The Animal Hospital of Whitfield County

1306 North Thornton Ave
Dalton, GA 30720

(706)226-3710

ahwcvet.com

Ball (Royal) Ball Python Care Sheet

Python regius


CAGING: The Ball Python averages 3 to 4 feet,rarely exceeding 5 feet in length. A thirty gallon aquarium or cageof equal size is quite adequate. Be sure the cage is secure. Onaquariums, use fine mesh wire covers, with clips to hold it on. Besure they are secure enough to hold the snake. For bedding, use papertowels, Astroturf, brown paper or newspaper (black & whiteonly!), as they are cheap and easy to clean or replace. Avoidshavings and other loose materials; they may be swallowed, causingproblems for your animal. An easily cleaned hiding box should also beprovided. A climbing branch is often appreciated.

WATER: Your snake should always have clean water,and, when possible, a dish large enough to soak in, especially whenshedding.

TEMPERATURE: The Ball Python comes from westAfrica and prefers temperatures from 77-86 degrees, so some type ofheating is needed. This can be provided by an ordinary, drug-storeheating pad or a red light bulb in a reflector fitting. (A red lightbulb will allow the snake to sleep without having to turn off theheat at night.) The heating pad can be placed under the cage. Thelight should be placed above the cage so that it shines down into thecage. Place either one so that only one end of the cage is heated,giving your snake a temperature gradient. A thermometer should bekept in the warm end of the cage to assure that you maintain a goodtemperature.

FOOD: Ball Pythons often fast for up to sixmonths, and sometimes for up to a year!! Unless your snake isnoticeably losing weight, don't worry. If your snake won't eat,handle it as little as possible, provide a normal day/night cycle,and give it an adequate hiding box. Try feeding it in its hiding box.Be very still when feeding your snake, but always watch when givingit live food. Mice can hurt your snake. If it won't take live mice,try a dead one. If that doesn't work, increase the temperature to85-90 degrees, wait a day or two, and try again. If it still won'teat, and you've been using white mice, try a brown mouse. BallPythons in the wild eat jerboas; small, brown, gerbil-like rodents.The color change may do the trick. If your snake won't eat brownmice, try a dead gerbil. DO NOT give it live gerbils; a live gerbilcan kill a Ball Python! If you can get it eating dead gerbilsregularly, you can eventually wean your snake back to eating mice byrubbing them with a dead gerbil kept in the freezer. Start with brownmice, and when those are readily accepted, switch to the more easilyobtained white mice. If none of this works, contact NEHS.

HEALTH: Ticks and mites are common on thesesnakes. To eliminate them, place a small piece of 'No-Pest' strip ina jar (with several holes in the lid) in the cage, and leave the jarfor 2-3 days. Repeat, if necessary, in two weeks.  Remove thewater dish while the jar is in the cage.

Cages must be kept clean to prevent mites, ticks, scale rot, andother problems. Anti-bacterial cleaning solutions are recommended.One ounce of bleach in ten ounces of water is one such solution.Rinse the cage with clean water after using any solution. Don't useLysol, Lestoil or other such oilbased cleaners; they are deadly toreptiles.

HANDLING: Most Ball Pythons available at petstores are wild-caught adults. They are frequently very shy aboutbeing handled, and will refuse to eat if they are handled toofrequently. Captive-born babies are much more comfortable with beinghandled, and are better pets for people who wish to handle theirsnakes. Captive-born babies are less common in pet stores, but doshow up occasionally. Don't handle any snake for 48 hours afterfeeding, or if it becomes ill or stops feeding, unless the cage needscleaning. Keep handling to a minimum when your snake is getting readyto shed. The skin can be damaged easily during this time.

Boa & Python Care Sheet

Boids - Includes all common ground andwater dwelling species - not tree dwellers


CAGING: Bear in mind that the boids (pronouncedBOW-ids) include the largest snakes in the world. A full-grown,sixteen foot (or longer), Burmese python can require two grown men tomove it. Cage size should be proportional to the size of the animal;at least three-fourths the length of the snake, but not so large thatthe snake is lost in it. One snake per cage is advised. On aquariums,use fine mesh wire covers, with clips to hold it on. Be sure they aresecure enough to hold the snake. Boids are very strong. On cages withsliding fronts, glass is better than Plexiglas, as it is cheaper andharder for the snake to push out of the track. For bedding, use papertowels, Astroturf, or brown paper or newspaper (black & whiteonly!), as they are cheap and easy to clean or replace. Avoidshavings and other loose materials; they may be swallowed, causingproblems for your animal. Provide a hide box for your snake to makeit feel more secure and reduce stress on the animal (which can causeillness).

WATER: Your snake should always have clean water,and, when possible, a dish large enough to soak in, especially whenshedding.

TEMPERATURE: Boas do well at temperatures from78-88 degrees F. Propagation and heating mats with thermostats arepreferred heat sources, as they maintain a constant temperature. Heatrocks, heat lamps, and heat tape also work, but are not as efficient.Ordinary heating pads work well if placed under the cage. Heat onlyhalf of the cage to allow the snake an area to cool off if the heatedarea gets too hot. Check the temperature by placing a thermometer inthe heated area. Don't overheat or chill your snake! They are verysusceptible to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia.

FOOD: Boids can be fed any type of rodent of theright size. Try to get your snake to eat dead food. This reduces therisk of injury to the snake, and sometimes results in a calmer snake.Some snakes will never adjust to dead food, but try it; most willadapt. Don't expect a newly acquired snake to eat right away. It maynot be hungry, may need to adjust to its new home, or you may not beoffering the food it's used to eating. It may take weeks before iteats for you. Don't panic, keep trying, and don't handle the snakemore than necessary before it starts.

HEALTH: Mites are common on these snakes. Toeliminate them, place a small piece of 'No-Pest' strip in a jar (withseveral holes in the lid) in the cage, and leave the jar for 2-3days. Repeat, if necessary, in two weeks. Remove the water dish whilethe jar is in the cage.

Cages must be kept clean to prevent mites, ticks, scale rot, andother problems. Anti-bacterial cleaning solutions are recommended.One ounce of bleach in ten ounces of water is one such solution.Rinse the cage with clean water after using any solution. Don't useLysol, Lestoil or other such oil-based cleaners; they are deadly toreptiles. The cage substrate (bedding) must be kept dry, even forwater dwellers, like anacondas.

Though many boids like to soak in water, they must be able to dryoff, or they will develop scale rot and blisters.

HANDLING: Most boids don't object to beinghandled two or three times a week. Some species, such as Anacondasand Reticulated Pythons, often bite when handled. Others, such as theRosy Boa, will stop eating if handled too much.

Don't handle any snake for 48 hours after feeding, or if itbecomes ill or stops feeding, unless the cage needs cleaning.

Keep handling to a minimum when your snake is getting ready toshed. The skin can be damaged easily during this time.

Corn Snake Care Sheet

Elaphe guattata


Description: The name corn snake may haveoriginated from the similarity of the belly markings to the checkeredpattern on Indian corn. Corn snakes are also known as “red ratsnakes". They are usually orange, yellow and black with largered splotches on the back with a white and black-checkered belly.Corn snakes will spend much of their time under cover and they aremost active at dusk. In captivity they become very docile, andcurious. As hatchlings they can be very fast and skittish. This isnormal, in nature they must avoid being eaten. It is normal for asnake to hide for a few days after it has eaten. After digesting it’smeal it will become more active. It is very rare to be bitten by acorn snake. A bite is little more than a scratch. It is also rare fora corn snake to defecate on you as you handle it as other snakes do.Although a corn snake can reach 6’, the average size is around 4.5’or less.

