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  • January Happenings at the Chicago Herpetological Society and CJHS

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    Tags: chicago herpetological society, junior herp society, herpetology, snakes, reptiles, turtles, amphibians

    Created: 12/29/2014      Updated: 8/24/2015

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    The first full weekend of every month, the Nature Museum becomes a herpetologist haven! That's when the Chicago Herpetological Society sets up tables in the Nature Walk for some reptile fun with the public and the Junior Herp Society holds their monthly meetings! The Notebaert is an awesome and beautiful place to go and reconnect with nature during these colder months

    Join us for some fun with the animals!

    The Chicago Junior Herpetological Society is about sharing the love of amphibians and reptiles with the younger generation, and fostering an appreciation of wildlife and nature through educational speakers and hands-on interaction.

    The regular monthly meetings of the Chicago Junior Herpetological Society take place at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, on the Sunday of the first full weekend every month, from noon till about 1:30. Meetings are free to members of the CHS and visitors to the museum. The next meeting will be on Sunday, January 4th. Frank Sladek will be speaking about enrichment items and training techniques that benefit the health of your reptiles and promote natural behaviors. He will have a few short videos of reptiles being "trained" and possibly a related craft idea

    You can learn more about the CJHS here.

    The Chicago Herpetological Society is a non-profit all volunteer organization dedicated to the conservation of all wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, the cooperation of amateur and professional herpetologists toward a more complete understanding of herpetofauna, and the education of the general public about these often misunderstood but fascinating animals.​

    When considering getting a new pet for the family, a great option to consider is adoption. There are many awesome animals out there in need of a loving home. The CHS has an adoption program available to members. There are currently some ball pythons, turtles and other great critters being fostered and ready for a new forever home. Contact Colleen Schwarz or Linda Malawy of the CHS adoption program.

    You can learn more about CHS adoptions here.

    General meetings of the Chicago Herpetological Society are held on the last Wednesday every month at 7:30pm at the Notebaert, with the exception of New Year's Eve this year. That meeting has been changed to Tuesday, Dec. 30th. Meetings are free to attend. Our December meeting will feature CHS news and announcements and will be our holiday get together. We will have food there and encourage people to bring something to share if you can. Our meeting on January 28th will feature the epic Erica Mede, speaking about her work with ARAV, The Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians. We are also gearing up for next year’s ReptileFest, the nation’s largest educational herpetological event. ReptileFest 2015 will be on April 11 and 12, from 10am to 5pm in the University of Illinois Phys Ed building. Mark your calendars, this will be the 22nd year of this wonderful show.

    You can learn more about the Chicago Herpetological Society here and Reptilefest here.

    Hope to see you there!

    Rich Lamszus
    Chicago Junior Herp Society
    Newly elected Vice President of
    The Chicago Herpetological Society

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  • December Happenings at the Chicago Herpetological Society and CJHS

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    Tags: chicago herpetological society, herps, junior herp society, turtles, frogs, snakes, herps

    Created: 11/24/2014      Updated: 8/8/2016

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    The first full weekend of every month, the Nature Museum becomes a herpetologist haven! That's when the Chicago Herpetological Society sets up tables in the Nature Walk for some reptile fun with the public and the Junior Herp Society holds their monthly meetings!

    Junior Herp Society logo

    Join us for the herp enclosure workshop!

    The Chicago Junior Herpetological Society is about sharing the love of amphibians and reptiles with the younger generation, and fostering an appreciation of wildlife and nature through educational speakers and hands-on interaction.

    We had lots of fun at the November meeting. Patrick Carroll joined us with many of his awesome lizards for a discussion in Colleen’s Critter Corner, and Yvette Mendez joined us for a discussion of reptile reproduction.

    The regular monthly meetings of the Chicago Junior Herpetological Society take place at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, on the Sunday of the first full weekend every month, from noon till about 1:30. Meetings are free to members of the CHS and visitors to the museum. The next meeting will be on Sunday, December 7th. We will have a herp enclosure workshop, discussing different enclosures, substrates, heating methods, lighting and keeping them clean. This will be a fun and informative meeting!

    You can learn more about the CJHS here.

    Chicago Herpetological Society logo

    The Chicago Herpetological Society is a non-profit all volunteer organization dedicated to the conservation of all wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, the cooperation of amateur and professional herpetologists toward a more complete understanding of herpetofauna, and the education of the general public about these often misunderstood but fascinating animals.​

    When considering getting a new pet for the family, a great option to consider is adoption. There are many awesome animals out there in need of a loving home. The CHS has an adoption program available to members. There are currently some ball pythons, box turtles and other great critters being fostered and ready for a new forever home. Contact Colleen Schwarz or Linda Malawy of the CHS adoption program.

    Child holding box turtle

    You can learn more about CHS adoptions here.

    If you like anacondas, jaguars and hyacinth macaws, come see Dr. Steve Barten’s talk on the Wildlife of the Pantanal, Brazil, at the November 26 CHS general meeting. He promises a ton of animal photos. The Pantanal of central-western Brazil is the world's largest wetland ecosystem, covering an area 15 times the size of the Everglades (it's also bigger than 29 of the states in the U.S.). It has the densest population of crocodilians--Yacare Caimans--found anywhere in the world, and is a great place to find yellow anacondas. It also is one of the best places in the world to see wild jaguars, giant river otters, giant anteaters, tapirs, howler and capuchin monkeys, coatis, and capybaras, as well as the critically endangered hyacinth macaw and over 650 other species of birds. Steve Barten toured the Pantanal by bus, truck, boat, and foot, which allowed him close approach and photography of the wildlife. The highlight was witnessing a jaguar catch a 6-foot caiman.

    General meetings of the Chicago Herpetological Society are held on the last Wednesday every month at 7:30pm at the Notebaert, with the exception of Christmas Eve this year. That meeting has been changed to Tuesday, Dec. 30th. Meetings are free to attend. We are also gearing up for next year’s ReptileFest, the nation’s largest educational herpetological event. ReptileFest 2015 will be on April 11 and 12, from 10am to 5pm in the University of Illinois Phys Ed building. Mark your calendars, this will be the 22nd year of this wonderful show.

    You can learn more about the Chicago Herpetological Society here and Reptilefest here.

    Hope to see you there!

    Rich Lamszus

    CHS, CJHS

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  • Join the Chicago Herpetological Society for Cold-Blooded Weekends at the Museum

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    Tags: living collections, herpetology, snakes, reptiles, amphibians, turtles, museum events

    Created: 10/20/2014      Updated: 8/8/2016

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    The first full weekend of every month, the Nature Museum becomes a herpetologist haven! That's when the Chicago Herpetological Society and the Junior Herp Society hold their monthly meetings, and invite the public to join in on the fun. What is the Herpetological Society? In this post, the Chicago Herpetological Society's Rich Lamszus introduces us to it.

    Chicago Herpetological Society logoJunior Herp Society logo

    The Chicago Junior Herpetological Society

    The Chicago Junior Herpetological Society is about sharing the love of amphibians and reptiles with the younger generation, and fostering an appreciation of wildlife and nature through educational speakers and hands-on interaction.

    Children holding baby snakes in Junior Herp Society meeting

    The goal of the CJHS is to establish a learning environment where younger kids are mentored by older kids with knowledge of reptiles and amphibians, under adult supervision, in the beautiful museum setting. The regular monthly meetings of the Chicago Junior Herpetological Society take place at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, on the Sunday of the first full weekend every month, from noon till about 1:30. Meetings are free to members of the CHS and visitors to the museum. 

    The next meeting will be on November 2 and will be our second anniversary meeting. Our speaker will be Yvette Mendez and her topic will be Reptile Parents and Reptile Babies. Colleen’s Critter Corner will feature frilled lizards and blue tongued skinks and differences in keeping them. 

    You can learn more about the CJHS here.

    The Chicago Herpetological Society

    The Chicago Herpetological Society is a non-profit all volunteer organization dedicated to the conservation of all wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, the cooperation of amateur and professional herpetologists toward a more complete understanding of herpetofauna, and the education of the general public about these often misunderstood but fascinating animals.​

    Visitors as Junior Herp Society meeting

    The CHS, established in 1966, is made up of hundreds of people who love reptiles and amphibians and want to do what they can to help other people understand this not-so-mainstream devotion. From encouraging the public not to fear snakes, to helping someone learn how to take care of her brand new gecko, we are spreading knowledge and spreading compassion for these creatures who are so often labeled in a negative way. We welcome anyone who shares our passion to join us! General meetings of the Chicago Herpetological Society are held on the last Wednesday every month at 7:30pm at the Notebaert, with the exception of Christmas Eve this year. Meetings are free to attend. 

