The Wildlife Epidemiology Lab (WEL) houses a variety of reptile colonies for both research and teaching purposes including box turtles, alligator snapping turtles, prairie rattlesnakes, and a variety of other venomous and non-venomous snakes. One of the newest additions is the colony of ten bearded dragons, identified as A-J, who became members of the lab about a year and a half ago. These dragons are all about the same age and a mix of males and females.
So what does it take to keep up with the daily husbandry and care for these animals? To start with, it’s incredibly important they have a specific housing set-up based on their natural history. Each of our bearded dragons are housed in an individual en
closure with a UVB light and a heat lamp. They also have a little step stool to make sure they are as close (about 6 inches) to the UVB lamp as they should be. There is a water dish in the corner of the cage and a flat plastic dish for food.
While setting up the enclosure is one of the most critical components of beardie care, it’s also important to keep up on their day today needs. Each bearded dragon gets a ½ cups of leafy greens mixed with veggies and calcium powder. They get 2 kingworms four times a week and weekly soaks. The picture on the left is one of our beardies enjoying his weekly bath! The soaking helps with hydration and shedding.
We also monitor the temperature in the room every day to maintain their preferred optimal temperature zone (POTZ) and the dragon’s weight weekly to make sure there aren’t any serious weight gains or losses. The cages are lined with newspaper and cleaned daily, and their behavior, activity, and physical condition are monitored and recorded daily. It can be a lot of work, but the WEL team is great at taking care of this colony and our beardies are definitely worth every minute we put in!
So that’s the basics of the care we put in everyday for our bearded dragons. Stay tuned next week for some of the incredible research projects they have been a part of and the future research we are going to undertake!