History, Maintenance, Management, and Breeding of Large Scale Colubrid Snake Collections in the USA
By Robert Applegate
P.O. Box 338
Campo, CA  91906
(619) 478-5123
Email:  applesnake@juno.com

The history of reptile keeping post 1960.  I want to make perfectly clear that what I am about to relate to you is how I saw the reptile business as an active participant.  This is my interpretation of what I saw and did.  I am sure there are other ideas and interpretations just as valid as mine.

In the 1960's the main focus of reptile keeping was just to be able to exhibit and keep specimens alive.  most zoos didn't keep pairs, or even know how to determine the sex of their captive.  Very little captive breeding was done, and most that was done was accidental in nature.  Just hatching a surprise clutch of eggs was an event.   many sincere reptile people emphasized education of the public in the strange and beneficial ways of the reptiles.  There was no real reason to support captive breeding.  Replacement specimens were cheap and readily available.  You could buy Russell's Vipers ($2.00), Sand Boas ($1.50-2.00) and cobras ($2.00) from Mr. Balasubraminium in Madras, India;  or African Rock pythons ($6.00), Jacksons Chameleons (.90), Mambas ($8.00), and Pancake Tortoise ($5.00) from Mr. Leakey of Kenya, Africa;  or Solomon Island Ground Boas ($6.00), Solomon Island Skinks ($14.00) or Monitors (V. indicus $10.00) from the Solomon Islands, in quantities, very cheaply, and with no substantial cost for shipping, and no legal problems.  In many cases it would have been cheaper to replace specimens periodically than it would cost to feed specimens well.  However, most keepers cared for their animals and did the best they could to keep them healthy.

Many of us "basement dealers" (sold specimens for profit, but did not have a regular business, operated out of our homes) got our start collecting local animals for our own private collection.  As we developed and wanted to expand our collection we would locate reptiles keepers in other geographic areas (usually by placing or reading an advertisement in the many herpetological society newsletters) and trade our local specimens for more "exotic" specimens.  Often we would offer a large quantity of reptiles to an established dealer for a few reptiles of foreign origin.   Soon we were collecting, importing, and selling large numbers of reptiles.   For a time I was making more money on these "part time hobby" than I was on my regular job.  The money was easy.  There was no problem, there were just a few of us, lots of animals, and many large open spaces in which to collect.  The "Good Ol Days!!"

As the population grew, the demand for specimens grew, and the open habitat shrunk.   Soon prices started to rise, and competition for available specimens got fierce.   Governments became alarmed at the situation ad started passing protective laws.   Supplies of wild caught animals became less and less and prices continued to rise.   many of us, tempted by the money, continued to collect, often illegally.  Over the years, to the present day, there have been many arrests made and smuggling operations broken up, both on the national, and international areas.  The price supports for captive breeding were now in place, but there was no real expertise available in the area.

In the late 1970's, frustrated with most of my exporter country markets being legally closed to me, and my USA collecting opportunities severely restricted, I decided to try my hand at captive breeding.  The first thing I had to do was try to find knowledge about what I wanted to do.  Fortunately for me, I was introduced to some of the real pioneers in the captive breeding field. The ones that come to mind resided in the states of Arizona and Washington.  They had also decided to try captive breeding, and had been at it a few years before I decided to try my hand.  They had some successes, and fortunately for me, they were willing to share their new found knowledge with me.  I will always be grateful to those unnamed individuals (I should give them credit, but is was so long ago that I am afraid I would leave someone out) and I feel an obligation to pass this information, plus what I have learned since, on to others.

