Tuesday, February 07, 2006


One more Out-Of-Print/Collector's Item Suboc article from The Vivarium

A scanned article by Thurgess Cranston that appeared in the Vol. 4/No. 5 (March/April) 1993 issue of The Vivarium, pgs. 18-21.

Just as an FYI, I don't at all agree with the info about withholding water for an extended priod of time from TPRS's.
That info is antiquated, and suboc husbandry concerning ventilation/humidity was still poorly understood in the early 90's.
Being an absolute Newbie to B.subocs, this being my first year, what do you, and others, suggest for water, ventilation, and humidity?
The water issue may actualy be an intolerance for high chlorine levels in tap water.

Very good question, and one that I have studied A BUNCH about. I am going to copy and paste a post I put on KS a while back on this same issue.

"I have them in a big rack system, should a water dish be present? I heard they don't do well with humidity."

And finally, humidity and ventilation...
This is an issue that I have researched to some degree for a paper I wrote for a suboc web site, soon to be published.
Having water or humidity in the cage is not as much of an issue as ventilation is. In fact, ventilation is PARAMOUNT to their success and survival in captivity. Humidity is ONLY bad when the air is stagnant or cool, or when the humidity is EXTREMELY high.

There are several reasons and explanations for this, mostly having to do with their natural history.
First of all, wild subocs are plagued with a host-specific hard tick called Aponomma elaphensis. They can only complete their life cycle on subocs, and on no other snake (or any other vertebrate) are they found.
This tick needs humidity and darkness for its survival, as their eggs and the ticks themselves are prone to dessication (drying out).
So, somewhere in their evolution they found the perfect host, the Trans-Pecos rat snake.
Wild subocs are wholly nocturnal. The Chihuahuan Desert air at night is significantly more humid than the arid daytime air. And during the day, subocs sleep underground in the damp, dark labyrinth of fractured rock formations and even the bat caves that lie beneath the desert floor.
I keep about 23 subocs of every morph. A few of them are burrowers. I had problems for a while of them having contact dehydration on some of their facial scales. The absorbent aspen would suck the moisture out of their skin on their face.
Finally, I started placing humidity retreats inside their cages, consisting of a large plastic shoebox or food container filled 3/4 of the way with damp sphagnum moss or papar towels.
The outcome was awesome. Their dried skin became soft, healthy and supple. And they nearly always choose to stay in the humid retreat, rather then the dry retreat...although both are provided.
The paper I wrote will explain this somewhat further. The bottom line is that understanding a little about their natural history taught me a lot.
Soooo....remember that
Poor ventilation plus humidity = disease.
Hope this was helpful! And good luck.

Dusty Rhoads
That was extremely helpful, Dusty, thanks.

This past week, I have been surfing the web with one purpose in mind--to determine the environmental conditions under which TPRS thrive. It's the only way I have, since I'm not the world traveler that some of y'all are. That is to say, I'll probably never get to stay in that area of Texas any time soon. The more I know about the needs of my snakes, the more personal care I can give to them.
No problem, Gregg.
Visit a university library and read all you can about their natural history.
Most major universities have an extensive selection of leather-bound herp and zoological periodicals dating from way back until the most recent installments.
Journals like the Southwest Naturalist and the Herpetological Review have several suboc-related articles in their past issues.
That will tell you enough about their ecology and habitat so that you won't really have to go to Big Bend N.P. : )
By the way...I have read a couple of places that Trans-Pecos Rat Snakes are good candidates for naturalistic/display vivaria.
Although nocturnal in the wild, they do adapt to basking if provided a low-watt flourescent lighting.
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