Milk Snake Enucleation

Earlier this week, our veterinary team removed the right eye of our milk snake, Milkshake, due to serious issues stemming from a blocked tear duct. Read more below to learn about Milkshake’s condition, the surgery that followed, and his recovery.

Warning: this blog post contains photos of surgical procedures and may not be appropriate for all audiences.

Last month, keepers noticed that Milkshake’s right eye was swollen. Further examination revealed that the snake had a blocked tear duct. Because snakes’ eyelids are fused together, it couldn’t drain on its own, which means pressure was building up between the eyelid and the patient’s eye. This pressure could lead to extreme pain and discomfort and ultimately blindness in that eye. Following their discovery, our animal care staff did a weekly draining of the tear duct using a fine needle, each time removing about 0.1 mil of fluid; this went on for a month.

In an effort to relieve the snake’s discomfort more permanently and reduce the stress caused by weekly draining, our animal care team made the decision to remove the eye. Milkshake was placed under anesthesia during the procedure. He received both numbing and pain medications, as well as epinephrine post-surgery to constrict blood vessels and slow bleeding.

Milk Snake Eye Removal DSC_8205

Milk Snake EnucleationElectrical probes inserted into the animal measured the conductivity of the heart, allowing our veterinary team to monitor Milkshake’s cardiac activity throughout the surgery and recovery.

Milk Snake Eye Removal DSC_8159An operating microscope capable of showing details as small as red blood cells moving within the eye vessels was used during the procedure.

Milk Snake Eye Removal DSC_8186The eye was removed with extreme care.

Milk Snake Eye Removal DSC_8220After the eye was removed, a gel foam sponge was inserted into the socket, helping to clot the blood and fill in the space. This will stay in place for the next 1-2 weeks.

We are pleased to report that surgery went well, and Milkshake is expected to make a full recovery. If you visit the GSC in the near future, you may notice his exhibit is lined with newspaper instead of soil. During recovery, this will prevent any debris from entering the surgical site as it heals.

Saints, Snakes and Stout: A St. Patrick’s Day Post

Cotton Mouth 3O0A0908Do you know why one of Indiana Bones’ favorite vacation destinations is Ireland? Our resident paleontologist and ophidiophobic (snake phobia) loves Ireland because Ireland does not have any native snakes. Legend states St. Patrick, the Christian missionary, rid Ireland of all snakes in the fifth century. Upon being attacked by a slithering band of snakes he chased all of Ireland’s snakes to the sea1. While there is no doubt this is folklore, there is some truth to it. Ireland’s fossil records indicate snakes never inhabited the lush, verdant country. Researchers believe that Ireland was too cold for the reptiles during the Ice Age 10,000 years ago and with no land bridge to a neighboring country the legless species lacked the mobility to travel to Ireland2. The country did have a land bridge to England but it was overtaken by ocean long before snakes could make their way across. Sure, sea snakes could get there, but it would be too cold for their liking. While various mammal species made their way to Ireland in the past, their slithering counterparts in the animal kingdom did not make the journey.

Unlike Ireland we have many snake species in the Americas. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. From the bright green emerald tree boa, to the small worm snake these highly diverse animals fulfill a niche in our world.  With the ability to stealthily traverse on land, burrow through soil and sand and slither up trees, these ambush predators are key players in their community. They help maintain rodent, bat, frog and even other snake populations. Our native species are middle-order animals, meaning they are both prey to some animals and predators to others. They help to maintain a balance in the food web.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and in celebration of the green country we would like to spotlight the emerald tree boa.

Emerald Tree Boa 3O0A0984

The GSC is home to a young, male, emerald tree boa. This vibrantly colored, non-venomous snake is native to South America. There it can be found in lowland rainforests, typically resting in the trees above water. Their bright green color helps them blend into their lush leafy background and their white pattern mimics sunlight coming through the tree leaves. They are constrictors that prey on lizards, rodents and bats.

Ireland may be known for its lack of reptiles, but it is even more famous for its beverage of choice, beer, and more specifically, Irish stout! Legend even says St. Patrick had his own brewer. And we are all familiar with Ireland’s most famous brewery, Guinness, whose humble beginnings go back to Arthur Guinness3 in 1756.

Brews & BubblesThe Greensboro Science Center is uniting the preservation of species and hoppy beverages at our annual Brews & Bubbles. Join us on April 23rd for an evening of great beers, wines and ciders, yummy snacks, live entertainment and explore the GSC’s collection of critters. Not to worry, all snakes at the GSC are safely nestled in enclosures! But do take a moment to visit the Emerald Tree Boa and see just how majestic these specialized reptiles really are!


 

  1. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140315-saint-patricks-day-2014-snakes-ireland-nation/
  2. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/03/080313-snakes-ireland_2.html
  3. http://guides.ie/blog/history-beer-ireland

Citizen Science: Carolina Herp Atlas

Now that the weather has warmed, families (and many critters) are spending more time outside enjoying the warm temperatures. As you’re out and about, consider keeping an eye out for native reptiles and amphibians and tracking your sightings through the Carolina Herp Atlas. By reporting your observations, you can help scientists better understand these animals so improved conservation efforts can be implemented.

The first step is to create an account on the Carolina Herp Atlas’ website. After you register, simply start observing! When you see a reptile or amphibian, note the species and details of your sighting such as the time of day, specific location, and the animal’s behavior or condition. If possible, take a photo of the animal to verify the sighting. You can then log in to your account and upload all of the information you gathered.

Copperhead

Copperhead

Our Herpetology Department is currently participating by logging herp sightings on Greensboro Science Center grounds. Staff is on the lookout for scaly and slimy friends to assist their efforts. So far, our team has spotted the following on the property:

  • Brown Snake
  • Worm Snake
  • Rough Earth Snake
  • Red Bellied Snake
  • Copperhead Snake
  • Cope’s Gray Treefrog
  • Green Frog
  • Five lined Skink
  • Painted Turtle

Reporting our findings is an easy way we feel we can help the greater scientific community. We hope you will consider supporting this effort as well!