Hermit crabs generally do fine with being mailed, and sometimes it is the only option for families who are looking to rehome their pets, or for keepers who wish to adopt rather than buy. We do realize that the above ban may not apply to adoptions in Southern states during warm periods - however packages can get routed through extremely out of the way hubs and travel to areas you aren't expecting and may end up too far North for safety. If you aren't completely sure, do not risk the crabs' lives!Christa wrote:Pursuant to the HCA's policy: We wish to remind all adopters and adoptees to not attempt to ship live land hermit crabs during that time. Doing so will put the crabs at unnecessary risk for stress, damage and possible death. Hermit crab welfare is the #1 priority of the HCA.
Check Temperatures First!
Temperatures below 68 and above 80 can be fatal for hermit crabs that are being mailed, and you must look at not only daytime highs but nighttime lows. Injury from cold and excessive heat can take more then one molt to become apparent. Remember that packages are not kept in a temperature controlled environment during their transit, and heat packs and cold packs can fail. Because of this, the Hermit Crab Association does not support shipping crabs between the months of October through May in most of the United States. You must take into account not just the temperatures where you are located and where the crabs will be sent, but the range of temperatures they will be travelling to in between - and mail can be routed to places much farther away then the direct path then you may expect. Use a weather service website to check temperatures for the period you are wanting to mail to make sure it will indeed be safe to send them. While hermit crabs in a controlled environment can handle temperatures above 80 degrees with ease, the package they are in will be travelling by truck or delivery van and will become much hotter then this on warm days. (Same as a hot car with a child or a dog - not safe!)
Hermit crabs must only be shipped using an overnight service, and this can be expensive. The longer the time they spend in a box in transit, the more likely they are to develop stress related illness, and Post Purchase Syndrome can be triggered again from the shipping process. While hermit crabs can be mailed across the country, finding an adopter that is closer to you will usually cut down on cost and transit time. Some express services may take an additional day and this does not seem to affect healthy crabs.
Health of the Crabs
Please take into account the state of the crabs that are being shipped. Sick, injured, or new crabs that may be already suffering from PPS are at higher risk of developing problems from being shipped again. Ideally, shipping candidates are hermit crabs that have been in captivity and have molted successfully a number of times. If your hermit crab is not doing well, finding a local adopter is the best option. The crab will be experiencing at least a day of what could possibly be less then perfect temperatures and humidity levels, and will also need to be without food and water during that time. For a healthy crab this is not an issue, but for one that is already showing signs of stress or illness it may be too much.
Ship Early in the Week
Delivery delays can happen even with guaranteed overnight services. Many people who ship animals on a regular basis recommend shipping on Tuesday which avoids the Monday business rush but still gives plenty of time before the weekend for the package to arrive in case of a problem. Always leave as much time as possible between the day you ship and the weekend, because if a problem does arise usually nothing can be done to get the hermits to their destination on Saturday or Sunday. That means they will be stuck in transit for at least another two days, and possibly longer as the problem is sorted out with the shipping company.
[*]There are now reptile-specific mailing services, and they will accommodate hermit crabs. They can be more expensive, but they have a good track record as they contract with the larger shipping companies like Fedex to get animals where they are going alive. They also have special mailing kits, and have packing and shipping guidelines to help protect against weather extremes. Ship Your Reptiles and Reptiles 2 You are two such companies.
[*]The United States Postal Service (USPS) accepts live hermit crabs under DMM 526.6 Small, Harmless, Cold–Blooded Animals. Most post offices have never mailed a hermit crab and won't automatically know if it is allowed - you may need to tell them to check section 526.6 for them to accept the package. You are supposed to mark the box as containing a live animal (you can mark it Live Crab or Live Aquaria) and declare to them what you are shipping. If the post office gives you trouble, it may be best to try a different location rather then try to fight with the employees. Express services start at around $15 for light packages traveling short distances within the state, and there is a flat-rate box which can fit several crabs and is one cost to anywhere in the United States for $45. Your local post office can provide express mailing boxes at no cost, and they also offer a Hold For Pick-up option when mailing so the package will be held at the adopter's local post office rather than being left on a porch or in a mailbox where the hermits could possibly overheat in full sun before the package is brought inside. You can estimate the cost of their service by using their Postage Calculator if you have both the origination and destination zip codes, and an idea of how much the box will weigh. (Generally between 1 to 2 pounds for a few hermits.) Some Express packages may take two days to reach their destination - to find out how long it will take to get there, have both the origination and destination zip codes and use their Service Commitments Calculator. Please note that while the cheaper Priority mail is usually very quick, it is not a guaranteed service and from my experience will often take several days longer than is estimated, so it is not recommended! The Express mail is a guaranteed money-back service so they go the extra step to make sure the package is delivered on time.
[*]The United Parcel Service (UPS) accepts live animals at any of their corporate mailing locations. However, "The UPS Store" and authorized shippers are not corporate owned and these locations usually do not accept live animals for shipment, so call in advance to find out where you can take your package for acceptance. Shipping rules for live animals via UPS are located here. Prices for next-day shipping a light package a short distance in the same state start at $30 and go up from there based on weight and distance traveled. However, the UPS offers extended drop-off times late into the evening, and may be the only option for some people. Price can be estimated by using their Calculator.
[*]Fedex does not accept live animals from the public at this time without prior authorization and arrangements. Their shipping terms are located here.
How to Contain a Hermit Crab for Mailing
There are several methods that can be used to secure a hermit crab for a day or two so it can mailed safely. The biggest thing to remember is that this is a very unnatural situation for the hermit crabs and they can panic and harm each other. Each crab should be kept physically separate from the others to prevent serious injury. You will not be able to include water, and food that can mold or spoil should not be added either. 24 to 48 hours without food or water should not be a problem for a healthy hermit crab.
The shipping box should be new and/or strong, and it is best to line the interior with thin Styrofoam to both help with temperature and humidity levels, and with cushioning and sound deadening. Always contain the hermit crab securely in some way within the shipping box. Use lots of padding inside to cushion the containers and provide a level of protection against drops and temperature extremes. You may want to mark the box with "Live Animal" or "Live Aquaria" or "Live Crab", or with "Keep out of direct sunlight", but there is a lot of debate between people who mail pets on whether these labels are helpful or harmful.
Many of the large hermit crab companies ship their hermit crabs in burlap or cloth sacks that are sealed with twist ties or with thick string. This allows air flow, yet keeps the crabs contained and unable to pinch each other. As long as you have access to hermit crab safe materials (no chemicals, etc) this is a safe method to use. Cheesecloth is a great option if you can find it. Bags should be slightly moistened in dechlorinated water to help keep humidity levels even and then situated in lots of shredded paper or crumbled newspaper for both cushioning and insulation. If you feel comfortable, you may be able to ask a local pet store for these shipping bags, and they are also available for purchase online.
Another method is to use plastic deli or used food containers filled with moist moss. The containers should have numerous vents cut or drilled into them for air flow. This not only cushions the crab directly and gives them proper humidity levels, but it also gives them something to munch on and the ability to move around a bit. Use a container that is not much larger then the hermit crab, fill it completely with moist moss, and set the crab inside. It should be filled with enough moss so the crab won't move when jostled, but will still allow the crab to tunnel with effort. These containers can then be nestled into shredded paper or newspaper to keep them from moving around within the box. This method weighs more and it takes up more space. If you do not have extra containers, most delis will sell you empty plastic containers with lids at cost if you ask politely. Make sure to tape the lids onto the containers once the hermits are inside! It does not take much effort for them to pop the lids open. I've used this method twice to ship hermit crabs.
Examples of containers and the box used to ship hermit crabs. The lids were taped onto the containers after the photo was taken. A square piece of styrofoam covered the containers in the second photo before the box was sealed.
A Note About Risks
No shipping method is fool-proof, and accidents can happen. Packages can be lost or damaged or delayed. Weather can change at a moment's notice. Boxes can be left in direct sunlight or in places that are dangerous. While the risks are extremely minute and the likelihood of something catastrophic happening is almost nothing, you should still be aware of the possibility.