The zoo's resident snakes, Cleo, Lucy, Skink, and Solomon live in the zoo's classroom and are a part of the zoo's teaching programs and community outreach.
Cleo - Colombian Rainbow Boa Constrictor
Former pet Colombian rainbow boa constrictor, Cleo, was donated to the Zoo Sanctuary in 1995. The “rainbow” is an iridescent sheen from microscopic ridges on her scales, which act like prisms to refract light into a rainbow effect. Cleo is thought to be an albino as her colors are muted. Rainbow boas are primarily nocturnal and partly arboreal. The average length of females is 5 feet, whereas males are shorter. They tend to max out at 7 feet. Their native homes are in forests and woodlands of Costa Rica through central South America. These snakes are not widespread throughout their range because habitat destruction and human encroachment threaten wild populations. While Rainbow Boas are widely available in pet shops, experts suggest that they don't make good pets for beginners, since they can be “nippy” and require specific temperatures and thoughtful care to survive. Special Note: In the past, Cleo has been known to wander. Some years ago, she disappeared in the upstairs area of the old Zoo office building. After a lengthy search, she was finally found curled up in a formerly empty coffee can that had been used for storage. Another time she was found lying inside the paper tray of the warm office printer, having entered through a small port on the side. After she was found the staff noticed that there was a faint snake imprint on the copy paper.
Flick - Hognose Snake
The person who purchased a young hognose snake at the 2011 Sacramento Reptile Show realized before too long that this was a mistake. Flick found a home at the Zoo Sanctuary. He’s distinguished by his upturned nose. Like his wild relatives in southern and eastern states, he’s secretive and spends a lot of time hidden under surface litter. The bulk of their wild diet is made up of rodents and lizards. When threatened a hognose will raise its head and hiss. If this fails, the snake rolls on its back, writhing as if in pain, tongue hanging out of its mouth and, with a last gasp, becomes still. Roll it over and it may “die again” These snakes are frequently found in the pet trade.
Lucy - Royal Ball Python
Snake Lucy is a (royal) ball python. He is also a male (read note below.) His wild family lives in Africa. Ball pythons are non-venomous. Females are larger than males and may reach 3+ feet in length. When stressed, these snakes will curl into a tight ball with the head tucked in the middle, hence the name. Color patterns are black/brown with light colored undersides, which camouflage the snake in shadowed light. Ball pythons live in savannahs and grasslands and hang out in burrows dug by other animals. Females lie up in burrows to keep an eye on the 3 to 11 leathery eggs that are incubated underground for up to sixty days. Captive Ball Pythons can live forty years if well maintained. Lucy was found in a backyard, starving and dehydrated. He was quite possibly an escaped pet. He was donated to the Zoo Sanctuary in 1995. Cleverly named after TV star, Lucille Ball, we later discovered that Lucy really is a male. (Our veterinarian checked for us. Snake sex is best determined via a manual exam, usually by inserting a probe into the cloaca, where, if the snake is male, the hemipenes will be found.)
Lily - Desert Tortoise
Desert tortoise Lily was found lost and wandering in Truckee. Popular as pets, and skilled burrowers, it is likely that she used her sharp, claw-like scales and flattened forelimbs to dig her way out of her previous home. As the state reptile of California, Lily is a popular outreach animal.
Solomon - Skink
While Solomon looks like a handsome dragon, he is a Prehensile-tailed Skink (aka: Solomon Island Skink, Monkey-tailed Skink.) The members of his family are the largest known arboreal skinks. They are also one of a few species of reptiles to live in a social group, or circulus. Both males and females are hostile to skinks that are not part of their family group. All are herbivores. Logging of the Solomon Islands forests is a serious threat to the survival of the species. They are also captured for the pet trade and show up as market meat. Those who have worked with Solomon know that he is mild mannered, and that his tail is truly prehensile. If you manage to detach his claws from a limb the tail will still be holding tight.