I decided to concentrate my efforts on Colubrid snakes.  Some of what I wanted were able to be purchased from the previously mentioned friends.  Acquiring what I wanted to work with proved challenging. I went to Arizona for Lampropeltis pyromelana and L. getulus splendida, my home state of California for Lampropeltis g. californiae, L. zonata, Lichanura (a non Colubrid slipped in!) and Pituophis (later laws were passed in Calif. that prohibited native reptiles being bred in captivity for commercial purposes, so I had to part with breeding colonies of each before I was arrested), and Texas for Lampropeltis mexicana alterna, L. triangulum annulata, and L. t. celaenops, and Elaphe subocularis.  I also went to Mexico in an attempt to capture many of the other species I now have, but with problems with the language, corrupt officials, permits, bandits and drug related incidents, "Bad American" image (earned in many cases), poor and dangerous driving conditions, facilities, lack of good drinking water, and biting insects,  later decided to purchase the specimens I wanted from more adventurous souls that braved the above mentioned conditions.

Before we get into the "how to" section, let me make a point I believe.   It is OK to make money.  I talk to many who tell me "I only want to sell enough to buy additional animals, pay for food, etc." almost apologetically, as if there is something wrong with taking money for raising animals.  Get away from that line of thought.  On my business card I have a series of words all arranged in a circle, and all being equal to each other.

boblogo.bmp (40602 bytes)
"captive propogation = conservation = habitat preservation = pleasure = profit"

If what you do can stand on its own merits, and you make a lot of money, you earned it, you deserve it, so stand up and be proud!!  I hatch and sell a lot of snakes, I am proud of it!  This reduced the demand on wild populations and habitat destruction, I am proud of it!  I have seen many of my friends/customers do the same thing and be able to buy things for their family or themselves that they probably would not have been able to do without the snakes, I am proud of that!  I make a good extra income, that makes my very happy.  The reptile business has allowed me the luxury to travel and meet many great people, for that I am thankful.  The opportunities at this time seem boundless.  A local surfer phrase best sums all this up "Go for it!!"

Selecting the species and subspecies you want to work with.  There are a few considerations that are obvious.  The animals must be available, you can't have what isn't there.  The species must be within your affordable price range and you must have a reasonable expectation of meeting the food, cage, and captive environmental requirements of the chosen species.  These general requirements are fairly well known for many species, and lessor known for others.  If we agree the successful satisfaction of these requirements will result in the health, long life span, and reproduction of the species, we will have a measurable standard to work with.  I fully realize that there are, and will be, many different versions of what constitutes the successful maintenance of a species in captivity, but I want to stay within a simple concept.

The food requirement is an important consideration.  Can we provide acceptable or preferred food items of correct nutrition and size for our chosen species from juvenile to adult?  Many species have very specific demands in this area.   Some food items, such as other reptiles and amphibians are available, but are vector animals for parasites or disease.  If you have a lot of time to devote to each individual animal, you may choose to work with some of the species whose food requirements are lessor known, or more demanding, but I prefer the species that can and will feed on various sized of rodents their entire lives.  Rodents can be raised or are normally readily available, and the benefits are obvious.  For this presentation I am assuming our choice species are known rodent eaters, but some of the general information presented can be applied to other non-rodent eating species.

Even though we know our species is a rodent eater, some individuals will be "picky" feeders.  Lets start with baby snakes.  We must provide them with the proper environment (temperature, hiding places, water, etc.).  Proper environment will be covered elsewhere.  Also, remember some species are nocturnal, so try these presented "tricks of the trade" both day and night.  We now have a baby snake of a known to be rodent eating species that won't voluntarily feed.   Only one snake to a cage.  Be sure to offer small food items (that won't leave a large lump if swallowed), and don't expect much success if the snake is soon to shed.   Unless the condition of the snake is very poor, it would probably be best to wait until after the shed.  Leave the food items for several hours.

