Reptile Owners: How to prepare for extreme weather events

You have spent countless hours on google researching the care requirements for a new reptile you are looking to acquire, or you are a hobbyist with multiple reptiles in your household. We get caught up in the excitement of owning these amazing species that we sometimes fail to plan for emergency situations. It is easy to believe that “these severe weather events don’t happen where I live.”

Next thing you know a winter storm has rolled in and your power is out. Your house is starting to get cold, and you are left thinking “what do I do to keep my reptiles warm?” Or an unexpected power failure happens in the peak of summer. “How do I keep my temperature sensitive species from overheating?”

            In February of 2021, a severe winter storm rolled through Texas causing rolling black-outs leaving residents without power for days in -6f (-20 C) weather. This left many reptile keepers scrambling to keep their temperature sensitive reptiles warm while they waited for their power to be restored.

In this article we will discuss many alternatives you can keep in your arsenal for when an extreme weather event happens. This article will help provide a foundation for reptile keepers to decide what option best suits their needs with the reptiles they own. We will be focusing on temperature sensitive reptiles such as New Caledonian geckos (crested geckos, gargoyle geckos, Leachianus geckos, Chahoua, etc.)

Method 1: Shipping Supplies

            If your power is going to be out for an unforeseeable amount of time or has extended past a full day and the temperatures in your house are starting to dip below 60 F (15 C) or over 85 F (29 C), it may be time to intervene. This simple cost-effective solution will keep your animals safe while reducing stress, many breeders may even have these supplies on hand from attending expos or shipping live reptiles.

To create an extreme weather event kit, you will need:

  • 2.5” thick Styrofoam box – preferably a two-piece box appropriately sized to your needs.
  • 60-hour Uni-heat heat packs (multiple depending on the size of the box and incase some fail to warm up)
    • DO NOT USE HAND WARMERS! These are not reptile safe and exceed temperatures that can leave surface burns.

Winter Kit:

   Pack your geckos individually into their deli containers lined with paper towel. We recommend giving a light mist on the side of the deli. You want to ensure that the paper towel inside the deli does not get overly wet or this will cause the gecko to cool down faster.

Open the Uni-heat heat packs with the pink line facing up to activate the heat pack. It may take 10 or more minutes before it begins to feel warm to the touch.

Place your geckos in their delis in the Styrofoam box with space around them. If you are using a small Styrofoam box (7x7x7” to a 16x12x8”) you will only need one heat pack and a single hole in the box. Secure the heat pack to the lid of the box and add some crumpled-up paper to act as a heat transfer surface. Place your digital probe through the hole you have created in the box to monitor the internal temperatures throughout the day.

If you are using a large Styrofoam shipping box you will want to place a heat pack in a lower corner and secure a 2nd heat pack to the lid to ensure a stable internal temperature at all heights in the box.

Heat rises in a household; you will want to find a safe place to keep your Styrofoam box of geckos on an upper level of your house.  

It is important to check on your geckos/reptiles to change out their paper towel, monitor internal temperatures, and provide them with a light misting to maintain appropriate humidity and hydration. We recommend not feeding them during this period to reduce stress if the foreseeable power outage is short (1-3 days).

Summer Kit:

   The above method is interchangeable during the summer months minus the use of heat packs. For this scenario you will need Cryo-packs. We recommend keeping the Cryo-packs in your freezer during the summer months. This will ensure that if you lose power, they are already frozen and able to cool down the temperatures within the Styrofoam box and maintain a constant 22c.

These kits are also handy in the case of evacuation orders due to flooding or fires.

Method #2 Generators:

     While the above method is a great option for many pet keepers or smaller reptile enthusiasts, an alternative option is to invest in a generator that can power your main reptile room. These can be found at your local hardware store.

With this information you can create a plan that best suits the needs of you and your reptiles and keep them safe during an extreme weather event.

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