Eastern Painted Turtle Care: Keeping the USA’s Most Beautiful Turtle

PAINTED TUR, SMILEThose of us who are accustomed to seeing Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys scripta scripta) in the wild and captivity sometimes take their beauty for granted. In my youth, I was able to find them quite easily near my Bronx home, and was surprised by the overseas demand when I began working for a local animal dealer. But upon close inspection, it’s easy to see why these aptly-named turtles are wildly-popular in zoos and private collections worldwide. In addition to their brilliant coloration, Eastern Painted Turtles make hardy, long-lived and responsive pets (if given proper care!). They have all the qualities that have made Red-Eared Sliders so popular, but their smaller size and calm demeanor renders them a far better choice for most turtle enthusiasts.

 

320px-Eastern_Painted_Turtle_(Chrysemys_picta_picta)Natural History

The Eastern Painted Turtle’s range extends from southern Canada along the eastern seaboard of the USA to Georgia, and west to central Alabama. Three subspecies – the Southern, Midland and Western Painted Turtles – range across southern Canada and through most of the USA to northern Mexico. All hybridize where their ranges overlap, and in captivity.

 

Type habitat

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by FWS

Painted Turtles favor slow-moving, well-vegetated waters, and are most commonly encountered in swamps, marshes, river oxbows, creeks, and small ponds on farms and even golf courses (I caught my first specimen, as a child, by hopping a golf course fence and sloshing through its tiny pond – that incident remains my only golf-related experience!). I once was surprised to find a hatchling in a tidal river on Long Island, but have since learned that they are known to enter brackish water.

 

Turtle Behavior in Captivity

Like many semi-aquatic turtles, Eastern Painteds quickly learn to associate their owners with food, and will paddle over to beg when you approach. Ever-alert, wild individuals plunge from basking sites when startled, but pets are generally quite fearless. Most feed readily from the hand, and they may even reproduce.

 

Young painted turtle

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by US Bureau of Land Management

Housing

Female Eastern Painted Turtles reach 7-9 inches in length, while males generally top out at 5 inches. An adult female will require a 30 to (preferably) 40 or 55 gallon aquarium; a male might make due in a 20 gallon “long-style”, but more room is preferable.

 

Zoo Med’s Turtle Tub is an excellent option for larger individuals. Plastic storage bins, if properly outfitted, may also be used.

 

Wading pools are often easier to manage than aquariums. Koi ponds sometimes contain shelves meant to hold plants; these work well as turtle basking areas. Outdoor housing is ideal, assuming that raccoons and other predators can be excluded.

 

Basking

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Tony Gamble

Although highly aquatic, Painted Turtles need a dry surface on which to bask. Commercial turtle docks will suffice for smaller specimens. Cork bark, wedged or affixed via silicone to the aquarium’s sides, is a good option for adults.

 

Filtration

Turtles are messy feeders and very hard on water quality. Submersible or canister filters are necessary unless the enclosure can be emptied and cleaned several times weekly (I’ve found the Zoo Med Turtle Clean Filter to be ideal). Even with filtration, partial water changes are essential.

 

Southern Painted Turtle

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Suzanne L Collins (CNAH)

Removing your turtles to an easily-cleaned container for feeding will lessen the filter’s workload and help to keep the water clear.

 

Substrate

Bare-bottomed aquariums are best, as gravel traps food and wastes, greatly complicating cleaning. If gravel is used, it should be of a size too large to be swallowed.

 

Light

Heliothermic turtles (those that bask) require UVB exposure in captivity. Natural sunlight is the best UVB source, but be aware that glass filters-out UVB rays.

 

If a florescent bulb is used (the Zoo Med 10.0 Bulb is an excellent product), be sure that the turtle can bask within 6-12 inches of it. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances, and also provide beneficial UVA radiation.

 

Western Painted Turtle plastron

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Matt Young

Heat

Water temperatures of 75-80 F should be maintained. An incandescent bulb should be used to warm the basking site to 88-90 F.

