Thawing Frozen Mice and Rats for Snakes and Other Reptiles

Frozen rodents are now widely available in the pet trade and, when used properly, are a safe food source that can save time, space and money. As opinions vary concerning proper thawing methods, I thought it might be useful to outline the procedures that are followed in major zoological parks.  Based on the human food guidelines set down by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture, they have served me well throughout my career as a zookeeper and herpetologist.

 

General Considerations

There are two safe methods that can be used to defrost rodents intended as reptile food – refrigeration and cold water.  Microwave defrosting has certain drawbacks and should be avoided (please see below).
Shared by Flickr user Soregasim

Frozen rodents purchased from a store or breeder should be re-packaged in clean zip-loc bags before being placed into your refrigerator, freezer or sink.  Bowls into which these bags are placed (for warming or cold-water thawing, see below) should be reserved for that purpose…do not use bowls that will also hold your own food, even if the rodents are in clean bags.  My apologies if this seems obvious, but I am continually amazed at how many people place their health in jeopardy while attempting to care for their pets!

 

Thawing Mice and Rats in a Refrigerator

Thawing under refrigeration is the method of choice in professional collections.  It requires a bit of forethought, but is very safe and requires no effort on our part (other than moving the food item from freezer to refrigerator!).

 

Thawing time will vary in accordance with refrigeration temperature (usually 35-40 F).  The USDA uses 8-10 hours per 1 pound of meat as a general guideline; a mouse can be expected to thaw in 2 hours, a rat in 4-5 hours.

 

Fail safe rule: place frozen rodents in a refrigerator for overnight thawing and use them the following day.

 

Thawing in Cold Water

This method is faster than via refrigeration, but requires periodic water changes, and leaves more room for error.  Frozen rodents in zip-lock bags are placed in a bucket of cold water for 30 minutes, after which time the water is dumped and replaced.  An adult rat can be thawed in as little as 1 hour.

 

The bags used should be leak-proof, lest harmful bacteria begin to colonize the food item.

 

Warming and Using Thawed Rodents

After thawing, rodents must be warmed somewhat before being fed to pet reptiles.  This is best done by placing the bagged, thawed rodent in a bucket or other container of warm water.  Timing varies, but plan on 10-20 minutes for a mouse in warm but not hot-to-the-touch water.

 

Use rodents shortly after thawing and warming.  Whole animals contain internal organs, previously-consumed food, and unpassed wastes, and they decay rapidly.

 

Common Mistakes

Do not thaw rodents at room temperature or in hot water (this applies to our own food as well).  Bacteria associated with disease and decay, which can be assumed present in all rodents, begin to reproduce at 40 F.  Such bacteria can take hold on the thawed, outer surfaces of a food item despite the fact that its center is frozen.

 

Rodents should never be thawed in microwaves used for your own food.  Thawing in a microwave reserved specifically for pet food is possible, assuming one can ascertain that the food item is completely thawed yet not partially cooked.

 

Rodents thawed under refrigeration can be re-frozen (if they have remained refrigerated).  Rodents thawed in cold water should not be re-frozen.

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. 

Fishing Spider: Habitat and Care

1234The largest true (“non-tarantula”) spiders that most folks in the USA will ever encounter, Fishing Spiders are at once fascinating and a bit intimidating. This is especially so for egg-guarding females, who may prefer to fight rather than flee when disturbed. I recently came across one such female below a dock, while accompanied by my 5 ½ year old nephew. Thanks to my long career as a zookeeper, the little guy has been up close to a huge array of animals since infancy, and especially favors spiders. After locating the spider, we swam out from beneath the dock to plan our capture strategy. Noting my sidekick’s smaller size, and the fact that he has handled snakes longer than himself, I suggested that he go back and collect it, as the area was cramped. “No way, man” was all he said!

 

But ferocious appearances aside, Fishing Spiders make great terrarium inhabitants. Due to their size and boldness, they are very easy to observe as they catch fish, walk on water and care for their eggs and young. I’ve never understood why more spider enthusiasts have not taken an interest in them… perhaps this article will change some minds!