Of all the reptiles, corn snakes are one of the easiest and hardyanimals to keep as a pet. You won’t need a pet sitter if you goaway for a week or two, although fresh water is always good. In goodhealth a snake can go a long time without eating. They are easier tocare for than any other animal I can think of. They do not eat thatoften, defecate once a week, and cause no known allergies. They makeno noise, and the only odor will be any waste left in the cage.

Corn snakes are available in a variety of phases. Throughselective breeding, herpetologists have breed many different colorsof corn snakes. Breeding animals with abnormal genes to each otherproduces different phases of corn snakes. Although the differentphases look different, they are the same snake. A few of the popularvarieties produced are described below.

  • Amelanistic This phase is missing all black pigment in the skin. This is equivalent a human albino, except corn snakes also have yellow, orange, and red colors. As adults my Amels should be all red and orange with white on the underside.

  • Snow This phase lacks all red, orange, and black. White is the predominate color with shades of flesh tones in the pattern. As they mature yellows will appear on the head and then along the sides.

  • Okettee This is a normal colored snake with exceptional black borders and dark reds.

Home Range: Corn snakes are found throughoutFlorida and southeastern United States, as far north as Southern NewJersey, and west to Tennessee.

Longevity: Up to 23 years.

Diet: Corn snakes are constrictors and will usetheir coils to suffocate food before eating. Feeding live food is notrecommended, for the safety of the snake. All the snakes I offer arewell started on frozen thawed pink mice. Whole mice are a completebalanced meal. No other food is  necessary. Feed hatchlings 1pink mouse every 4 to 7 days. Feeding every 7 days is sufficient, andyou will be able to handle the snake two days after it has eaten.

Never handle before two days has passed. This could causedigestive problems and stress. Feeding more often than every 7 dayswill speed up the growth rate, but handling will be limited. Fastgrowth is not always that healthy for animals. As the snake grows themeal size must be increased. By the time they are eating 4 pink miceat a time, move them up to fuzzy mice, them adult mice. As the snakematures they will need to eat less frequently. 1 or 2 adult mice isplenty for a full-grown corn snake per every 10 days. Excess fat cancause problems. A good rule to follow is, the diameter of the mealshould not be more than 1 ½ times the diameter of the largest partof the snake’s body. I always feed my snakes separately, in a cleanplastic container with no substrate. I never offer food items in thesnake’s cage! Snakes are not that intelligent, but they getconditioned to events such as feeding. Feeding in their cage couldcause a hungry snake to strike your hand by mistake when you arepicking them up. My snakes never expect food in their cage. When Iput them in their feeding containers, I do not put my hand in untilthey have eaten, and then I try to slide them back into their cagewithout picking them up. Never handle the mice with your hands, usetongs. If you have rodent pets wash your hands before reaching in foryour snake, or the scent may cause a strike. I have been bitten onlyonce in three years, and it was my fault. A bite from a pet cornsnake will always be associated with feeding, because as hatchlingsthey will quickly get used to your hands and will not fear you.

Housing: A corn snake needs very little. A20-gallon long aquarium with a secure clip-on non-abrasive wire topis sufficient for all but the exceptionally large specimens. When thesnake reaches around 4’ a longer cage would be preferable. At oneend of aquarium you will need a heat mat on the bottom of the glasson the outside.

A 10” x 10” heat mat taped to the bottom of the glass isperfect. The mat must be all the way to one end, and not cover morethan one third of the cage. Follow the heat mat safety precautions,as all products are different. The temperature range on the cold endshould be between 65° (night time low) to 85° daytime extreme. Thewarm end should be at 80° to 86° at all times. The two mostimportant things regarding temperature are that the snake has atleast 80° temperatures at one end to digest it’s food, and it cancool down if it needs to. It will be necessary to monitor thetemperature at the warm end, and control the heat with a rheostat orthermostat.

