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The Carrier by Elaine A. Powers, Author

I travel with my reptiles because I love introducing others to all sorts of reptiles and sharing about mine. I believe it is harder to hate something if you meet it in person. Many people never have a chance to feel the smooth warm scales of a lizard or pick up a tortoise to feel the heft of her shell. I take a variety of reptiles to my talks so people can learn about the different groups.

However, that means I have to get them all to the classroom in one trip. The small box turtles easily fit inside a soft-side pet carrier, but how am I supposed to carry a 130-lb tortoise or a five-foot lizard, like Blue? I not only need something they’ll fit in comfortably, but it also must be convenient to carry, with either wheels or a shoulder strap. Most soft-sided pet carriers just aren’t long enough, even though the tails curl; and the big dog crates don’t have wheels or handles–they’re just big.

A woman holds a five-foot rock iguana in her living room
The author with five foot rock iguana, Blue.

I saw this blue carrier for sale and thought it might work for my rock iguana, Blue. As described, it would have room for him with handy handles. And, it was Blue.

an image of a blue, soft-sided pet carrier
The Blue Carrier for Blue, I mean, Roxie

However, unlike the smaller pet carriers, it didn’t have a solid bottom, so it wouldn’t work for my large iguanas. So, I folded it up and stuck in storage. I didn’t know what I would use it for, since it wasn’t strong enough to stop a reptile determined to roam, but I just knew it would find a purpose in life.

A few months later, my friend Pam, as she headed out the door, mentioned that she needed a crate for her little dog, Roxie.

I said, “Hold on!” and retrieved the blue carrier.

Pam was thrilled that I just happened to have exactly what she needed and took the carrier home. Roxie is 12 and had never had a “cave,” so Pam wasn’t sure Roxie would use it.

a small black dog looks out of a pet carrier
Roxie took to the blue carrier like she’d had it all her life!

A few days later a thank you note and this picture arrived in my email. She surely looks different than my reptiles do in the carriers, but I’d day the little terrier-mix looks pretty content, wouldn’t you?

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June 16th is World Sea Turtle Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

 

a green sea turtle in the ocean
A wonderful closeup of a Green Sea Turtle.

Please join me in celebrating World Sea Turtle Day on June 16. I have been honored to personally interact with a few sea turtles. I remember a wonderful snorkeling trip where I spent the time swimming around the reef with a Hawksbill turtle. Female Loggerhead #1295 will always be very special to me, since I tagged her on the beach on Sanibel Island. I hope she is still out there living the ocean life.

Turtles live in freshwater or saltwater.  June 16th celebrates those that live in the oceans. This date was selected because it’s Dr. Archie Carr’s birthday. Dr. Carr was a pioneer in the study and protection of sea turtles. He realized the importance of sea turtles to the ecosystems.  Leatherback and Hawksbill Turtles are predators of jellyfish and sponges, while Green Sea Turtles ensure sea grass is kept short. These actions are necessary to keep marine life healthy and in balance.

Sea turtles have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, mostly unchanged. Once you’ve got a good model, stick with it. Unfortunately, their existence is threatened in modern times. They may become extinct soon despite being around for 110 million years.

It’s estimated that as few as one in 1000 turtles survives from egg-hood to adulthood. The difficulties created by man start during nesting. People dig up the eggs illegally—this is called poaching. Some people eat the eggs as a food source, but others think they’re an aphrodisiac. More disgusting are people who kill the female turtles to remove the eggs before they are laid, believing that the eggs are more potent then. Not only are the current batch of eggs destroyed, but so is the female and her future babies.

Lights from buildings attract the hatchlings inland instead of them heading out to see.  Beaches covered with litter make it difficult for the females to create their nests and that same trash prevents the hatchlings from reaching the sea. Hatchlings have a hard enough time digging their way out of the nest, crawling over the contour of the beach, while avoiding natural predators without humans throwing up all these obstacles. Plastic pollution is causing extreme danger. Fifty percent of sea turtles are known to have eaten plastic, mistaking it for their food. Plastic bags look a lot like jellyfish.

We are causing the extinction of these animals needed for the preservation of our oceans, which are the source of a great deal of our food. It is up to us to save them and thus, ourselves.

