As a freelance animal trainer and consultant in the Los Angeles area, Josh Ruffell works with many different types of animals. The ones Josh Ruffell specializes in, however, are reptiles, including venomous snakes. He has handled reptiles on film projects such as G.I. Joe and Failure to Launch.
The longest and one of the most intelligent venomous snakes in the world, the king cobra earns much of its notoriety from its size and signature hood. The snake has bones and muscles just behind the head which can fan out when it feels threatened, allowing it to display radically increased lateral size to a predator, potentially discouraging it from attacking. The hood deployment often comes with a loud hiss, further warning would-be predators.
King cobras are also known for territoriality and protectiveness, doing much more than the average snake to protect their future young. The female shifts leaves on the ground to build a nest, then after laying the eggs, covers them with more debris. By lying on top or nearby the nest until they hatch, the king cobra ensures its young are able to develop in their eggs without being taken by opportunistic predators.
Josh Ruffell’s lifelong fascination with animals led to his current vocation as an animal trainer in Hollywood. One of Josh Ruffell’s assignments involved chuckwalla lizards for the movie Failure to Launch.
Native to the western U.S., western Mexico, and islands in the Gulf of Mexico, chuckwallas have thick bodies and tails, displaying a variety of color variations. Adults on average can reach lengths of approximately 12-15 inches. Generally shy, they are harmless to humans.
Sleeping in underground burrows, chuckwallas prefer rocks and crevices as hiding places. They emerge during the day to forage and retreat during the hottest hours to stay cool and avoid predators. Throughout the day, chuckwallas like to bask on rocks in order to maintain optimal body temperature.
Their eating habits include fruit, a variety of vegetation and the occasional insect. Chuckwallas camouflage well and their relatively small size enables them to generally stay hidden from predators such as coyotes, snakes, hawks, and kestrels.
Male chuckwallas mate with several females in their territory, usually early in spring. The average gestation period is 35 days; females lay between 5 and 16 eggs which hatch in 70-90 days. They can potentially live upward of 20 years in the wild.
Chuckwallas are truly a unique lizard species that can be very rewarding to work with in captivity.