Reptile rescue: Are you ready?

It’s one o’clock in the morning and your bed is hopping alarmingly back and forth across the room. Your cherished portrait of Aunt Eunice has just crashed to the floor and your dresser is dancing a spirited tango with the armoire.


And your first thought is “Where’s my python?”

Here in California, most natives are quite familiar with the warning signs of an earthquake – the living room sofa floating in the neighbor’s hot tub, for instance – and they know what to do. Californians have their flashlights and first-aid kits ready, bottled water nearby and plenty of zinfandel on hand.

As hard as it may be to believe, though, few of us make plans for our snakes when disaster strikes.

There’s nothing sadder than successfully exiting your home, getting your family to safety and then realizing that you’ve left your Gaboon viper behind to fend for itself.

“Daaaaaaad, where’s Hissy?” your children will cry. And you’ll have to admit that you neglected to rescue the cherished family reptile when you fled your now decidedly lopsided domicile.

You somehow salvaged your toaster oven and Oakland Raiders’ jersey, but your family’s scaly sidekick is still back there. Somewhere. Alone.

Fortunately for all of us, the California Veterinary Medical Association and the California Department of Food and Agriculture have issued a handy pamphlet that explains exactly what to do with your favorite reptile – or turkey buzzard – in the event of fire, flood or earthquake.

“Disaster Preparedness for Bird and Reptile Owners” tells you everything you need to know before, during and after a catastrophic event to ensure the safety of your horned toad or horned owl.

For example, the pamphlet recommends that you always have your pets’ medical and vaccination records stored in a waterproof plastic bag along with information about dietary requirements and how to contact your veterinarian.

That’s an easy enough step to take and one that may prove invaluable if you have to evacuate and can’t remember when your boa constrictor had his last set of vaccinations.

Also recommended is practicing the “buddy system” by asking a trusted neighbor to check on your pets if disaster strikes while you’re away from home.

Most folks are more than happy to step into the darkened wreckage of a flood-ravaged bungalow to check on the welfare of one or more snakes that may or may not still be in their cozy reptile enclosures…

“If it’s not too much trouble, could you look in on my Trans-Pecos rat snake? He answers to ‘Tex’ and likes little bitty rodents dipped in honey-lemon sauce.”

It’s also a good idea to have pet carriers readily available in case you and your toucan have to make a hasty retreat as the tsunami bears down on your beachfront home.

Birds, for example, should be transported in a sturdy portable cage and snakes can be moved in a convenient pillow case.

Please remember to remain calm when you’re removing those pets from the scene of the disaster. No matter how rushed you are, never, ever try to transport your parakeet and your python in the same pillow case.

Really. That’s kind of important…

Originally published September 29, 2013