Step 1:  Most babies will feed on live newborn mice (pinkies).  Place a live pinkie in the opening to the snakes favorite hiding place.   If uneaten, remove it and replace with a fresh killed one.
Step 2:  As if washing your hands, wash a pinkie in soap and water (plain, not perfumed soap), rinse well, dry, and place it in the hiding place opening, or actually inside the hiding place.  The washing removes some of the "domestic mouse" scent.  Try a live, then dead pinkie.
Step 3:  Get a feed lizard and rub it all over the pinkie, prepared as in Steps 1+2.  You may have to cut a small piece of the lizards tail off, rub the blood around the face of the pinkie, and put a piece of the tail in the pinkies mouth.   Some species of rodent eating snakes will accept a pinkie that has been "scented" with frog.  Try leaving offered living prey with the snake over night.
Step 4:  Kill a pinkie, cut open the top of the head, mush the brain material around, then place the pinkie in the hiding place.  This grisly technique works surprisingly often.  If the snake won't stay in the hiding place with the prey, put both into a small escape proof container.
Step 5:  At this point if the snake still hasn't fed, offer it any natural food item you think it might accept, just to get a meal into it.  With harmless species, offer the food item (small lizard, snake, tree frog, baby wild mouse, cricket, etc.) by hand first.  If the snake will accept food from your hand,later it will be easier to offer two food items at the same time, then cause the snake to "miss" its target of the preferred food item and take the pinkie next to it.   Always leave a pinkie in the cage after the snake has accepted a different food item.  Often the snake will follow the first meal with the pinkie.

Usually a snake will have fed before we reach this point, and once it has eaten, it is usually pretty easy to reverse the steps to get it to accept plain pinkies.   If it has not eaten yet, heavily mist the cage with a fog water spray to raise the humidity and try the steps again.  Don't keep the snake in the wet cage for more than a few days, and be sure the cage is warm.  Sometimes a plastic refrigerator food storage container in the cage, filled with damp moss, with a small entrance hole on top, as a hiding place, encourages a feed response when a pinkie is dropped inside with the snake.  Some snakes react badly to long term contact with damp moss, so it isn't recommended that the moss container becomes permanent.  The rare problem may show up as the snake being unable to shed, "premature" shed which leaves the skin sticky, or as skin blisters.

If your snake hasn't fed voluntarily, and its condition is deteriorating (some snakes go 4-6 weeks out of the egg before they need to feed) you may have to force feed.  Kill a pinkie and gently stick the head inside the snakes mouth, using the nose of the pinkie (or other small dull object) to open the snakes mouth.  When the pinkie's head is inside the snakes mouth, gently apply pressure to the outside of the upper and lower jaws of the snake with your fingers and gently pull outward on the pinkie.   This will stick the pinkie on the snakes teeth and make it more difficult for it to be spat out.  Wait until the snake isn't struggling and gently put it down in the cage and don't move a muscle.  you my have to repeat this several times, but often the snake will give up resisting and swallow the pinkie.  If this fails, and you don't have a "pinky-pump," start the pinkie the same way, then gently shove the pinkie down the snakes throat using a very dull object.  Gently massage the pinkie down approximately 1/4 the snakes body length.  If you have several problem feeders, don't have suitable size food items, or don't have the time to "play" with feeding problems, there are "pinkie-pumps" available.  They are expensive (but pay for themselves if you save one valuable snake) and can be used to force feed baby snakes assembly line style and keep them alive and growing until they will accept pinkies on their own, or they grow large enough to accept larger food items.

Most snake I hatch will feed readily on pinkies from the start (yes, that was my original criteria for working with the species), so the "tricks" won't be necessary, but you should have an idea of what to try if a snake won't feed.  Some baby snakes, particularly some hatched late in the season will not accept pinkies regularly until the following Spring.  I usually try to feed several lizards to the snake (yes this can transmit parasites you may have to deal with later), then hibernate it until the following Spring.  Usually the headaches aren't worth the effort, to work with one of these problem snakes over the Winter.  Snakes lose very little weight when hibernating at a proper temperature, and if it has some body reserves, it will be fine the following Spring.  Usually with Spring comes an appetite and a much better chance for success.

