Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hypo Honduran Hatchling

Today just keeps getting better. This little sucker just popped out from the same clutch as the albinos. It's a sweet little hypo. I can't wait to see how the colors hold up. I think I might have to keep this one.

Albino Honduran Milk Snakes Hatching

Wow! These are my first albino Honduran milk snakes ever. You can see one is already out of the egg and another tiny nose is poking out of an egg to the right. You can also see the left over yolk and a bad egg in one of the pics.
The color on these snakes is amazing; the photos don't do them justice. I've been drooling over albino Hondos for a few years now and bought a pair of het-for-albino babies from Nokturnal Tom about three years ago. Then, two years ago, Tom gave me another female. She turned out to be the one to produce these first albinos. 
There are still more snakes to hatch and I can't wait to see what's inside. It's like Christmas!

Cool Video: Tortoise Knocking Down a Tree

Check out this fun video from ReptileChannel.com of a tortoise knocking down a small tree.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First Out of the Egg

The first Honduran milk snake of 2010 is out of the egg and it is huge! I should have put a ruler down for comparison, but this snake looks to be at least 14 inches long. I've seen yearling Hondurans that aren't that big.
This one is going to make a great pet for someone. I can't wait to see what the rest of the clutch looks like!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Eggs Are Hatching

My first Honduran milk snake clutch of the year, laid on June 7, is finally starting to hatch. When I checked this morning I saw the first few slits in one of the eggs. No head poking out yet, but a tiny orange and black snake was moving inside. I'm still hoping to get some albinos from this clutch.
This clutch was incubated for 83 days. I'll post some pics as more of the snakes start to poke their heads out, or "pip."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Komodo Dragons Hatched at LA Zoo

Twenty-two baby Komodo dragons, the world's largest monitor lizard, began hatching on August 8th at the Los Angeles Zoo. This is the zoo's first successful attempt to breed these rare giants. Komodo dragons, which can grow to 9 feet in length and weigh 200 pounds, are native to a few small islands in Indonesia.
Read the full article here:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blaze Goini x Hypo Brooks Project

Okay, I am totally stoked! While my friend Tom Stevens was out of town on vacation I kept an eye on his snakes, including several clutches of eggs that were due to hatch. While checking the eggs one day I was blown away by what I found: a bold, orange patternless hatchling. This snake is special. It is the result of a cross between two lines of Florida kingsnake, the blaze Apalachicola (goini) and hypo South Florida (brooksi) kingsnakes. However most of these crosses result in highly variable blotched, spotted or striped offspring (as in the first picture). This snake has no pattern. It appears to be displaying both the hypo and blaze traits, giving it a deep orange color.

Now here's where I get really excited: this snake will be in my collection very soon!
As soon as Tom got home I told him I wanted that snake and we worked out a price for the new hatchling patternless and the yearling female pictured above.
With any luck I should be able to breed them in two years and see what comes out.

Check out Tom's website for some sweet king snakes, milk snakes and Pituophis species.

Thanks, Tom, for the awesome snakes and for the use of the above picture.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Species Profile: Gray-banded King Snake

For years the gray-banded king snake, lampropeltis alterna, was considered one of the rarest of Texas' snakes. Originally described to science in 1901 from a specimen found in the Davis Mountains, a second specimen wasn't found until 37 years later. These small, very secretive snakes are, in fact, relatively common throughout their range in west Texas and northern Mexico.

The gray-banded king snake is highly variable in appearance. It's background color ranges from pale gray to almost black or even slate gray. There are two distinct color phases. The blairi phase generally displays a number of wide red or orange bands or saddles bordered by black bands which are edged in white. The alterna phase displays little or no orange between the black bands. Some specimens are speckled with black.
Unlike most other king snakes, it has a wide head, narrow neck and is somewhat bug-eyed.

Gray-banded kings live among limestone outcroppings and rocky hills. They are seldom seen except late at night after when they cross highways after thunderstorms.

24-36 inches, with a few individuals exceeding 4 feet.

Lizards, rodents and other snakes. Hatchlings in the wild prey solely on lizards.

In Captivity
Gray-banded king snakes make great pets with one caveat: hatchlings are very difficult to feed, often refusing all food except for tiny lizards (see below). Once they are well-started on mice, these boldly colored snakes are a joy to keep. They are moderate in size and tend to be very docile and calm.