    The next meeting on October 29 will feature news and announcements, an awesome raffle and our speaker will be Chris Gillette. The topic will be “Behavior of American alligators and crocodiles in captive and wild situations”. We are also gearing up for next year’s ReptileFest, the nation’s largest educational herpetological event. ReptileFest 2015 will be on April 11 and 12, from 10am to 5pm in the University of Illinois Phys Ed building. Mark your calendars, this will be the 22nd year of this wonderful show. You can learn more about the Herpetological Society here, and learn more about ReptileFest here.

    Hope to see you there!

    Rich Lamszus

    CHS, CJHS

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  • Tea with the Turtles

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    Tags: world turtle day, tea with the turtles, turtles, reptiles

    Created: 5/13/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

    Have you ever had tea with a turtle? If not then you need to head on over to the Nature Museum on Saturday May 18th!

    Every year in May there is an international event called World Turtle Day. It was developed to raise public awareness of the threats that numerous turtle and tortoise species around the world are facing. As you know, we are extremely fond of turtles here at the museum so we developed a way to mark this worldwide event; we call it Tea with the Turtles.

    Harrison the box turtle with a tea cup and saucer

    This year will be our fourth annual Tea with the Turtles, it will run from 11am until 1pm and it is a great way to learn more about these enigmatic creatures. As well as all the turtles that are resident here at the museum we will be having some ‘special guests’ on display too. Suffice it to say, there will be a multitude of turtle and tortoise species here for you to get up close and personal with.

    Painted Turtle hatchlings  Pancake the spiny softshell turtle

    And the second part of the equation? The tea! Ah yes we provide an array of fruit teas to keep you refreshed, as well as some non-tea alternatives. There will also be snacks and cookies to keep your strength up.

    For the young (and young at heart) there will be turtle related games, coloring and crafts and for the less energetic who would rather sit and relax we will have a presentation about the endangered turtle species we have here at the museum and what you can do to help conserve them. We will also have numerous biologists on hand to tell you about our conservation work.

    Children interacting with turtles on the terrace  Child learning about Blanding's turtles


    A special item, created for this years event is our wonderful Tea with the Turtles mug – ‘modeled’ here by Claire, one of our beautiful box turtles. These will be on sale at the event with 100% of the profit going towards our turtle conservation work.

    Box turtle with Nature Museum turtles mug

    If you would like to attend this fabulous event, please register online here.

    Celeste Troon, Director of Living Collections

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  • Notebaert Beauty Parlor

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    Tags: turtles, claws, Biology, reptiles, Chicago Academy of Sciences, look-in lab, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

    Created: 4/3/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

    We strive to give our Box Turtles a rich and diverse diet, which provides them with good calcium sources to ensure that they develop strong shells. Of course along with strong shells this also means they grow strong nails.

    Closeup of turtle foot

    Normally a turtle would be digging and scratching around outside in dirt and rocks and naturally wear their nails down. We do give our turtles lots of time outside in the summer but at this time of the year they are kept indoors and only get to dig in soft substrate. So what to do with those long nails?

    That is where the ‘mani, pedi service’ comes in.

    Staff members filing a turtle's nails



    We used Claire for these photos, as she is by far the most calm about having her nails trimmed. We use a standard rotating nail file, which is intended for dogs’ nails.

    As with most things involving turtles, this is a two-person job. One person to catch and hold the leg and the other person to file the nails.

    Staff members filing turtle's nails

    I did mention that Claire was the most cooperative of our turtles during this process. She accepts what we are doing and just watches reproachfully.

    Pretty Girl and Kennicott show what they think of things by peeing as much as possible! Charlie and Opal will try and sneak a quick bite, if a finger should happen to come within reach. And Manny? Well Manny is like a madman! He has to have a board held between his head and our hands, which he attacks viciously. I wonder do the ladies who work in nail salons usually end up bleeding after giving their customers a manicure? At the end of the process, we clean our various scratches and bites and the turtles have nicely manicured nails.

    Closeup of nail filing

    Celeste Troon, Director of Living Collections

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  • Reptile Rampage

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    Tags: reptiles, turtles, alligators, snakes, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago Academy of Sciences

    Created: 3/11/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

    On Sunday March 10th we were invited to represent the institution at the Reptile Rampage in Lake Forest. This is a great event organized by Rob Carmichael from the Wildlife Discovery Center that opens up the often greatly misunderstood world of reptiles to a large public audience.

    We made a horribly early start (did I happen to mention how much I hate daylight savings time?) and got our vehicle loaded up to the gunnels with everything that a bunch of endangered turtle species could possibly need for a day out.

