- 100% imagination by Laura Sloan. -


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Northern Snap Dragon

Northern Snap Dragons are small dragons that inhabit Canada and United States.
Often times the Northern Snap Dragon is found in trees, shallow water such as streams or small ponds, or on the ground in bushes, hollow logs, or long grass. Its name comes from the sound and speed of its jaw as it snaps shut on prey.

First discovered in the 1800's, the Northern Snap Dragon remains plentiful in the wild and is suspected to have more undocumented varieties in patterns and colours. Today, Northern Snap Dragons are popular domestic pets as they are valued for their hunting skills and make great social companions.

Natural Habitat

The Northern Snap Dragon is found in Nearctic (USA and Canada) regions. These regions include temperate broadleaved and coniferous forests, subtropical humid or dry deciduous forests, chaparral, savannah grasslands and alpine pastures. Often times wild Northern Snaps can be found in backyards taking advantage of water features or hunting small birds at feeders. Northern Snap Dragons will not remain in one territory unless it is mating season, time to hibernate, or plentiful in food.

In cold climates where the winter months go below freezing temperatures, Northern Snap Dragons hibernate in burrows or hollow trees. They get warmth not only from wrapping up in their wings, but before it really gets cold, Snap Dragons collect dry leaves, and rip the fur and feathers off prey and store it all in their winter nests. If the weather gets to a reasonable temperature of around ten degrees celcius, the Northern Snap Dragon will awaken to eat snow for hydration and attempt a short hunt until the temperature drops.
Anatomy & Flight

A captive Northern Snap Dragon can live approximately forty years, in the wild they live on average between fifteen to twenty.

From the top of their skull, to the flat of their feet, Northern Snap Dragons stand 24cm tall and on average their body length from chest to flank (not including tail) is 20cm.
The tail usually adds another 25 - 30cm. As for their wings, each wing outstretched is about 70cm, making a wing span of 1.4 meters. The wings of a Snap Dragon are not large enough to carry it through actual flight, so they are used for defense, gliding, and to aid in swimming.

The Northern Snap Dragons height is comparable to the common house cat, the Snap Dragon is incredibly slender and light, making it weak against attacks from other animals. Northern Snap Dragons use their wings and colourful patterns to disorient predators and get away, but if that doesn't work, the Snap Dragon will attempt to intimidate predators by outstretching its wings to full size and take on a rigid stance, mouth open and snapping down, making the characteristic 'snap' noise. If all else fails the Snap Dragon will fight by biting and clawing, if only to get an opportunity to escape or scare off the attacker.

The teeth of the Northern Snap Dragon are small and pointed which are meant for piercing. Their claws are long and almost needle like, though in the wild they are shortened and dulled naturally from climbing and digging through leaf litter. Large eyes give them perfect eyesight day and night, and their ears allow them to hear everything.

Hunting & Feeding

Northern Snap Dragons are  primarily hunters but are partially opportunistic as well. If they happen to find a nest of eggs or a fresh kill, the Snap Dragon will feed, but the Snap Dragon is more likely to hunt. Its diet consists of insects, small birds, rodents, fish, frogs or eggs. Since the Northern Snap Dragons have bright markings, folding the wings down over its sides enables the Snap Dragon to hunt more effectively. A Northern Snap Dragon primarily stalks in the undergrowth or in fields, but has been seen waiting in trees and diving down on unsuspecting prey.

The Northern Snap Dragons eyes are large and are able to spot the slightest of movements along with being able to see well in the dark. Combined with its large ears, the Snap Dragon is a formidable hunter.

After a successful hunt, the Snap Dragon wastes no time and swallows the captured food whole. On average the Snap Dragon eats two to three times a day, depending on the food it is able to catch and how active the Snap Dragon is. On an insect diet, feeding is frequent throughout the day, but a rodent or bird is sufficient.

Mating & Offspring

Mating season starts in Spring. Males and females will spend several weeks mating, but only with one chosen partner. Males who do not find a female, have been known to attempt mating with a taken female. This often ends poorly for the bachelor male, as the coupled pair will fight and run him off (if they don't end up killing him).

During the mating period and after, the coupled pair focuses on hunting and will stick faithfully to each other. The male feeds the female, while he sustains himself on the bare minimum. After about three weeks of heavy eating of nutrients, the female lays an average of two to three eggs in her winter hibernation home. For a month and a half, the female incubates her eggs while the male brings her food and stays close as protection.

Once hatched, offspring have no markings and their base colour is almost black. It takes a few weeks for their markings to show. Offspring either have their mothers, or fathers markings, depending on the dominant trait (see tier 1, colouration & markings).

After a month of both parents feeding the hatchlings, the father leaves and heads back to a life of solitude. The female is left to teach the offspring, and only a few weeks after the young ones leave the nest to find their own way.

It takes two years for young Northern Snap Dragons to reach full size and sexual maturity, but it's likely males won't find a partner until about year three or four. Females who had offspring the previous year, will sometimes take a season off to rest or hunt for better feeding grounds.


Because of its size, Northern Snap Dragons are vulnerable to anything that is bigger and carnivorous. Hatchlings and adolescents are more at risk of being killed by adult Snap Dragons, but Northern Snap Dragons will not eat their own kind.