Lyric Power Publishing is proud to offer substantial and comprehensive WORKBOOKS to supplement the education of children. They are used by teachers, parents and tutors. My Book About Green Sea Turtles is full of information about these amazing creatures.

A seafoam green book cover about seaturtles, with an image of a Green Sea Turtle

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Reptiles in My Neighborhood by Elaine A. Powers, Author

In this post, I’d like to tell you about some of the common reptiles that live in my neighborhood in the Sonoran Desert.

Illustration of a Red Racer, or Coachwhip snake Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum cingulum) is a slender nonvenomous snake with variable coloring to help in camouflage. In Tucson, Arizona, coachwhips that are pink to red in color are called Red Racers. The pattern on the scales give the snake a braided look, like an old-time leather coach whip. Their large eyes provide good eyesight. In times of trouble, they prefer to rapidly slither away (considered one of the fastest snakes) but, if cornered, they will rise up, hiss, vibrate the tips of their tails to simulate the sound of a rattlesnake, and strike quickly and repeatedly.

The coachwhip is associated with several Western fables. One is that the snake bites its own tail to form a hoop, then rolls in pursuit of its prey. Another is that a coachwhip will chase a person, coil around him, and then lash him to death with its tail. The snake checks the person for life by inserting its tail into the person’s nose. If the person isn’t dead, the snake will continue the lashing.  Of course, none of these stories are true.

image of desert spiny lizard on a rock
Desert Spiny Lizard; Photo by Skeeze from Pixabay

Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister) is a large, stocky lizard of southwestern Arizona. The male’s body features a purple stripe near the neck.

 

Illustration of western diamondback rattler
Illustration of Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

 

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) This snake is known for its distinctive rattle when threatened. The keratin rattle mechanism at the tip of the tail twitches up to 100 times per second. The dark diamond-shaped pattern on its back identifies this common Tucson rattler.

Rattlesnakes belong to a group of venomous snakes called pit vipers and are found in a wide range of habitats. The pits, located between the nostrils and the eyes, are used in sensing the heat of other animals, and are sensitive enough to detect a body only a fraction of a degree warmer than the ambient air. Rattlers usually hunt at night, preferring small nocturnal mammals. Rattlesnakes are important in controlling the populations of disease-carrying rodents.

If you want to learn about this fascinating snake, I recommend my picture book, Don’t Make Me Rattle! You’ll also find a 46-page Diamondback Workbook here, which is used by teachers, tutors and parents to supplement children’s educations.

image of children's workbook cover, with picture of western diamondback rattler and a listing of the activity sheets inside

A brown book cover, with a circle with blue sky, with a rattlesnake popping out of the circle, title: Don't Make Me Rattle

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That’s One Hot–I Mean, Cool–Den, Cantata! by Elaine A. Powers, Author

As I write this post, my Sulcata tortoise, Cantata, is digging herself a den in my yard. She’s quite an impressive digger. This got me thinking about reptiles and the digging of dens. Why did she work so hard today?

I live in Southern Arizona, where the temperatures can be quite hot and the humidity quite low.  It’s a dry heat! One reason she dug the den was to find a cooler area. As a reptile, an ectotherm, she depends on the environment to maintain her ideal body temperature. I have lots of vegetation, but their shade may not be enough to keep her cool. So she must dig into the ground.

Just as we build houses upwards for protection, reptiles also create domiciles. They, of course, can’t construct a dwelling, so they utilize what their environment offers. Instead of a roof for shade, they dig a hole.

Bushy backyard plant; can barely see a large sulcata tortoise under the bush, digging a hole in the groundHere Cantata is digging away underneath a bush.

She did pick a good place to dig.  The ground in the Sonoran Desert is like cement, but the area by the bush is a bit softer because I water those plants, so the digging might have been easier for her.  I know the ground squirrels like to dig in that area.

Large Sulcata tortoise in Southern Arizona den she has just dugThe finished product. One day’s work ends with a comfy den for a large tortoise. 

However, this is rather shallow den.  These tortoises can dig 10 feet down.  I don’t mind her using the bush, as long as she doesn’t dig under the patio, foundation or wall. Being a summer den, this den will barely cover Cantata.  For winter brumation, she would need a much deeper den.

