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Chat Week 98 Transcript
12/9/98 - Gerry Salmon

jeffb - Thank you for coming to Chat Week 98
jeffb - Tonights first guest is Gerry Salmon.... ubiquitous alterna collector and all around herper
jeffb - Gerry will be talking primarily about Anacondas in Venezulea... first I want to give Gerry a couple sentences to warm tou up and describe his adventure and then we will start q/a
GerryS - Greetings everybody
jeffb - gerry go ahead
GerryS - I was fortunate to work with the anaconda study group with the Bronx Zoo in Venezuela in both 1993 and again in 1996 for 3 week stints
GerryS - The study has been going on for about 9 years
GerryS - The study area was the Venezuelan Llanos in the SW portion of the country
GerryS - We helped organize and assist several Venezuelan biologists in thier work
GerryS - I can field general questions regarding it

jeffb - how do you go about catching an anaconda
GerryS - Well of course it depends on the size but generally you wade through the water and feel around
GerryS - We collected and released specimens after collecting data

cherry - How prevalent were the anacondas, as far as frequency of sightings etc.
GerryS - Anacondas are very common there
jeffb - ChrisD do you have a question
GerryS - As far as other snakes go anacondas were the most prevalent
GerryS - but of course thats what we were looking for

CornSnakeLover - How big do they get?
GerryS - In Venezuela max is about 18 feet
GerryS - They may run larger in the Amazon basin but probably most sizes are exagerated

Crocfreak - Have you ever met up with any Orinoco Crocs while looking for ana's or any large caimans?
GerryS - Yes we saw several OC but caimans were very commmon
GerryS - the OC were released from breeding programs and natural populations are all but extinct
GerryS - The Orinoco crocs being captive produced were pretty docile looking

Frogger - I was reading an article in Discover that was talking about a tribe of people in South America that used Anaconda teeth in bartering. Have you seen any of this type of trade in Venezuela? Are Anacondas commonly killed for skin ,teeth, etc.?
GerryS - The teeth even on large ones are quite small - hard to believe that they would trade them
GerryS - The anacondas are usually killed for food only and only occasionally by the native peoples
GerryS - They are usually just killed by man when encountered

jaxmanny - I know it sounds juvenile, but were any of your expedition bitten while wading around?
GerryS - Its not a bad question
GerryS - Only one was bitten while hunting for them - we tried hard not to get bit.
jaxmanny - When you say small teeth, could you define small? How serious an injury was caused?
GerryS - The big ones could and would try to tear you up when capture was attempted
GerryS - The teeth on large specimens (12 - 17 feet) would e large enough to cause lacerations of a size not comfortable

jeffc - I have heard that Venezuela is pretty progressive. Did you find the people and officials to be friendly to visiting scientists and/or herpers?
GerryS - The cities in V are progressive but the outback is pretty primitive
GerryS - The people are very friendly except in the bad parts of Caracas

Jim--E - Do you think there really is a monster anaconda out there somewhere? I know there have been sightings and big scraps but no proof?
GerryS - From what I have seen anything over 20 is a monster
GerryS - Probably 25 would be an expected max

Northern_Herp - What was the main parasite found in the species that you encountered?
GerryS - There was a microbiologist working with us but his data is not yet available
GerryS - As far as parasites go they also did alot of blood work
Northern_Herp - ok np

Okie_Python - Due to the problems with travel into the Orinoco, are there still quite a few different species that have not yet been studied or catalogued?
GerryS - Probably but most of Venezuela is herpetologically well known
GerryS - The Amazon basin might have better diversity
GerryS - and is more remote

prof - Were you working in the concentrated pools of the dry season?
GerryS - The study area (llanos) is a flooded (in the wet season) prairie and in the dry season is quite dusty
GerryS - Yes borrow pits (deep holes that collect the last remaining water end up with all the fish, turtles and everything else
GerryS - Some borrow pits would contain many (10) anacondas, some none
GerryS - They end up there to escape the high daytime temps

python - With the deforestation of South America, is the Anaconda becoming endangered from loss of habitat or any other cause?
GerryS - Deforestation is only a minor problem in that part of SA but obviously is a problem in the triple canopy forest
GerryS - The anacondas stay in the tributaries and the main rivers so to them the problem is not what it is to many other animals

