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ArtsyAmy
05-22-2012, 07:40 PM
I'm hoping for information about the process that occurs between the time a rodent is placed in a pet snake's tank, and when the rodent is no longer visible (or is only visible as a bump in the snake's body). How long does the process take? Does the snake immediately sense a meal, or does it move about the tank for a while, figuring out the location of the rodent? Does the snake quickly snap at the rodent, or is that part of the process (getting the rodent into the snake's mouth and swallowing) slow?

I haven't decided on the type of snake yet, and I suppose answers to the above would be different for different kinds of pet snakes. Hmm, I guess I could make it a ball python. Or if anyone has information on other types, I'd be interested in hearing about that, too. (It would have to be a snake available in North America at a pet store.)

Thank you.

mccardey
05-22-2012, 07:41 PM
ewwww.....

Bufty
05-22-2012, 08:05 PM
My son had pet snakes for years. There are snakes and there are snakes. Have you considered asking for help at the local pet store or vets?

Took me two seconds to google - ball pythons as pets. Wouldn't surprise me if there were also videos galore.

Maybe a snake enthusiast will slither into the thread.

Good luck

ArtsyAmy
05-22-2012, 08:34 PM
I'm also thinking ewwww, mccardey. But there's a very creepy character in my story (not that all snake owners are creepy--but this guy sure is!).

Yep, I did google, Bufty--spent some time on the links, but haven't yet come across any specific time frames. I saw something like, "after the prey stops moving." I need something more specific, as the time frame is important to the story. If I don't get more help here, I'll probably take your advice and contact a pet store. Thanks.

Bufty
05-22-2012, 10:21 PM
I'm sure you are aware of it, Amy, but I mention it just in case - snakes are NOT slimy or wet to the touch - all the ones I've been in contact with felt cool and very very smooth.

RobJ
05-22-2012, 10:25 PM
I've only seen it demonstrated once, some years ago. The snake was under a hood of some kind. The mouse was dropped into the tank. Nothing happened for several seconds, then the mouse was gone, pretty much in the blink of an eye.

I dare say there's probably some variation, and others may have more experience.

sunandshadow
05-22-2012, 10:58 PM
Personally I don't think it's gross - no more so than a pelican eating a live fish or a pack of lions killing a zebra, or any other way a carnivore grabs a meal. At any rate, the answer to this question really depends on the kind of snake. They don't all eat mice, for starters. Then, the one with fangs hunt in a totally different way from the ones without fangs. The ones without fangs are more common as pets because they don't do much damage if they bite a human, but if you want to emphasize that the owner is a bit weird you might want to have him own a highly venomous snake.

An ironic fact is that it's dangerous to put a life mouse or similar prey (small lizard for a small snake, rabbit for a huge snake) into the snake's tank when the snake isn't awake or isn't hungry. The prey have typically never seen a snake before, but occasionally one will decide on sight that they hate snakes and run right up to it and bite it. (They'll try to bite people too, but if the person is worried about that they'll be wearing leather gloves.) Then the injured snake will be afraid and angry, probably hide in the corner, and probably try to bite you when you try to clean the wound (cold-blooded animals are very vulnerable to infected wounds).

Anyway, assuming it's a fangless snake, the first strike usually captures the mouse headfirst and it will be in the snake's mouth up to at least its belly or hips. Some snakes will then wait until it faints from lack of air and quits moving before swallowing more. In general predators will ignore the prey's tail - once the snake can close its jaw hinge normally because the bulk of the mouse is past that point the snake is happy, and if it feels like moving to some place more concealed or more warm to do its digesting, it may do so with a bit of mouse or lizard tail still hanging out. From strike to being mostly swallowed doesn't take more than 10 seconds.

Canotila
05-23-2012, 05:05 AM
It depends on the snake. Most captive snakes are fed frozen/thawed prey items because it's safer for the snake and less traumatic for prey animal.

Corn snakes, other rat snakes, king snakes, and rosy boas all eat their food pretty dang quickly if they're hungry. If they're on a regular schedule (mine were fed once every 5 days) the snakes know when to expect food, and they sit out waiting for it.

Some people remove them from their enclosures to feed them, so they don't associate hands in their cage with food and accidentally bite the keeper.

