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Releasing pet snakes

Discussion in 'Corn Snakes' started by Knox, Oct 19, 2006.

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  1. Knox

    Knox Elite Member

    First off, I don't do this...

    That said, have there been any scientific studies on releasing long term captive snakes? I have heard opinions on their instincts lessen in captivity, but no one can substantiate these opinions with facts.

    I know that releasing newborn "wild" animals is no big deal - be it fish, ladybugs, what have you - in order to re-populate or control pests.

    I have also heard of the fear of adding diseases to the wild population. I don't know about that either - any facts?

    So, pertaining to native species, does anyone know of any hard facts about releasing long term captive snakes? To me, as basic as reptiles are, instinct would kick in regardless. However, I, myself, have no scientific facts to base my opinions on.
  2. caudalis_sa

    caudalis_sa Elite Member

    ok first off...the spread of disease. A snake kept in captivity can pick up diseases from other fellow captives...even if they are seperated. Especially if there are exotics... imagine your cornsnake for instance catches a sickness from an exotic species...if this disease/sickness comes from another country or whatever, the local wildlife has not built up a slight immunity to it. The exotic may look healthy but can be carrying some nast bug which it can happily live. Look at it as a trojan horse.

    It is not worth the risk at all. In my opinion any animal that has been kept longterm in captivity should stay a captive animal. The harsh reality is that it would be better to kill the animal than release it into wild populations... there are many other factors but disease is the most important. It is not worth the risk...
  3. Knox

    Knox Elite Member

    Okay, but are there any facts to back up your opinion on this? I am NOT trying to be argumentative, just looking for some hard evidence on this controversial subject.
  4. caudalis_sa

    caudalis_sa Elite Member

    oh yes sorry i forgot. There has been a study on the hunting ability of captive bred snakes vs wild snakes. The gene pool really gets weakend when bred in captivity and the wild snakes performed much better than their captive cousins. Corn snakes and Brown house snakes(lamprophis capensis) were used... it was also found that normal snakes performed better than albino phases.

    The animals were placed in a maze type setting and food scent placed at the end. Wild snakes found there way to the food much quicker.

    I remember reading this study a few years ago...i will try find it again. Was in a scientific journal on herpetology.
  5. Knox

    Knox Elite Member

    That would be great if you could find it. I am not on either side of the argument - just want to read some scientfiic process put into action on the subject.

    Thanks for understanding that I wasn't attacking you!
  6. caudalis_sa

    caudalis_sa Elite Member

    actually i did take ofence!!!:p

    haha takes quite a bit to get me worked up...i am an easy going dude. Yeah i too beleive in scientific backup...

    haha...went digging around in some old papers of mine and found this paper. By uller, olsson and madsen. I knew i had it somewhere.

    Was written in 2003 by these swedish herpetologists on heredity and the role it plays in disease resistance. They used lacerta vivipara. This paper mite back up a little i was saying.

    and even better...i found a pdf link!
  7. Dawg

    Dawg Elite Member

    scientific debates are great ani know not one of us at the herpcenter would ever release our herps to the wild especially if you have raised them from hatchlings like most of us have but there is always the village idiot that thinks ah its a snake it will survive. in my opinion he should be shot. generaly the captive snakes we all have do not live in a climate such as ours. here in canada where i live a red tailed boa would survive the spring summer and fall but once winter hits and it hits - 15 to -40 celcius im sure it would die and if it didnt it would be one sick snake. so wether science backs it up or not its purely cruel.. My two cents
  8. caudalis_sa

    caudalis_sa Elite Member

    i think we are only speaking about snakes that are native to the locality. well i :p

    exotics being released is def outta the question
  9. Rich

    Rich Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    It hasn't been mentioned yet, but its ilegal almost everywhere to release a captive species, native or not, into the wild once it has been captivated.

    There are special rehabilitation centers that limit human contact with animals that will be returned to the wild. Any animal that has become accustomed to humans and "feedings" is going to have a slight disadvantage compared to those that have had to locate and kill their own prey from birth.
  10. Knox

    Knox Elite Member

    I understand how internet debates can get emotionally charged, and I think the people here can keep that from happening. With that said:

    1. That study I read didn't really address releasing animals into the wild. The study was on eye disease tolerance among wild caught lizards in Sweden. So, with respect, it didn't really address the issue. (Please don't take offense).

    2. To an above poster - do you really believe a mother/father/son/daughter should be assasinated/murdered for letting a pet snake go? I know you were making a point, but let's not get extreme.