Adults do well in 15-20 gallon aquariums or similarly-sized plastic tubs. Hatchlings should be kept in very small cages or plastic boxes. Provide plenty of places to hide.

Any typical substrate is fine, such as aspen, newspaper or cypress bark.

Water and Humidity
Humidity should be kept low. Provide water in a small container. If shedding problems arise, a deli cup filled with moist sphagnum moss may be placed in the cage to provide the snake an area of higher humidity.

Heat one end of the cage to 85-90 degrees while allowing the cooler end of the cage to remain around 70-75 degrees.

This is the stumbling block for many inexperienced hobbyists who try to keep this species. Hatchlings often refuse to feed on anything except for tiny lizards. There are tricks, however, to get them switched over to pinky mice. Generally this involves feeding a few lizards to the baby snake, then scenting a pre-killed pinky mouse by rubbing it with a lizard and/or de-scenting the mouse by washing it with unscented bar soap. Live pinkies may also be offered. For more on problem feeders, check out this post.
Once the snake accepts pinky mice, it will grow quickly and should be offered appropriately-sized rodents.

Gray-banded kings should be cooled for 3 months at 50-55 degrees. Clutches usually consist of 5-7 eggs which hatch after 55-60 days at 80-82 degrees. Hatchlings are 7-12 inches.

Where to buy
You aren't likely to find these in pet stores, but there are a number of reputable breeders who deal in gray-banded kings. Kingsnake.com is a good place to start.

Gray-banded kings are very popular among some keepers, many of whom keep and breed separate lines after the various locales where they are collected, such as Langtry, Juno Road, Loma Alta, River Road, Black Gap, Lajitas, Sanderson and the Christmas Mountains.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How Do You Keep a Snake?

Part 6: A Place to Hide

Reptiles, by nature, tend to be a secretive bunch. They aren't social the way cats and dogs are. Movement and vibrations from outside the cage can cause stress in reptiles which may lead to poor feeding and even illness. It's important for us to understand this and offer our scaly friends a safe place to hide.
A hide box can be decorative, like the ones sold in pet stores, or a very simple container from around the house. A hide box should be:
Just large enough for the snake to crawl inside
Snakes feel more secure when they can wedge themselves into tight spaces. 
Easy to clean
Hide boxes should be non-porous and simple enough to make them easy to clean. Porous cage furniture, such as wooden hides, can often harbor parasites and grow mold in humid environments. Resin hides can help avoid this problem.

Disposable Hides
Rather than permanent hide boxes I prefer to use small cardboard boxes such as empty food containers. The advantages are that they are free and don't have to be cleaned. Once they are soiled I just toss them.

An important thing to remember is that snakes don't care what their hide boxes look like. As long as they can wedge themselves inside and feel snug, they're fine. So the choice of aesthetics, cost and convenience is up to you.

Next time: Food

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Mice Direct Salmonella Recall

Mice Direct is now irradiating all its reptile food products in response to the recent discovery that some of the recent shipments may contain salmonella. This is the same process used on food for human consumption. Here is a link to their website with more information.
I wouldn't worry too much about salmonella in feeder rodents. It's not going to hurt your snakes and if you wash your hands with soap and water (and don't put mice in your mouth) you have virtually no chance of getting salmonella.
Learn more about salmonella at http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/.

Snake Bites

Part 2: Venomous Snakes

First things first: stay away from venomous snakes. If you aren't qualified to work with them, leave them alone. Most reported bites from venous snakes are the result of an attempt to catch or kill the snake. If you find a venomous snake in your home or yard (or if you don't know if it is venomous), call an animal removal expert.

The best medicine is prevention.
  • Wear long pants and boots when walking or working in areas with tall grass, brush, debris or anywhere else a snake might hide.
  • Make plenty of noise and take heavy steps.
  • Watch where you sit.
  • Never put your hands or feet where you can't see. Be careful stepping over logs or other obstacles.
  • If you see a snake and you are not absolutely sure it is non-venomous leave it alone! Give the snake a chance to escape or go around it.
With that said...