 

Cameroon Fishing Spider with tadpole

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Howcheng

Tarantulas are not the only Vertebrate-Eating Spiders

Most folks know that large tarantulas sometimes catch small lizards and other vertebrates, but among the true spiders this strategy is relatively unstudied. A recent survey of the subject, published in the June 18, 2014 issue of Plos One (please see link to article, below) revealed that at least 18 species in 8 families feed upon fish. Despite being small and slightly built by tarantula standards, Fishing Spiders, aided by vertebrate-specific neurotoxic venom, can take prey that exceeds their own weight 5-fold.

 

North America is particularly rich in Fishing Spiders, most of which are classified in the family Pisauridae. Eleven family members are documented fish-catchers, and others may do so as well. Also known as Nursery Web Spiders, some live far from water and eat insects, while others move between aquatic and terrestrial habitats.

 

The Dark Fishing Spider

My favorite is the Dark Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus, which ranges from southern Canada west to North Dakota and south to Florida and Texas.Females measure over 1 inch in body-length, and their legs span 3+ inches. The grayish-brown body is marked with black, and the legs are banded, but individuals vary.

 

Fishing Spider with young

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Brummfuss

Maternal Care of Eggs and Young

Female Dark Fishing Spiders carry their egg cases, which may contain up to 1,400 eggs, suspended between the chelicerae (fangs), pedipalps, and spinnerets (large wolf spiders, which resemble fishing spiders, carry their eggs at the rear of the body, attached to the spinnerets).

 

Egg-guarding females that I collect in July often produce a second fertile egg case in September. Those I’ve kept near an east-facing window regularly basked in the morning sun with their egg cases, and then took shelter as temperatures rose.

 

At the end of the incubation period, the female constructs a web in which she suspends the egg mass…hence the alternate name, Nursery Web Spider. She stays with the hatchlings for awhile, defending them against predators. My females refused food at this time, but would rush out and “push” crickets that ventured near the web, and would strike at forceps placed in their vicinity.

 

Dark Fishing Spider eggs hatch from July to September. Outdoors, the young hibernate during the winter and become sexually-mature by the following May-June.

 

Hunting and Fishing

Fishing Spiders employ varied hunting techniques. Mine leap at moths, chase down crickets with blinding speed and, most amazing of all, snare guppies and minnows from beneath the water’s surface. In large, planted terrariums, most split their time between lying in ambush on bark slabs and “fishing” at the water’s edge.

 

Anecdotal reports suggest that some Fishing Spiders lure fish to the water’s surface by wiggling a leg in imitation of an insect. I don’t believe this has been definitely documented (please write in if you know otherwise), but the theory is a fascinating one. When hunting at the water’s edge, they anchor the rear 6 legs to a dock, plant or rock and keep the front legs on the water’s surface. Fish, tadpoles or insects that disturb the surface are instantly attacked, with the spiders moving out over the water for several inches if necessary. Flying insects that fall onto the water likely comprise the bulk of their diet in most habitats.

 

Along the Delaware River, I’ve also observed Fishing Spiders standing on the water’s surface, 1-2 feet from the shore, after dark. They are unaffected by a weak flashlight beam, and, much like over-sized water striders, quickly “skate” over to grab insects that I toss in their vicinity. They can also dive and swim below the surface, but I’ve yet to observe this personally.

 

Fishing Spider Care

Caution: Although Fishing Spiders are not considered to be dangerously venomous, they are fast and will not hesitate to bite.  We know little about spider venom, and the possibility of an allergic reaction must be considered….please do not touch any spider with bare hands. Be sure to check your spider’s location before opening the terrarium, as they are incredibly fast.

 

The Terrarium

Dark Fishing Spiders do fine in simple terrariums, but show themselves to their best advantage if provided plenty of space, live plants, upright cork bark slabs and a small pool of water. I use large battery jars or 5-10 gallon aquariums which have a water area created by attaching a panel of glass to the aquarium’s sides with silicone. Complex terrariums allow the spiders to show off their impressive hunting skills, which are most evident when they leaping at moths or flies and snaring fishes.

 

Male on water's surface

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Bryce McQuillan

Feeding

Fishing Spiders are quite voracious. Captive females have even been observed feeding upon dead fish, and a photo in the article linked below shows one grabbing a bait minnow from a miscast fishing line (I once accidentally hooked a hawk in Venezuela, but this is the only “fishing for a fishing spider” incident I know of!).