    3. Yes, it is illegal.

    My question still stands, respectfully... Are there any scientific studies in existence (the write up on Anapsid wasn't supported - it was just more opinion) that shows a danger to either the snake that is released or the general snake population?

    I am not looking for emotionally charged opinions, nor am I trying to defend the release of said captive raised animals.

    My idea of a study would be to have a couple acres of land where Corns or Rats are known to live. Raise 6 - 12 or so animals for 3 years in captivity, insert radio transmitters in the snakes (I have seen it done in Rattlesnakes), then release. In addition, insert the transmitters in a sample of wild snakes. Over the next few years, track the animals and record the data. It wouldn't be too tough to see whether the released snakes have learned to hunt or avoid predators.

    This is the type of thing I am looking for. Anyone want to give me a grant to perform this study?:D
  11. caudalis_sa

    caudalis_sa Elite Member

    The study didn't specifically address the release of animals into the wild but results showed how specimens from the same species but different locations had different infection rates to the same pathogens. This shows how a disease could have real bad outcomes if released into a different area. Even though a snake of certain species might occupy a large territory (e.g. Elaphe guttata), a pathogen from one area in its territory will have different infection rates to a specimen of the same species but in a different location.

    Specimens of a certain species display different genetic characteristics in different localities even though they are a single species. The hereditary gene pool comes into play here.

    So now imagine a snake is carrying a disease from a whole different continent, let a lone a state. What the outcomes could be are pretty obvious. I am not saying every case would result in such outcomes, it is just impossible to predict an accurate outcome. So many things come into play…

    As for your idea of that study…here are some of my criticisms(please don't take offence lol)

    I really feel conclusions would be really inaccurate because the number of possible outcomes is unpredictable and therefore a waste of time. There are so many things that could change your end results. The study also only focuses on the hunting and survival abilities of a released snake. Spreading of disease is a more serious matter and even though the snake might survive, the impact on other species could be disastrous.

    1. The method of feeding would change results. A snake fed live prey vs a snake that was fed pre-killed or thawed.

    2. The prey items(rat, mouse, lizard etc.). I know from field experience a species can have different tastes, one locality only lizards and geckos, the other only rodents.

    3. six to twelve animals could never give u an outcome(even though i feel any outcome would'nt prove valuable). Predation is at very high level on snakes. 6 animals could get wiped out in one night and this would prove nothing even if it was all the captive specimens. As i ahve said there are to many possibilities

    There are other points I would like to address but I will leave them open for others to criticize as I have written way to much already…I know I wouldn't read a post this long:p

    all i am saying is that i feel a study like this is silly. Just my view. To put entire populations at risk to see if a persons release will survive is pointless and a bit shortsighted.well i will stop speaking now:)
  12. Knox

    Knox Elite Member

    All in the name of science. Many breakthroughs have been made by scientific studies that others thought were pointless, silly, irrational, etc...

    I respect your opinion, but it doesn't change mine. And, all we are left with are 2 differing opinions with zero scientific data to back either one of us up.

    Again, I am not saying that I am 100% correct, but I have yet to see anything that would hold up in court on either side. So, that leaves us all with one thing - our worthless opinions.

    Oh, and based on all of this, we don't know if it would be putting an entire population at risk at all... Right?
  13. kenman1963

    kenman1963 Moderator

    What a good debate. All my research/herp library is currently in storage awaiting the new house. I think I'll fish them out tomorrow to touch on this subject. I am almost positive that Susan M Bernard wrote an excellent article with scientific data to back it. She at one time was the Herpetologist at zoo Atlanta and wrote one of, if not the, best books on reptiles I've ever seen (the reptile keepers handbook). I agree that a captive herp should never be set free and what i have to go through with the turtle repopulation program here tells me the state of virginia is very concerned with the subject.......more to come
  14. CodyW

    CodyW Elite Member

    Good topic! These things should be addressed more often and not treated as taboo

    I would like to think that something like this is possible as one day populations may have to be strenghtened, or even reastablished by captive populations.

    I'm having troubles with logging into my library's website but we went over it in class and I remember seeing study after study, surprisingly it is hit or miss. The sad/ironic thing is that any captive, in a moderate habitat will probably do more than flourish, like the burmese pythons in the everglades where a large albino population exists.

    Here's at least one study I found:
  15. Dawg

    Dawg Elite Member

    i never said killed but take off a toe and let him loose to fend for himself see how that goes
  16. Rich

    Rich Administrator Staff Member Premium Member


    I know the possibility of disease spread is very real. I don't have the time right now to research it to post information directly, but I do believe I will find some time over the weekend.
  17. caudalis_sa

    caudalis_sa Elite Member

    What was the question ... this is a nice debate happening here.