 

Companions

Painted turtles will eat or harass fishes, newts and aquatic frogs.

 

Individuals of the same sex may get along, but aggression often develops so be prepared to house them separately. It’s difficult to keep pairs together long-term, as the males’ continual mating attempts usually lead to stress and bite wounds.

 

Feeding

Painted Turtles begin life as carnivores but increasingly consume aquatic plants as they mature. Pets favor animal-based foods, but should be encouraged to eat plants; a fasting period will tempt them to sample new items.

 

Dandelion, kale, mustard and collared greens, romaine and other produce should be offered. Aquatic plants such as Elodea, Anachris and Duckweed may also be accepted. Spinach and beet leaves are high in oxalic acid and have been implicated in health problems.

 

mediaZoo Med Aquatic Turtle Food and Reptomin Food Sticks provide excellent nutrition and can serve as 50-75% of the diet. Other commercial aquatic turtle diets and treats are also worth investigating.

 

Natural foods should always be included in turtle diets. Whole freshwater fishes such as minnows and shiners are the best source of calcium for turtles. Offer fish at least once weekly, but use goldfishes sparingly as a steady goldfish diet has been implicated in liver ailments in other species.

 

Other important food items include earthworms, krill, freeze-dried river shrimp and crickets, waxworms and other insects.

 

Breeding

Wild females become sexually mature at age 5-10, males at age 3-5. Courting and breeding occurs in May and June, and females deposit 1-4 clutches of eggs (1-15 eggs in total) between May and July. Late-hatching young may overwinter in the nest and emerge the following spring.

 

Captive conditions may alter all of the above, so please write in for detailed information on how best to breed your pets in their particular environment.

 

Health Considerations

Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in turtle digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor concerning details, and feel free to write me for links to useful resources.

 

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook. Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

 

Further Reading

Providing Nesting Sites to Female Turtles

Commercial Turtle Diets: Pellets, Shrimp and Prepared Foods

Monitor Lizards as Pets: Dumeril Monitor Care and Natural History

The Dumeril’s or Brown Rough-Necked Monitor (Varanus dumerilii) is still collected from the wild, but captive breeding is increasing, and will, I hope, soon be the rule rather than the exception. Although the black and orange hatchlings are hard to resist, Dumeril ownership should not be entered into lightly. Strong and active, adults may top 4.5 feet in length, and are best reserved for those with adequate space and experience. That being said, Dumeril’s Monitors are reputed to be somewhat easier to handle than other similarly sized species. My own experience bears this out, but individual personalities vary greatly…caution and respect for their powerful jaws and sharp claws is a must. For those up to it, this is definitely a species worth considering, as it is little studied in the wild and unprotected across much of its range (and a very interesting creature as well!).

 

Dumeril's Monitor

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Katerina Zareva, EERC Sofia Zoo

Description

The Dumeril’s Monitor sports a “typical” monitor build and averages 3-4 feet in length, with some individuals approaching 5 feet. Hatchlings and very young individuals are brilliantly clad in black and orange. Adults are attractively-marked in various shades of brown and tan. Extremely sharp claws (even by monitor standards!) assist it in climbing.

 

Range

The Dumeril’s Monitor is found across a huge range that extends from southern Myanmar and Thailand through western Malaysia and much of Indonesia to Singapore. The population on Singapore was long believed extinct, with no reported sightings since 1935. However, a single individual was collected in the island’s Nee Soon Swamp Forest in 2008, spurring hopes that it is still hanging on there.

 

Typical habitat

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Tho nau

Habitat

The Dumeril’s Monitor inhabits lowland forests, coastal mangrove swamps and swamp forests. Village and farm outskirts are sometimes colonized, but the effects of habitat development on this species have not been studied. It is at times highly arboreal, but also frequently forages on the ground and in the shallows of rivers and swamps.

