It happened again. This time a park ranger brought us a headless baby rabbit. “I thought your snakes would like to eat this,” she said, cuddling the lifeless remains in her hands. “The cat here loves to capture baby rabbits and decapitate them.”
Some of our friends have caught mice in their RVs and laid them on our doorstep as a donation to our critters. Others have asked if we trap the rodents we feed our snakes or if we raise them ourselves. In reality, we do neither. We purchase farm-raised mice from breeders.
Not only can wild mice can carry a variety of parasites that can adversely affect or even kill a snake, they can also be saturated with pesticides. We order frozen mice in a variety of sizes that are clean and free of poisons, and we store them in our freezer.
When it’s time to feed, Chuck withdraws the proper sizes and number of mice for each snake and thaws them thoroughly. He then clamps a long-handled hemostat just above the tail of a mouse and extends it toward a snake, all the while wiggling the deceased body to make it appear alive.
“Snakes aren’t that smart,” says Chuck. “They prefer live food, and they will strike at the movement.” In this way, they can be be convinced to eat their food dead.
The benefits of feeding caged animals dead food are several. In a zoo situation, most visitors do not like to watch a live furry animal being consumed by a “nasty” reptile. More importantly, if a snake is not hungry, it will decline the offering. A live mouse running around a confined area will likely nibble on the snake, injuring the animal and possibly killing it.
In our situation, traveling in our RV, frozen mice packed into part of our freezer are convenient and accessible. As cold blooded animals, gathering energy from an outside source rather than from within, snakes may eat only once a week. At one or two mice per snake per feeding, one order of mice that fits in our limited space can last up to six months.
As thoughtful as our friends and acquaintances are by delivering “fresh food” for our education animals, we must decline their kind contributions and continue to feed only healthy rodents bred in captivity.
Choosing the Right Mouse:
Placing Mouse on Hemostats:
Karma, Western Terrestrial Garter Snake, Eyeing Dead Mouse:
Spike, California Kingsnake, Eyeing Dead Mouse:
Roggen, Western Hognose Snake, Eyeing Dead Mouse:
Hatch, Bullsnake, Striking Dead Mouse:
Bullsnake Striking Second Mouse:
Bullsnake Coils Around Mouse Even Though it is Dead:
Bullsnake Constricting Mouse:
Bullsnake Consuming Mouse:
Bullsnake Almost Finished with Mouse: