At Last!

No, I’m not channeling Etta James. “At Last!” means I finally have my own snake. Reaction from family and friends has been mixed, ranging from “Eeeuuuuuwwww!!!” to “Cool!!!”

My own reaction has been, “Let’s see what this new adventure brings.” Caring for a pet is an important responsibility. Its life is literally in your hands. I’ve made a vow to do all I can for my new friend. That means learning as much as I can about snakes so I can meet its needs.

My snake is a corn snake. His pattern is called “diffuse.” I’m not sure what that means. He has a beautiful pattern of copper-brown lozenges. He’s about a year old and fifteen inches long. He’s definitely a male. He doesn’t have a name yet. I’m going to let my grandson name him. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the poor snake doesn’t end up with something like “Transformer” or “Lego.” If he does, I’ll learn to live with it. Promises are promises. The snake doesn’t care.

You can tell I’m a procrastinator. I’ve delayed getting a snake for nearly a year. In the meantime I wrote a whole novel about a boy who wants a corn snake and what happens when he get one. There’s a vast amount of material about corn snakes online and in the library. However, no matter how much you think you’ve learned through your research, an actual experience is going to teach you things you never expected.

To begin with, I spent a week preparing the habitat before I brought my snake home. I had a heat mat under one side a water dish on the other. I had thermometers resting on the substrate on both the warm and cool sides. I also had a hygrometer to measure humidity. In addition, I put in two cardboard toilet paper rolls to provide hiding places.

I assumed the snake would head for one of the hides. Wrong! He didn’t look at them. He climbed up the digital thermometer’s cord and squeezed himself into the space between edge of the wire mesh lid and the top of the habitat. He stayed there for two days. His flexibility astonished me. He pressed himself into a perfect right angle to position himself at the corners. Watching him made my back hurt.

Eventually, he came down and started moving around on the substrate. He ignored the cardboard hides. His favorite place now is a narrow space between the water dish and the habitat’s glass wall. He is curled up and lying sideways. I can’t imagine how this can be comfortable. Then again, I’m not a snake.

His other favorite activity so far is tunneling beneath the substrate. The shredded aspen that I’m using compacts in a way that allows a snake to make tunnels through it. I discovered this one morning when I came over to take a look at what the snake was doing. He disappeared! He went down a hole into the substrate. I didn’t see him for the rest of the day.

What good is a pet you can’t see? Good question. The answer is that snakes are not domestic animals like dogs or cats. Even if they were bred in captivity, they remain wild creatures. My snake is not going to change for me. He can’t. He’s genetically programmed to behave in certain ways from the moment he hatches. My challenge is to learn about him. That’s what I’m doing now; watching, observing, trying to figure out why he does what he’s doing.

I know that some of you would like to see a picture. I’m holding off on that. I don’t think my new snake woul’d appreciate being followed by a giant papparazzo when he’s trying to settle in to his new environment. I’ll save the photos for later. Give me a week or so.

The first goal for both of us is getting used to the new environment. Being placed in a new habitat is highly stressful for a reptile. All the literature says to leave your new snake alone for the first five days. Don’t hassle him; don’t pick him up; don’t try to feed him. At most, change the water. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve already made note of several interesting behaviors that I want to add to my book when I take it through another round of revisions.

My snake should be ready for his first feeding in about three days. He’ll be moving around the habitat, looking for something to eat. I’ll know he’s ready then. That will be another adventure.

I’ll let you know what happens.

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