Guest Author - Peyton Creadick
Changing From Live to Dead Prey:
The easiest first attempt is to put the thawed or freshly killed prey item in with the snake (it is often recommended to remove the snake and feed it elsewhere so it does not learn to associate hands with food) and wiggle the mouse using a stick, tongs, or some other tool. If this fails, make the snake hungry. Let the snake fast for a few weeks and try again. If all else fails, try scenting the prey. You can cut hair from a living preferred prey item and place it on the pre-killed prey item or rub the pre-killed prey item against the live prey item.
Weighing Your Snake:
Take a bag or container and place it on the scale to determine its weight. Place the snake inside the bag or container and place the container on the scale. Once youíve obtained the weight, subtract the previously measure weight of the container and write the snakeís weight in a journal or notebook for reference.
How do you tell if your snake is fat? Itís not that difficult. Most likely, he or she wonít be able to make a tight S shape. Normal snakes can curl very tightly. You may also see the skin between the scales on a constant basis (similar to when the snake is freshly fed).
How do you help a snake lose weight? The best way is to switch the snake to smaller prey items and then feed your snake less often. Never feed multiple prey items at one feeding. This feeding method actually contributes to weight problems.
Donít worry. It happens, especially in the winter. Make sure the cage temperature is right for your particular snake species, that hiding areas are appropriate (snakes like just enough space to coil and feel at least two sides of the hide box), and the snake is comfortable. If youíre very concerned or the snake has never fed for you, take a fecal sample to the vet for testing to rule out parasites just to be on the safe side.
If the snake continues to fast for more than a month or the snake is lethargic, losing weight, or the stool is runny and/or smells bad, get a fecal sample to the vet right away. The snake may have parasites causing trouble.
If the snake has never fed for you, call the previous owner/breeder to verify when it last ate and what it prefers. Some snakes, like wild caught ball pythons, will starve to death waiting for their prey of choice.
If itís a hatchling, did the breeder wait through the first shed and feed it before selling it to you? This is a great question to ask when BUYING a hatchling. They should already be well started in prey before a quality breeder parts with them.
Donít force-feed a snake unless itís a life or death situation. Such practices stress and snake significantly and can hasten/magnify illness.
Snakes with Rare Food Preferences or Feeding Issues:
There are a number of snakes with preferences for prey other than rodents. Wild caught animals are often the most difficult. When in doubt, try these optionsÖ.
Ball Pythons: Gerbils or hamsters. If desperate, try a lizard. If the animal is wild caught, try gerbils first. If gerbils fail, a variety of rodents, birds, frogs, or lizards (remember the prey size rules). Most likely, you will need to feed the animal live prey at first. Getting it to eat regularly is the most important issue. Once itís eating, try to switch it to pre-killed prey.
Tree Boas and Pythons (favorites of mine): Birds or lizards. They may readily take mammals, but they often prefer birds and lizards.
Racers, Vine Snakes, Coachwhips: lizards are a favorite. Chicks are also a favorite but preference is given to those of ground-nesting birds. Young ones may prefer insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, and roaches. Many racers will also take small snakes, salamanders, and earthworms.
Indigo snakes and king snakes: Snakes, and lizards. Indigos also love frogs. They usually will take rodents as well, but when all else fails, try smaller snakes and lizards.
Garter, Ribbon, and Water Snakes: These prefer water-dwelling prey like fish, frogs, salamanders, toads, earthworms, slugs, carrion, or other mice with frog or fish mucous rubbed into the fur. It must SMELL like a preferred prey item. This technique often works for ball pythons as well.
Brown Snakes and their relatives: Salamanders, earthworms, very small snakes and lizards.
Remember, if youíre purchasing a snake choose a captive bred snake and make sure itís feeding!.