 

Enclosure

Like most of their relatives, Dumeril’s Monitors are quite active, and will not thrive in close quarters. Adults require custom-built cages measuring at least 6 x 4 x 6 feet.

 

Cypress mulch or eucalyptus bark may be used as a substrate. Shy by nature, they are best provided with numerous caves, cork bark rolls and hollow logs in which to shelter, and stout climbing branches for climbing. Some individuals prefer sheltering above ground (wild individuals reportedly utilize tree hollows), so a cork bark roll or large nest box positioned among the branches would be ideal. A water bowl large enough for soaking should always be available…the ideal Dumeril’s enclosure would feature a large, drainable pool.

 

The cage should be located in a quiet, undisturbed area of the home, as Dumeril’s Monitors are very aware of their surroundings, and easily stressed.

 

Temperature

Dumeril’s Monitors fare best when afforded a temperature gradient of 78-85 F; nighttime temperatures should not dip below 75 F. The basking site should be kept at 110-120 F. Incandescent bulbs may be used by day; ceramic heaters or red/black reptile “night bulbs” are useful after dark.

 

Provide your monitor with the largest home possible, so that a thermal gradient (areas of different temperatures) can be established. Thermal gradients, critical to good health, allow reptiles to regulate their body temperature by moving between hot and cooler areas. In small or poorly ventilated enclosures, the entire area soon takes on the basking site temperature.

 

t243860Humidity

Humidity should average 70-85%, but dry areas must be available. A commercial reptile mister will be helpful if your home is especially dry.

 

Light

While there is some evidence that UVB exposure may not be essential if the animal is fed properly, I always provide it to monitors in zoo exhibits and at home. In most situations, UVB exposure is the safest option. If a florescent bulb is used (Zoo Med bulbs are ideal), be sure that your pet can bask within 6-12 inches of it. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances, and provide beneficial UVA radiation as well.

 

Fiddler crabs

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Melongal

Diet

The few available studies indicate that wild Dumeril’s Monitors take a wide variety of prey animals, including grasshoppers, roaches, and other large insects, frogs, crabs, snails, bats, rodents and other small mammals, birds and their eggs, turtle eggs, and fish. Populations living in mangrove swamps seem to favor crabs and snails…in my experience, crabs and crayfish always elicit a vigorous feeding response from captives.

 

Hornworm (sphynx moth larvae)

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Shhewitt

I do not use a rodent-only diet for these or other monitors from similar habitats (i.e. the Black Rough-Necked Monitor). Youngsters should be fed largely upon roaches, super mealworms, earthworms, snails, hornworms and other invertebrates, along with small whole fishes, un-shelled shrimp, fiddler and green crabs, crayfish and squid. Pinkies or small mice may be provided once weekly, and hard-boiled eggs can be used on occasion. All meals (other than fishes, crabs and rodents) offered to growing monitors should be powdered with calcium, and a high-quality reptile vitamin/mineral supplement should be used 3x weekly. I favor ReptiVite and ReptiCalcium.

 

Rodents and whole fish can comprise 50% of the adult diet, with a variety of large insects, earthworms, hard-boiled eggs, crayfish, crabs, shrimp, snails, and similar foods making up the balance. Calcium and vitamin/mineral supplements should be used 1-2x weekly. Large food items should be avoided; even where adult monitors are concerned, mice are preferable to small rats.

 

Temperament

Although not a species for beginners, Dumeril’s Monitors adjust well to captivity when given proper care, and make fine, long-lived pets. Initially shy, some learn to trust gentle caretakers, while others – especially wild-caught individuals – remain wary. A large, well-furnished cage will provide the security that is essential if they are to become approachable.

 

In common with all monitors, they are capable of inflicting serious injuries with their powerful jaws, long tails and sharp claws. Thick leather gloves should be worn when handling Dumeril’s Monitors, as even tame individuals leave deep scratches with their claws in the course of their normal movements.