 

Along with guppies and minnows, I offer wild-caught moths, grubs, tree crickets, caterpillars and such when possible, saving crickets and waxworms for the cooler months (wild adults expire in September-October, but captives can live well into January). Hatchlings will take fruit flies, springtails and “meadow plankton”. Small frogs, tadpoles, dragonfly larvae and even slugs have been documented as part of their diet in the wild.

 

Light, Heat and Humidity

I keep my Dark Fishing Spider terrariums very moist, but others have done well in dry set-ups with a daily misting. Hatchlings desiccate easily, and so should be kept in humid enclosures. Normal room temperatures suit them well. I’ve also kept several related species that frequent upland habitats…all have proven to be interesting, hardy captives.

 

While they are not at all shy about feeding by day, Fishing Spiders really come into their own at night. A red reptile night bulb will be a great asset if you wish to observe them after dark.

 

Display, male Peacock Jumping Spider

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Jurgen Otto

Other Spiders in the Terrarium

Fishing Spider fans will also enjoy the Huntsman or Giant Crab Spider (Heteropoda venatoria), a large, aggressive Asian species that has become established in Florida (of course!) and elsewhere. Jumping, Crevice, Wolf, Crab and Orb-Weaving Spiders, along with countless (literally!) others, also make fascinating terrarium subjects. Please see the articles linked below for information on keeping other spiders, and be sure to post your own thoughts and experiences.

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

Jumping Spider Care

Collecting and Keeping Huntsman Spiders

Beyond Webs: Swimming, Spitting and other Spider Hunting Strategies

Plos One Fishing Spider Article

Chameleons as Pets: Breeding Senegal Chameleons

Flap necked Chameleon

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Lix

Female Senegal Chameleons (Chamaeleo senegalensis) often surprise their owners with eggs…indeed, they are among the most prolific of all lizards. Yet successful captive breeding presents us with many difficulties, and losses of both eggs and gravid (egg-bearing) females are all-too-common. This is a shame, because with proper care these fascinating creatures can provide one with a valuable introduction to chameleon care and breeding. Today we’ll examine the reasons behind most breeding failures, and look at some useful changes we can make to improve this sad situation.   Note:  Photo above is of a Flap-Necked Chameleon, formerly considered to be a subspecies of the Senegal.  Please click here for a photo of a Senegal Chameleon.

Tough Lizards that Burn Out Quickly

Senegal Chameleons live fast and die young, with 2-5 years being the average lifespan even for those receiving excellent care. Like most creatures with this lifestyle, they mature quickly and reproduce often. Female Senegal Chameleons can breed at the tender age of 6 months, and even with a less-than-ideal diet can produce 2-3 clutches of 15-75 eggs each year.   Senegals are also quite durable – in the short term – and often feed well and develop eggs even when stressed by collection from the wild and substandard care. This leads to a false sense of security among novice owners, and, in time to frustration, as the new lizard feeds, develops eggs, then then dies along with her clutch.

The Problem

The root of many breeding failures lies in the fact that Senegal Chameleon collection is simpler and cheaper than captive reproduction. Because they breed so prolifically, wild-caught females are usually carrying eggs in some stage of development. Collection and shipment is hard on chameleons, which by nature are stress-prone, and all the more so where gravid females are concerned.   In addition, misconceptions as to their care abound. Many keepers fail to appreciate just how much living space and privacy these (and all) chameleons need, and the necessity of providing a proper nest site. While most understand the need for calcium supplementation and UVB exposure, captive diets still typically lack appropriate variety, and the importance of an adequate water supply is often over-looked.

Katydid (favorite chameleon food)

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Vishalsh521

Studies have shown that Senegal Chameleons choose prey in accordance with their nutritional needs, and that other species regulate basking time (under UVB) in tune with their circulating Vitamin D level. This is important research that bears directly on our ability to keep and breed this fascinating lizard…please see the articles linked below, and post any related questions you may have.

