As the 2017 breeding season is officially closed, the next one is just around the corner. Nearly ten months have passed since my last blog post and I blame that on several things; the online WordPress not allowing me to save anything, moving from South Carolina to West Texas, starting a new job and all that learning a new city/job/church/neighbors entails. Since so much time has passed, here is a brief update on what is going on now as well as how this year turned out.
I started this year with a lot of excitement. The Philippine Mangrove Snakes (B. d. latifasciata) had locked up several times under supervision (I was terrified one might try to eat the other.) My understanding is that my pair may be the oldest pair in North America and therefore the only pair of breeding age. The thought of producing Boiga for the first time and B. latifasciata at that! really got me excited and took the sting out of my Rough Scaled Pythons ignoring each other and not breeding yet again.
The female’s behavior was textbook, indicating she was gravid. I could feel follicles, she was hugging the heat, she began to refuse food after being ravenous for weeks and she would shake her tail and flee from the male when I paired them up-completely different behavior than the previous pairings when they would inspect each other and she would calmly let him lock up with her. After what would be her pre-lay shed, she passed a couple very small infertile eggs. I wasn’t discouraged and busied myself with preparing the incubator for the good eggs that certainly would be forthcoming… But no. She passed a few more very small unfertiles over the course of the next couple weeks and started behaving less gravid and more hungry. When she began to eat again I knew we had missed it.
I don’t know what happened but I assume not having access to a hot enough hotspot might be one contributing factor for her not going through with the clutch. I have a strip of 11 inch heat tape going down the center of the back of the enclosure that she can rest against however, in hindsight maybe that wasn’t enough.
Since then, I have fed her heavily and tried to pair them up a few times since with the female freaking out each time. I hope I’ll have more success in the spring.
The Rough Scaled Pythons did nothing. I tried putting old sheds from the male I’d been saving all year to encourage the male to do something. I even added a younger male and hoped it would be enough for either one of them to court the female but I didn’t see any indication of courtship or breeding behavior. I’ve decided on keeping the pair together year-round in hopes that the male will not be intimidated by the female come breeding season. I’ve also began to feed them both much less during the hottest months of summer and then I am really ramping up the feeding now in August and September for the female while keeping the male on a maintenance diet of a small rat about once or twice a month. In previous years, I fed the female very heavily in October as she would hunt more than any other month. But, I didn’t let her dictate when to stop feeding, I arbitrarily cut her off at the end of October in preparation of the cooldown. This year I am letting her decide when she is done eating. I will continue to feed her heavily until she goes off food, hopefully indicating an ovulation on the horizon. A larger hot spot is something else I am going to provide. In years past, there may have been competition over the hot spot in the enclosure causing some stress and/or less follicular development. In order to mitigate that possibility, I am going to offer a large enough hotspot so that both snakes can bask independently of each other. Here is hoping for little bumpy babies in 2018!
The Stimson’s Pythons took the year off and I gave special attention to my holdbacks to get them breeding ready for 2018. I hope they go this coming season and I know if they do, they will produce some amazing offspring. I held back a handful that showed very little pattern and lots of blonde background. I’m excited to see what happens with that project.
The Black Milksnake group experienced a setback as I had to put down one of my breeding females. She had a chronic condition and I had to make the decision. With her gone I had one clutch of milksnakes from Big Momma this year. They hatched perfectly and they surprised me-like they do every year-at how beautiful they are when they hatch. Those colors are something to behold! I picked up an adult female this summer which will be added to the breeding group, and a female from the very first litter I ever had will be up to size for 2019. I get a lot of inquiries about Black Milksnakes and I hope to be able to provide several clutches of them each year. What I love about them over say, Rhino Ratsnakes is how simple they are. They usually start eating right away, they are affordable, they aren’t so small you need to keep them in a 6 qt tub their first year and they change color right before your eyes! It’s like each time you look at them they are already a shade darker.
Speaking of Rhino Ratsnakes, I broke my previous record of 22 hatchlings in a year with 27! Celadon, Emerald and Shamrock all laid this year. This was Shamrock’s first clutch ever and She did very well, even though she chose to lay eggs under her water bowl instead of in the lay box. But that’s much better than inside the water bowl so I will take it! I also changed all the enclosures to a planted, “bioactive” style and I love it! Pothos plants are basically indestructible and I chose them to be the major player in each enclosure. I also have Creeping Fig (Ficus pumilio) which I think will work very well once it gets established. Other plants have been added that haven’t fared so well, those are Bird’s Nest Fern, Weeping Fig and Scheflerra. The biggest benefit of going with the planted cages is that they are beautiful to look at. I love how the plants and lights draw your eye in to search for the inhabitants. The maintenance is a little better in that the plants and springtails help to break up the animal waste, but I also have to water the plants so I wouldn’t call it maintenance free. I might hook up a misting system I have lying around to make it easier.
Those are all the clutches I had for the year. I really thought the Cave Dwelling Ratsnakes would go as I saw multiple locks from both females, but they didn’t. Weird. Again I wonder if access to a hotspot might have helped? I keep them at the ambient temperature of the room which is 70-84. I passed that project on to another breeder so I can focus on what I have already.
I have really enjoyed working with the Boiga species. The adults are very easy to care for and handle, while the young melanota and cynodon still require assist feeding. Once they make the switch and eat on their own, they are going to be even better!
The coming breeding season could be huge! The potential is there for Rhinos, Black Milksnakes, Stimson’s and Rough Scaled Pythons, Green Catsnakes, Philippine Mangrove Snakes, more Annulated Tree Boas and perhaps Tiger Ratsnakes! But the most exciting announcement is my wife and I are having a baby girl this October! It’s going to be great. I cannot wait to pass along an appreciation for nature and wildlife like my dad gave me. Maybe I’ll even get her a pink snake hook!