Friday, February 25, 2011

How to Build a Snake Rack

Several people have asked me how to build a snake rack to house adult colubrids. Here's how I built a ten-level rack that holds 41 quart Sterilite tubs. This is the fourth rack I built and houses adult corns, kings, milks and a ball python.

Here's a slideshow of the process.

I used pre-cut melamine shelving (about 15x33) from the shelving area at Lowes/Home Depot. The shelves are a little too narrow for the 41 quart Sterilite tubs, so I attached side rails made from 1x2 select stock to make the bottom edge of each shelf wider and also to add rigidity to the whole unit (I don't remember exactly what type of wood, but it must be straight and free of splits). And don't use the ones with the rounded edges). For the upright boards, I used 1x4 select (six for the sides and one for the center of the back (adds rigidity and also acts as a stop for the tubs).

Everything was attached with 1.5" black drywall screws (pre-drilled and countersunk to keep from splitting and for aesthetic purposes).

Basic assembly goes something like this:

Cut all the 1x2 rails to the exact length of the shelves.

Set each shelf on a perfectly level flat surface (I used the island in my kitchen) and clamp the rails to the edges of the shelves. Pre-drill and screw the rails to the edges.

Calculate the length of the upright boards taking in to account the exact height of your tubs, the thickness of the shelving and the width of the top 1x2 rail which will extend a little beyond the top shelf. Check and double check your measurements and calculations. Cut all boards to length.

Use a square (and a helper if possible) to attach the bottom and top shelf to the uprights. Check several times with the square as you go.

You should have a bottom and top shelf now held together with six uprights.
Set a 41 qt. tub on the bottom shelf and add a second shelf on top of it. Attach with screws (remember to pre-drill).

Continue adding a shelves until you get to the top. Remove and reattach top shelf if necessary.

Add the last upright 1x4 to the back.

Stick on some heat pads and you're done. I use Zoo Med 4x5 pads ONLY! Other pads have overheated.

If you want a slightly looser fit, place a sheet or two of poster board on top of each tub while you're assembling the unit.

Some tips:

I bought my melamine shelves on clearance for about $7 each.

I bought all my 41 quart tubs at Wal-Mart right after Christmas. They had the ones with the red and green lids for $5 each.

It's okay if the upright boards are a little long. They help to hold an 11th tub in place that I use for extra supplies.

I added some plastic furniture sliders to the bottom for easy movement. During the winter I slide the whole unit into an unheated closet. It's worked great so far.

The whole project (minus heat) cost around $200.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

People aren't born afraid of spiders and snakes: Fear is quickly learned during infancy

ScienceDaily (2011-01-25) -- There's a reason why Hollywood makes movies like Arachnophobia and Snakes on a Plane: Most people are afraid of spiders and snakes. A new article reviews research with infants and toddlers and finds that we aren't born afraid of spiders and snakes, but we can learn these fears very quickly.

X-rays reveal hidden leg of an ancient snake: New hints on how snakes were getting legless

ScienceDaily (2011-02-07) -- Synchrotron X-ray investigation of a fossilized snake with legs is helping scientists better understand how in the course of evolution snakes have lost their legs, and whether they evolved from terrestrial lizards or from reptiles living in the oceans. New 3-D X-ray images reveal the internal architecture of an ancient snake's leg bones to resemble that of modern terrestrial lizard legs.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Repticon Houston

Christie and I just returned from the Houston Repticon show. I have to say we were pleasantly surprised with the whole event. Visitors entered the show through a giant inflatable snake's mouth. After picking up our Zoo Med goody bags and entering the raffle, we were treated to all the usual reptile show fare: snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and arachnids of all kinds. Plus we saw a beautiful yellow Canary Island chondro (green tree python), Guyanan wood turtles with their squiggly-orange-marked heads, some cool new reptile art and a really nice venomous display full of cobras and rattlesnakes.
Our favorite part of the show was something that we don't usually see: a couple of live snake presentations by Thomas Davis of Barmolly's Place and Clint Pustejovsky of Texas Snakes & More. Both of these guys put on some great hands-on shows for kids and adults alike. There are other shows on the lineup featuring turtles, lizards and arachnids.
The show is going on tomorrow, too (Sunday, 2/20/11), so if you're in the Houston area, you should check it out. Not in Houston? Check out their site for upcoming shows all over the eastern half of the U.S.
It was a really fun show and we can't wait for the next one. Finally, I want to say thanks to Thomas and Clint for talking shop with us today. Hope to see you guys again soon.

Monday, February 14, 2011

California Kings

I put our two California king snakes together yesterday in the first of our 2011 pairings. A few other females are also about to shed and will be ready within a few days. It looks like we'll have 3-4 Honduran milk snake pairings, along with Brooks kings and a really cool corn snake pairing (blood red x snow).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Today's Reptile Shows

I just got back from doing two shows at Deep Wood Elementary School in Austin. One tortoise, one gecko, eight snakes and over 400 kids...lots of fun!
One crazy logistic I had to overcome: the temperature at our house was in the twenties this morning, which isn't great for cold-blooded creatures. So I bagged and boxed all the snakes and put everything into one giant Rubbermaid box, put Titus the tortoise on top in a laundry basket covered with towels and brought them all out to the truck which I had warmed up earlier. Once at the school I made a beeline to the building to minimize the animals' exposure. Problem solved.
There were two new snakes on the lineup for today's shows: a San Diego gopher snake and an albino Honduran milk snake that I just hatched late last year. And Smaug, the carpet python, was his usual self...eight feet of jittery muscle. Today he got nervous during the second show and firmly locked his lower coils around my left leg while waving his front half around while I struggled to support him somewhere in the middle. We were a great spectacle, I'm sure, as I trudged around the room.
Thanks to the teachers, staff and PTO of Deep Wood for having me and my scaly friends!