Substrates make it easier to clean the cage, make it moreattractive, and provide the snake something to burrow in. I prefer“ESU Lizard Litter”(best and most expensive), Aspen shavings(least expensive and has a pleasant odor), or “Care Fresh bedding”(super absorbent but smells like wet cardboard when wet). Fresh waterin a spill proof dish is necessary (large bowls with a lot of waterwon’t dry up and will be less likely to tip over). A hide box isalso necessary at the warm end. The snake will go under the waterdish if the substrate is deep enough at the cool end. I also use ahumidity box to help the shedding process. For a hatchling this wouldconsist of a plastic butter container filled with damp moss and a 1”hole cut in the cover. I use a product called “Bed A Beast”. Itcomes in a brick and needs to be soaked in water for it to expand tolook like peat moss. I have never seen this product get moldy, and Iuse it for egg laying containers also. With a cage set up as I havedescribed, your snake will never have a shedding problem. Ambientroom light is all the lighting necessary. Never place a cage in frontof a window; sunlight can quickly overheat a snake. In my opinionhaving sunlight enter the room where an animal live is good for them.

Conclusion: Never forget that a corn snake is awild animal. They are not cuddly pets that enjoy your affection, andif handled incorrectly may bite. Snakes cannot be trained to perform.Snakes are more of a display animal as tropical fish are, but don’tmind being handled. Sometime they hide a lot, but are veryinteresting to watch.

Always wash your hands after handling animals. Any reptile cancarry salmonella. Toddlers should never handle reptiles; they willhave their hands in their mouth before you can wash them.

Garter Snake Care Sheet

Thamnophis species


CAGING: Garter snakes are slender, active snakes,which can be kept in a plastic shoe box until they reach about twofeet in length. Thereafter, they can be kept in a plastic sweater boxuntil they reach three feet in length. At this time they are readyfor a ten gallon aquarium. On aquariums, use fine mesh wire covers,with clips to hold it on. Be sure they are secure enough to hold thesnake. Black and white newspaper or paper towels make good bedding asthey are economical and easily removed. Don't use colored paper orsand, shavings, or other bedding which might be swallowed with food,as this can kill your snake. An easy to clean, plastic or ceramichiding box will provide a sense of security for your snake.

WATER: Fresh water must be available at alltimes. Garter snakes like to splash in their water dishes. To avoidexcessive moisture in the cage, use a large bowl only half full, oruse a margarine tub with a hole cut in the lid.

Change the paper should it become soaked. Garter snakes are proneto diseases such as scale rot or blisters if their substrate is notkept dry!

TEMPERATURE: Garter snakes don't require terriblyhigh temperatures; 75 to 80 degrees is fine. This can be provided byan ordinary, drug-store heating pad or a red light bulb in areflector fitting. (A red light bulb will allow the snake to sleepwithout having to turn off the heat at night.) The heating pad can beplaced under the cage. The light should be placed above the cage sothat it shines down into the cage. Place either one so that only oneend of the cage is heated, giving your snake a temperature gradient.A thermometer should be kept in the warm end of the cage to assurethat you maintain a good temperature.

FOOD: Garter snakes eat frogs, worms and fish inthe wild. Nightcrawlers can be easily obtained at bait shops fromspring through fall. Feeder fish are available at pet shops. Smallgarter snakes will eat "tuffies", and larger snakes willeat feeder goldfish. It's fun to put the fish right in the water dishand watch the snake catch the fish. Just make sure the cage is drywhen your snake is done, and give the snake fresh water. Fish leaveslime behind.

Garter snakes need to be fed more often than rodent eating snakes.Twice a week is good. Some garter snakes can be conditioned to eatpinky mice or pinky rats. Place a dead pinky in a container withnightcrawlers for a few minutes.  Once it is coated with wormscent, offer it to your snake. Eventually, you may not even have toscent the pinky anymore, as long as you offer it cool (not frozen).This diet will reduce the need for frequent feedings. If you keepmore than one garter snake in the same cage, they may fight overfood, and you may have to remove one of them to a separate containerfor feeding.