Along with protection from excessive heat or lack of water, this den could provide protection from predators.  However, I don’t think Cantata has to worry too much about other animals. She a big, well armored tortoise.

A few days after Cantata established her new home, my Sonoran Desert Tortoise, Zoe, discovered Cantata’s lovely den.  She wanted it for her herself, but Cantata wouldn’t leave.  I suggested Cantata go dig herself another den, but she won’t. She likes this one. She had dug it a bit deeper with time.  Now every night, they both cram themselves into the same den. Fortunately, it’s big enough for both.  A smaller tortoise, Flipper, hangs around the opening. I think she wants to join in, but she is too small to compete.

A hole in the ground under a bush is a tortoise denA well-dug den is, apparently, in high demand.

To learn more about these wonderful creatures, please see the Lyric Power Publishing workbooks all about tortoises. All of our comprehensive workbooks are displayed here.

a white and blue book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

a yellow and green book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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Curtis Curly-tail Hanging on my Wall in Lights by Elaine A. Powers, Author

 

wall art of a Curly-tail lizard, lighted, sculpture of sliced gemstones and metal
Curtis-Curly Tail as breathtakingly created as any curly-tail lizard ever will be! Lighted sculpture by Zee Haag.

 

In a previous blog, I described the many artists who brought Curtis Curly-Tail to life in my book series illustrations. Today, I want to share with you a very special version of Curtis created by Tucson artist, Zee Haag.

Zee turns minerals and crystals into works of art. He cuts out pieces from steel and copper. He then “paints” with transparent slices of gemstones.  I could go into the details of the polishing of the metal to the desired color and sheen, and how each gemstone is selected and placed individually and fixed into place, but I feel art such as this should be simply enjoyed.

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, so instead of describing Zee’s version of Curtis, I’ll let you see it for yourself.

I have several pieces of Zee’s artwork on my walls, but this Curtis was made just for me.

a curly tail lizard on a bahamian beach with blue sky and ocean, sand and green plants
Curtis Curly-tail yacks it up on You Tube
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Many Artists for Curtis Curly-Tail by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Even though I’ve created the Curtis Curly-tail stories (inspired by my close encounter with the REAL Curtis Curly-tail), many talented artists have brought Curtis to life visually.  Each of the Curtis Curly-tail series’ books has had a different illustrator and they each put their own individual style to his image.

The first was my dear friend, Art Winstanley.  He didn’t consider himself a reptile person, but his Curtis had a lot of personality.  He was also the one who set Curtis’ unique coloration.  Curly-tails in real-life are a mottled brown, but Curtis is green and always will be.  This helps him stand out from the other characters. Art drew his illustrations on paper using colored pencils.  Sadly, Art died shortly after creating Curtis.

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding the waves in a red sneaker
Curtis, the perfect curly-tail lizard of Warderick Wells, decides to see where the tourists come from. He sets sail on his adventure in a ship of sneakers.

 

When I needed an illustrator to carry on the Curtis books, I asked Anderson Atlas to create a style similar to Art’s and he did.  He captured the innocence of Art’s work but brought his own energetic, fun concepts to the pictures.

A book cover with a Curly-tail lizard riding on the back of a Hutia, a rodent
Curtis Curly-tail and Horace Hutia become friends after declining hutia are brought to Warderick Wells. But when the hutia damage the cay’s ecosystem, what will the scientists do? What would you do? You pick the ending.

 

In George Town, Great Exuma, I was introduced to one of the famous local artists, Jessica Minns.  I asked her if she would be interested and willing to illustrate the third Curtis Curly-tail book.  Jessica brought a unique Bahamian style to Curtis in the book about poaching.

a children's book cover, blue and white, with several curly-tail lizards on the cover
Captured by poachers, Curtis Curly-tail finds himself on a boat full of native animals being smuggled out of The Bahamas. As he struggles to help the other animals escape, he realizes he may not be able to save himself.

 

However, Jessica didn’t have time to repeat her illustrating for me, so I asked an Eleutheran artist to create the picture for the fourth book.

an illustration of a green curly-tail lizard from the Bahamas
Coming Soon! Book four in the Curtis curly-tail series, illustrated by Monica Carroll

 

Monica Carroll has recently completed the illustrations for Curtis Curly-tail is Blown Away, scheduled to be published in 2019.  Her beautiful pictures are definitely worth the wait.

a curly tail lizard on a bahamian beach with blue sky and ocean, sand and green plants
Curtis Curly-tail Speaks on You Tube

 

The talented Anderson Atlas has also created the animated Curtis Curly-tail. He brought Curtis from the limited two dimensional drawing to a three dimensional, talking lizard, sharing his adventures with viewers. Check out Curtis’s YouTube channel!

