Hello, my name is Morticia and I am a Corn Snake. (Elaphe Guttata Guttata)
I was the first snake that Bonnie and Colin bought, and they have had me since 1997. I was already an adult when they bought me, and I am just over four feet in length. I am very friendly and enjoy being handled. Corn snakes are an ideal ‘first’ snake as they are hardy and will thrive even if living conditions are not absolutely perfect. We are great escape artists, so a secure vivarium is essential! Your snakes vivarium should be as large as possible, within reason. As a rule a vivarium should be at least the snakes length, and as wide and high as half the snakes length. Corn snakes need to have a temperature of 75-80˚F (24-27˚C), which is achieved with use of heat mats and lamps. Lamps should always be fitted behind some kind of enclosure that your snake cannot get to, as we can easily get burnt. Heat mats on the other hand don't get very hot to the touch, so they can be used almost anywhere, but work best fixed to the side of the vivarium.
There are many different substrates (floor covering) that could be used in the vivarium, like woodchips, bark-chippings, sawdust, gravel etc. However, some of these can cause problems if swallowed. Acceptable substrates include: Astroturf, reptile bark, butcher paper, shredded paper and paper towels. While not particularly attractive shredded paper is by far the best substrate, because any soiled paper can be instantly removed and replaced, keeping the vivarium very clean. We have shredded paper on the floor and have Astroturf on the basking shelves. The Astroturf is very useful when shedding, because we need a rough surface to rub against to help shed our skin. Snakes shed (‘slough’) their skin approximately once every six weeks.
Hello, my name is Poison, and I am a Corn Snake. (Elaphe Guttata Guttata)
Despite my name, like all corn snakes I am non-venomous. Corn snakes are constrictors, which means that we suffocate our prey rather than poisoning them. I belonged originally to a family in Wellyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, who bought me as a baby snake (hatchling.) Baby snakes can be very difficult to raise, but I am a happy, healthy adult, which is testimony to their dedication in looking after me. Corn snakes are fed on mice that have been frozen and then defrosted. Baby Corns are fed on ‘pinkies’ (baby mice who have not yet grown their fur) and as they grow they progress onto ‘fuzzies’ (mice whose fur is just beginning to grow) and then eventually onto adult mice. As a rule food should be about 1½ times the size of the snakes head, feeding prey that is too large can cause problems for the snake. It is important that snakes get lots of gentle regular handling so that they will become used to it, and not perceive you as a threat (which could lead to you being bitten.) I have been well handled from a baby and as a result am a very friendly snake.
I came to live with Bonnie and Colin after my family decided they no longer really had the time needed for me. They didn’t want me to go just anywhere, but luckily another family member knew Bonnie and asked if she and Colin would like to take me on. I came complete with my own vivarium which is about 3 feet long. As I am now about 4½ - 5 feet long, it is a little small for me. Colin and Ken (Bonnie's dad) have now built a new vivarium 6 feet long by 8 feet high, it has been devided into four part with enough space to escape if we fancy a little time on our own.
Hello, my name is Diablo, and I am a Rat Snake.
Bonnie and Colin think that I am what is known as a colour morph but in truth they are not too sure what I am. They can’t seem to find anything quite like me in any of their books - though they did once see an identical snake in a pet shop (shame they forgot to take note of the name!) If anyone reading this knows (or thinks they know) what I am, please E-Mail Colin and let him know! Click on my picture for a closer look.
I am just over six feet in length, and eat a fair sized rat once every week to ten days. Inside my house I can be a little bit bolshy, but when I am taken out and handled, I get a bit nervous. Although I am usually quite friendly, I can get a bit aggressive at feed time when my hunting instincts take over, and I tend to strike at anything that moves, including my own tail once!!!
Snakes are cold bloodied; this does not mean that we have cold blood, it means that we are unable to regulate our body temperatures the way warm bloodied creatures do - by sweating, panting etc. Instead, we must move in and out of warmer and colder areas to effectively regulate our body temperature. This is why snakes bask and why your vivarium should have a shelf or rock situated under a source of heat. Snakes are quite secretive creatures and like to have somewhere to hide. Bark (which can be bought in most pet stores) is great for hiding under, as are upturned flower pots with a cut away section. The ideal size for a hide would be big enough for us to fit in, but small enough for us to touch the sides with our coils, this helps us to feel secure.
Hello, my name is Casseopea, and I am a Grey Rat Snake. (Elaphe obsoleta spiloides) Bonnie and Colin bought Diablo and I as a pair. In the past, we were a breeding pair, but for snakes to breed, we must first hibernate. This is done by dropping the temperature slowly down to 50ºF (10ºC) and eight hours or less of light per day, slowly down to no light. After eight weeks the process is reversed so that the temperature is back to normal (80ºF, 27ºC) and no light up to eight hours or more of light per day. The mating should then take place, usually at night. About 10-12 weeks after mating the female will lay her eggs in a shallow nest, a pan of moss or potting soil should be provided for this purpose. The eggs are then removed from the nest. Their upper side should be marked with a soft pencil, so the embryo is not rotated in relation to the yolk of the egg, and then they can be transferred to an incubator. In the incubator the eggs need to be kept at a constant temperature (77ºF, 25ºC) and humidity (90%) Incubation takes about eight to ten weeks. Bonnie and Colin have never hibernated us, so we have not mated. However, because I am used to hibernating, I still go through long periods of not eating or shedding. (I have been known to go without food for almost eight months!)
Rat snakes and corn snakes have the same temperature and environment requirements, they are actually part of the same family. (corn snakes are also known as red rat snakes.) Keeping the vivarium at the correct temperature is easily done with a thermostat controlling the heaters. Other types of snakes need their environment to have controlled humidity. This is sometimes done by using a special computer based controller to control both heat and humidity, although a cheaper alternative is to monitor the humidity with a simple device, similar to a thermometer, that sticks onto the vivarium and then you just spray with water as needed. Your local reptile shop will be able to advise you on the best equipment for your snake's requirements.
Western Hognose Snakes.
Hello, my name is Aurora. I am a Western Hognose Snake. (Heterodon nasicus nasicus) In the wild, Hognose Snakes (so called because of my pig like nose!) use their noses to dig up toads. Toads make up about 50% of a wild Hognose's diet, the rest consisting of lizards, mice and small eggs. In captivity, Western Hognose Snakes can be fed solely on mice, but if you are buying a Hognose check that it is taking mice with no trouble before you buy. Hognose Snakes have venom which is secreted through rear fangs. It is thought that the venom helps to stun toads for feeding, and also believed that our large rear fangs are mainly used to deflate toads to make swallowing easier. Unlike Corn Snakes or Rat Snakes we do not constrict our food, though we may coil around it. Even though we have this venom, we are not dangerous. Firstly, the venom is not very strong, secondly our fangs are so far back that you would need to stick your finger in our mouths to get bitten, and thirdly, we really do not like to bite! Hognose Snakes have an unusual defence mechanism, if threatened, we may puff up, hiss, or even strike out (but stop short of biting) if the threat does not go away, we may convulse wildly, then flip over onto our backs and play dead. (often with an open mouth and lolling tongue.) We do a very convincing 'dead snake', the only give away being that if you put us onto our front, we will flip over onto our back again. Western Hognose Snakes become tame very quickly though, so it is unlikely that many owners will get to see such a spectacular display. Hognose Snakes live for about 15-18 years and grow to around 24 inches in captivity. Consequently we do not need a very large vivarium, mine is 2'x2'x2' although 2'x1'x1' should be adequate for the snakes entire life. We need to be kept alone as other than at breeding times, we will not tolerate another snake in our territory.
If you are interested in keeping and maybe breeding snakes, below is some recommended reading:
“Corn and red rat snakes” published by t.f.h publications.
“Your first snake” by Elizabeth Walker.
“Rat Snakes” published by t.f.h publications.