HEALTH: Cages must be kept clean to preventticks, mites, infections, scale rot, and other problems.Anti-bacterial cleaning solutions are recommended. One ounce ofbleach in ten ounces of water is one such solution. Rinse the cagewith clean water after using any solution. Don't use Lysol, Lestoilor other such oil-based cleaners; they are deadly to reptiles.

HANDLING: Garter snakes may bite or musk whenfirst acquired, but they will tame down quickly with handling.

Don't handle any snake for 48 hours after feeding, or if itbecomes ill or stops feeding, unless the cage needs cleaning.

Keep handling to a minimum when your snake is getting ready toshed. The skin can be damaged easily during this time.

Kingsnake Care Sheet

Lampropeltis getula species (Eastern,Florida, California, Speckled, etc.)


CAGING: The cage should provide enough room foryour snake to move around in comfortably and be easy to clean; a 15or 20 gallon aquarium is good for most kingsnakes. Only one snake percage! Kingsnakes are known to eat other snakes; in fact, they arecalled kingsnakes because they can even kill and eat venomous snakes.

Black and white newspaper or paper towels make good bedding asthey are economical and easily removed.  Don't use colored paperor sand, shavings, or other bedding which might be swallowed withfood, as this can kill your snake. The cover of the cage should bevery secure, as these snakes are quite good at escaping, and shouldprovide adequate ventilation. An easy to clean, plastic or ceramichiding box will provide shelter for your snake.

WATER: Fresh water must be available at alltimes. The water dish should be large enough so that the snake cantotally immerse itself.

TEMPERATURE: Kingsnakes are generally temperateclimate animals and do best at temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees F, sosome type of heating is needed. This can be provided by an ordinary,drug-store heating pad or a red light bulb in a reflector fitting. (Ared light bulb will allow the snake to sleep without having to turnoff the heat at night.) The heating pad can be placed under the cage.The light should be placed above the cage so that it shines down intothe cage. Place either one so that only one end of the cage isheated, giving your snake a temperature gradient. A thermometershould be kept in the warm end of the cage to assure that youmaintain a good temperature.

FOOD: Kingsnakes are famous for including othersnakes in their diet, but they can be kept healthy in captivity on adiet of mice and small rats. A problem feeder can sometimes beinduced to feed if you place the food animals in a shed snake skin.Captive snakes should be fed dead food, as a live mouse couldconceivably bite and seriously injure your snake. Kingsnakessometimes go off their feed, especially during the winter months;don't worry unless it is obviously losing weight.

HEALTH: Mites are common on these snakes. Toeliminate them, place a small piece of "No-Pest" strip in ajar (with several holes in the lid) in the cage, and leave the jarfor 2-3 days. Repeat, if necessary, in two weeks.  Remove thewater dish while the jar is in the cage. Cages must be kept clean toprevent infections, scale rot, and other problems. Anti-bacterialcleaning solutions are recommended. One ounce of bleach in ten ouncesof water is one such solution. Rinse the cage with clean water afterusing any solution. Don't use Lysol, Lestoil or other such oil-basedcleaners; they are deadly to reptiles. The cage substrate (bedding)must also be kept dry. Though snakes like to soak in water, they mustbe able to dry off, or they will develop scale rot and blisters.

HANDLING: Most snakes don't object to beinghandled two or three times a week. Don't handle any snake for 48hours after feeding, or if it becomes ill or stops feeding, unlessthe cage needs cleaning. Keep handling to a minimum when your snakeis getting ready to shed. The skin can be damaged easily during thistime.

Pine, Bull & Gopher Snake Care Sheet

All Pituophis species


CAGING: These snakes get big, averaging six feet,but sometimes reaching eight feet. The cage should provide enoughroom for your snake to move around in comfortably, have goodventilation, and be easy to clean. On aquariums, use fine mesh wirecovers, with clips to hold it on. Be sure they are secure enough tohold the snake.

