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Observations of the Wild Snowickle


by resurrectedwarrior

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ICE CAVES - The Snowager’s growlings and gruntings echo eerily through the caverns of the Ice caves as I slowly make my way through the tunnels. My guide, a Snow Aisha with a rather snazzy attitude, shrugs off the alarming sound. “It’s probably just another poor soul trying to steal from the ice snake,” she chuckles. A few moments later, her comment is shown to be true. Rushing out from the tunnel leading to the Snowager’s lair, a pitiful-looking Wocky emerges, shivering wildly. As he passes us, clumps of ice break off his half-frozen pelt. My guide chuckles once again, “He tried to get himself a negg, but what he got was an icy blast. Will they ever learn?”

Fortunately, for my guide and me, we aren’t here to challenge the Snowager. We’re traveling through Terror Mountain not for personal gain, but for research purposes. Our journey will take us near the Snowager, but we will never be near enough to him to be in any real danger. Instead, the “danger” will come from other sources, as there is always a chance of cave-ins in the Ice Caves. Of course, since we plan to trek through seldom-traveled caves, losing our way is also a possibility. Hopefully, the presence of my guide will lessen these chances.

My purpose here is to research Snowickles in their native habitat ~ the deep recesses of the Ice Caves. As yet, few traveled in these parts, save petpet dealers intent on selling the animals they catch. Other than those found in captivity, Snowickles remain elusive and are rarely seen outside the caves. They sell at the Mystery Island Trading Post for millions, and have become a status pet amongst the rich. Interviews with the owners of Snowickles have proved dissatisfactory in determining the nature of Snowickles. Therefore, little information exists concerning the natural habits of these interesting, small creatures. Due to this sad fact, I hope to make several key observations on this expedition. First, I would like to gather evidence determining whether or not Snowickles adhere to any sort of social order. Because Snowickles are herps, and, more specifically, a type of salamander (they don’t have scales – reptiles do), it is likely they dwell alone. Second, I would like to find out exactly what enables Snowickles to survive in such a cold environment. Many salamanders dwell in cold habitats, but none as cold as the Ice Caves. Thirdly, I hope to find any information that can answer the question concerning whether or not Snowickles and the Snowager are genetically related.

The Snow Aisha guide and I make our way past the Crystal Shop, around the Scratch Card Kiosk, and into the tunnel leading to the Snowager’s lair. However, rather than continue though the tunnel and into his cavern, we make a sharp right turn and enter a small tunnel so narrow I am forced to walk sideways. According to petpet dealers, this is the path they use to locate their Snowickles. We continue down this corridor in silence, only the sounds of our footsteps and heavy breathing can be heard. As we move deeper into the tunnel, the walls become harder and shinier until we seem to be surrounded by frozen mirrors. Eventually, the roof of the tunnel descends, and I am forced to crawl through the passage. (My guide was unusually short, so she never had to stoop an inch!)

After a rather long period of slow and uncomfortable crawling, the sound of clanging metal reaches our ears. A short ways onward, the tunnel widens and my guide and I find ourselves standing in a small cavern. About five tunnels come together at this point, forming an icy intersection. As we decide which tunnel to go down next, we hear the clanging sound again and determine to venture into the tunnel we think the sound came from. Walking through the passage, the sound of scratching can be heard further down the tunnel. When we finally arrive at the end of the cave, we behold a glittering sight.

Piled high at the back wall of the tunnel is a heap of shining objects. Golden trophies, translucent gems, silver and gold Neopoints, metallic pens ~ anything and everything even remotely shiny was piled high. Sitting upon this heap, frozen at the sight of us, is a Snowickle. It is about the average size of Snowickles in captivity. Its coloring is typical, light and dark blue bands alternating up and down its body. A beak-like maxilla and three-toed legs are also classic characteristics of Snowickles. Though typical, I am pleased with our find; this may well be the first wild Snowickle observed for the purposes of science! Not long after our arrival, the Snowickle becomes accustomed to us and begins to meander about its hoard once again. Though the Snowickle is at the front of the pile, we hear a sound come from the back. The Snowickle spins around immediately to face the direction the sound came from and hisses harshly as another Snowickle, much smaller than the first, lumbers out onto the pile of treasured items.

The first Snowickle is none too pleased with the presence of the second, and hisses even louder. Seemingly totally oblivious, the second Snowickle begins to climb to the top of the hoard. The first advances with lightening speed and throws the second down. As the Snowickle falls, metallic articles slide and clang together, thus explaining the sound my guide and I heard earlier. The second Snowickle, not to be deterred, recovers quickly and makes another advance to the top of the mound, only to be thrown down once again by the other. This action continues for some time, until finally the first Snowickle drives the second away. The first Snowickle sits triumphantly at the top of the mound, while the second Snowickle begins to exit through yet another small tunnel.

