Monday, April 4, 2011

Lost and Found

So I went into my snake room a few days ago to find one of my favorite snakes missing. Although they are master escape artists, it's been years since I lost a snake. Still, it happens to all of us at one time or another. This time, the high white albino Honduran that I hatched last year had popped the lid off his hatchling cage and slithered away. I really had high hopes for this snake: the best color and pattern I've produced so far, a voracious feeder and future reptile show star.
Now, you have to understand, my snake room is very full. In addition to snake cages and supplies there are books, magazines and various storage boxes. To search everything would be a full day's work. I knew I'd have to be smart about this.
I searched the snake room in vain, focusing on the closet, the deepest, darkest mess in the house. No luck. I tried to bait him with a pinky mouse left strategically in the closet entry way. No luck. I shuffled and moved things, always assuming he had gone for the closet. 
So almost a week has passed. Tonight I was in the snake room feeding and cleaning cages. I sat on the floor for a few minutes and looked at the hatchling rack and the cages there. After staring for a while, I started to think like a snake. He didn't go for the closet. No way. Just because the closet was the most inconvenient place for me to look doesn't mean the snake even knew it was there. Most reptiles only tend to move as far as they need to in order to meet there needs. 
So what were this snake's immediate needs? First off, he was outgrowing the hatchling cage and I was actually going to move him to a larger cage on the night I discovered him missing. Secondly, he had regurgitated one of the mice I'd fed him a couple of days before. Regurgitated mice smell very bad, and he surely wanted to get away from it. His primary need was to escape. Nothing more. He hadn't been gone long enough to be hungry or very thirsty. He had plenty of heat sources to choose from in the snake room. Where would he go? The first safe, secure place he found. And more than likely he would stay there for a few days.
With that in mind, I stared around the room, focusing on the spot where his cage was. When he popped the lid, where would he go? Finally thinking like a snake, I decided he had gone left along the back of the shelf instead of right toward the closet. Immediately to the left of the shelf was a small cart with a few boxes and office supplies. A particular box stood out to me: cardboard paper box, open, with loosely packed folders, computer cords and other nicknacks. I decided that's where the snake would be. 
Still without much hope, I pulled the box from the shelf and started to rummage through it. As I got to the bottom of the box, there he was. 
Sometimes we get careless. Aside from losing one of my favorite snakes, he could have starved or died of dehydration, been eaten by one of my wife's cats (who live across the hall from the snake room), or escaped into the wild and polluted the gene pool by breeding with a local Lampropeltis species. Even though I have many years of experience, I made a bad decision in this case by waiting to move this snake to a different cage. Fortunately this situation had a happy ending; I'll be much more cautious in the future. If you're keeping snakes, always keep them in secure cages.

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