 

Breeding

A single male can be housed with 1 or 2 females, but they must be watched carefully. The nesting area should be enclosed (i.e. a large tub or plastic storage container within a wooden box equipped with an entrance hole) and stocked with 2-3 feet of a slightly moist mix of sand, top soil and peat moss.

 

We have a good deal to learn about captive reproduction. Success (and failure) has been reported under a wide variety of conditions. Please post below for detailed information on pairing adults and incubating the eggs.

 

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook. Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

 

Further Reading

 

Monitor Ownership: Important Considerations

Monitor Learning Abilities

 

Terrarium Plants: Best Hardy Houseplants for Reptile and Amphibian Tanks

House plants in terrariums

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Baumpython

When I first began keeping reptiles and amphibians a lifetime ago, the live plants at my disposal were limited to cuttings I could beg, borrow or steal from my green-thumbed mother. Today we are very fortunate in having an astonishing variety of available orchids, mosses, ferns and plants ideally suited for use with reptiles and amphibians. For those of us with wide interests, this diversity is a real pleasure…in fact, co-workers at the Bronx Zoo have at times accused me of expending more effort on my exhibits’ flora than its fauna! But in both zoo exhibits and at home, I frequently fall back on old favorites, especially several inexpensive and readily available house plants. If you are not skilled or interested in plant propagation, but wish to provide your pets with the many benefits that live plants confer, the following species should be of interest. The plants covered here are but a small sample…please post notes about your own favorites below.

 

Note: Please post below if you intend to keep live plants with herbivorous lizards or turtles, so that we can discuss any problems may arise if foliage is consumed. Please see the article linked below for information concerning pesticides that may be present on commercially-grown plants.

 

Wild Pothos

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Nyanatusita

Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)

This attractive, hardy vine is one of my favorite plants for use in terrarium and zoo exhibits. Widespread from India to northern Australia (and feral elsewhere), Pothos will grow equally-well in sphagnum moss, water, soil or gravel. If rooted in shallow water, it takes the form of an emergent plant, and thus looks well in bog terrariums. Grown as a floating plant, it will send out long roots, creating a dramatic effect and helping to improve water quality. Draped over logs and rocks, or left hanging, sinuous aerial roots will quickly form, lending an “over-grown” effect to your terrarium.

 

Many folks are surprised to learn that Pothos left unchecked can become quite large – I measured the leaves of some old specimens in Bronx Zoo bird exhibits at nearly 3 feet in length and 14 inches in width  (please see photo).

 

Peace Lily

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Kurt Stüber

Peace Lilly (Spathiphyllum spp.)

This very familiar house and office plant is another that can be used on land or in water. Much like Pothos, its root system is quite dramatic when seen below water, and will be used as a hiding and foraging site by newts, aquatic frogs, small turtles and similar creatures. I’ve written a separate article on its care and use…please see the link below.

 

 

 

 

 

Other Useful, Hardy Houseplants

Earth Star

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Chhe

Earth Star (Cryptanthus spp.): I learned about this Bromeliad from an arachnologist who kept spiders in unlit terrariums. It is nearly indestructible, and excellent for use with spiders, amphibians and other animals that prefer low light levels; the leaves flush red when exposed to light.

 

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata): A beautiful succulent, ideal for desert and semi-desert terrariums; the thick branches take on fantastic shapes.

 

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana): native to West Africa and not related to true bamboo, this popular plant is usually sold rooted in water. Kept so, it makes a nice emergent “swamp” type plant, or it can be planted moist soil.

 

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens oxycardium)

Arrowhead Vine (Syngonium podophyllum)

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)

Miniature Wax Plant (Hoya bella)

Dwarf Columnae

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Franz Xaver

Dwarf Columnea (Columnea microphylla)

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum variegatum)

Zebra Plant (Aphalandra squarrosa)

Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus)

Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)

Miniature Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila minima)

Hooked Strap Plant (Anthurium hookeri).