Curtis Curly-tail is one adventurous lizard! The book series is here.

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Are Tortoises Cats with Shells? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Red-foot tortoise crawling into paper bag in kitchen
If only traversing this bag wasn’t so noisy, I could hide in here!

 

I often see photos of cats playing with paper bags and cardboard boxes. Domestic cats, and even tigers, playing with bags and boxes. These objects make great hiding places and objects for pouncing upon, perfect for solitary play. Feline aficionados claim that playing with paper stimulates cat brains.

So, do the attraction and benefits of bags and boxes prove true for tortoises, as well?  I keep a bag of paper bags beside my refrigerator.  This proves irresistible to my free-roaming tortoises.

They knock it over, crawl inside, pull the other bags out and slide them around the kitchen, having a great time for hours. However, their enjoyment of paper products is not limited to bags.  Boxes are also great fun.

Crawling into boxes can be a solo or a group activity. I have them placed in corners around my house so they don’t get bored with limited locations.  This also helps in preventing wall damage when they feel like digging a den.

Two red-foot tortoises trying to fit into a box on the kitchen floor
Hey, that’s my box!

 

I’d never thought my tortoises played before I put cardboard boxes on the floor. Now they spend their days romping in bags and boxes just like cats!

Publisher’s Note: Following are comprehensive supplemental workbooks for children , Pre-K thru 1st and 2nd-4th grade, all about tortoises. Keep summer boredom at bay with the many fun and interesting pages and projects inside our workbooks. Today is a good day to learn all about tortoises and help keep your children’s reading, vocabulary and math skills fresh.a yellow and green book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

 

a white and blue book cover with an image of a desert tortoise

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Every Day is Turtle Day by Elaine A. Powers, Author

Did you see my post post for Turtle Day? WORLD Turtle Day is May 23rd,  but in my house, every day is Turtle Day.

A box turtle on a patio table in a backyard
Trevor, the Box Turtle

That’s because I share my home with box turtles, Trevor And Ela. I’ve had Trevor (Terrapene carolina) for a long time.  He was given to me by a co-worker when I lived on the East Coast.  He had been passed from family to family to family.  She gave him to me to stop the passing.  She knew I’d keep him. But I did contact the state about what I should do with him, since he could be a native.  Because it could not be determined where he was from, I was told to keep him in captivity.  I tried to donate him to a breeding program for his happiness, but he was from the wrong state as far as we could tell.  So when I made the cross-country move, Trevor came with me.

 

Sonoran Desert box turtle in the grass
Ela, a Sonoran Desert Box Turtle

I’d been in Tucson for several years, when I was asked to take in a Sonoran Desert Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata luteola). She had been kept in captivity and needed a new home.  Fortunately, I have a secure back yard, so Ela joined my Sonoran Desert Tortoise in the backyard. They even brumated together.

Even though Trevor and Ela are both box turtles, they are very different. Trevor’s favorite food is snails, while Ela wants nothing to do with them. They do both enjoy a juicy strawberry.

A box turtle closed up inside his box
See why he’s called a Box Turtle?

Have you ever wondered why they are called box turtles? Unlike most turtles which have a sleek shell, streamlined for swimming, the box turtle has a high dome, more like a tortoise. This reflects their more terrestrial lifestyle. With no water to escape into, box turtles have developed a different defense against predators. Box turtles have a hinge on the bottom shell, the plastron. Not only can they pull their head, limbs and tail inside but they close up the shell to form a “box.” It’s much harder to find a bit to eat when your meal is hidden inside a hard shell.

Looking at a closed up box turtle from the front
The box (his shell on a hinge) protects Trevor from predators

 

Excerpt from my book, Don’t Call Me Turtle!

“Not all turtles swim–like my friend they call a Box.

His shell closes with hinges, so he won’t be eaten by a fox.”

When I wrote Don’t Call Me Turtle! for Myrtle the Red-foot Tortoise, I used Trevor as the example for the turtle.

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle

Please join me in making every day Turtle Day!

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Do Iguana’s Have Teeth? by Elaine A. Powers, Author

 

Close up of teeth of Rhinoceros Iguana
Reginald, the Rhinoceros Iguana, smiles for Elaine

 

I’m often asked if iguanas have teeth.  Even more interesting are the people who tell me that iguanas don’t have teeth because they are vegetarians.  Since iguanas do have to bite through fibrous plant material, they actually have razor-sharp, serrated teeth. Sharks have nothing on iguanas when it comes to teeth! My rhinoceros iguana, Reginald, offered to show me his teeth for a photo. It’s often hard to see their teeth because they are nearly transparent. This may be why some people think they don’t have teeth – they’re hard to see.

Teeth are just one part of the iguanas’ eating procedure.  Iguanas taste the world with their tongue, their slightly forked tongue.  Yes, just like the forked tongue of a snake.  The tongue collects molecules which are transferred to the Jacobson’s organ located in the iguana’s mouth. Once the iguana determines the leaf is food, he reaches out with his tongue which is covered in really sticky saliva.  This allows the leaf to be pulled to the waiting mouth.  That’s when those razor sharp teeth are used to slice off a mouth-sized piece of leaf.

The iguana must make its food bite-size because he doesn’t have any grinding teeth like molars. If the iguana selects a bigger food item, such as a fruit, he will move it around his mouth, slicing it until it is able to slide down his throat.

Baby iguanas are born with teeth, so they can eat immediately after hatching. Iguanas regularly grow new teeth. For those of you into anatomy, iguanas are pleurodonts since their teeth are attached to the inside of the jawbone.

Although iguanas have impressive teeth, this doesn’t mean you should fear them–just respect them.  An iguana’s first response is to run. If running isn’t possible, they will whack with their tails and spin their bodies. Only as a last resort will they bite.  But if you do get yourself bitten, you will have an impressive wound showing each and every tooth!

My advice is let the iguana use his or her teeth for eating. 🙂

To learn more about these fascinating big lizards, see our 30-page downloadable Supplemental Workbook for Grades 2-4,  My Unit Study on Iguanas.  The  workbook includes the pages Cyclura or Rock Iguana?, Iguana Facts, Iguana Puzzle, Iguana Lifecycle, Reptile Facts, Name the Reptile, Label the Parts, Compare Traits, Ecology Word Problems, Printing Letters,  Short i Sound, Counting, Cut and Paste, Cut and Classify, True or False; Mean, Median, Mode, Range; Using a Histogram, and Converting Grams to Pounds.

a white and light blue book cover with an image of an iguana's head

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World Turtle Day is May 23, 2019 by Elaine A. Powers, Author

A red-foot tortoise, showing top of shell and head looking back at photographer
Myrtle, the red-foot tortoise, doesn’t actually mind World Turtle Day.  After all, she is officially a member of the turtle family–well, as long as we all remember her book, Don’t Call Me Turtle! If we call her a turtle, there may be a wee bit of a problem…

 

World Turtle Day was started in 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue. You see, all hard-shelled reptiles, even if they are soft-shelled, are called turtles. Even if they are tortoises.  I don’t think that is fair personally. Neither does my red-foot tortoise, Myrtle, who insisted I write the book, Don’t Call Me Turtle after she got tired of being called a turtle–especially because her name is Myrtle!

The purpose of World Turtle Day is to educate people about their role in protecting the habitats of turtles and tortoises. Their shell protects them from the hazards of their natural world, but turtles and tortoises fare badly in interactions with people. From loss of habitat, being crushed crossing roads, caught in fishing nets and drowning, and being eaten, it’s a dangerous world for these gentle creatures.  Okay, maybe snapping turtles can fight back, but the others are pretty helpless. They need our assistance.

Help celebrate the joy that turtles and tortoises bring to people every day. Enrich your life with one of these amazing animals.

A children's book cover, green with a tortoise standing, coming out of a circle, finger pointed, saying Don't Call Me Turtle
Yup, that’s Myrtle posing on the cover of Don’t Call Me Turtle! Every once in a while, Myrtle asks the author to read the story to her. Again.