“Crazy times when snakes don’t get fed,” remarked an acquaintance of ours when we mentioned that the snake feeding program at White Tank Mountain Regional Park was suspended for the duration of the Coronavirus threat.
“Don’t worry about the snakes,” I told him. “They’ll be fed on schedule, just not in front of the public.” Crowds and close contact being discouraged due to the virus put a hold on not just snake feeding, but all programs at the Park until further notice.
Would Snakes Starve?
But what would happen to the snakes during the closure if no one was there to feed them? They would survive just fine because the ranger would lower their temperatures and lighting schedule. That’s the advantage of being cold blooded, as opposed to our being warm blooded. Snakes and other reptiles rely on the outside temperature to regulate their body temperatures, whereas we must regulate ours from within. That means we need to eat often to maintain our temperature.
Our Rosy Boa, Beau, once went for a year without eating. Once he decided to accept the mouse he was offered, he ate regularly for a couple years. Now for the past few months he has again been refusing his weekly mouse and probably will until he’s willing. Of course, we worry about him. But as our snake mentor once said, “He’ll eat when he’s ready.”
What an advantage these critters have over us! As we watch people mob stores in an effort to stockpile food for who-knows-how-long during the virus outbreak, we envy how reptiles have survived over the eons. Their adaptations have allowed them to be successful for well over one hundred million years. Very few snakes starve to death in nature. They were here before us, and, if we refrain from killing them on sight, they’ll be here long after us.
The reptile collection at White Tank will survive even if they miss a meal or two. The damage done by suspending the feeding program for the public, however, is the loss of education. During every feeding, we encounter those who fear and/or dislike snakes, and we often take that opportunity to enlighten them to the point that they at least respect these animals and are reluctant to kill them. We look forward to the reintroduction of the snake feeding program (as well as other educational programs) to continue to educate the public about these reptile survivors as they entertain the public with their unusual eating habits!