My dear friend from college had two pet axolotls. They were both female, and she had only planned on having the two, until her friend offered her a third.
He thought it was a female as well. He was wrong.
The axolotls got down to doing what axolotls do, and my friend was left with a mass of eggs. Ever resourceful, she kept the eggs to use in the high-school biology class she taught. It was a great learning opportunity, as the students could look at them under a microscope and see the embryos developing. If any hatched, she thought her students could adopt some of them and take them home. Her friend reassured her that all of the eggs never hatched anyway, and that he never got too many axolotls from a batch of eggs at one time.
Her friend was wrong again.
By the time I spoke to my friend, she had over 200 baby axolotls.
As they had grown, she had kept moving them to larger and larger containers. When I spoke to her, she revealed the full extent of this –– her basement now contained a kiddie pool, 4 fish tanks, 12 plastic buckets and several other containers, all full of wriggling baby axolotls.
This was not a sustainable situation. She needed to find homes for them, and fast, before they got large enough to start breeding.
She gave some away to her students and friends, and found a few pet stores that were interested. But by the time she was done, she still had over 100 axolotls left. At this point she was overwhelmed –– there were a lot of hungry little mouths to feed, and the extra humidity from the kiddie pool and all the tanks was causing mold to grow in her basement. She turned to me for help, asking if I was interested or knew of anyone who was.
I got down to work. I reached out to my co-workers, knowing that there were several in the Entomology Department at Penn State who had a fascination for animals and an interest in unusual pets. As I expected, there were several who were interested. The trick was getting the axolotls to them, as my friend lived several hours away.
It was time for a road trip.
When I visited my friend and she took me down to the basement, I got to experience the sheer volume of axolotls for myself. I sat down next to the kiddie pool and watch the axolotls floating around, bumping into each other and wriggling away. Something that struck me were the sounds –– they made soft, watery popping sounds like they were all blowing little bubbles.
My friend filled my order –– 37 axolotls, all packaged in individual containers and ready for travel. We carried the trays out to my car carefully and place them in a large cooler in the back. Axolotls need cool water, and the abnormally-warm fall weather had me worried. I got on the road and went.
What do you do if you get into a car accident with 37 axolotls in the backseat? How would you even explain that to the authorities? (“Ma’am, are you aware that you have 37 axolotls in the back?” “I swear, officer, they’re not mine!”)
Fortunately, the ride was smooth. All of the axolotls made it safely to my apartment, where I gave them some fresh water and food and sent out the call for people to come and get their wriggly little noodles.
My house became an axolotl dealing operation for the next few days. I’m not even sure what my neighbors thought was going on. But the axolotls each went to their respective homes –– a local school teacher took a few for his class, another took a few for his office on campus to use for scientific outreach. One mother took a few for her excited son, who now reads to them at night before he goes to bed and checks on them first thing every morning.
Within a few days, all the axolotls were gone, and I had even gotten a few requests for more the next time I visited my friend. Time for another road trip!