Saturday, March 6, 2010

Coastal Plains Milk Snake

Species: Lampropeltis, triangulum temporalis
Size: 24 to 30 inches
Nature: Gentle
Experience Level: Intermediate

The coastal plains milk snake is a brightly colored and much sought after species. They range from southern New Jersey to northeast North Carolina and true to their name inhabit coastal areas where they frequent escarpments surrounding bodies of water and flood plains.

Coastal plains milks are believed to be a remnant population of the red milk snake (L.t. syspila) from a time when condition allowed eastward expansion of that subspecies. At the northern and southern extremes of their expansion these pioneers likely integrated with eastern milk snakes and scarlet king snakes respectively explaining the geographic variations we see today.

I currently work with hypomelanistic coastals. The gene for this form originated from Calvert County MD. While some maintain this as a locality line I found that the stock, as I received it, had severe fecundity issues. Hypo coastals have been around for the better part of 2 decades and I believe poor fecundity is the prime reason why they remain uncommon in collections. In responce to this problem I outbred my original hypos into stock derived from other localities. After several generations of out crossing, fecundity issues have been resolved and across the collection egg fertility and hatch rate is very near 100%. I can still provide lineage information and locality data on my parent stock however, these remain generic coastals. Locality data I provide, should only be used as a predictor of the possible outcomes from subsequent breedings.

Captive maintenance for this form is no different from that of other colubrids however coastals do benefit when given multiple hides that provide a wide range of temperature and humidity conditions.

Neonates can be difficult to get started but once they begin taking mice they make hardy pets. I only sell neonates after they have been firmly established on frozen/thawed pink mice!

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Bairds Rat Snakes

Species: Elaphe bairdi
Size: 36" to 48"
Nature: Gentle
Experience Level: Beginner

The Baird's rat is a resident of the forested uplands and rocky wooded canyons of South Central Texas and Northern Mexico. Because of the remoteness of its habitat, it is among the least studied of the North American rat snakes. In the wild, it is probably an opportunistic feeder taking its share of lizards, bird eggs and young as well as rodents. It is named for Spencer F. Baird who was an administrator of the Smithsonian Institute during the nineteenth century.

Juveniles are colored quite differently from adults and are light gray with about 45 narrow crossbars and lateral spots of a darker gray. As the snake matures, the juvenile pattern gives way to four longitudinal stripes, two on the dorsum and one on each flank. Remnants of the juvenile pattern may remain slightly discernible in some adults. Adult coloration can be highly variable. While some forms are essentially drab gray snakes others have interstitial skin richly suffused with yellow or salmon. Scales are weakly-keeled and are a light bluish gray. The scales of specimens in good condition typically exhibit a satin-like sheen.

My adult Baird's rat snakes originate from animals collected from Val Verde County in West TX by Terry Vendeventer. The original stock has since been out crossed to an unrelated line aquired from Sean Niland whose line originated from a single gravid female collected near Bakers Crossing also Val Verde County.

Animals from the western portion of the range tend to have lighter coloration than more eastern populations. While is it a matter of preference, the more subtle coloration of western animals intrigue me. The light bluish-gray ground color and salmon and yellow highlights just seem to invoke remembrance of their southwestern habitat.

The caging requirements of this species are no different from that of other colubrids. Since they tend to be active and showy snakes, they will benefit when provided with a little extra room and some branches for climbing. The average Baird's reaches about four feet in length and is among the most docile of snakes. Captive maintenance of the Baird's rat snake should offer no problems for the beginning enthusiast. At the same time, this often overlooked rat snake can provide the more advanced keeper a pleasant diversion from its more commonly-kept relatives. Adults do well on a diet of appropriately-sized mice. Neonates (baby snakes) readily feed on pink mice and grow rapidly.

Because of its size, nature and ease of care, the Baird's rat snake makes an interesting subject for captive maintenance. Captive-propagation has made this species readily available though numbers may be limited. Select animals that are alert and have good body weight. If you follow these few steps, and provide for your new snake's basic needs, it should provide you with years of enjoyment and interesting observations.

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