One suitable sized (large enough to leave a small lump in the snake) meal per week will give a good growth rate.  My records indicate you can't over feed a baby snake (by frequency, not size of meal -- Avoid large meals)..  My snakes often eat and grow in spurts.  When it will accept the meals I feed a baby snake as much as it will take.   I have had male snake breeding and fertilizing eggs at 9 months of age.  I have had one female that laid two clutches of eggs, all of which hatched, before she was two years old.  On the other hand I have had some that took 4 years before they produced anything.  If you have a baby snake that will accept frequent meals, have fun and grow your snake.  If it regurgitates more than once in succession, sometimes removing the water a few days before feeding, and not replacing it for several days will end this problem.  If it continues a visit to your veterinarian is in order.  Except this last year, as an experiment, I have never added vitamin supplements on a regular basis, and have had very good success in raising snakes, breeding snakes, and maintaining snakes to a fairly old age.  The short term vitamin experiment (1 year) yielded no visible improvement, and it is too soon to say if there are any long term improvements.

Over the years I have tried many cage systems in which to raise baby snakes.  many different types have worked well.  I try to keep baby snakes in a cage by themselves, have fresh water available at all times (except temporarily when these is a medication or regurgitation problem), have a secure hiding place, and temperature variation within the cage so the snake can move by choice to a warmer or cooler area.   If you are going to work with large numbers of baby snakes, keeping it of a simple design is a must.  Something you can clean and see to the needs of each baby snake quickly.

I prefer the "rack" of plastic shoeboxes concept.  I have two racks of shoeboxes, each that hold 160 shoeboxes (plastic storage containers measuring 3.5" x 7" x 12").  I prefer the boxes with the clear lids.  It facilitates care when you can see down through the top before you open it.  Each rack is built with spacing between the shelves that when a shoebox is put on a shelf, the upper shelf above holds the lid in place.  There are several 1/8" holes drilled in the sides and ends of each shoebox for ventilation.  For heat there are grooves or channels cut lengthwise in the upper surface of each shelf that will be under a row of shoeboxes, about 4" from the rear of the 11" wide shelves.  Heat tape (Wrap-On Products) is installed flush with the top in these channels.  The rack end pieces are drilled out to allow the heat tape to drop down and hear a second shelf.   Each heat tape covers two shelves (20 shoeboxes) and is wired to a light dimmer (rheostat), then through a master room temperature thermostat (set at 82).  The shelves are then covered with sheet metal for heat dispersal and fire safety.  This set up gives you quite a bit of control, and gives the snakes a warm area above the heat tape.  The snakes can move forward to the 1" area sticking out in the room (easy for you to get hold of to pull out also) for cooler temperatures, to the rear for warmth.   If all the snakes are always in the front, the cage is too hot, turn the dimmer down.  You individually control the boxes in lots of 20, so some can be warmer or cooler, as you desire.  With the master thermostat, if the room heats up, the tapes will turn off, but not until the room reaches a nice safe 82.

Inside each shoebox is a substrate if 1/4" hardwood chips.  A folded piece of paper serves as a hiding place, and a small plastic container with a 1" hole cut in the top serves as a water dish.  The water container is wider than the inside height of the shoebox, so it can't be overturned.  The small hole in the top reduces the amount of evaporation and promotes a drier interior in the shoebox.

On top of each shoebox lid is a taped on record card.  On this card is recorded periodic weights, all sheds and when observed as opaque.  When you see an opaque snake, record it.  If it doesn't shed soon after it clears up, this will alert you to the problem, and you may have to soak the snake to help it shed.  Baby snakes dehydrate quickly, and this "alert" will save you many snakes you could easily lose to shed problems if you were to wait until they looked dried and wrinkled.  I usually put problem shedding snakes into the cage water dish with a small amount of water.   I replace the lid with one that has only small ventilation holes, and leave the snake soak for a few hours to over night.  If the skin hasn't come off by then, I try to remove it by hand.  I also record all feedings, regurgitations, sex, "acquisition data" (parents, who purchased from, date of hatch, etc.), identifying marks, and an assigned number.  Later on the reverse side I record all breeding, egg laying, clutch data, and any other problems or observation worthy of note.   This card, or a continuation card will accompany every snake I have for its entire career here.

If the snake will accept 1-2 meals per week through its first Winter, depending on the species, it will usually outgrow the shoebox in 6-12 months.

