OBTAINING REPTILES AND FROGS.
To obtain a given reptile/frog one may either obtain it from a captive source such as a dealer or keeper, or catch it oneself. Currently in Australia there are few reptile keepers, fewer breeders, and virtually no dealers of any form. This means that in order to obtain reptiles and frogs most people will have to obtain them themselves, by capturing them in the wild state.
To obtain a given species the easiest way is to find out about its' habits, FINDING THE REPTILES AND FROGS.
Most reptiles and frogs appear to be more prevalent/visible at certain times of the year. By finding out these times of the year for given species of reptile and frog, one can make the task of collecting them considerably easier.
Generally frogs are found in the vicinity of water, and may be found during the day resting in vegetation around creeks, swamps, dams, etc, or under ground cover nearby. Most specimens are caught at night when they are active, particularly on wet nights. Because males call, large congregations of breeding frogs can be found at certain times of the year by following their calls. Usually where frogs are calling individuals can be located without too much difficulty.
However some frogs appear to be ventriloquial and are difficult to locate even when very close. 'Triangulation' is a method of locating these frogs. By two or more people from opposite directions moving towards the point where they think the frog is calling, their paths, or light beams should intersect the point where the frog is. For triangulation to work well, collectors need to practice this method as well as having considerable patience when frogs are reluctant to call.
Calling frogs that are hard to locate my be found with the use of a cassette player. By recording a frog/s calling and playing it back to them in the same place immediately after taking the recording, specimens of the same species may be attracted to the cassette recorder in search of
By driving along roads on wet nights through suitable habitats, frogs will be found crossing and feeding on insects at most times of the year.
Tadpoles of frogs are usually found in unpolluted bodies of water without many fish present. This includes most dams, small creeks, swamps, etc. Usually tadpoles are found in very large numbers, so collecting them rarely poses little difficulty.
As seen in the preceding text reptiles are found in virtually all habitats in Australia. Usually, but not always, virgin habitats have most reptiles, in terms of species and individuals. Habitat types which virtually always have large numbers of reptiles include rocky habitats, spinifex Triodia sp. covered arid regions, areas adjacent to watercourses, and other habitats with abundant ground cover.
In most parts of Australia reptiles may be found under ground cover during cooler weather conditions.
When lifting ground cover some species (particularly geckoes) have a tendency to hold onto the underside of the cover, and this should be watched for so that 1/ you don't miss the specimen, 2/ You don't squash the reptile when re-placing the cover.
Other burrowing reptiles and frogs may shelter under leaves or soil under ground cover and in some circumstances it is worth while to rake soil, leaves grass, etc, under cover to find these species.
Rock crevices are a favorite hiding place for many species, including Tree Snakes, Pythons and spiny Egernia Skinks, although specimens found in crevices are often almost impossible to capture.
Arboreal species may also be found under tree bark, (E.g. most Oedura geckoes), or hollow tree limbs, (E.g. Spotted Tree Monitor Varanus timorensis).
Sheet iron and other man made rubbish is preferred cover for many reptiles and places such as country rubbish tips, and cemeteries are often excellent for finding reptiles.
Active diurnal reptiles are usually seen during the day when moving through their habitat. When walking, by listening carefully one can often hear reptiles fleeing through ground litter as one approaches them. In sandy areas one can follow reptile tracks to eventually locate an active
or resting reptile.
In arid parts of Australia many lizards dig and occupy burrows. These usually have their entrance at the edge of a rock or spinifex Triodia bush. There is often a second entrance or especially constructed 'emergency exit' just below the ground surface from which a pursued lizard may flee. One should be aware of this when chasing these lizards. The burrows of large scorpions may be confused with those of lizards. Usually scorpion burrows have U-shaped openings as opposed to the n-shaped openings of lizard burrows.
Night driving in warm weather is without doubt the most effective way to find many nocturnal reptiles. By driving along roads running through suitable habitat, reptiles will be found crossing. At night the open roads become effectively just another 'strip of bush'. By covering a wide strip of bush at 'high speed' in a car, one is able to have a much greater chance of finding moving reptiles than would otherwise be possible by walking through the same habitat with a spotlight or torch.
By driving along roads during the day, through certain areas at particular times of year one may find reptiles, (mainly lizards) crossing, or be able to spot agamids perched on fence-posts along the sides of the road.
In many areas reptiles have a habit of falling down mine shafts and other man made holes in the ground, and then remaining trapped in these holes until they starve to death. Checking these holes can often reveal numbers of trapped reptiles.
Tortoises are found in most rivers and larger watercourses throughout Australia. In clear waters the best way to locate specimens is by diving for them with a mask, flippers and a snorkel. Where waters are too murky for this nets and fish traps are a highly effective way to capture tortoises. It should be mentioned that tortoises will drown in nets, so these should be checked frequently to avoid this risk. Traps should be set in such a way that when the tortoise is trapped it can still swim to the water surface, again to prevent drowning.
Crocodiles may also be found using the same techniques as for tortoises, although most specimens are seen at night with the aid of spotlights from boats.
Marine turtles may be located by going to their nesting beaches, which are usually well known, during the breeding season. The adults are hard to miss on the grounds of their size, slow moving nature, and the tracks that they leave. Hatchlings are attracted to human lights placed on the beach on the night that they hatch, and by having a beach well covered with people with torches hatchlings won't be missed. Fishermen often capture sea turtles in nets, and divers also see them in tropical seas. Sea snakes are also found in large numbers by trawlers, and regularly seen
by divers in warmer waters.
The use of trained dogs to find reptiles has been little used by reptile collectors. For a number of years the author had a pet dog (Dachund/Doberman cross), which was well trained at finding reptiles by following their scent trails. The efficiency of this dog in locating large lizards and snakes when on 'reptile hunts' equaled that of about ten people. When the dog found a reptile, it simply barked loudly until the author came and caught the particular reptile. On one occasion the dog found 33 Cunningham's Skinks Egernia cunninghami near Oberon, NSW, in a half hour period.
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The above was from the book Australian Reptiles and Frogs by Raymond Hoser and now available on a fantastic CD-Rom along with a vast amount of other information, papers and the like on reptiles, frogs and other wildlife.