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A Bearded Dragon, a Python and Their Friends Come to Norfolk

The Ted Byers Conservation Lecture Featured Wildlife Rehabilitator


By Jude Mead

A rare box turtle, a four-foot long python snake, a colorful painted turtle and a bearded dragon lizard were spotted at Doolittle Lake last month. But not to worry because these reptiles were featured at the annual Ted Byers Conservation Lecture held on August 19 to honor Mr. Byers for his many years of service in protecting the environment.

Sunny Bettley from the Sharon Audubon Wildlife Rehabilitation Center presented the free and public program. Ms. Bettley is the wildlife rehabilitator at the center and provides treatment to injured or abandoned animals.

While a bit skeptical at first, the audience soon warmed up to these friendly and approachable creatures.  Attendees first met Bao, the Eastern box turtle who had sustained a traumatic shell injury from an animal attack, most likely a dog. Bettley said that a large area of the carapace was chewed away leaving the turtle unable to retreat into his shell for protection. Though he cannot be released back into the wild, Bao lives happily and safely at the center. The Eastern box turtle is listed as a Species of Special Concern in Connecticut.

Then came Dundee, the bearded dragon. Bettley explained that he was someone’s pet and was donated to the center. “ We use him in many outreach programs because he is very tame and enjoys being around people,” she said. bearded dragons live in a desert environment and will spend time underground or underneath a log. Bettley recreates that setting for Dundee in his new home.

There were also other lizards and a painted turtle, but the biggest hit was Monty, the four-foot long ball python that was given to the Sharon Audubon Center for use in educational programs. Monty had been a pet that had quickly outgrown her housing facility and could not be cared for properly. After learning that the ball python was a gentle non-venomous snake, many of the adults and children were not afraid to pet her as Bettley strolled throughout the audience with Monty wrapped around her shoulders.

According to Bettley, the Sharon Audubon Center admits hundreds of birds, mammals, and reptiles to their wildlife rehabilitation program. Care and treatment are provided and many are released back into the wild as soon as possible. Those who cannot be released live a happy and healthy life at the center. Bao and the others are proof of that.

If you should encounter injured or orphaned wildlife contact the Sharon Audubon Center at sharon.audubon.org.

Photo, top, of Sunny Bettley and her ball python, Monty, by Jude Mead.

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