Colouration & Markings

The base colour of the Northern Snap Dragon has very little variety, there are varying browns, grey-blues, and grey. White Snap Dragons have been discovered but do not have the albinism disorder so they keep their characteristic amber eyes. Though their lack of camouflage makes survival difficult and as a result they are rare to find in nature and highly desirable for domestic breeding. 


Although the Northern Snap Dragons base colour is rather dull and lacking in variety, their  under wings, sides and sometimes the dorsal side of the neck and flank, are marked with a variety of different colours and patterns. In shadow the colour can be dull, but in the sunlight, the colours flash with an almost metallic sheen, similar to the Blue Morpho butterfly. 

Northern Snap dragons lack sexual dimorphism, so colours and patterns are endless between males and females. While there is a possibility the patterns and pattern colours have a role in picking a suitable partner in mating season, it has not been successfully documented. The Snap Dragon has been observed using the patterns to confuse predators, giving it time to flee. It also has been seen using its colours to bring in prey such as small birds. The Snap Dragons markings are documented under a 3 tier system.

Fig. 2 - The 3 tier system.

Tier 1:

Tier 1 markings are simple and are generally stripes, splotches, or speckles, as well are only one colour. These markings are found on the under wing, the sides of the dragon closest to the wing membrane, and sometimes on the flank or dorsal side of the neck.

The patterns on a tier 1 Snap Dragon can be different sizes, but as a rule stay the same shape and pattern colour. For example, if a Snap Dragon has a combination of thin stripes and blotches or has two different distinct pattern colours such as red and green, it means it is not a tier 1, but a tier 2 (see tier 2, fig.2). An exception to this rule is a darker tone of the Snap Dragons base colour can be seen as adding stripes or border the coloured patterns (see fig.3)

Offspring are born almost black and markings don't show until two weeks after hatching. It's not until about a year do their scales lighten and turn from almost black to either their mother, or fathers base scale colour. Their pattern colours will become more vibrant at the two year mark.

 Tier 2:

As previously mentioned, tier 2 markings are a combination of two distinct patterns. Tier 2 markings are rare in nature as generally one marking will be dominant over the other. If a tier 2 is born in the wild, the more advanced pattern lowers survival rate if markings end up on the muzzle or are more pronounced on the neck.

 Tier 3:

Tier 3 Northern Snap Dragons only emerged after countless years of selective breeding. Northern Snaps that are domesticated, are commonly tier 2 or if the owner is willing to spend the money, tier 3. Generally tier 3's consist of only two pattern colours, but three colours (although rare) have been achieved. The highly advanced and intricacy of these patterns on the tier 3 , make it incredibly difficult for the Snap Dragon to live in the wilderness, as markings are almost always found on its face, inhibiting hunting and camouflage. 

Fig.3 - Tier 1 Snap Dragon exhibiting darker
tones along with coloured markings.

Captivity & Behaviour 

A wild Northern Snap Dragon will flee if it even hears or sees an animal larger than itself, so it's no surprise that a Snap Dragon would avoid humans. Though if a wild Snap Dragon is offered food, or finds itself in backyards more than natural habitat, it may stick around but at a distance.

Northern Snap Dragons who are raised around humans can be  mischievous at times due to being intelligent animals, but proper training can sway any bad behaviour. Though their personality is very social, they like to be around humans and are often given names much like any other pet. They will sit on laps and shoulders or curl up next to its owner on the couch, but owners must be gentle while touching a Northern Snap Dragon, as it's light and thin and can be easily pushed around with little effort.

Feeding Northern Snap Dragons can, at times, be a handful. They prefer live food, but if their meal is already dead, it must be fresh such as cut meats from the supermarket. They need to be taken for walks to burn energy, special body harnesses have been created, though enclosed outdoor runs or letting them in the backyard is an option. It is rare for a happy Northern Snap Dragon to run away from home, it takes improper care or abuse to make it feel nature is a better home.

It is not recommended to leave a Northern Snap Dragon with a young child or puppy, as the dragon is small and can easily be injured. Domestic Northern Snap Dragons will tolerate another Snap Dragon in the house, but should not be left unattended for a few months, until they learn to share the home. With time they will become close companions. It is  recommended  to have your Northern Snaps neutered/fixed, even domesticated Northern Snaps will attempt to pick a partner, and can become distant or  irritable if they don't find a mate. Northern Snap Dragons are best with experienced owners, or with an owner who can give the proper amount of attention.

In the winter months, wild Northern Snap Dragons will hibernate, a domestic Snap Dragon will not if in a warm home of 10 degrees  Celsius or more. Domestic Northern Snap Dragons metabolism will slow down during these times, so it is important to keep feeding down to once every few days rather than two times a day. They will let you know when it is time to eat, so it is easy to find a feeding pattern that works. Northern Snap Dragons will also sleep more so owners should not be alarmed if they find their Dragons sleeping upwards of 10 hours in any given day.



If you would like to create your own Northern Snap Dragon, 
please respect the ideas I have set up for this creature
and understand the tier system.

I would be happy to see what you come up with, and will
post it to the blog. Please comment and link to your work!