Sunday, March 15, 2015

Snakes As Pets

Thinking about getting a new pet?  How about a snake?

Snakes are intriguing animals, and they can make a great addition to the family as a pet—especially for those people with allergies to more conventional pets, such as dogs, cats and birds.  With regular handling, snakes can be very docile animals.  However, there are a few things to consider before getting your slithery friend.

 The Dumeril’s Boa grows to a length of about 6.5 feet (photo: Paige Davis)

Many snakes live relatively long lives, surpassing 20 years.  Be sure that you are willing to commit to keeping your pet snake for its entire life.  Snakes also eat prey items like mice and rats.  Often these can be stored frozen then fed thawed, so you would need to devote some space in your freezer for snake food.  Finally, snakes can be great escape artists from their enclosures.  They will search out any spaces they can squeeze through.  It is important to have a secure cage for your pet.
Snakes are great animals both to handle and to view!  They will make use of their enclosure space, and you can watch them climb and explore for hours.  Being cold blooded, snakes only need to be fed approximately once a week as babies, and often  even less as they grow.  This also means less poo to clean up!  They are solitary animals that do not need attention constantly, and they will be fine if left alone during the day.

Average length for the King Snake is 2-4 feet, occasionally longer (photo: Paige Davis)

So, which kind of snake is right for you? There are several species of snakes that make excellent pets.  Some great options for a beginner snake owner include: Ball Pythons, Corn Snakes, Milk Snakes, and King Snakes.  All of these species have simple housing requirements and are reluctant to bite with regular handling.  In fact, the Ball Python gets its name because it will often curl up into a ball rather than bite when frightened.
Kahn, WBS’s Albino Burmese Pythons is currently 12 feet long and 70 lbs—and is still growing!  (Photo: WBS Staff)

Beginners should avoid very large species such as Burmese Pythons, venomous snakes, and species with difficult housing requirements.  It is easy to buy a snake as a small baby, but it is important to know how large they will become.  Pet stores regularly sell species such as the Red-tailed Boa.  This snake will fit in the palm of your hand when it is a baby, but once fully grown, it can reach lengths of 10 feet or more!  They require very large enclosures as adults and will need to be fed bigger prey items, such as rabbits.

There are many options available to you when buying a pet snake.  Through captive breeding to produce certain colors, many species come in beautiful color morphs, such as lavender and pastel.  Ball Pythons and Corn Snakes are some of the most diverse looking species, and they come in a variety of colors.  You will want to choose a snake that is eating regularly and has clear and healthy eyes and skin.

The most important thing to do before buying any new pet is to research its care before you buy.  Once you have everything you need, you will be ready for a great new addition to your family.

To see some of the species mentioned above come out and visit the World Bird Sanctuary's nature center.  Our naturalists will be happy to answer your questions about the snakes we care for on a daily basis.

Submitted by Paige Davis, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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