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Exotic Pets Are No Longer Cool When You Have To Put In The Work

, , , , , | Right | March 22, 2022

This happened back in the mid-nineties. My sister and I had kept and bred exotic animals like frogs, snakes, and praying mantises for a number of years. At one point, we heard about some guy turning up in a local supermarket with a snake around his neck, claiming it was a very venomous species of snake from Australia.

Less than a week after first hearing this story, I actually saw him in said supermarket. What he had around his neck, I immediately recognised as a North American ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus), which was sixty centimetres (about two feet) in total length. I ask him:

Me: “Do you know what species of snake it is?”

Snake Man: “It is a very dangerous Australian snake.”

Me: “It’s a North American species about as dangerous as our own common grass snake – that is, not at all.”

I gave him my phone number and told him that if he had any questions, he could just call me. 

A few days later, he did indeed call. He asked me if I could come and take a look at the snake. As he lived fairly close to me, I went there.

Snake Man: “The snake won’t eat.”

Me: “What are you feeding it?”

Snake Man: “I’ve given it liver pâté, but it won’t eat.”

His reply stunned me. He then invited me in and showed me the snake. He kept it in an ordinary wooden cupboard. There was no heat in the cupboard and no windows, so it was completely dark in there. The snake did have a bowl of water and a bit of liver pâté, and that was that.

I told him that it mostly ate amphibians and small fish, that it needed to be kept in a proper terrarium with heat, a hiding place and preferably some decent lighting producing the right kinds of UV light. I also told him that it would be a good idea to add vitamin powder to its food because it wasn’t exposed to natural sunlight and thus possibly would end up showing signs of vitamin D3 deficiency.

He thought about it for a moment and then asked me if he could just give it to me. I accepted it, and it lived with us for more than six years after that.

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