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1st Home... comes with bonus snake...

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Posted by byplanehover on October 16, 2002 at 02:20:53:

Hello, :-)

My name is Scott. Every since I was in grade school I have been interested in all kinds of animals. I am now almost 30 years old. I grew up in Miami, and we had a huge tree in our front yard. When I was in Jr. High School, I built a nice sized tree house where I kept lots of different animals. I had mice and rats (which I bred as feeders). I remember I had a Snapping Turtle named "Mort" for a really long time. There are also a lot of Cuban Anoles in Miami, and I used to catch so many of those every Summer. I worked in a pet shop as well. I bought several Tarantulas from the pet shop where I worked. I also caught a scorpion one time on a trip to the Everglades. All of a sudden one day, there were a bunch of tiny scorpions on it's back. :-)

One time I had about four of them, and one day, I noticed a couple of eggs in the cage. One didn't make it, but the other one survived. I kept it in a cage by itself, and apparently, I must have done it right because one day, there was a five inch newborn Anole in the cage. It developed so many problems. For a while there, I didn't know if it would make it. First, it's head would contort terribly every time it bit something, and it also had something wrong with it's back for a long time, and was unable to use it's hind legs. But, it made it through both of those dilemmas, and became a healthy Anole that had more than doubled it's size, and had full use of it's hind legs.

All good things come to an end, and my tree top zoo was no exception. The tree was toppled in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. In May of 1995, I moved to Las Vegas by myself, and at no time since then have I kept an animal, or pet of any kind. I had decided that I would enjoy whatever animals I see when I see them without giving in to the urge I always used to have as a kid to capture everything I saw. Instead, I would occasionally take pictures to remind myself of encounters, and let the animal stay free, while at the same time keeping myself free of the responsibility of taking care of a captured animal.

This year, in June, I finally began a search to buy my first house. In late July, we had it narrowed down, and made a decision to buy a brand new house in a cul-de-sac, in a community where construction of new houses is still underway on the very next street. My girlfriend and I made frequent trips to visit our future new home while they were getting it ready to "close". On July 15, on one of our regular trips to look at the house, my girlfriend started freaking out. I couldn't figure out right away why she was freaking out, but eventually, I thought I heard the word snake, so I began looking on the ground for a snake, but I saw nothing where she was pointing. Eventually, she told me it was on the wall... Well, I hadn't thought to look there, but I knew it was harmless even before I saw it as soon as she told me it was on the wall..., in the middle of the day..., in Summer, no less???

So, I looked up at the wall, and there she was; a 2+1/2 foot climbing constrictor, that to the best of my knowledge turns out to be a juvenile, female, Great Basin Gopher Snake. They aren't even really indigenous to this area, according to the field guide... Without hesitation, I went right over to the snake, and plucked it carefully off of the wall. She never showed any sign of aggression, and was not very nervous at all. I let her wrap herself around my hand, and we went on about our business that day of looking over the house with the snake seemingly comfortable clinging on to my left hand, without moving around very much.

Until that day, I was unaware of my girlfriend's irrational fear of snakes. It took her more than a few minutes to settle down, and relax. She wasn't very happy at first that I walked around inside the house with the snake, but by the time we were ready to leave she wasn't that uncomfortable any more, as long as I didn't get too close to her with it. I had no intentions of keeping the snake, so I made I suitable hiding place for her from some large rocks I found laying around (our back yard, and courtyard was devoid of landscaping). After making the hiding place, I walked around a little, and then set her free close to the rocks. We watched her climb into the hiding spot, and poke her head back out just enough to see us looking at her, then we left.

We went by the office to return the key that we had borrowed, and we got into a conversation about the snake with the sales lady who we had been working with. When we left the office, I remember having this feeling that there was no way that snake would survive for very long. By now, my girlfriend actually shared my concern for the well-being of the snake, and we decided that we would go back and see if we could find her. She had already left the rocks, and was making her way along the wall to our front yard, and presumably, back to wherever the landscaping is that she came into town with.

Although she was more nervous this time, and she tried to crawl away, I picked her up again, and we found this neat little box to put her in, that we actually still have, and she still tends to crawl right in there when she is held near the opening (thus escaping from me to a hiding place). I remember that we had to go to DMV that day, and when I tried to bring the snake in with me, the security guard freaked out saying "no way you're bringing that in here"...

