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Posted by mike z on April 19, 2003 at 23:28:18:
I've debated this topic here many times and similar topics on the garter forum, various lists and even among tropical marine fish keepers [diet substitution, not specifically mice or frogs]. It's an interesting topic and one which seem to reach deep into the emotional depths of the keepers.
Taken in the bigger picture, there does seem to be ample anecdotal info supporting the claim that dietary specialists can live and thrive on substituted diets. This is probably mostly true ONLY when absolute best husbandry is provided including dietary supplements and a stress free environment. It is also probably only true with certain individuals of any given species.
Conversly, if poor husbandry and a high stress level are factors, or the animal is unusually high strung or ill adapted to captivity [as is sometimes seen with older adult wild caught animals] the animal will fail to thrive.
There is no excuse for poor husbandry and yet poor husbandry generates endless excuses. It must have been parasites, fatty liver, hair balls, rana virus, toad toxin, sun spots, El Nino Yada Yada. Wow! If the animals have so much trouble with these things in captivity, how the heck have they been able to survive in nature these past million years or more?
This is where I have to come in on the side of the frog faction. It seems utterly illogical and kinda silly to be lectured and preached to about the evils of feeding an animal something that hundreds of thousands of years of Natural Selection has caused it to become a specialist in. Hognose don't eat toads because they can't catch mice! There's got to be SOME good reason they became specialists. If parasites were such a big problem for amphibian specialists, they would have changed their diet or gone extinct a very long time ago. Yet look how many amphibian specialist there are in the animal kingdom. Everything from birds to bats and lotsa snakes!
When we talk about stress levels, we have to acknowledge that captivity for a wild animal is ALWAYS stressful to some extent. The poster below from the zoo made a very good point about acclimating an animal until a strong captive feeding response is developed. Here too I must cast my vote with the amphibian crowd. In order to help an animal adapt to captivity, what better way than to provide its natural diet?
The only other anti-amphbian argument I take seriously is conservation. I would be absolutely, whole heartedly against using any vulnerable, threatened, uncommon amphibians for feeders. When I collect feeder frogs I never take wood frogs. I have no scientific proof, but after 30+ years of field observations, I feel there are less wood frogs than there used to be. So I don't take them. Conversly, I have observed that there are MORE green frogs and bull frogs than there used to be. Those I take without guilt.
I would be equally adamently against large scale commercial harvest of amphbians for feeders. On the other hand, my limited take as an idividual can not possibly harm a healthy population. My entire take for the year is less than one house cat would kill in the same period. Therefore, by raising both my cats as indoor cats only, I've more than balanced out the loss. [Side note: Anybody who preaches Conservation and keeps outdoor house cats is a hypocrite.]
Enough for now. My intention was simply to express why I personally choose to give my hognose a natural diet. These are the things I believe and they make good sense. That's enough for me. I don't give a rat's a$$ about fatty liver or hair balls.