    You think taking children on the road is complicated? Rubbermaid containers, check. Coco husk substrate, check. Buckets, check.  Heat lamps, check. Hand sanitizer, check. Basking stones, check. Aquatic vegetation, check. Water bowls, check. The list goes on and on.

    Setting tubs up for Reptile Rampage

    We transported our precious cargo successfully and everyone arrived safe and sound and the right way up! (Bob our Blanding’s Turtle has a habit of flipping himself over when traveling!) We then got everyone set up for their day. And although I say it myself, our little display looked pretty good. I decided to focus on endangered turtle species as we have some great specimens in our living collections. It also ties in very well with our upcoming Tea with the Turtles event.

    Nature Museum table set up at Reptile Rampage

    We were surrounded by every ectotherm you could ever want to meet, not least of course was the delightful Bubba. Bubba is a remarkably mellow alligator who is well known at all the big reptile shows and is very accepting of his celebrity status and the endless stream of people who line up to be thrilled and photographed, standing next to him.

    Bubba the alligator

    There were so many beautiful animals on display and a lot of great information on offer from what to consider if you decide to get a reptile as a pet to how you can help to protect threatened species.

    • Large Boa Constrictor
    • Large Iguana
    • Swimming turtle

    We spoke to many of the thousands of visitors who streamed through the door throughout the day, many of whom were surprised to learn that we had endangered turtle species right here in Illinois. Of course our chelonian representatives were the true stars. Many thanks to Opal, Onyx, Bob, August and October, we couldn’t have done it without you.

    • Onyx the ornate box turtle
    • Bob the Blanding's turtle

    For more information about our Tea with the Turtles event, check out our Children & Family program page.

    Celeste Troon, Director of Living Collections


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  • Box Turtle Rehab

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    Tags: Celeste Troon, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, turtles, Biology, Istock look-in lab

    Created: 3/8/2013      Updated: 8/10/2016

    Many of you who visit our Museum on a regular basis will have been lucky enough to meet one of our beautiful Box Turtles when they are out doing critter connections. Maybe Claire or Gorgeous or Charlie or Harrison? As a result you may have been tempted to consider a Box Turtle as a family pet, if you have, please think long and hard before taking that step. Many people do not realize just how much these animals require to live a long and healthy life.

    The average lifespan for a Box Turtle is 60 years so you have got to commit to a long-term deal if you are going to own one. Sadly, many people don’t realize this and some of our turtles have rather unhappy stories attached to them. Manny was spotted by a family vacationing in New Mexico, picked up and brought home to Chicago and then after a year they didn’t want him any more. Kennicott was found by one of our Blanding’s Turtle researchers out in a wetland, cold, weak and malnourished. Little Barnaby was left in a pink bucket next to a garbage can in a parking lot.

    Barnaby the box turtle in a pink bucket

    They were the lucky ones. Manny is staying at the Museum until we relocate him to a nature center in New Mexico, Kennicott has become part of the ‘team’ that does programming at the Museum and Barnaby? Well Barnaby lives with me now. When turtles are not provided with the right environment they will slowly start to shut down. They will refuse to eat, get weaker and dehydrate. We are working with Kennicott and Barnaby to try and kickstart their systems and rehabilitate them. The first task is to get them to start eating and the best way to do this is with a course of vitamin B shots. Firstly we weigh the turtle to establish how much medication to give them.

    • Barnaby getting weighed.

    • Kennicott on the scales.

    • Jamie preparing a Vitamin B shot.

    Turtles are not overly keen on receiving injections (who is?) So this is a two-person job. One person holds the turtle and grabs a leg. They have to hold on tight otherwise the turtle will pull into its shell and we are left with nothing to inject into! Then we clean the area of the injection

    Swabbing the hind leg


    Before administering the vitamin B into the hind leg

    Injecting into the hindleg


    The saline solution helps to combat dehydration. This has to be administered slowly and carefully, not always easy with an angry struggling turtle!

    Injecting into the hind leg


    This is done every 24 hours for five days and at the end of this time we hope to have stimulated their appetite sufficiently that they will begin feeding as voraciously as all our other turtles.

    Box Turtles are omnivores so they get fed earthworms, crickets, waxworms, mealworms, fish and occasionally as a treat, a pinkie mouse as well as a daily selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. That is another thing to bear in mind before taking on one of these charismatic creatures, there is a lot more involved than just a bowl of lettuce!

    Celeste Troon, Director of Living Collections

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