Curious to know where the defeated Snowickle was off to, my guide and I decide to follow it. We make a wide circle around the first Snowickle’s mound and enter the tunnel, which is so small I am now forced to push myself along using my elbows and toes. After quite some time of proceeding thus, the glassy tunnel begins to widen and then slowly opens into another cavern, much larger than the previous one. Before us is an utterly massive pile of objects, not just shiny objects, but other things of value: neggs, Battledome items, rare furniture, rare and retired paint brushes, and many other such items. Sitting atop this pile is none other than the Snowager. The tunnel the small Snowickle lead us through brought us to the back of the Snowickle’s cavern! One need not dwell long on the advantage this would present to those wishing to steal from the Snowager, and, apparently, the Snowickle is aware of this. The small creature walks ever so slowly to the pile’s edge and grasps the shiniest item near it ~ a Battledome helmet. However, when the Snowickle begins to drag the item back, it creates a great screeching sound. The Snowager turns with a flash and eyes the Snowickle, who acts with a surprising display of agility. It continues to drag the helmet, only it moves the object so fast the Snowager has no chance to blast it. My guide and I don’t stay to see what the Snowager will do. We race back to the tunnel as fast as our legs will carry us.

Returning to the hoard of the first Snowickle, my guide and I witness an amazing sight. The smaller Snowickle lays the helmet on the pile, and the larger comes over to inspect. It pokes the helmet with its beak-like nose, then takes the object and positions it carefully at another place on the pile. The first Snowickle then returns to its previous position, only this time the second joins it, undisturbed. My guide and I continue observing awhile longer, but nothing else of interest happens.

Finding nothing more of significance, and wanting to explore more of the cave, my guide and I return to the icy intersection and choose a different tunnel. At the end of this tunnel, and in each of its connecting tunnels, we find small hoards of Snowickles. Some Snowickles protect their treasures alone, while others rely on groups to help protect the pile. In almost every adjacent tunnel, my guide and I make similar findings. Apparently, Snowickles populate this area in abundance. In one tunnel jutting out from another, we make a fascinating find. As we arrive at a small cavern at the end of the tunnel, it appears to be completely empty. Nothing is inside but pieces of broken ice. However, as we turn to leave, a crack forms in the floor of the cave. Within moments, a tiny form pushes pieces of ice away and crawls out into the cave. It is a newly hatched Snowickle, tiny and delicate, yet a perfect replica of the older Snowickles we had already observed. As the young Snowickle scurries past, I scoop it up in my hands. The Snowickle’s skin is delicate, smooth, and damp ~ typical of a salamander. To my surprise, I find that the Snowickle is incredibly cold, and despite my best efforts to warm it, it stays cold. I had heard rumors about Snowickles maintaining a near-freezing body temperature, but had never believed these rumors ~ until now.

Letting the small Snowickle scamper off, the Snow Aisha and I re-examine the end of the tunnel. The floor is composed of transparent ice, and below this we can see multiple glass-like eggs. Inside are Snowickles at various stages of development. This is an amazing discovery! Snowickles abide in the cold amazingly well. Rather than producing heat, they emit cold. Instead of laying their eggs in groups and keeping them warm and protected, Snowickles place their eggs in the coldest place possible ~ straight into the ice ~ and rely on the hardness of the ice to keep their young from harm. It would seem cold is to Snowickles what heat is to humans and other creatures.

Leaving the “nursery tunnel,” my guide and I finally decide to return to civilization. Our brief expedition has been amazingly successful, and I carry with me memories full of new information about wild Snowickles. Contrary to what is ordinary in a herp, Snowickles may dwell alone or in groups. They are by no means bashful, as evidenced by the thievery at the Snowager’s cavern, and they are suited to survival in cold climates in the most peculiar of ways.

Concerning the Snowickle’s relation to the Snowager, I cannot offer any conclusive evidence either way. However, I can point out some interesting differences. First, Snowickles may dwell in groups, while the Snowager dwells alone. In fact, it is unknown if any others of his kind exist. Second, Snowickles collect and hoard only shiny items. The Snowager hoards anything and everything. Third, Snowickles have limbs. The Snowager does not. Fourth, according to what I observed in the Ice Caves, the Snowickles are flesh and blood creatures, while the Snowager is widely known to be composed of ice. Though I cannot presume to be an expert, this final point causes me to conclude Snowickles and the Snowager are not genetically related. Perhaps, rather, there is a deeper story to the Snowager than we know.

All in all, my observations of the wild Snowickle show not everything in Neopia has been searched out and known, and probably never will be. The world is far too vast a place for us to exalt ourselves by assuming that we know how everything works ~ especially where nature is concerned. I have seen many things that defy what we believe to be possible and that are scientifically unexplainable. Perhaps science will one day explain how it is a creature can produce cold rather than heat. Nevertheless, regardless of whether or not this unusual quality will ever be explained, out of all the petpets I have studied, the Snowickle is truly singular.

 
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