the truck until 2:30 pm and were cooked. It wasn't a particular warm day either, just sunny and the sun heated up that truck.

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