In addition to the shoebox racks, I also have a rack of 24 sweater boxes.   These are larger versions of the shoeboxes (about double the floor space) and can be used as a half way house after the shoeboxes, but before the "breeding colony" room cages.  They can and are also used for a quarantine station.   All new snakes go through a quarantine of varying times before they are added to my adult colony.  This rack is set up as are the shoebox racks, except on a larger scale.

Unless our snake that outgrows the shoebox gets put into the sweater box, it is moved directly into one of the breeding rooms cages.  These breeding cages are the drawer type.  They are glass fronted wood construction with a double floor space, including the inside of the drawer.  The individual cage units measure 24" deep by 18" wide.  The drawers are slightly narrower, about 3.5" in height, and only 20" deep.  The 4" space behind the drawer, and under the rear floor of the upper cage provides an airspace through which a heat tape is passed.  This allows thermoregulation in the drawer and cage as described for the shoeboxes.  Each row of ages has its own heat tape, and they are controlled essentially as described for the shoeboxes.  The lights are 4' powertwist (ballasts removed and installed in a remote location to avoid hot spots) installed above the 1/8" mesh covered openings on top of the cages.  The lights are on timers and also connected to a room temperature thermostat. (A second rooms cages have no individual lights, and no light cycle, and they breed well there also.)  The "hole" to the drawer is a raised 1.5" PVC pipe.  It extends 3/4" above the floor to prevent all the sand from the upper level from dropping into the drawer.  The substrate is #20 white silica sand, with a hide box and water crock in the upper compartment.  normally there are two snakes kept in each cage.  I have 81 cages of this and similar design.  Continue to feed these growing snakes as often as you can.  With any luck at all, by November of the snakes second year they will be of young adult size and ready for the breeding cycle.

At approximately November 1, after not feeding the snakes for two weeks, I shut all heat and lights off in the rooms (some light comes in through covered exterior windows) and allow the room temperatures to drop.  I have installed small fans on timers to blow cold air into each room for 3 hours each night.  California Winters are mild and the average temperatures in the rooms are between 48F and 63F until March 1, when I turn the heat and lights back on.  During the Winter I visit the rooms once every two weeks, check each snake, clean the cage, and change the water.  During this "hibernation" period I may keep as many as 6 snakes in each cage (only one male).  When I start feeding in March (as soon as they will accept a meal) I divide them up where there are two snakes per cage.  During feeding I can isolate one in the drawer and one in the upper cage by capping or plugging the PVC pipe opening, for safe feeding.

Spring is a very important time for you to determine if you will have a good or poor season.  Feed your snakes frequent meals, all they will eat (still no large size individual morsels).  The conditioning of the snakes here will play a major role in later clutch successes.  When the snakes get older, don't feed so much they get fat.  You want a good solid heavy bodied snake, not a soft obese one.   I usually have more females then male, so when I keep two snakes per cage, some will be pairs, and some will be two females.  Some species will mate before their first meal, many will mate before their first shed (for many of my snakes, their first shed of the season is their "pre-egg laying" shed).  I feel it is important to be sure all females are with a male at least one day per week.  Sometimes there are several females in a cage with one male, temporarily, but I always put them back into their cages for feeding, two at a time.  When you have lost a prized snake to another in a fight over a food item when you "just were gone for a minute" to answer the phone, you will understand why I elaborate on this point of feeding safely.

I try to determine when a female is receptive to a male by several methods.  I feel for follicles, put freshly shed individuals together, introduce different males, and review past breeding histories.  Different species have different general patterns, but there are always exceptions to any apparent rules.   Look for general patterns but be on the alert for the individual that behaves contrary to the pattern.

I want to see an actual mating.  I try to determine who both parents are, so I can sell unrelated offspring.  Sometimes to induce a mating I have to separate and reintroduce, combat males, warm water mist, or just deliberately disturb them (I have had many cage mates copulate immediately after I moved them around while cleaning the cage!).  If I see snakes copulating, I record it.  After they separate (some species are together minutes, others hours) I obtain a semen sample from the female (a gentle pressure above the vent), put it on a slide and look at it at 200x on my microscope.  If the sperm is seen swimming rapidly, and in good numbers, I consider this a "good" mating.  If I don't see any sperm I introduce a second male.   I record all observed events.  If the first male was "good" I try for a second "insurance" mating a week or so later, with the same male.