Introducing Potential Mates

Although female Senegal Chameleons can reproduce at 6 months of age, pets should be at least 1 year old before being introduced to a male. At younger ages, they are still adding bone mass, which requires ample calcium intake. Egg production presents an additional calcium drain, increasing the likelihood of metabolic bone disease.   Female Senegal Chameleons are generally as territorial as are males, and will attack a potential mate if they are not ready to breed. Always introduce a male by placing his cage near that of the female, and drape a semi-transparent cloth between the cages as an extra stress-inhibitor. Females in good health will show their intentions right away – threatening the male if not receptive but refraining from attack mode if willing to breed. Receptive females will also exhibit color changes and an enlarged or bulging cloaca.   If your female is not ready, relocate the male’s cage to another room and try at a later date. Captive conditions change the normal ebb and flow of reptile hormones, so it’s best to try at various times during the year.

Mating and the Gestation Period

If the female appears ready to mate, allow the male to move into her cage on his own, as handling may stress the animals and forestall breeding. Copulation can last for 1-2 hours, during which time both will likely show some color changes. Remove the male as soon as they have copulated, as the female will likely attack him shortly thereafter.   Female Senegal Chameleons typically lay eggs within 70-90 days after mating. However, much longer and shorter gestation periods have been reported. The confusion may arise from the fact that captive diets, light cycles and such can affect the time it takes for the eggs to mature. Bear in mind also that a single mating can result in numerous fertile clutches, and that unmated females frequently lay (infertile) eggs. To be safe, always have a suitable nesting site available to all females (please see below).   t4291

Common Concerns: Low Calcium and Dehydration

Gravid females have extremely high calcium requirements. A calcium-poor diet will cause metabolic bone disease, a condition wherein calcium is leached from the bones and replaced with fibrous tissue. Calcium also assists in producing the strong muscle contractions needed to expel eggs from the body. Calcium deficient females will retain their eggs (a condition known as dystocia) and will eventually expire from infections (egg peritonitis) or related problems. I favor ZooMed calcium supplements, and always nutrient load feeder insects unless they are wild-caught; please see the article linked below for more on calcium supplementation and diet.   Females fed a high calcium diet may nevertheless retain eggs if they are dehydrated. Senegal Chameleons rarely drink from water bowls, and the water volume they take in when the terrarium is sprayed is often insufficient. Water dripped from a punctured contained set atop the terrarium is more likely to meet their needs. You’ll need to place a container below the drip cup in order to catch excess water. A reptile humidifier will also assist in keeping your chameleon properly hydrated.

The Nest Site

As mentioned, female Senegal Chameleons should always have access to a nesting site. Most will not release their eggs unless provided a suitable place in which to dig a nest chamber. A plastic bin or storage container measuring 18” x 18’ x 18” works well. Some individuals will use smaller containers, but a depth of at least 12” is essential.   The nest box should be filled with a mix of sand and top soil or coconut husk. The substrate should be kept slightly moist…just enough so that it clumps a bit when squeezed. If too dry, the female’s egg tunnel will collapse as it is being dug, and she will abandon the site. The terrarium walls near the site should be covered with cloth or a similar material, and the cage itself should be located in an undisturbed part of the house. The terrarium’s regular basking bulb, or an additional one, should be used to warm the nesting area.   t248523

Incubating the Eggs

Senegal Chameleon eggs have been successfully incubated at temperatures ranging from 72 to 80 F. At 77 F, they typically hatch in 6 months. A high-quality reptile egg incubator is the surest means of assuring a successful hatch.   The eggs can be set-up in vermiculite at a water-substrate ratio of 1:1 by weight. Even for mathematically-impaired individuals such as I, this is easy to accomplish – please see this article for a simple explanation.

Termite (food for baby chameleons)

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Esculapio

Baby Chameleons!

Newly-hatched chameleons present a unique set of challenges, especially when it comes to providing a healthful, varied diet. Please see this article on feeding tiny reptiles and amphibians, and those linked below, for more info.

 

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

Senegal Chameleons: Common Health Problems  Senegal Chameleon Diet Study  The Best Foods for Chameleons The Best Reptile Egg Incubator

Pet Frogs and Toads: Five Points to Consider Before Buying

Budgett's Frog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Rosarinagazo

We amphibian enthusiasts are a lucky bunch. The world is populated by 6,389 frog and toad species, and new ones are discovered regularly. Among them we find frogs that have sheathed claws, lack lungs and defend their young from lions, along with toads that breed in salt marshes and bear live young. Some tadpoles feed upon their fathers’ skins, while others munch bark from tree branches…and that’s the mere tip of the iceberg! Frogs may be hardy survivors that can reach age 20, 30 or even 50, or be nearly impossible to keep alive in captivity. The following points, drawn from a lifetime of working with frogs and toads in the Bronx Zoo and at home, are useful to consider before embarking on your amphibian-keeping venture.