That was too much work for me since I had a lot of smaller snakes. Instead, I would put smelly lotion on (which I only used on feeding day) and dangle the dead rodent by the tail. It took about 3 seconds for most snakes to grab it out of my hand. If a snake was shedding, they might take 10-15 seconds to find it as they can't see as well then. I've never been accidentally bitten, but only did this with corn and rat snakes.

Once they begin swallowing, 5-10 minutes is plenty of time to get it down.

King snakes have a very strong feeding response. I have seen them try to constrict and devour a water bowl that smelled like a prey animal. A friend of mine had his thumb eaten by a hatchling snake once.The little dude chomped on and started swallowing. He couldn't get the snake off without really damaging its esophagus badly so just let it swallow his thumb up to his hand. At that point the snake realized it wasn't going to work, and maybe that wasn't really a mouse in its gullet, so it regurgitated and was fine.

Ball pythons are not very good eaters. They are notorious for fasting for very long periods (think months to years). Wild caught ones are extremely picky. When I fostered them I usually had to put live baby gerbils in a paper bag over night, with a hole cut in the top. They had to be young enough not to injure the snake, but old enough to be fine away from their parents for a few hours before the snake got bold enough to go hunting. If it wasn't hungry, I just returned them to the pen until later.

The very few instances I had to feed live prey, the snakes spent 10 minutes to half an hour constricting after they finally struck. Some individuals are very intense about striking and constricting, and will basically crush and break bones. Others are very dainty and gentle. When they constrict live prey they'll typically "hug", gradually tightening with each breath until the animal stops breathing.

Katrina S. Forest
05-23-2012, 09:23 AM
We have a corn snake. We thaw the mouse and hold it out for her with tweezers, shaking it a bit to get her attention. She'll approach slowly, tongue flicking out, then in a flash of movement, have one end in her mouth. It only takes a few minutes to swallow and afterwards she hides in her cave, so it's hard to say when the bulge goes down (although it's never huge, I believe the rule of feeding snakes is don't give them something more than 1.5 times the width of the neck.) Also, it's not healthy to handle a snake right after it ate. You should wait until the next day at least. If you watch after the prey has been swallowed, you'll see the snake moving its jaw back into place, like it's yawning. That's pretty cool to see.

Interestingly, our snake wraps itself around the dead mouse sometimes as if to strangle it, even though that's not neccessary. She will also fast way longer if she is about to shed. (She stays in her cave a lot too, like she's moping.)

Hope this helps. Any pet shop that sells snakes might be able to show you a feeding. It's actually a good thing for potential owners to observe before a purchase. A young snake will feed much more often than an older one, so that's probably what you'd see.

One more thing I remembered: we never leave mice just sitting in the tank. She's buried them a time or two instead of eating them. Not a fun thing to discover.

ArtsyAmy
05-23-2012, 01:15 PM
Thank you for the responses. The scene with the snake is brief, but it's important because it shows a lot about one of the characters. I've studied snakes a bit, touched them, but haven't seen a feeding--really don't want to. So I'm especially appreciative of your help. I'm still a little confused on an aspect of the process.

Does the snake hold the prey down with it's mouth, then begin the constricting process? I'm having trouble seeing how there would be much space on the prey's little body for the snake to wrap around if part of the prey's body is in the snake's mouth.

Also, the person putting the rodent (which will be young--I don't want it to fight back against the snake) in the tank really doesn't want to feed the rodent to the snake, so she puts it in the corner by the snake's tail (not near the snake's head). Does this time frame and process work? Twenty seconds for the snake to turn around and get the prey's head in it's mouth. Prey almost disappears as snake wraps around it for thirty seconds. Snake opens and closes mouth four times as more and more of the prey disappears into snake, until the rodent cannot be seen, just a small bump on the snake's body.

Thanks again.

Terie
05-23-2012, 02:52 PM
Thank you for the responses. The scene with the snake is brief, but it's important because it shows a lot about one of the characters. I've studied snakes a bit, touched them, but haven't seen a feeding--really don't want to. So I'm especially appreciative of your help. I'm still a little confused on an aspect of the process.

Does the snake hold the prey down with it's mouth, then begin the constricting process? I'm having trouble seeing how there would be much space on the prey's little body for the snake to wrap around if part of the prey's body is in the snake's mouth.

