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Posted by glenn bartley on January 20, 2003 at 22:12:18:
In Reply to: Just curious Glenn.... posted by Chance on January 20, 2003 at 11:03:21:
"Anyway, I was just curious why you think it is essential to get a rodent eater in order to get the best first. "
Did I say it was essential. Nope not me, I did not imply even that. Just so you know, I am pretty direct in what I say, and don’t usually intend to speak or write by way of implication. Here is what I said: “The really small snakes are usually insect or bug eaters. These snakes are not usually considered among the best choices for beginners in the herp hobby. The best snakes are usually found among the rodent eaters.”
I do not think it essential to get a rodent eater as the beginner's first snake, but I do believe many of them better for the beginner to start with than most of the insect/bug/fish/amphibian/bird/egg and so on eaters. On a rating scale of: Excellent/Very Good/Good/Fair/Poor/Abominable - I think the snakes that can be rated as excellent choices for a beginner all pretty much are rodent eaters. Of the snakes I find that rate Very Good there are a very limited number that eat other than rodents, such as fish or earthworms or insects. Of those, that would rate good, there are more in the category of non-rodent eaters and so on down the line. There are many reasons for my believing as I do. I will expound on a few:
1) Rodents are much easier to procure and to keep than are insects, bugs, or other creepy crawlers (worms, millipedes, scorpions, crayfish, etc.). Sure you can go to a local pet shop and buy lots of crickets or wax worms to feed a Smooth Green Snake for example, but I tend to doubt that a cricket diet would be sufficient in the long run to be the staple food of a snake. This is especially true when you look at the crickets available in pet shops and look at how they are kept. Most on not fed to well and in pretty dirty enclosures. Once you get those crickets, you have to keep them alive until you feed them to the snake. Now you need another container, and cricket food. Have you ever tried to freeze crickets to feed to a snake at a later date. It does not work out to well; try it, don’t take my word on it. Cricket care, then, is an added burden for all; and just one more thing to help discourage a BEGINNER. Rodents can be bought frozen, in all sizes, and in many species. You can easily acquire frozen rats, House Mice, Deer Mice, Guinea Pigs, and so forth. If you buy a rodent eater, that is already eating thawed rodents, it just makes it so much easier. Sure it is not that much harder to keep a cricket colony for an experienced keeper, but for a BEGINNER it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
2) Most rodent eaters need to be fed less often than do insect or fish eaters (I use insect or fish eaters because these would most likely be the types of snakes most often kept other than those that eat rodents, such as Garters, Water Snakes, Green Snakes, and so on). Less feedings required, equates to less poop, and less cleaning. Again, easier for the beginner. It also has been my experience that fish eaters are more likely to acquire parasites from the food items they eat. There is also the problem of vitamin B (is it B12) deficiencies due to Thiaminase with fish eaters. Sure this is not too difficult to overcome, but why burden a new comer with anything more than necessary to worry about. Finally fish and insect eaters tend to have somewhat more smelly feces than do rodent eaters; well the fish eaters do anyhow.
3) Rodent eating snakes are quite popular, and therefor many of the available species are captive bred. Insect/bug eaters and fish eaters are not as popular. Sometimes they are available as captive bred, but more often than not, they seem to be available as wild caught. Sure a beginner could keep a wild caught snake, but captive bred specimens are less likely to harbor parasites and many diseases and therefor are easier to keep.
I am on a roll here but I just had my weekly ‘night before I return to work shot and a beer’, and may loose my train of thought soon.....
4) Most of the readily available insect eaters that I have ever dealt with are apparently more nervous species (generally) than are the rodent eaters that I would recommend as a beginner’s snake. This is also true of many of the fish eaters.
5) Many beginners depend upon mom and dad to help with the care of the snake. In these cases all of the above are especially true and are multiplied by a factor of at least 10.
6) Most of the hobby is based upon keeping rodent eaters, and therefor most of the available literature is centered on the keeping of rodent eaters. This just makes it easier to find info on their care. Sure you can find articles here and there on other types of snakes, especially Garter Snakes, but I would gladly debate anyone on the merits of a Garter Snake of any species (even those that eat rodents) to a choice I would consider to be an excellent one from among the constrictors that eat rodents. Hint – see Steven Grenard’s book Medical Herpetology. Garters are not bad, but certainly not among the excellent choices for a beginner.
7) Did In discuss the expense of food items. I think rodent eaters win hands down, especially when buying frozen feeders in lots of 50 or more. This even goes for a cricket eater like a Green Snake. They eat so darned many crickets in a week as to make them more expensive to feed than a rodent eater that eats one large mouse per week. Heck, a large frozen mouse goes for about .40 to .50 cents apiece in bulk. Crickets are .10 each at a pet shop, and those snakes sure eat more than one per week – a lot more. Now don’t say you can buy em cheaper in bulk, because as I said earlier, that means setting up a cricket colony – just another added responsibility.
8) Many of the insect eaters are smaller snakes. It is easier for these guys to squeeze out of enclosures than it is for a somewhat larger snake (yes I know even the big ones escape – just ask my wife about the 5 ˝ foot plus Gopher Snake lost in our house because if it gets our mini Dachshund – well then I am dead meat).
9)Oh, about going to the back yard to collect insects or worms - you have to be very careful about that. Many can be contaminated with pesticides. While pesticides may not kill the snake they may effect breeding in a negative manner. Some may also kill the snakes. There are some commong garden pesticides that have warnings on the label saying not to use them near any reptiles.
10) KISS – yes I said KISS. It is a time honored principle. Keep It Simple Stupid! It just makes things easier. (No I am not saying you are stupid.)
Those are just my feelings on the subject based on lots of experience with rodent eaters, and non-rodent eaters. It is not imperative that a beginner start with a rodent eater. I know some people who would not think of feeding a cute, furry, cuddly mouse to a snake – but who would not hesitate to feed a slimy fish or a cricket to a snake. For them I would make certain recommendations about insect/bug/fish eaters, but I would first recommend a rodent eater and thawed rodents.
Wow was that long! Now I need another beer, and then it is slumber land for me. Goodnight.