Chinese New Year: 3 Dragon Facts that Will Keep You Alive in the “Year of the Dragon”

A Wildlife-Friendly DMV Special Edition

Wildlife-Friendly DMV connects wildlife enthusiasts in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia to local wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation. I will share with you the wildlife and nature where I “roam,” and bring to life the stories of people around our region who speak up for wildlife.

Today, January 23, 2012, marks the beginning of the Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year is considered the most important of all traditional Chinese holidays, and is known as the “Spring Festival” in China.  Each Chinese New Year also represents a different zodiac sign (such as the Rabbit or Tiger), and this is the Year of the Dragon.

Dragons are mythical and mysterious creatures, and are known for their intense power and symbol of good fortune.  As a “dragon” myself (you can decide what year I was born in: 1904 * 1916 * 1928 * 1940 * 1952 * 1964 * 1976 * 1988 * 2000), I’m equally as mystified by these enchanting creatures.

Komodo Dragon
This Komodo dragon's name must be Drool... Yikes! Komodo Dragon/ Photo by Flickr's Adhi Rachdian
So what do you think?  Are dragons real? Or do they merely exist in video games and in the HBO series Game of Thrones? Whether you believe or not, here are 3 facts about real-life “dragons” that will keep you alive in the Year of the Dragon:

1) Komodo Dragons

Weighing in at an impressive 300 pounds and reaching up to 10 feet long, Komodo dragons are the heaviest lizards on Earth.  If you run into a Komodo dragon — say on your daily jog — it’s important to know they can run up to 11 mph in short bursts.

What does this mean for their prey?  The only way to avoid a Komodo dragon is running (quickly) into a tree or high spot. If the prey is bitten, but does escape, they will be dead within 24 hours due to the venom in a Komodo’s bite that “rapidy decreases blood pressure, expedites blood loss,  and sends the victim into shock, making them too weak to fight.”

Survival tool: A jet pack

2) Leafy and Weedy Sea Dragons

Leafy Sea Dragon by Flickr's 斗室‧亞Len
Leafy Sea Dragon by Flickr's 斗室‧亞Len
Known for their ornately camouflaged bodies, leafy and weedy sea dragons are some of the most camouflaged creatures in the world.  Their bodies are generally yellow, brown or olive colored.  And although leafy and weedy dragons are carnivores, these dragons are the size of a tea cup, and can easily be avoided during a trip to “the beach” by staying out of the seaweed and kelp, where they spend most of their time.

Survival tool:  Camouflage-detecting snorkeling gear

3) A Real-life Dragon?

What should you do if you have an encounter with a real-life dragon like this one? (Click here).

Survival tool: RUN.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Please note: Komodo dragons, leafy dragons and weedy dragons do not live in the continental United States. 

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