Warning over dumped reptiles

A GROWING number of native and exotic reptiles are being dumped at vets and in the bush by irresponsible and impulsive pet owners, Hunter wildlife rescuers have said.

Snake catchers and wildlife groups in the region said the growing popularity of snakes, lizards and turtles as pets meant more were ending up on their doorstep.

It comes after the Newcastle Herald reported last week that a boa constrictor was on the loose in Fletcher.

It was sighted again yesterday just outside Maryland.

Wildlife carers said it was too easy to obtain a native reptile-keeping licence in NSW. For just $40 people can get a reptile licence in three weeks.

A National Parks and Wildlife Service spokesperson said licences required keepers to comply with stringent conditions, such as ensuring that their animals were maintained in escape-proof enclosures at the licence-holder’s premise.

‘‘The majority of licensed keepers are also required to keep an inventory of what they possess and people seeking to keep more difficult-to-maintain native animals (including some varieties of snakes) must first have over two years’ experience in the handling and care,’’ she said.

In NSW people are no longer allowed to keep exotic reptiles such as boas as pets.

Hunter-based Native Animal Trust Fund Wildlife Rescue Service said it had six reptiles in its care last week that were either dumped, released into the bush or escaped.

President Audrey Koosmen said many of the dumped reptiles were dehydrated, stressed and injured after being ill-cared for. They included a native carpet snake that had an abscess in its mouth after being fed inappropriate food.

‘‘If they grow too big or start costing money that’s when people do not want them,’’ Ms Koosmen said.

‘‘It’s a massive problem.’’

She said captive reptiles could not fend for themselves. Dumpings typically spiked in the weeks after reptile expos when people made impulse purchases.

Snake catcher Dave Cooney, the first called to the Fletcher boa constrictor, blames the black market.

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