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Snake Behaviors: part 1

Discussion in 'Herp Awareness' started by Jay DeMore, Sep 15, 2004.

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  1. Jay DeMore

    Jay DeMore Elite Member

    This is part of a series I am writing for my website.

    Striking at the keeper: Recently I have been asked by a few snake keepers why their snake, which has been so nice for some time, has started striking. Others just have snakes they claim that has a “bad attitude”. In most cases of a younger snake this is just a defense mechanism used to protect itself. However with the older snakes I have seen a pattern that makes me think the owners have inadvertently taught the snakes to strike.

    We all know that animals get conditioned to their surroundings and the pattern that became clear was that the owners were feeding the snakes inside the habitat where they lived. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it seems to condition the snake to think that everything that comes through the lid is a food item.

    I recently took in a 2-3 year old Red Tail Boa that is a great snake once you picked her up. But when you reached into the cage to get her she would strike at your hand. The theory I had was that she had food aggression. So we set up a little controlled exercise. She was taken out of her cage and fed in a separate tub. A feeding tub can be any clean container (we prefer Sterilite) that is free from obstructions. This technique is used with all my snakes and is very effective.

    After only 6 weeks of using this method of feeding the snake in the test no longer strikes when you place a hand in her enclosure. She is a much happier snake and her owner is pleased because the fear of a strike has all but been removed.
  2. venus

    venus Founding Member

    That is great information Jay. I too feed my snakes in a seperate container so they dont associate my hand as food.
  3. Microscope Jockey

    Microscope Jockey Elite Member

    While I agree whole-heartedly with Jay's astute observations, I do not feed my large boa anywhere but in his cage because I have concerns about getting him safely back into his cage from a feeding tub after he has been fed and is in "feeding mode". I know quite a few other keepers with specimens over six feet who do the same thing for the same reason. If I need to pick him up I make him aware that I'm there and I gage his response if he's where I can see him. If he's hiding I just grab the whole box that he's hiding in, in such a manner that he can't get me, and take him wherever he needs to be going.
  4. Bitis Gabonica

    Bitis Gabonica Elite Member

    Great observations Jay, however I also agree with Heather's observations.. we also feed our large snakes, in particular Charley our 7.5ft boa, and Monty our 8ft python, in their tanks, mainly because we have no where large enough to put them to feed. Out of the two Monty associates her tank with feeding more so than Charley, and if she is hungry will follow your every movement from her favourite spot on a branch. Charley however we do not have any problem with, although as Heather pointed out, we usually pick him up in a spot where he cannot strike at us when we get him out. He is very good if he is not in the mood to be handled, as he hisses if we touch him rather than striking first, which some of our other snakes do. We do try to feed most of our snakes in a different enclosure but time and space do not always make it possible.

    It may also help if we didn't have a pet chinchilla and pet rats that the snakes can surely taste :p
  5. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Great stuff Jay! I agree with you.
    Regarding "training" the snake to strike heres a common scenario. A keeper gets struck at and it scares them to the point where they hardly ever if at all handle the snake. The only time the cage opens is to feed. Therefore they condition the snake to go into feeding mode when the door opens.

    There are snakes where feeding them outside the cage may not be an option. The best bet is to make a point of going into the cage on a fairly regular basis so that it does not automatically think that opening the cage equals something to eat.
  6. kenman1963

    kenman1963 Moderator

    I too agree Jay. Tolkien was more aggressive toward our being in "his " tank til we went with a feeder tank. now there is no agressiveness at all. He looks forward to being taken out of his tank in the hope that food is soon to come.
  7. Todd

    Todd Elite Member

    Excellent work, Jay. :)
  8. cman

    cman Elite Member

    Nice work I feed my BP in a seperate tank to so he dont get used to me reaching in and he thinks FOOD!!!!
  9. steel rip

    steel rip Elite Member

    I feed my BP in his enclosure, but have been trying to get him to feed in a feeder tub, he has never associated me with food when i go in his enclosure, not yet anyway, as I go in a lot to spot clean and change his water, but I agree, in time he will associate me going in with food if I cant make the switch, that is why i am trying to change him over, he just wont eat in the feeder tub, all my other snakes feed in a seperate tub.
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