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Thread: Meet Buttons: A White-Sided Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)

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    Valued Contributor chueychuey's Avatar
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    Meet Buttons: A White-Sided Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta)

    Well, I have a ton of animals and haven't introduced most of them to you. So, I'm gonna start. Buttons (I still might change his name) is a beautiful juvenile white-sided black rat snake that I obtained from Ben Siegel reptiles in Florida in August 2010.

    When I first went to Ben's shop, I saw a 5 ft adult white-sided rat snake (the one in the photo on my blog) and fell in love. It was so gentle and would just let you hold it for as long as you want. However, that one had already been spoken for so I had to choose another. All they had in stock for this type was a baby, but a beautiful one at that. So - they sent them to me up here in NJ because there's no way to really take a snake home with you on the plane.

    Here are some pictures of when he first got home. I fed him immediately and let me tell you, he is an aggressive eater. He still is a year later:




    Here are some more recent pics taken about a month ago. He is growing quite well.





    This snake is so sweet and friendly. Although, when you reach into the tank he occasionally has days where he freaks out and nips until you get him in your hands. I think he is going to be a beautiful adult.
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    Super Moderator lucysfriend's Avatar
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    He is beautiful! )(&(*

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    Valued Contributor chueychuey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lucysfriend View Post
    He is beautiful! )(&(*
    Thanks Gabrielle, I think he will be really beautiful when he is an adult.
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    Administrator wildheart's Avatar
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    Oh I love the markings.

    Tell me more about this species, where they originally come from, the care they need etc. I am sure this is not a beginner snake.
    I am Afrikaans speaking, excuse my English.

    QUALITY OF LIFE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS GOOD HEALTH.
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    Valued Contributor chueychuey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildheart View Post
    Oh I love the markings.

    Tell me more about this species, where they originally come from, the care they need etc. I am sure this is not a beginner snake.
    Well, my particular snake, Buttons, is a color morph of the black rat snake (elaphe obsoleta obsoleta). There are many variations of rat snakes and that is where care can be confusing. Some live in tropical zones, some in the woods, and some are even cave dwellers.

    While Buttons is low-maintenance, I could see a beginner accidentally over-heat this type of snake. My first observation of a black rat snake in the wild was at a high altitude on an extremely wooded hiking trail in New Jersey. We had gone off the trail by accident and stumbled upon him basking on cliff:

    .

    The temperature he was basking in was no more than about 85. The top of the range for these snakes are about 88 degrees and when you are providing a heat gradient you should have one end that is room temperature. Surprisingly, despite having this temp gradient, and hide boxes on each side (which are an absolute must because they are very shy at times), Buttons hangs out on the colder side in his little rock cave. That side of his cage stays at about 70. He seems to like the colder side better. I rarely catch him on the warm side.

    Rat snakes have been known to climb in the wild so I do provide him with some bamboo sticks that you can buy at the pet store that stick to the glass. Even though they have been known to do these in the wild, mine really doesn't come out of his hide box lol. ...Brat...

    I also have a plant in there but he doesn't really hang out by it. He seems unphased.

    Let's see, what else? Oh yes, they are easy to feed and water, really only requiring frozen, prekilled mice. As I said, Buttons has a strong appetite and will come out to eat at a moment's notice if he smells food.

    Anyway, again, I feel it is important to point out again that not all rat snakes require the same care and some can be very finicky and high-risk. For example, I wouldn't consider my Elaphe Carinata (King Rat Snake) to be low-maintenance. For one, my last one died of septicemia and I really have no idea how he contracted that. However, in observing Selma, my newest one, she prefers the hot side of her cage and rarely ever hangs out on the cool side. In fact, I have provided her with a higher heat gradient than Buttons and she seems to be doing well. With my previous king rat snake, I had him near a window at one time in the same spot as Buttons. Big mistake, while Buttons thrived with the lower temperature, this may have been part of the reason why "Mean Snake" got an infection.

    King Rat Snakes are from warmer regions of Asia, such as Vietnam and Southern China. Black rat snakes are from NJ, North Carolina, etc. and again, predominantly found in wooded environments. That said, it is important to know about your specific species of rat snake and not try to generalize the care.
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    Administrator wildheart's Avatar
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    So Buttons are from your area (my geography is bad)? It snows there correct, how do these reptiles survive your winters?
    I am Afrikaans speaking, excuse my English.

    QUALITY OF LIFE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS GOOD HEALTH.
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    Valued Contributor chueychuey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildheart View Post
    So Buttons are from your area (my geography is bad)? It snows there correct, how do these reptiles survive your winters?
    Yes. They hibernate in dens in the winter
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    Administrator wildheart's Avatar
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    Do you switch his lights off during winter so he can hibernate? If you dont will it affect him negatively? Do they also have to hibernate otherwise they wont breed successfully? Thanks for all the info Ash.
    I am Afrikaans speaking, excuse my English.

    QUALITY OF LIFE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS GOOD HEALTH.
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    Valued Contributor chueychuey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildheart View Post
    Do you switch his lights off during winter so he can hibernate? If you dont will it affect him negatively? Do they also have to hibernate otherwise they wont breed successfully? Thanks for all the info Ash.
    I actually am not one to hibernate my kids in the winter. I am not sure if this would impact breeding although many would say that it will. If my kids choose to hibernate, I accommodate them (lower the amount of lighting, etc.). Last winter Buttons did not show interest in hibernating. I think the warmth of the house deters that. None of my snakes have ever hibernated. Do you hibernate your snakes?

    Every vet has told me not to let any of my reptiles hibernate the first winter because that is a pivotal time to monitor their health. Last year was Buttons' first winter so it will be interesting to see what he chooses this year.

    I provide an under tank heater for Buttons so he has no exposure to light other than ordinary light that comes in through the room windows.

    As far as hibernating goes, only Lucky, my magnificent blue tegu, and Kwayze, one of my bearded dragons, have forced the situation. Blue tegus are thought not to hibernate like their black and white counterparts but Lucky goes down for long naps. For him, I will lessen the duration of lighting and let him handle the rest. Some days he wakes up and eats and drinks in the winter and other days he does not.

    I do something similar for Kwayze because she randomly pops up and is active and then goes through more long naps.

    Hibernation is such a weird issue for me. What are your thoughts?
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    Administrator wildheart's Avatar
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    And here I was hoping you would help me out.

    I do not hibernate any of my kids, I am too scared something goes wrong. I did allow my two Kings to mate about 5 years ago and Storm did lay eggs but not one of them were fertile. I then learned that the only way I can breed Storm and Blade successfully is by letting them go dormant during winter. Our winters are not cold enough so experts suggest to keep them in the fridge. After I almost lost Storm I felt guilty for not allowing her to breed successfully at least once.

    I dont think I have it in me to place them in a fridge, even if I did manage to build up the courage I would be checking on them continuously and that will defeat the object.

    I agree with you on letting them choose, although hibernation is natural, there is nothing natural about them being in cages inside our houses and no guarantee that they will survive a forced hibernation.
    I am Afrikaans speaking, excuse my English.

    QUALITY OF LIFE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS GOOD HEALTH.
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