Black and white newspaper or paper towels make good bedding asthey are economical and easily removed.  Don't use colored paperor sand, shavings, or other bedding which might be swallowed withfood, as this can kill your snake. An easy to clean, plastic orceramic hiding box will provide a sense of security for your snake. Aclimbing branch is often welcome.

WATER: Fresh water must be available at alltimes. The water dish should be spill proof.

TEMPERATURE: Pituophis are generally temperateclimate animals and do best at temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees, sosome type of heating is needed. This can be provided by an ordinary,drug-store heating pad or a red light bulb in a reflector fitting. (Ared light bulb will allow the snake to sleep without having to turnoff the heat at night.) The heating pad can be placed under the cage.The light should be placed above the cage so that it shines down intothe cage. Place either one so that only one end of the cage isheated, giving your snake a temperature gradient. A thermometershould be kept in the warm end of the cage to assure that youmaintain a good temperature.

FOOD: Pituophis can be kept healthy in captivityon a diet of mice, rats, or small rabbits, depending on the snakes'size. Captive snakes should be fed dead food, as a live rodent couldbite and seriously injure or kill your snake. Newly-caught snakes mayrefuse dead food at first, but after some time in your care, mostwill learn to accept dead food. These snakes sometimes go off theirfeed, especially during the winter months; don't worry unless it isobviously losing weight.

HEALTH: Cages must be kept clean to preventticks, mites, infections, scale rot, and other problems.Antibacterial cleaning solutions are recommended. One ounce of bleachin ten ounces of water is one such solution.

Rinse the cage with clean water after using any solution. Don'tuse Lysol, Lestoil or other such oil-based cleaners; they are deadlyto reptiles.

HANDLING: Most snakes don't object to beinghandled two or three times a week. Don't handle any snake for 48hours after feeding, or if it becomes ill or stops feeding, unlessthe cage needs cleaning. Keep handling to a minimum when your snakeis getting ready to shed. The skin can be damaged easily during thistime.

When first acquired, these snakes are sometimes aggressive;hissing (very loudly), vibrating their tails, even striking. Gentlehandling and proper care will usually transform them into excellentpets in a matter of weeks.

Captive bred snakes are much more likely to become tame than wildcaught animals.

Rat Snake (N. American, European and Asian) CareSheet

All genus Elaphe (including NorthAmerican, European and Asian rat snakes)


CAGING: Rat snakes are best kept in a cage with aminimum of fancy decor. The cage should provide enough room for yoursnake to move around in comfortably and be easy to clean; a 15 or 20gallon aquarium is good for most rat snakes. Black and whitenewspaper or paper towels make good bedding as they are economicaland easily removed. Don't use colored paper or sand, shavings, orother bedding which might be swallowed with food, as this can killyour snake. The cover of the cage should be very secure, as thesesnakes are quite good at escaping, and should provide adequateventilation. An easy to clean, plastic or ceramic hiding box willprovide shelter for your snake. Some rat snakes are nervous, and willstrike at the glass when you approach, if not given a hiding box.

WATER: Fresh water must be available at alltimes. The water dish should be large enough so that the snake cantotally immerse itself.

TEMPERATURE: Rat snakes are generally temperateclimate animals and do best at temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees F, sosome type of heating is needed. This can be provided by an ordinary,drug-store heating pad or a red light bulb in a reflector fitting. (Ared light bulb will allow the snake to sleep without having to turnoff the heat at night.) The heating pad can be placed under the cage.The light should be placed above the cage so that it shines down intothe cage. Place either one so that only one end of the cage isheated, giving your snake a temperature gradient. A thermometershould be kept in the warm end of the cage to assure that youmaintain a good temperature.