Unobserved matings:  The breeding history is not easy to keep accurate, considering that on some species the normal time of copulation is less than 10 minutes, can occur day or night, and females can retain sperm.  The silica sane is of major importance here.  I do a complete cage cleaning and substrate change every Winter.  In the Spring the sand is its cleanest and I continually sift out the feces to keep it that way.  When a male removes his hemipenes from the female, some of the seminal fluid will drop to the sand.  The fairly mucous fluid is somewhat opaque.  It dries with sand stuck to it.  I all these dried "blobs" plugs.  As I clean the cages I watch for these plugs.  When I suspect the I've found one I take all the females in the cage and, one by one, gently squeeze a small among of fluid from their vents, onto a microscope slide.  If the fluid is too thick it can be thinned with saline solution.  If I find sperm in any of the samples, it is recorded on both the male and females card.  In "contaminated females" you may also find parasites, but this is not a substitute for a good fecal exam.  In a controlled test I was able to find live sperm up to one week after an observed mating by this method.  There are many variables and this can not always be depended upon, however.

As previously stated, all matings, sperm found, etc., are recorded on the back of each individual snakes record card.  With large numbers of snakes, you can imagine how much time could be spent reviewing cards to figure out which snakes have mated.  To ease this problem, above each wall of cages, I have a diagram of the cages.  In each cage opening on the diagram I put the initials of the Genus, species, and subspecies, then a o (male) or n (female) sign, with the specifically assigned specimen collection number.  When I confirm a "good mating," I circle the female sign and put a check h below the responsible male sign.  With this diagram, at a glance I can tell which snakes still need to be worked with for a confirmed mating.  When the time comes to work for second or third clutches, I will circle the female sign a second and third time, when confirmed matings occur.  I only circle once, for each clutch, even if there are multiple matings.

If the mating proves to be successful, the female snakes will start to swell in the rear third of her body.  Exactly when the follicles become fertilized is difficult to determine, but for the colubrid species I am working with approximately 30-40 days after mating, the female will shed her skin.  This is known as the "pre-egg laying" shed.  The time interval between this shed and the egg laying is normally very consistent for each species and subspecies (usually within 1 day).  The actual time will vary from 6-14 days, depending on the subspecies.  When there is a significant deviation from the normal time interval, it usually means problems with the eggs and/or female.  When my females shed the "pre-egg laying" shed, I remove all cage mates and supply a damp moss filled container with an access hole for the egg laying.  You guessed it!!  I have a chart on the wall for this also.   At a glance I can tell which cages have snakes due for the "pre-egg laying" shed, and which are due to lay eggs, which have already laid eggs, and how many eggs were laid.  If the female will accept, feed her small frequent meals the entire cycle, even when she is opaque, and even right up to the day she is due to lay (this is the secret for double and triple clutches, conditioning the females).  When the eggs are laid, the clutch is weighed, the female is weighed, and the information is recorded.  The female (id she is still in good condition) is fed a few small meals (over 2-3 days) then put back with males for further breeding.  I can't over stress the need for frequent small meals for the female.

After the eggs are weighed they are placed in an appropriate sized shallow open top container, containing 1" of vermiculite (damp, water added until the "wet" is seen on the surface of the vermiculite).  This container and 5-8 more, are "floated" in 1" of water inside larger shallow plastic storage containers, with a lid, but with small ventilation holes in all sides, above the water line.  These boxes are stacked inside a home made incubator, with an interior temperature set at 80-82F.  Once every two weeks the incubator is opened and any needed water is added to the vermiculite and the plastic boxes, and any bad eggs are removed if it is safe to do so.  I make no effort to separate the eggs of a clutch (unless breaking them up will allow me to put them in a smaller container, space is at a premium) from each other.  Usually a bad egg "sweats" and discolors, and can easily be removed from a clutch, but I have had eggs in the center of a clutch rot in place and the surrounding eggs hatched just fine.  With over 700 eggs in the incubator, it smells better if the bad eggs are removed, but don't ruin good eggs prizing "stuck" bad eggs out of a clutch.

