last changes:Sunday, January 06, 2008

My Pituophis

For 20 years I work with the genus Pituophis. Most of this beautiful and interesting snakes are false named agressiv. Within some exeptions my animals are tame. In all my subspecies I try to get pairs and most of them I breed regulary.


In the following lines I describe my keeping of the animals in my own "German way". Here we have legislations for keeping reptiles wich collide with the "American way" of keeping them in (small) plastic boxes in a tray. Thus I must say, that the keeping in those boxes is a good way to keep a lot of Pituophis stress free.

There are allways several ways for the same aim: Keeping them healthy and in a good enclosure - and breed them.

Expectaly the animals of the melanoleucus-group and the sayi regulary reach 2m in lengh. So they need a larger terrarium with some stable hiding places. Smaller subspecies and specimen need less space. Klimbing branches and some klimbing help on back- and sidewall of the terraria should be offered for the most snakes. The greater Pituophis have a great appetit and can make great piles of shit... Because of this the ground gravel should be absorbent. One of the many sorts of possible gravel ist pressed straw (for rodents or cats) or cocogravel. Other substrates inclusive newspapers are useful, too.

With a waterbowl there will be automaticly an air humidity at aprox. 40-60%. With this the animals live good, further water I spray only in the sheding phase. The gravel stay dry. The prefered temperatures of the Pituophis are below 30°C, warmer places are only visited after feedig or for warming up in the morning. Permanent temperatures a little above 30 °C many subspecies tolerate, but with rising temperatur the animals become nervous. The actual place in the terrarium and the klimbing needing is connect to the accuring temperatures. For warming up they mostly are in warmer and higher places. Have they reached the preferd body temperatur, they go to the ground and stay there. Too, the need of a bath is connect to the temperatur: If it become too warm in the terrarium, they more often go into the waterbowl for cooling.

Each terrarium is illuminated with an 18 W-illuminating tube lamp or a 5-9 W energie saving bulb. The illumination time in summer is 14 h.

Most of the Pituophis can live good together in groups of 2 or 3. But there are exeptions: Some induviduals "don't like" the partner, wich I give them. If I can't give each a own terraria, I bring more hidingplaces in. This helps in most times. Otherwise the more stressed animal don't like to eat or refuse the food. So it can become ill and must be seperated immediatly. With snakes of other taxa they can live together, too.


Most Pituophis take several sorts of rodents and birds for food. But some individuals accept only a limited assortment for food and don't eat anything else. And the preferd food sort can change within some weeks. Feeding them one by one is the best way, otherwise you must be very quick...


You should give your animals a hibernation period of some month at 5-15°C. It is the normal rythem of the year of these animals and it is helping for the fathering ability. In some years I gave not those preferd 2 month hibernation but only 1 month in the terrarium at aprox. 17°C without light (a form of brunation). Most of my Pituophis laid eggs in next spring. But poorly not all Pituophis...The possible lenght of the hibernation period is connect with the temperatur in the hibernaculum. At lower temperatures the snakes loose not so much of bodymass and a longer hibernation can be overcome more healthy. When the hibernation comes nearer, I reduce the photoperiod in a 4 week cascade down to aprox. 5 h. After the hibernation there I start again and higher the photoperiod in the same way up to 14h. Nowadays my animals hibernate in December/Januar 8 weeks at aprox. 12°C in their terraria.


After the hibernation the animals eat few times and they come in mating mood. Depending on the mentality of the snakes it will occure to more or less hard comment fights between the male of the breeding groups. In the intensivity of the comment fights I can't see any connection within the subspecies. But at my annectens und sayi the fights and bites became so hard, that I set the loosing male in an other terrarium. In other groups the comment fights were not so hard and the 2.nd male could stay in the terraria. Two lonly males can be kept together sometimes allover the year.

Mostly after the first sheding of the female the males begin to follow the females and smell with their toung in the neck of the female for the pheromons. When the female rests the male try to copulate. In the normal case the male hold the female with a bite in its neck. The mating will be repeat in the next days or weeks normaly several times.

Aproximatly 6-8 weeks after the sucsessful copulation the female lays her cluch of eggs on a suitable place. Before this there is always the pre egglaying shed of the female. 1-10 days later the clutching starts. For this I put plasticboxes with a 60mm-hole in the lid into the terrarium. Most of the snakes prefer boxes, where nobody can look into. The size of the box is a little bigger than a coiled female and eggs will need. Inside there are moist foam pieces. Normaly the snakes accept those boxes immidiatly and the female stays inside til after the egglaying. The eggs will be transport to the incubator and be brood. Short after the clutching you can turn the eggs, but some hours later it will be deadly for the embryo. Fixed eggclumps should not be divided.

The Incubator

There are several incubation methods and they are f.e. published in good books or in internet. For a long time I brood in half water filled aquaria and made it better permantly. The hatch rate laid normaly at 100%. But in one year the aquarium loose water and daily I changed the towels around the tank. So I searched for alternative methods.
After some help of friends, books and articles of other breeders I changed my breeding method. Nowadays I use a selfbuild simple isolated wooden sideboard with a cable heating on the bottom and an thermostat on the middle shelf. The air convection from roof to bottom is helped by two small CPU-ventilator from the computer-supply. The temperatur in the sideboard rises and fall with the thermostat aprox. +/- 0,7° C around my prefered 27°C. As an breeding box I use plastic boxes, wich are a little greater than the cluch. On the bottom of the platic box I lay a thick layer of filter-wool for aquaria. Then I fill a little water in the box (ca. 5-10 mm). The thickness of the filter-wool is so, that the eggs lay above the water level. In bigger clutches it can be positiv to seperate the water-part from the eggs because of the possibility that the heavy eggs sink down into water.

Nowadays I use a refrigerator with a glass door (without cooling... ;-) ) for a breeder.


The Breeding

Egg clumps and eggs I lay both onto the filter-wool. In the boxes the moisture build water drops on the sides and under the lid. Drops of water never spoiled any of my Pituophis. The air humidity is with this method 96 to 100 % in the box. My breeding temperatur for Pituophis-eggs is 27°C. The eggs are normaly uncoverd. In unic cases there were not enough water drops in the box and the eggs loose volume. Then I covered the eggs wit a paper towel and sprayed it wet.
The lid of the box will be open regulary for egg control and air change. With this method the hatch rate is normaly 100%, too. Too, with day/night changing temperatures or permanent temperatures aprox. +/- 4°C around the named degrees the young snakes develop. But I am not a fan of this method.

After a medium breeding durination of aprox. 60-80 days the small snakes slit on the egg and hatch out 1-2 days later. This method I use with succsess for the incubation of all my snake eggs.

Rearing of the young snakes

The first shed follows in aprox. 10 days after the hatch. First food I offer after this shed. My Pituophis grow one by one in small terraria. There is in a paper towel for groundlayer, a hiding place and a waterbowl. After 6-12 month they get a terraruim like the greater animals. In their first year I don't hibernate the snakes. Light and heating works further and the animals eat further and grow quicker and healthier.

 Copyright © Bernd Skubowius {2003-2008} {Webdesign von Martin Prange}. Alle Rechte vorbehalten