That night, we went to Home Depot, and bought what was needed to build a suitable enclosure for our new adoption. Several days later, it was all finished up, and our new addition had a new home that is more than 31" tall, 18+" wide at the front, 24" wide at the back, 14" deep, and irregularly shaped. It is essentially made from a piece of 15" shelve board, with a glass front, a screen lid with screen, and the back side of the cage is pegboard. I bought a halogen kitchen light which is on a timer that controls both the light, and a small ventilation fan. There is a heat rock in there with a dimmer added on the wire so that it stays just about 110 degrees Fahrenheit, rather than getting up to over 130 or more. The rocks outside in the afternoon are about 160, but I don't think that snakes tend to lay around on rocks around here at noon. I would think they might be on a rock in the early morning or something...

I have tried to do everything to make the cage feel as comfortable, and as least stressful as possible for her; and thus, we don't get to see her all the time. We only get to see her when she feels like coming out of hiding while peeking at her from a distance. I have had to rearrange her several times, and I always try to give her plenty of places to hide, as well as plenty of things for her to climb around on when she does come out. The base of her cage is covered with a natural blend of soil, and bark chips that don't have any fertilizer, or pesticides... I have already had to remove an insect colony once though, when I moved her upstairs.

We are so pleased to see that she is doing so well, and that she looks so healthy. However, I have come home a couple of times in the evening, and found her shoving her snout into one of the holes in the pegboard and repeatedly trying to open the hole up by pushing on it while going from side to side until she finally slips while pushing hard to one side, then she would start over on the same exact hole. I couldn't stand to watch anymore, and I had to let her see me, then she stopped, and went to hide. I rearranged the cage shortly after that.

I have been wanting to build her a larger enclosure, and I hope that I will be able to do that within a few months, or at least sometime before next Summer. I want it to be roughly 6+1/2 feet tall, by more than 5 feet wide, and at least 2 feet deep. I hope to be able to make it appear like less of a cage to her by having more stuff inside to make the walls less obvious. I want there to be at least one good sized fake tree in there, and lot's of things to climb, as well as ledges, and cliffs... Time will tell if that is another one of those many projects that I dream up that never get done; I have thought of a lifetime's worth of unfinished projects, but that's a whole other story.

Anyhow, she appears to be growing fast. She has already shed twice (in 2 + 1/2 months!!!) without any problems, and she is eating very regularly. I feed her full grown live white mice, and she finishes them fast. There was one time that we gave her two mice at one time, and when she finished the second one, she appeared to be looking for a third! :-)

Sometimes, we get only one, and sometimes we get two. We feed her every week, except when it becomes obvious that she will shed soon, and at that time, it is also obvious that she won't be looking for anything to eat. We only go get mice when we see her out of hiding. She tends to wander around a little in the early morning, and does a lot of climbing around in the late evenings. After she goes into hiding after a meal, we typically don't see her until at least 2-3 days later.

Now being that we like to see a show when we feed her, I have been placing the mice as high up in the cage as possible, because otherwise, she tends to poke out of her hiding spot just enough to grab the mouse, and drag it back into her hiding spot before she starts constricting. A couple of times when she did this, it took her more than just a few seconds to drag it back to where she was hiding. One time, I didn't know she was in her small pot, and she grabbed it, and brought it into this tiny pot, and every time she does this, it sounds like more of a struggle when she gets it in the pot.

Just recently, we put two mice in there while she was hiding, and sat back and watched with the video camera in hand. As usual, it didn't take very long before we could see that she "smelled a rat".., sort of. The mice were really moving around a lot this time, when usually, they just tend to sit in one spot, or even fall asleep, before getting struck at. But this time, they were both lively, although luckily, they were both staying high up in the cage. Now I don't know why, or how, this happened but at the moment that the snake ended up striking, both of the mice were together, and she got a two for one!!!, and it's all on tape. She took a while to arrange the coils in such a way as to constrict both of them, but when she started to unwrap, both of them were hanging from her mouth until she dropped them! However, not all of the footage of her actually swallowing them on this particular occasion was not that great because when she dropped them, they fell under some rocks where it was hard to film her eating.

We are already collecting a lot of good video and pictures of her. I have posted at least one or two photos of her so far, and I am sure that I will soon be posting as many as my free acount will allow.


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