For many of us, when we think of reptiles, the first animal which comes to mind is the snake. These legless marvels have been exceptionally well represented throughout history, and have been credited with killing Cleopatra as well as tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden, just to name a few examples. Nevertheless, they are an exciting and unique captive subject, and are an ever important part of their environment where ever they are found.
For the sake of pet keeping, not all snakes are created equal. First and foremost, there are a few species that should never be considered by the novice keeper, if for nothing else than for practicality and safety. Large constrictor snakes such as Anacondas, Burmese Pythons, Red Tail Boas and Reticulated Pythons are some on this list, and the basis is their sheer overall size at adulthood. The only choice out of the four for the sake of argument would be the Red Tail Boa, which tend to more docile and reaches only twelve feet or so in total length (but still a powerful predator). It should go without saying that ANY venomous species should be only kept by the most experienced keepers, and individuals that have a reason for doing so like breeders (legitimate), researchers, universities, and zoos.
Okay, so which snakes DO make for a proper first time pet snake? Hands down, the best choices would be Ball Pythons and Corn Snakes. A few others can also be added to this list for variety, such as King Snakes and Milk Snakes, but by and large, it's the Balls and the Corns that are top of the heap.
A major determining factor is that these two species have been with us in captive situations for a large number of years, don't get too large, are generally mild mannered, and that we have been able to master controlling their genetics.The breeding of Ball Pythons and Corn Snakes over the last few years has produced some of the most outstanding colors and patterns imaginable.
Ease of care is another big reason. Anybody getting involved in "Herpetoculture," or the keeping of amphibians and reptiles by hobbyists, needs to have a positive experience when maintaining these animals. We are dealing with living things after all, and the more successful the keeper, the better it is for the reptile trade in the long run. Success equals advancements in knowledge and continued interest.
One of the biggest concerns when keeping reptiles in captivity, outside of properly providing the right environmental factors, is feeding. http://www.examiner.com/x-46572-Buffalo-Reptile-Examiner~y2010m4d28-An-introduction-to-feeding-pet-reptiles
Ball Pythons when purchased as imported or "wild caught" are notoriously poor feeders! This is due to a variety of reasons including dehydration, stress, and the fact that the domesticated mice and rats available here in the US are a far cry from the native African rodents these snakes are accustomed to eating. Captive bred is always a better choice over imported for first time reptile keeper. http://www.examiner.com/x-46572-Buffalo-Reptile-Examiner~y2010m5d3-Captive-bred-vs-imported
The Corns will consume pet shop mice and rats, usually without a problem, and keepers should strive to offer pre-killed rodents to pet snakes. A debated topic, we will cover feeding live vs. pre-killed in more detail in future articles.
This was merely a quick survey of the two best snake keeping choices readily available to the fledgling Herpetoculturists. As always, more research and study should be conducted before keeping ANY animal as a pet. The more we know about animals like reptiles, the better off we are, especially if we are going to bring one into our lives as a captive. Please feel free to subscribe to this article series and do check back often for updates.
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