snaker - Are the anacondas or the areas you were studying protected by the government in any way? Do they need to Be??
GerryS - They are protected only from export from the country but in country in other words we can't take them out
GerryS - It is hard to get permits from either Columbia or Venezuela

tem - What do they eat in the wild?
GerryS - Everything that bumps into them under water and they can hold onto - the list is long
GerryS - Capybara, caiman, turtles, birds, etc
GerryS - Those are items we found them with either constricting or in their stomachs
GerryS - Deer also is an occasional prey item
jeffb - what exactly is a Capybara
Chamaeleo - its a large rodent
Chamaeleo - a big rodent
GerryS - The largest rodent up to 120 lbs.
GerryS - They (capybaras) are eaten locally and have become quite rare off the protected ranches Chamaeleo - looks like a huge hamster x rat

VIPERGTS - Exactly what were you studying in your research of anacondas? And, a little off topic, but what other snakes native to Venezuela were observed?
GerryS - We were studing their complete life history in the wild
GerryS - Some of the snakes were also surgically implanted with radio transmitters and we followed them around to find out more about their activity patterns
GerryS - This study has been reported some in Natural History Mag and Smithsonian and a upcoming article is planned in National Geographic
GerryS - We also saw coral snakes, cribos, common boas
GerryS - also saw their version of watersnake which interestingly is an egglayer
GerryS - tree boas, rainbow boas but all these were not very common

beauL - sorry if this has been asked, did you see any color or pattern variations/mutations?
GerryS - No anacondas are quite boring in color pattern forms - pretty regular
GerryS - Many of them were quite scarred up though and they seem to pay dearly for the prey they eat.
GerryS - So badly are they scarred that often large specimens are unuseable as far as their hides go.

VIPERGTS - As far as the anacondas go, are they ever prey of anything besides man? Being healthy specimens, is there any animal that preys on anacondas?
Chamaeleo - mites
GerryS - They are eaten by many things when they are small
GerryS - Caimans of medium to large size takes smaller anacondas
VIPERGTS - What about large, 12+ foot specimen?
GerryS - Once they attain that size nothing much bothers them

sri - what is the most unusual anaconda you've seen in the field and why?
GerryS - The most unusual one was one that took a medium sized deer - unbelievable sized meal

jeffc - Did you see any Boa constrictors in SW Vene.? If so what do they look like there? Commons or "true" redtails or in between?
GerryS - In between and we only saw very few - there is a photo in the article written by Peter Strimple in Reptiles Mag
GerryS - He had been down with the same team

LGecko - I'm curious to find out your most dangerous encounter with an anaconda, or any other animal in Venezuala was? Your research seems dangerous...
GerryS - Anacondas are not so bad if there is plenty of help...
GerryS - Electric eels, pirana and sting rays were the biggest threat to a short stay
LGecko - interesting...

Northern_Herp - What was the most interesting aspect of your anaconda encounters? And gives you the desire to go back?
GerryS - Six weeks there total was enough for me, everyday is a lot of work in the hot sun and we saw alot of the same stuff so by week two it could get kinda old ....
GerryS - It was still alot of fun

Okie_Python - I believe you mentioned eloctronic implanting and monitoring. If this was done on the first trip, what was learned from it upon the return trip?
GerryS - My two trips were only part of the study which ran each year with different people
Okie_Python - OK, what kinds of things did they hope to learn?
GerryS - The batteries in the radios would last about a year and they would sometimes cover much area

Chamaeleo - Gerry how did you get to venezuala?
GerryS - On a plane

Pickloid_From_Planet_Dill - What prey items have you seen the average larger size anaconda eat? More specific, what are the smallest meals you've seen them bother with to the largest(other than the deer) you'be seen taken down?
GerryS - They take rodents, birds and caiman seemingly most of the time

prof - Describe the temperatures in the field while you were working.
GerryS - Very hot - it was the dry season and temps were everyday in the nineties
GerryS - Sunburn was a problem
GerryS - The nightime temps were only 10 degrees less (F)

[21:56] python - any info on lifespan and growth rates? How old is an 18 footer...
[21:57] GerryS - Good question - not sure I would have to check with the data and get back with you
GerryS - Females are much larger than males which would never get that big
GerryS - The sizes are definitely sexual dimorphic
GerryS - a large male would be about 12 feet in length

jeffb - why do you feel its important to be a member of NRAAC
GerryS - Lots of reasons
GerryS - nice try though
jeffb - everyone say g'night to gerry salmon

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