 

Note: The terms “frog” and “toad” do not always correspond with taxonomic relationships. All toads may be correctly called “frogs”. I’ll use “frogs” when referring to both.

 

Pine Barren's Treefrog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Lonerockalex

Please post below if you have specific questions, or would like a link to an article on a certain species.

 

Pet Frogs are “Hands-Off”

Cane Toads, White’s Treefrogs and many others are often very responsive to their owners, and will readily feed from the hand (or, for the “tooth” bearing African Bullfrog and Horned Frogs, from tongs!). However, they should be picked-up only when necessary, and then with wet hands. All amphibians have extremely delicate skin, and even microscopic tears will allow harmful bacteria to enter and cause havoc. Also, the skin’s mucus covering, which has anti-microbial properties, is easily removed even during gentle handling.

 

Well-cared-for frogs will reward you by exhibiting fascinating behaviors…but not if you disturb or injure them with unnecessary handling!

 

Blue Poison Frog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Wildfeuer,

Frogs Need Clean Terrariums and Excellent Water Quality

An African Bullfrog can eat baby cobras, survive 9 months without food and live for over 50 years. Yet 2-3 days of soaking in a fouled water bowl can end its live.

 

Frogs absorb water through the skin, and along with that water comes any associated pollutants. The most common of these is ammonia, which is excreted with the waste products. Most frogs are as or even more delicate than tropical fishes, since they absorb water over a greater surface area; ammonia test kits, partial water changes and strong filtration are critical to success in keeping them. Substrate needs the same attention as does water, since Horned Frogs and other land-dwellers can be poisoned by ammonia-soaked moss or soil.

 

Snowy tree cricket

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by PaulT

Frogs Need a Highly-Varied Diet

No frog will thrive long-term on a diet comprised solely of crickets and mealworms, even if these foods are powdered with supplements. I’ve done well by relying heavily upon wild-caught invertebrates during the warmer months.  Moths, beetles, grasshoppers, tree crickets, harvestmen, earwigs, “smooth” caterpillars and a variety of others are accepted – usually far more enthusiastically than are crickets!. Please see these articles for tips on collecting insects.

 

Useful invertebrates that you can buy include earthworms, roaches, butterworms, calciworms, silkworms, hornworms and sow bugs.  Feeders should be provided a healthful diet before use.  Canned grasshoppers, snails, and silkworms may be offered via feeding tongs. Please see the article linked below for further information on dietary variety.

 

Frogs are Easily Stressed…but it’s Hard to Tell

Stress is one of the most important and misunderstood concepts in herp husbandry. While some frogs will leap away when threatened, many instinctively freeze. Inexperienced owners often misinterpret the lack of vigorous protest as an “acceptance” of handling. However, be assured that your pet’s stress hormones are surging, and that this will have a deleterious effect on its immune system.

 

Being relatively inactive, many frogs may seem blissfully unaware of terrarium size, or of what is going on outside their enclosures. However, most are quite alert, and miss nothing. It may be difficult for us to detect a problem merely by observing our pets’ behaviors.

 

Certain species, such as White’s Treefrogs, American or Southern Toads, and African Clawed Frogs, are better-suited to busy households than are most.

 

Indian Bullfrog

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Amada44

The “It Doesn’t Do Anything” Factor

Ideally, the new frog owner will be interested in her or his pet for its own sake. But most of us also wish to see how it lives, what it does, and so on. Many frogs are about as active as the infamous “pet rock”…and are nocturnal to boot!

 

If you favor an active pet, consider a small diurnal species that forages for rather than ambushes its food, and keep it in a large, naturalistic terrarium. Five Blue Dart Poison Frogs (active hunters) in a well-planted 30 gallon tank will provide you with infinitely more to observe than will an Argentine Horned Frog (ambush predator) kept in the same-sized enclosure. African Clawed and Dwarf African Clawed Frogs also tend to be quite active, especially if housed in planted aquariums and not over-fed. Allowing sow bugs, springtails and other food species to become established in the terrarium will encourage activity.

