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Posted by Colchicine on April 18, 2003 at 20:18:42:
In Reply to: On the contrary posted by A.C. on April 18, 2003 at 19:58:13:
Without a necropsy I will remain completely and totally convinced that mice are not the cause of deaths in eastern hognoses. I cannot say that any plainer. You can make claims that your collection has suffered because of using mice but those claims are unsubstantiated without scientific evidence.
Here is a copy of an e-mail I exchanged with a lead zoo keeper of the Philadelphia Zoo, who has studied under Kevin Wright. I asked him his opinion on the amphibian and hognoses issue in this is what he gave me.
As for the amphibian food issue here are a few fact to add to the mess,
1) freezing will eliminate the majority of parasite species that can affect the snakes however this will not affect viruses. Some viruses like iridioviruses and rana viruses can cross the species boundary and cause high mortality in reptiles as well as amphibians.
2) not all snakes will readily start on the "chosen" food item and may require scenting of the "chosen" food item to get the animal to begin to feed. There is a cost/benefit that needs to be looked at with these snakes in regard to the stress caused the animal by shoving a food item down their throat until the accept it as opposed to scenting a food item or offering the "normal" food item. Some snakes do very poorly on an force fed artificial diet such as baby king cobras and scarlet snakes but others like most lampropeltis and elaphe will readily switch over to the new diet.
3) There are "weedy" species that are doing very well in the disturbed habitat offered them by people. Species such as green frogs and bull frogs are often present in great numbers even in very disturbed habitat. Using these species will not affect the numbers to any great extent and the tadpoles can often be purchased from fish stores (who get them from the fish farms) and used without impacting wild populations.
4) Any collected specimens can be "extended" by pureeing the animal (after a humane euthanasia (probably by pithing), thinning with water and freezing the resulting mixture to scent food items. If the puree is frozen in amount of several tablespoons than the minimal amount to accomplish the task can be thawed for use.
5) Often once the animal develops a strong feeding reaction the snake can be more easily switched to the new or unscented food items. However this can take awhile.
Personally, I weigh it on a case by case basis, and how likely the animal is to die from the stress as opposed to beginning to feed on the new food item. I switched an eastern coral snake to unscented pinkies at work and the animal went on to set the longevity record for the species on exhibit (12 years I think, need to check Slavens). I didn't need to force feed the coral snake as it had a great feeding reaction, it would try to eat your tweezers when you spot cleaned the cage. I rubbed the pinks with frozen garter snake, stuck a piece of tail in the pinks mouth and the snake ate the pinks. I slowly decreased the amount of scenting and the snake went on to eat unscented pinks. We have a king cobra that has been eating rodent for almost 8 years now and I switched this animal back in the day when people believed that feeding rodents to kings would kill them as they are snake eaters and can't handle the red meat and fur (It is the longest living king in captivity).
The ubiquitous idea that hognoses cannot handle the sudden change to mice, or the fur is total bunk as you can see. Why would hognoses be more susceptible to fatty liver disease above king snakes, cobras, and coral snakes? The fact is there isn't a difference and there isn't any reason to use amphibians as feeders.