Traveling with Snakes (part two)

Our snakes are cold blooded, dependent on Chuck’s traveling zookeeper skills for food, water, housing, and, of course, the proper temperature.  Traveling with snakes in an RV requires different procedures from housing them in a stationary facility.

Too much heat can kill a reptile; and although they’re more tolerant to cold than heat, any temperature fluctuation is unhealthy. The proper temperature would keep them within a 20 degree range from 65-85 degrees.

Before we sold our home, part of Chuck’s workshop in the basement housed the four snakes we use for educational programs. Before we sold our home, controlling their temperature was easy. After we sold our home, Chuck was confronted with a new set of rules to maintain the proper temperature.

The Right Trailer

Our new 5th wheel for full-time RVing required certain qualities for our exotic critters. Many wildlife refuges where we volunteer allow suitable areas to house the snakes – sometimes at a visitor center, other times in a heated location out of public view. For driving between volunteer assignments, however, we have to be able to maintain proper temperature in our RV.

Snake Cages in RV Basement

A spacious basement attracted us to our current fifth wheel. It not only accommodates four cages, it affords both electrical outlets for heat lamps and a heat system ducting to add warmth from the furnace. This dual heat source capability is helpful in assuring that no matter where we park, Chuck can maintain the required temperature.

Even with two sources of heat, there are times when he wants to know exactly what the basement temperature is. For around $10, he located a wireless digital thermometer that fits the bill perfectly. The sensor is attached to the basement wall, while the monitoring unit sits by our bedside upstairs. With a glance, Chuck can tell how our scaly educators are doing a couple feet below. All the heat generating systems are unnecessary when parked at a volunteer assignment, but being able to maintain healthy temperatures while on the road gives us more freedom traveling between positions.

Frozen Mice

Like their wild cousins, our snakes eat only once a week and sometimes less frequently. Chuck feeds our captive snakes mice that we store frozen in the RV freezer. This requires ample freezer space and, more importantly, an understanding spouse. A corner of our freezer, although not huge, provides space for 75 rodents. Chuck orders the mice from rodent breeders who ship them overnight to us no matter where we are.

Other volunteers and friends parked near us have occasionally brought us mice that they’ve trapped in their RVs. Although we appreciate their thoughtfulness, we explain that our snakes eat only captive-raised mice. Who knows what diseases or poisons wild mice harbor?

With adequate space, proper heating and electric, and mail-order rodents, we can travel the country with our reptile dependents residing in comfort.

2 thoughts on “Traveling with Snakes (part two)”

  1. This was very helpful. My husband and I are going to be transitioning to full-time RVing within the next year or two. We’ve been traveling allot, all over the country, teaching. We have an eleven year old corn snake we adopted after our nephew no longer wished to keep it, years after getting it for Christmas, as a child.

    I’m debating whether to bring her with us, on the road, or see if she can live with our youngest son, who is comfortable with caring for her.

    If we take her with us, I was concerned how she will do with the motion on driving days, but now I’m realizing I took for granted the fact that our home has a set temperature. Yikes.

    • Hello Greta,

      For a dozen years we traveled in our 5th wheel full time. Usually, we would be somewhere warm in the winter such as AZ or FL and then in summer we’d volunteer at the Elk Refuge in Jackson, WY. During our twice a year migration ranging from 1000 miles to over 2000, our three or four snakes traveled in the basement of the 5th wheel. My biggest concern was if the temperature got too hot in the basement. It is difficult to cool snakes and a challenge in the event of low temps as well. We always had an insulated picnic cooler with air holes drilled in the side as a backup house for the snakes, each in their individual bag. Then, we’d bring the cooler into the truck where we had total control in keeping the temps between 65 and 85deg. I also had a wireless remote thermometer in the basement with the readout in the cab of the truck so I could monitor temps while driving. Our three or four snakes traveled well in either the cages in the basement or the cooler in the truck. When we got to an overnight stop, temperature permitting, we would put the snakes back into their cages with bedding and water and electricity for their heat lamps. By adjusting a timer, I was able to provide enough warmth to keep them warm when it was into the 30s outside. If your youngest son is willing and able to properly care for the corn snake, it would be easy for all concerned. And traveling with a snake or two….there has to be a food supply which would be frozen mice and they can take up freezer space in what could be a smaller freezer than is usually found in a house. Corn snakes are usually very easy to care for as evidenced by your snake’s age. So if you can be sure of good care with your son, go for it. The motion of traveling should be no consequence for the snake however. We used our snakes for educational programs while on the road, so that justified the extra hassle of traveling with exotic animals. If you wouldn’t be using it for any sort of program, I’d recommend that you leave it behind.
      And, good luck on the road! We have thoroughly enjoyed that life style and freedom!


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