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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices

Snakes

Basic Animal Care Practices

  • Should have access to fresh, clean water at all times.

  • All snakes are carnivores. They swallow their prey whole and utilize the entire bodies of their prey in their diet. Most snakes feed on small rodents, amphibians, birds, and insects. Providing a hiding place is essential, since most snakes will refuse to feed otherwise. A normal, healthy snake can be fed every week to ten days.

  • The optimum temperature for most New England snakes is 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Boas, pythons and other tropical and semi-tropical species require slightly warmer conditions (78 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit). If exposed to direct sunlight and not afforded an opportunity to escape, the body temperature of a snake will rise dramatically and death can result.

  • The cage floor should be covered with a dry, absorbent material such as newspaper, cloth towels, indoor-outdoor carpeting, or astro-turf. NOTE: Never use kitty litter.

  • A cage measuring 3 feet by 18 inches by 18 inches is normally adequate for most snakes up to six feet in length.

  • All snakes periodically shed their skins. During the opaque cycle, when they are preparing to shed, the snake becomes inactive and the skin colors take on a dulled appearance. The eyes will become clouded to the point they appear milky.

Additional recommendations

If live food is being offered, never leave it in the cage unattended. A snake that is not hungry may be mutilated without ever attempting to defend itself.

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: abnormal bulges, backbone irregularities or kinks, gross skin lesions or missing scales, loose skin along the body, wheezing, mouth kept slightly open at all times, small red inflamed spots on the gums accompanied by excess amounts of mucous.

Housing Conditions: filthy cage; wet bedding, lack of water.

Behavior: Reluctance to move or feed over prolonged periods of time.

If any of the elements above are present, arrange to have a veterinarian examine animals.

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