How to Handle a Reptile
The first thing to know about handling your reptile or amphibian is that these animals do not like being handled. While some gradually will get used to being picked up and held, most will not. In either case, some care is necessary – even if you’re just picking the animal up to check its condition.
One of the reasons these animals are skittish is that most have poor eyesight. Reptiles and amphibians spend a great deal of time in the dark, in burrows or in the undergrowth where they find their prey.
Furthermore, most snakes (all but one genus, in fact) cannot focus by changing the shape of the eye lens. Instead, they must move the lens back and forth like a camera lens, a less efficient method. This keeps them from easily focusing on stationary objects and makes them extremely sensitive to movement.
Herps Are Not Deaf
It is not true that herps are deaf. While they don’t process sounds in the same way we do, they are very sensitive to vibrations. Their other senses are also extremely sensitive.
When you approach, they sense your heat, movement and smell. Until they know otherwise, all these things warn them of approaching danger. So the first rule is to go slow. This means allowing your herp time to adjust to its new surroundings and waiting a couple of weeks before handling the animal.
A snake or turtle will snap at a hand that comes near them if they are scared, or they will bite and hold on if they think the hand is food. Wash your hands before handling the animal to remove the smell of any other animal that might be there. Pick up snakes around the middle and the head, all at the same time if possible, and hold them securely but gently.
Herps Are Fragile
Despite their surliness, herps are fragile. Frogs should be cupped around the body by one hand and then supported beneath by the other. Turtles should be held securely around the carapace (the back shell), as well as supported by the plastron (the undershell).
Gradually increase the amount of time you handle the animal, remembering again that too much handling stresses a herp a great deal. If you want an animal that you can regularly handle, a dog or cat is a much better choice.
Children should be watched carefully when they handle herps. They tend to squeeze too hard and when the animal struggles the child gets scared and releases it. You then either end up chasing and scaring it more, or chasing the herp until it vanishes somewhere in the room. To alleviate this problem always handle the animal over its cage at first.
Children also tend to put their fingers in their mouths, so it is essential that they wash their hands after handling the herp. The same applies to you.