 

Some species that tend to be active at night may adjust to daytime schedules once they settle into to their new homes. American Toads and their relatives are especially accommodating in this regards. Others, such as Green and Gold Bell Frogs, American Bullfrogs and Leopard Frogs, are ready and willing to feed round-the-clock. Red night-viewing bulbs will greatly increase your ability to observe Red-Eyed Treefrogs, Spadefoot Toads and other strictly nocturnal species.

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

 

Nutritious Diets for Frogs and Toads

Toad Care: Common and Unusual Species

 

 

Savu Python Care: Keeping One of the World’s Smallest Pythons

Savu Python

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by TomVickers

Pythons are highly valued by snake enthusiasts, but most become too large for the average household, and cannot be safely handled by young or inexperienced keepers. But in the early 1990’s a “big python in a small package” appeared in the pet trade, and its popularity has since soared. Averaging only 3 ½ to 4 ½ feet in length, the Save or White-Eyed Python (Liasis savuensis) is beautifully iridescent and calm in demeanor. And, with a natural range that spans a mere 60 square miles, this interesting snake is also important from a conservation perspective.

 

Classification

The Savu Python was first described in 1956, at which time it was classified as a one of three subspecies of the Macklot’s Python. Today, there is disagreement as to its species status, and many herpetologists continue to list it as Liasis mackloti savuensis.

 

Savu Python Description

The Savu Python’s outstanding features include brilliant iridescence and its noticeably-white eyes. Hatchlings are reddish-brown to rich orange in color. They undergo a radical color change with maturity, by which time most are dark brown and bear rusty-orange spots on the belly and sides. Some adults, however, are nearly black in coloration, while the scales of others retain an orange tinge.  Few adults exceed 5 feet in length, with most topping out at 3.5 – 4.5 feet; only 3-4 of the world’s 40 python species are as small.

 

Range and Habitat

The Savu Python is found only on the 10 mile x 6 mile Indonesian island of Sawu (also known as Savu), off Australia’s northwestern coast. It has the smallest natural range of any python.

 

Liasis mackloti savuensis

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by TimVickers

Although this snake’s natural history has not been well-studied, reports indicate that it is a habitat generalist. Savu Pythons have been found in wooded grasslands, palm thickets, thorn scrub, and along the ocean shore.

 

The Terrarium

Hatchlings may be started-off in 10 gallon aquariums. Adults can be accommodated in a 30-55 gallon aquarium. Screen tops must be secured with clips and a hide box should always be available.

 

Substrate

Newspapers and washable terrarium liners may be used as a substrate. As some keepers have reported that Savu Pythons seem prone to mouth irritations and infections, those kept on cypress chips http://bitly.com/Plr8BA or similar substrates are best moved to bare-bottomed enclosures at feeding time.

 

Light

Pythons do not require UVB light, but may benefit from the provision of a UVA bulb.

 

Heat

The ambient temperature should range from 75-84 F. Incandescent bulbs can be used to create a basking site of 90 F. Ceramic heaters or red/black reptile “night bulbs” may be employed to provide heat after dark. If needed, under-tank heaters http://bitly.com/SRpr5g can be used to further warm the basking surface.

 

Provide your snake 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.

 

Feeding

Little is known about the diet of wild Savu Pythons, but they likely prey upon small mammals and, perhaps, ground-dwelling birds and lizards. Small food items, such as mice or rat pups, are preferable to large, even for adults. Except for females being readied for b breeding and growing youngsters, Savu Pythons are best fed every 14 days.

 

Water should always be available. Bowls should be filled to a point where they will not overflow when the snake curls up within.

 

Temperament

Savu Pythons are typically calm in disposition, and generally tolerate gentle handling. Like all snakes, however, care must be exercised when working around them.

 

Breeding

Breeding activity is stimulated by a 2-3 month period of reduced temperatures (72 F by night, 82-85 F by day) initiated in late autumn. Clutches generally contain 5-10 eggs, which may be incubated in moist vermiculite at 88-90 F for 55-65 days. Hatchlings average 11-14 inches in length.

 

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

 

Python Eats Crocodile: Giant Snake Meals

 

Green Tree Python Care and Natural History

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