FOOD: Despite their name, rat snakes prefer adiet of mice, and you will have to have a steady supply of suchfodder. Never leave mice old enough to bite in the snake cage, unlessyou are watching, as they may injure or kill the snake. Try to getyour snake used to eating dead mice. Many rat snakes are erraticfeeders. They will feed ravenously for a few months, and then go 'offtheir feed' for weeks or months at a time, causing their ownersendless distress. If you have such an individual, stay calm, unlesssignificant weight loss occurs. To stimulate feeding after a fast,offer a live weanling mouse in the hiding box; an almost irresistibletreat for most rat snakes.

Some rat snakes also like baby chicks and warm eggs.

HEALTH: Mites are common on these snakes. Toeliminate them, place a small piece of "No-Pest" strip in ajar (with several holes in the lid) in the cage, and leave the jarfor 2-3 days. Repeat, if necessary, in two weeks.

Remove the water dish while the jar is in the cage. Cages must bekept clean to prevent infections, scale rot, and other problems.Anti-bacterial cleaning solutions are recommended. One ounce ofbleach in ten ounces of water is one such solution. Rinse the cagewith clean water after using any solution. Don't use Lysol, Lestoilor other such oil-based cleaners; they are deadly to reptiles. Thecage substrate (bedding) must also be kept dry. Though snakes like tosoak in water, they must be able to dry off, or they will developscale rot and blisters.

HANDLING: Most snakes don't object to beinghandled two or three times a week. Don't handle any snake for 48hours after feeding, or if it becomes ill or stops feeding, unlessthe cage needs cleaning. Keep handling to a minimum when your snakeis getting ready to shed. The skin can be damaged easily during thistime.

Sunbeam Snake Care Sheet

Xenopeltis unicolor


The sunbeam snake is native to Indonesia and is often encounteredin rice paddies. This species garners its common name from theincredible iridescence of its scales, a trait difficult to capture onfilm. The ground color of the snake's dorsal side is a dark brown,almost black, with the ventral side being a white or cream color. Inthe sunlight, or under strong artificial light, the scales scatterthe illumination like a prism, showcasing a breathtaking display ofrainbow coloration. There is no snake in the world that can rival theiridescent of the sunbeam snake, this species most enchantingfeature. In the wild these snakes are totally fossorial (burrowing)and spend most of their time underground. Their morphology stronglyreflects this lifestyle, as their heads are sharply pointed withlittle neck delineation, enabling them to move underground with ease.In the wild, sunbeam snakes eat a variety of prey includingamphibians, lizards, small mammals, and other snakes. Young sunbeamsnakes look very similar to the adults, except that they have astrong white "collar" of white scales evident just belowthe head. This coloration fades within the first year.

Sunbeam snakes are not often captive bred, so they are heavilyimported. This is rather unfortunate as most imported animals diewithin the first six months of capture. Wild-caught sunbeam snakesstress very easily, this combined with improper environmentalconditions encountered during transport and holding at wholesalefacilities, is just too much for many of these snakes. However,animals that survive importation can acclimate well if properlyhoused and attended to by a good reptile vet.

Captive Care Requirements: There are really onlyfour things required to keep sunbeams snakes successfully, humidity,a burrowing medium, proper temperatures, and solitude. Sunbeam snakeshail from an extremely humid habitat (ever seen a rice paddy?-ricegrows in wetland conditions), as such, they require very highhumidity in captivity in order to do well. I keep my sunbeams atabout 80-100% humidity all of the time. Many sunbeams snakes developa condition that looks like blistering on their scales, this lookssimilar to a disease caused by excessive humidity-it is not. I amsure that many people, upon seeing this condition in sunbeams havethought that drying the snakes out would cure this problem, dryingsunbeam snakes out kills them quickly. This is a bacterial infectionexacerbated by stress and will disappear with correct antibiotictreatment and a humid environment.

Secondly, as sunbeams have evolved to be fossorial animals, theyneed a substrate in the cage to burrow in. I use 6-8 inches ofcypress mulch, but other substrates such as moss or small reptilebark would work just as well. I keep the cypress mulch very moist,but not wet. The hot end of the cage is 86-88 degrees F and the coolend is 75-80 degrees F. All of the sunbeams I have kept have readilyaccepted stunned rodents from tongs. These snakes have an incrediblefeeding response so watch your fingers! Sunbeams snakes constricttheir prey like other snakes, but I swear they are the fastest eatersI have ever seen, no other species can even compare to the speed atwhich sunbeams subdue and swallow prey. This may be because they arevulnerable when they are above-ground (where they must be to findprey and eat) so the faster eating snakes were exposed to lesspredation and passed on their genes to future generations (bear withme, I am a graduate student in ecology-I can't help it). One thingthat new owners should be warned about these snakes have a NASTYmusk, and I mean nasty. If you get musked by an irate sunbeam, planon taking a shower and washing the clothes you were wearing aboutfive times. As sunbeams stress easily, do not handle them unless itis absolutely necessary. So success with sunbeams amounts to fourthings; keep them humid, buried, warm, and leave them alone.

Water Snake Care Sheet

Natrix and Nerodia species


CAGING: Water snakes are fairly heavy-bodied,relatively inactive snakes, which reach a length of about three feet.They can be kept comfortably in a twenty gallon aquarium, whichshould have a wire mesh lid held on with clips. In spite of theirname, these species are subject to skin infections if kept in a dampcage. As their droppings tend to be semi-liquid, they should be keptin a cage with an easily cleaned floor. Paper towels or black andwhite newspaper are recommended. Sand, gravel, wood chips and corncob bedding should be avoided. Living plants should not be kept inthe cage, as they increase the humidity level.

WATER: Fresh water must be available at alltimes. The water dish should be too small for the snake to bathe in,except during skin shedding. The water should be changed frequently,and the bowl should be untippable.

TEMPERATURE: Water snakes are from cool temperateregions, and do well at ordinary household temperatures, but shouldbe protected from cold, so some type of heating is needed. This canbe provided by an ordinary, drug-store heating pad or a red lightbulb in a reflector fitting. (A red light bulb will allow the snaketo sleep without having to turn off the heat at night.) The heatingpad can be placed under the cage. The light should be placed abovethe cage so that it shines down into the cage. Place either one sothat only one end of the cage is heated, giving your snake atemperature gradient. A thermometer should be kept in the warm end ofthe cage to assure that you maintain a good temperature.

FOOD: Water snakes will eat fish and amphibians,and some will eat newborn mice. Since recent research indicates thata steady diet of oily fish may be harmful to snakes, it would bebetter to feed these snakes on amphibians when these are available;save the fish diet for winter, when frogs and salamanders aren'tavailable.

In general, fish and amphibian eating snakes require more foodthan rodent eating snakes; food should be offered at least once perweek, preferably twice. If you can switch your snake over to eatingdead mice, it will be easier to feed and probably healthier. A watersnake eating mice only needs to be fed once a week at most.

HEALTH: Cages must be kept clean and dry toprevent infections, scale rot, and other problems. Anti-bacterialcleaning solutions are recommended. One ounce of bleach in ten ouncesof water is one such solution. Rinse the cage with clean water afterusing any solution. Don't use Lysol, Lestoil or other such oil-basedcleaners; they are deadly to reptiles. As noted above, these snakesare especially prone to skin disease, therefore, the cage substrate(bedding) must be kept dry.

HANDLING: Water snakes often object to beinghandled when first acquired, and are capable of inflicting nastybites. Most will adapt to captivity quite well, given time and goodcare, often becoming quite tame. Don't handle any snake for 48 hoursafter feeding, or if it becomes ill or stops feeding, unless the cageneeds cleaning.

Keep handling to a minimum when your snake is getting ready toshed. The skin can be damaged easily during this time.


Hours of Operation:

Monday thru Friday: 8am-6pm

Saturday: 8am-12pm

Sunday: Closed

1306 North Thornton Ave

Dalton, Ga 30720

Phone: (706) 226-3710

Fax: (706) 226-2802

(423) 822-8304

(423) 698-4612