    Ok well there are thousands of known cases of long-term captives escaping, surviving and being found years later. Is a research project really needed to know this? As CodyW said... we can see living proof in the everglades where a large Burmese population exists. To me that is fact enough.
    i am sure many people can tell of an experience where an escaped snake has been found healthy at a much later stage. If the conditions are right they will survive for sure.

    Here in my province in South Africa there are a few re-population projects going on. They have already been releasing specially captive bred Eastern Gaboon Adders(bitis gabonica gabonica) and South African Rock pythons (python natalensis). This has been happening for years... it all counts as real fact for me. They have all been able to adapt to the wild.

    To me, this is the most important question or subject to be tackled. If this is done in a controlled quarantined environment where no contact with exotic or other locality populations is allowed it wouldn't cause a problem.( for rehabilitation or repopulation only). But facts that disease can spread between snakes is well documented in captivity by thousands of incidents. That is the reason why everyone should be quarantining before adding herps to their collection. It is pretty logical to assume this can happen to wild populations and no project is needed to work that out.

    But now… are you talking about general public releasing a corn snake they had kept at home or specialist herpetologist, captive breeding to repopulate dwindling populations of an endangered or threatened reptile in perfect quarantined conditions free from any pathogens??? I feel that in general no captive animal should ever be released. This is a really serious and detailed procedure that should only be performed by professionals in the repopulation of endangered species.

    So what is the real question?

    1. Can a snake kept in captivity that is released survive? Yes, if temperature conditions are rite and food is available. But what I think a good study would be is this… to see if a snake only fed on pre-killed prey items it's whole life will be able to hunt live prey after say three years.

    2. Can disease be spread to wild populations? I think it is pretty obvious that it can. If it happens in captivity it will happen in the wild.
  18. Bitis Gabonica

    Bitis Gabonica Elite Member

    This is a fascinating topic and I'm glad it's being debated in the manner that it should be - interesting read.

    I have a few opinions on this, but I won't write them all down now - my posts can easily turn into essays:p

    The fact is, there are thousands of breeding programmes all over the world, that aim to reintroduce populations into the wild. That said, of course, most are done professionally and properly, where the captive bred specimens are monitored, have little contact with human and raised in such a way that will hopefully stand them in good stead for a quality of life in the wild. There are of course as well numerous occasions documented where someone has released their captive-bred reptiles into the wild with little regard to how they may survive or how indeed it would affect the already wild populations.

    I think the issue of disease spreading is an interesting one; as caudalis_sa pointed out, disease and infection can spread so easily among captive collections, it is horrendous to think how this may affect wild populations. There are though many diseases and infections already set in the wild, that do not cause the same problems as they may in captivity as wild specimens are more immune to their possible-disastrous effects.

    Would a reptile be able to return to pure instinct to survive? Who knows. As Knox is trying to investigate, would the fact that a reptile had been raised on f/t food limit its chances to being able to capture, kill and devour a live animal in the wild?

    A study in this area would be extremely fascinating and informative, although for what reason? The captive breeding to release into the wild already in place follow such rules that would significantly decrease any chance of disease being introduced and increase the chances of survival. I think though, as caudalis_sa mentioned, if you were to be able to undertake such a study you would need a much larger example of specimens to be able to gain an accurate insight into this subject area.
  19. caudalis_sa

    caudalis_sa Elite Member

    that is what i was kinda getting at. All the facts are out many different forms. it is just a matter of adding 1+1.

    the answer is 2!!!
  20. Knox

    Knox Elite Member

    Most excellent replies! I do understand what you are saying about the disease spreading. Otherwise, there wouldn't be a need to quarantine animals you buy before putting them with your established ones.

    This is all just my mind wondering. I have no plans to try any of this, just speculating. I am sure if one of my corns got out, it would thrive here in East Tennessee. Am I going to release them if I get tired of them? No, of course not.

    It WOULD be interesting to see, as someone reitterated above, a 3 year old snake fed F/T and then released in an enclosed environment with free range rodents to see if it could survive. I suppose this is the crux of the whole debate.

    And another post was correct - captives which have escaped have faired very well, so that answers that, huh?

    I guess the debate is over as to whether or not the NATIVE animal would survive. I wasn't intending to discuss the lega or moral aspects, just the survival aspects.

    Thanks again, everyone. Soooo, who has the next topic????
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