Coffee Plant (Coffa arabica)

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio. I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank.

Further Reading

The Peace Lily as a Terrarium Plant

Terrarium-Safe Plants: Avoiding Pesticides

Emperor Scorpion Care: Five Things New Scorpion Owners Should Know

Emperor scorpion

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Ladyb695

It is with good reason that the Emperor Scorpion (Pandinus imperator) is so popular among pet-keepers and arachnid fans.   One of the largest of the world’s 2000+ scorpions, the Emperor exhibits complex social behaviors, is generally mild-mannered, and breeds readily. However, one should not embark upon scorpion ownership without understanding the nature of these fascinating creatures, and their specific needs. Unrealistic expectations will dampen the experience of both pet and pet keeper. Following are 5 critical points that the prospective scorpion owner should consider.

 

Please see the linked articles and post below for detailed care and breeding advice.

 

Scorpions are “Hands-Off” Pets That Cannot be Tamed

Like most creatures, Emperor Scorpions are capable of learning, and of modifying their behavior in response to captive conditions. However, they are mainly guided by instinct, and cannot in any way be tamed, trained or “trusted” – they will not bond with people.

 

Please ignore the foolish advice and videos so common on the internet and do not handle your scorpion (please post below for info on safely moving or transporting scorpions). Handling is a stressful event for any scorpion, although this may not be apparent from its behavior. More importantly, while the venom produced by the Emperor Scorpion is not considered as dangerous to healthy adults, children, the elderly, and people with allergies or compromised immune systems may be at risk.

 

Deathstalker Scorpion

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Ester Inbar

Important Note: Certain scorpion species available in the trade (please see photo) are dangerous, and have caused fatalities. Most are difficult to identify, and are sold under a variety of common names. Please post below for details.

 

Emperor Scorpion Threat Display

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Mike Baird

Scorpions are Nocturnal and Secretive

Well-adjusted scorpions will emerge to hunt by day, but they will otherwise remain in hiding until nightfall. In the wild, Emperor Scorpions construct long burrow systems. Providing them the opportunity to do the same in your terrarium will enable you to see a variety of interesting behaviors – much more so than would be possible in bare enclosures. The scorpion terrarium should also be stocked with a variety of caves, cork bark sections and other hideaways. They will not thrive if forced to remain in the open.

 

Fortunately, red reptile night bulbs will enable you to observe your pets after dark.

 

Your “Single” Female may Surprise You with Youngsters

Female Emperor Scorpions sometimes give birth a year (or perhaps longer) after mating. As there’s no way to know if your female has mated in the past, you may find yourself with more scorpion-related responsibilities than you bargained for!

 

Female Emperors give birth to live young, and carry them about on their backs until the first molt. They are usually good mothers, and in many cases may be kept with the brood long-term. However, captive conditions can be a stress to them, and cannibalism is common. Please see the linked article and post below for further information on breeding.

 

t204477Scorpions Need Live Food

While many captives learn to take canned insects from tongs (do not hand-feed!), live insects will form the vast majority of your scorpion’s diet. Many have been raised on crickets alone, but the best long term results will be achieved by providing a varied menu to which roaches, waxworms, silkworms, grasshoppers and other insects have been added.

 

The “It Doesn’t Do Anything” Factor

Ideally, the new scorpion owner will be interested in her or his pet for its own sake. But most of us also wish to see how the animal lives, what it does, and so on. Well-fed scorpions that are not in breeding mode are often about as active as the infamous “pet rock”…and are nocturnal to boot!

