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Reptile Rescuer in North Carolina

Updated on February 15, 2014
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Donna Campbell Smith is a published author, freelance writer, and photographer. She also specializes in horses.

Chris & Jellybean– Chris with one of the family pets, Jelly Bean, an albino boa.
Chris & Jellybean– Chris with one of the family pets, Jelly Bean, an albino boa. | Source

Seeing the Need

Chris Eichele, of Cameron, North Carolina, saw a void in exotic reptile support. Seeing no other options, when some people didn’t want their reptiles or exotics anymore they just let them go out the back door. The reptiles may survive in the summer, but in North Carolina during the winter they end up dying since they cannot tolerate the cold. Tropical species do not naturally hibernate in winter.

Chris says, “Even native species require prep for hibernation. Animals that eat and then are forced into hibernation cannot digest their food and it becomes toxic as it rots in there stomach.”

The children help with rehabilitating the reptiles

Kara is giving a red tailed boa some quality time
Kara is giving a red tailed boa some quality time | Source

Dragon Keeper

Now, how many kids can say they’ve petted a dragon? Josh can! A bearded dragon.
Now, how many kids can say they’ve petted a dragon? Josh can! A bearded dragon. | Source

Reptile Rescue is a Family Affair

Midgard Serpents and Reptile Rescue is the result of Chris seeing the need and deciding to take action. He and his family started the 501 non-profit from their home solely from out-of-pocket funds and donations. They are a North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission licensed wildlife rehabilitation center and are recognized by the National Amphibian and Reptile Rescue Alliance.

The children, Kara and Josh, enjoy being around the animals. They help with the cleaning, feeding, and socializing of the more tame animals, making the rescue truly a family affair.

The most common circumstances for receiving injured animals are traffic accidents. They are bombarded with turtles in the spring. Chris says, “So far this year that is our biggest rescue influx.”

There is also an issue of people finding something in the wild and taking it home. By the time a person realizes he or she can no longer keep it, the reptile is used to being hand fed. It needs to be rehabilitated before it can be released back into the wild.

Many of the animals at the rescue were pets of people that have lost interest or cannot afford the proper care and needed medical treatment these animals require. Because the rescue is near a military town, many pets are handed over to the center when the owners have to relocate. They accept just about any form of reptile or exotic. If it is something out of their scope they will call in specialists to take over.

Elvis the Iguana

Source

Reptile Adoption Program

When animals are healthy and ready to find new homes they are put up for adoption. Adoption fees are based upon the animal type, the money that was put into the animal’s care and whether medical treatment was needed. The number of adoptions range from one to thirty per month. Future owners are required to have knowledge of the animal they want to adopt and provide proof of proper enclosure. Chris says they like for the new owners to contact a veterinarian specializing in reptiles so they can establish a connection for the reptile’s care. Once approved the prospective new owner pays the adoption fee and must sign a legally binding adoption contract.

Recently, Bush Gardens in Virginia adopted a yellow rat snake and a Blue tongue skink. A Columbian Tegu went to Seaworld of Orlando, Florida. These adoptees will be part of the educational exhibits at their new homes.

In addition to taking in and rehabilitating reptiles, Midgard Serpents Reptile Rescue reaches out to the community doing educational presentations in schools and local festivals. They have also done presentations at Sea World in Orlando, Florida and Busch Gardens in Virginia.

Fire Destroys Reptile Facility

Tragedy hit the rescue in 2011 when the building that housed most of the animals caught fire. Chris said they not only lost all of their supplies and gear, but seventy-five percent of the animals perished. Chris and his family are currently operating out of their home until they can raise enough funds to construct a new building. Raising that much money is proving difficult. Folks tend to think “fuzzy four-legged critters” when they donate to animal rescue organizations. So, now they are limited in how many animals they can support because they simply do not have the physical space for but so many. Money has to go to feeding and caring for the rescues before it can be used to rebuild.

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