The species I work with should hatch in 55-75 days.  There are Colubrids with shorter and longer incubation times.  If all the neonates in a clutch haven't slit through the shell within 3-4 days after the first of the clutch has been slit, I use a sharp small pair of scissors and make a 1" cut on the upper most surface of any unslit eggs.  Never force a neonate out, even it stays there for days.   Keep it warm and damp and allow it to emerge on its own, or you risk rupturing blood vessels that aren't ready for separation.  The neonates are counted and sexed and that information, along with the hatch date(s) is recorded on the female parents card.   From then on each neonate has its own record card and no further information about the neonates is recorded on the parents card.

It has often been stated that it is better to purchase neonates from first clutches, as they are larger and do better.  Yes and no would be my comment on this.   Yes it is better, but no they are not necessarily larger and don't necessarily do better.  The advantage is time.  With the earlier clutches you have more time to feed your snake, and a better chance to have it reach adult size in time to be cycled for breeding in its second Winter.  If you can't get first clutch animals, second or third clutch animals will have a better chance of being larger and a better chance of producing more for you than if you have to wait for the next seasons first hatchlings.

I don't want to get too involved with medications.  I am not a veterinarian, and there is so much new information constantly becoming available, that I don't feel qualified to make recommendations.  With the permission of Dr. Richard Funk, DVM, I have included his paper handout on medications as an addendum for your information.  All I want to say on disease and parasites is that unless I feel whatever it is will lead to a problem, I ignore it.  Don't "fix" what isn't broken.  It has been my experience that if you have to treat an animal for disease it is usually lost for that seasons breeding.  Please consult with your veterinarian and see him or her before the snake is about done for, so he or she will have enough time to have a fair chance to save it.  If you have some wild caught animals in your collection, and you want to clean them up and rid them of internal parasites before they spread, also consult your veterinarian for the latest "technology" available.

Today there are many restrictive laws on the books.  Today there are many private captive breeders with the expertise and knowledge to save threatened species through captive management.  The public institutions can't accommodate all the needy species.  We the private breeders of reptiles, need to prove and demonstrate our worth to the lawmakers and institutions.  We need their help in obtaining the required permits, and the actual specimens.  Because of many things, including the over restrictive laws and illegal activities, there are walls between us.  We need to work together to remove these walls for the benefit of all, especially our reptile friends.

Below is a listing of snakes I am currently working with, followed by the largest first, second, and third egg clutches for the year.  All the eggs may not have hatched, the record size clutches may not have been laid by the same female (i.e. the largest first and second may have been laid by different females), and these are from my recent records and are not presented as the maximum number for the species.  Some records come from a single female, others from dozens.

SNAKE

1st

2nd

3rd

Lampropeltis m. mexicana 14 7 ..
          ..           ..  alterna 16 10 ..
          ..           ..  thayeri 14 12 ..
          ..           ..  greeri 12 11 ..
          ..  triangulum abnorma 7 6 ..
          ..           ..         hondurensis 13 8 ..
          ..           ..         sinaloae 14 9 ..
          ..           ..         nelsoni 10 4 ..
          ..           ..         annulata 11 9 .
          ..           ..         campbelli 12 12 9
          ..  getulus californiae 15 12 ..
          ..           ..  negritis 13 10 ..
          ..           ..  holbrooki 17 15 ..
          ..  ruthveni 11 10 ..
          ..  c. calligaster 18 14 ..
          ..  pyromelana 7 4 ..
Elaphe o. obsoleta 21 11 ..
    ..      g. guttata 23 Yes, ?# ..
Pituophis m. annectans 14 12 ..

Generally speaking, when the snakes reach their largest size while in their "prime," they lay more and larger clutches.  They young and ages lay fewer and smaller clutches.

Originally published in REPTILES: proceedings of the 1988 U.K. Herpetological Societies symposium on captive breeding. pp 5-15.

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