 

Fortunately, red light bulbs now enable us to watch them after dark. If you provide your scorpion with a large terrarium and a deep substrate into which it can burrow, you’ll have much of interest to observe. Maintaining compatible groups (they are social in the wild) and, of course, breeding pairs, is also an exciting prospect.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio. I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

Emperor Scorpion Care, Natural History and Breeding

Scorpions as Pets: Overview

Rat Snake Care: the Russian Ratsnake – Large, Bold and Beautiful

Russian Ratsnake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Rvanbeusichem

Powerful and boldly-marked, the Russian Ratsnake (Elaphe schrencki)  is one of the largest of the robust constrictors commonly known as ratsnakes. Even those with a lifetime of snake experience (myself included), are awed by their first encounter with this impressive beast. To me, it’s always seemed somehow fitting that such spectacular creatures as the Siberian Tiger and Amur Leopard share the Russian Ratsnake’s range. Also known as the Amur Ratsnake, Siberian Ratsnake, and Manchurian Watersnake, it has long been hard to come by, but European and American snake enthusiasts are now producing captive bred animals regularly.

 

Rat Snake Description

An indigo to black background marked with bright yellow or white cross-bars renders the Russian Ratsnake a most striking creature. One of the longest snakes in northern Asia, it may reach or slightly exceed 6 feet in length.

 

Japanese Ratsnake

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Snowmanradio

A number of interesting color morphs, such as all-black, white-blotched, striped, and high-gold, as well as hybrids with Japanese Ratsnakes (E. climacophora; please see photo), have been developed by breeders.

Range and Habitat

The Russian Ratsnake’s range is centered in Siberia’s Amur River Basin, and radiates out to eastern Mongolia, northern and central China and Korea. An introduced population is established in Elder, the Netherlands (I almost instinctively typed “Florida”!). This group apparently originated from animals that escaped local greenhouses, where they are kept as a rodent-control measure. The government is studying their effects on local wildlife and eradication possibilities.

 

Russian Ratsnakes are usually found near a water source, and adapt to temperate forests, alpine woodlands, marshes, overgrown fields, brushy scrub, agricultural areas and a variety of other habitats. Like Texas Ratsnakes and other American species, Russian Ratsnakes often colonize farms, where they are alternately valued as rat-killers and reviled as chicken thieves. Excellent climbers, they seem equally at home on the ground or in trees.

The Terrarium

Those experienced with Corn Snakes and related species will find Russian Ratsnakes to be more active than their American counterparts. They should be provided with proportionally larger accommodations. While a 55-75 gallon aquarium will suit small adult, larger individuals are best housed in custom-built cages measuring at least 6 x 5 x 5 feet. Ample cage height and stout climbing branches will be appreciated.

 

Cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials may be used as a substrate. In common with Indigo Snakes and other active, robust reptiles, Russian Ratsnakes tend to make a mess of the old snake substrate standby, newspapers. A dry shelter and another stocked with moist sphagnum moss should be provided.

 

Ambient temperatures should be maintained in the range of 70-76 F, with a basking site of 82 F.

 

Habitat type

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Grapetonix

Breeding

Captive breeding, although far from regular in the past, is becoming more common. A 3-4 month cooling off period at 50-52 F will stimulate reproduction.

 

Clutches range from 6-30 eggs in size, and are usually deposited in June-July. As an adaptation to the short summers in their native range, female Russian Ratsnakes retain their eggs for a time, and deposit them in a well-advanced state. At an incubation temperature of 82 F, they typically hatch within 40 days.

 

The hatchlings measure 11-15 inches in length and differ markedly from adults, being light gray in color and sporting black specks and reddish blotches.

 

Diet

The Russian Ratsnake’s appetite knows no bounds. Wild individuals take squirrels, rabbits, bats, gerbils, birds and their eggs, voles, chipmunks, and many other creatures with equal gusto. Pets do well on a diet comprised of mice and rats; large adults will accept guinea pigs and weanling rabbits as well.

 

Temperament: Most individuals are quite calm in demeanor once accustomed to their surroundings. However, as with all large snakes, one must exercise appropriate caution when they are handled.

 

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio. I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly. Thanks, until next time, Frank.

Further Reading

Black Ratsnake Care

Keeping the Red-Tailed Ratsnake

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