What should I do if a venomous snake bites me?
  • Remain calm. You don't want to elevate your heart rate.
  • Get away from the snake. 
  • Call 911 and request help. If you can identify the snake, tell the 911 operator.
  • Keep the area of the bite below the level of your heart.
  • Remove jewelry and constrictive clothing from the area of the bite to avoid tissue damage due to swelling.
  • Wash the bite area with soap and water.
  • Treat for shock if necessary.
  • If the snake is an elapid (the coral snake is the only elapid the naturally occurs in North America), apply a pressure bandage above the bite.
  • Do not cut and suck. Don't use store-bought snake bite kits.
  • If the snake is dead, show it to emergency personnel or take a picture. Be aware, though, that snakes may continue to move and can even bite hours after they are killed.

Is it going to hurt?

Yes. It's going to hurt alot.

What are the effects of a venomous snake bite?

Pit vipers (copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, etc.) for the most part have a primarily hemotoxic venom. Envenomation causes intense pain, swelling and necrosis (tissue death), hemorrhaging, organ failure and breakdown of blood cells and vessels. Heart attack and difficulty breathing are possible.

Elapids (coral snakes, cobras, etc.) have a primarily neurotoxic venom that may or may not cause pain, swelling and necrosis. Difficulty breathing is common and respiratory failure may result. 

Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, vertigo, fainting, cold or clammy skin and accelerated heart rate.
Anaphylactic shock and infection are also possible.

How dangerous is a venomous snake bite?

Very few people in North America die from snake bites. Most fatalities occur in young children, elderly and people in poor health. All bites should be considered as serious, however, and treated as such. Even non-fatal bites usually leave some tissue damage and scarring, which may be very severe. Amputations are sometimes necessary.

Snake Bites

Part 1: Non-venomous

Quite a few people have asked me if snake bites hurt or if I've ever been bitten. Or they get confused when I tell them that a snake will bite, but that it isn't poisonous. Let's talk first about bites from non-venomous snakes. 
Why do snakes bite?
Snakes are not "mean." But, just like most animals, snakes will take action to defend themselves if they feel threatened. In most cases, this involves attempting to escape, various displays of aggression, excreting foul substances, and, finally, biting. 
Snakes also may bite if they are hungry. If you stick your hand into a hungry snake's cage, the warmth and movement may confuse the snake and trigger a feeding response, especially if your hand smells like food. Usually the snake will let go once it realizes it made a mistake. Sometimes they chew a little.
I've noticed one other type of bite: the "leave me alone" bite. Sometimes a snake will get tired of being handled, or not want to be handled at all and give a warning bite. These bites tend to be painless and usually don't even break the skin. It's the equivalent of shoving someone away who keeps poking at you.
Do all snakes bite?
Some snakes, such as the hognose snake, will NOT bite. It instead has a host of other tricks which I've discussed here before. Many snakes, though, make biting part of their repertoire of defense. It depends on the species, the temperament of the individual and even the individual's age (Honduran milk snakes and carpet pythons, for example, tend to be very nippy for the first several months of their lives. Once they have grown a bit, they tend to settle down).
Wild-caught snakes tend to bite much more often than captive-bred specimens, but this is not always the case. My brothers and I have caught a number of snakes over the years that were completely docile.
Does it hurt?
Not really. Sorta. It depends. Is it uncomfortable? Yes. But it's more like a little pinch. Does it bleed? Usually there is a small amount of blood, about the same as getting poked by a few tiny thorns (although thorns hurt more). It really depends on the size of the snake (and it's teeth!). A bite from a really big snake, such as a large python or boa, would hurt and may require medical attention. However, bites from most common non-poisonous snakes are inconsequential. They hurt much less than a bite from a dog or even a mouse! I've been bitten by a mouse and my wife has been bitten by a rat. Both were much worse than any snake bite we've ever had.
What should I do if a snake bites me?
For most bites, assuming the snake is non-venomous, there is little that can (or needs to be) done. 
Step 1: Clean the area with warm soapy water and/or anti-bacterial soap. 
Step 2: Forget you were ever bitten.
If you receive a nasty bite from a large snake and it continues to hurt and bleed, you might need to seek medical attention. Treat it as you would any other cut. Use your best judgement.
Have you ever been bitten?
Yes. Many, many times. I don't even flinch any more. The largest snake that ever bit me was a 4 or 5 foot rat snake. It hurt a little, but I've never had a bite that continued hurting after the snake let go. Sometimes they itch a little.