I used to breed corn snakes. Love them critters!

Anyway, mine were fed either freshly killed or frozen/thawed mice, as mentioned by someone else upstream. Mine would always strike and constrict, even though the prey was dead. The strike/constrict takes about 1-2 seconds...and it's fascinating to watch if you can put your objective, chain-of-life hat on for a moment.

This video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hU7dPpl8oks) shows the strike/constrict, right at the 4-minute mark (so you don't have to watch the whole thing). WARNING: THIS VIDEO IS A SNAKE BEING FED A FROZEN/THAWED MOUSE. DO NOT WATCH IF YOU ARE SNAKE-AVERSE. I've posted it to help the OP, not to gross anyone out. Anyway, if you bring yourself to watch it, it will give you an idea how fast the strike/constrict is.


Also, the person putting the rodent (which will be young--I don't want it to fight back against the snake) in the tank really doesn't want to feed the rodent to the snake, so she puts it in the corner by the snake's tail (not near the snake's head). Does this time frame and process work? Twenty seconds for the snake to turn around and get the prey's head in it's mouth. Prey almost disappears as snake wraps around it for thirty seconds. Snake opens and closes mouth four times as more and more of the prey disappears into snake, until the rodent cannot be seen, just a small bump on the snake's body.

WARNING: MORE LANGUAGE AHEAD THAT MIGHT BE GROSS FOR THE SNAKE-AVERSE. IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ DETAILS ABOUT SNAKES FEEDING, STOP READING NOW.

You're fine with any amount of time for the snake to discover and decide to strike the prey. It can be instantaneous or it can take minutes. (Even longer if the snake doesn't happen to be hungry, which is why it's not recommended to feed live prey, but that's not relevant to your story.)

Now, if the rodent is properly sized for the snake, it'll usually take longer than 30 seconds to position and 'down' it. Probably more like one to several minutes. It's nothing like you describe of gulping it down in four. :) It goes down in relatively small increments (relative, that is, to the size of the snake and the prey). Once past the throat, it takes quite some time (hours and even more for large snakes) to proceed the rest of the way down.

If you need the initial swallowing to be that fast for story reasons, you can make the prey smaller than it should be.

If the prey is small relative to the snake's size, it will make a small (to nearly non-existent) bump. If it's the proper-sized prey, the bump will be more than 'small'. It's essentially the size of the mouse only slightly crushed.

I hope none of this grossed you out. I'm not trying to do that. :)

ArtsyAmy
05-24-2012, 12:00 AM
Thank you, Terie. Your information was helpful, and I did watch the video. ("It's for my art! It's for my art!" I told myself while psyching myself up to watch it. "I must do it for my art.") Now I feel I can write the passage with authenticity.

You obviously care a great deal for your snakes, and I applaud you for being so informative while being sensitive that others may feel differently about snakes--you wrote with grace.

Thanks again!

buz
05-24-2012, 12:38 AM
I had a ball python once...

I fed him dead mice that had been frozen and thawed (you can buy these in pet stores), since, as noted above, I'd heard live mice can hurt the snake. After thawing, I'd hold the head sorta close to the heat lamp for a few seconds with big-ass tweezers and then dangle it in the cage.

Usually, he was very picky and slow about picking up on where the thing was. Possibly I did something wrong there, I don't know (I was much younger and not too smart, even though I had a guidebook). I could stand there waggling it and re-heating the dead thing's face for twenty minutes, half an hour sometimes, and he wouldn't strike. Even if he hadn't eaten in a couple weeks. (Not that I wouldn't TRY to feed him regularly, but the bastard was stubborn.) Twice I got frustrated and just left the dead mouse lying there. One of the times he actually ate it. The other...it just sat there.

When he did actually feel like eating, though, the process was pretty quick. He'd smell it when I put its head near the lamp and come out of his little hidebox, and then there was a minute or two of his locating it before striking.



Does the snake hold the prey down with it's mouth, then begin the constricting process? It's instantaneous, too fast to see. He strikes like a gunshot (scared the shit out of me every time), and bam, the next thing you see is a snake wound up around the mouse with the head in its mouth. (Of course, this is a dead mouse again, I'm not sure about the "holding down" but I would think it would be hard for live mouse to get out of that.) (And he didn't always get the head in its mouth right away, although that was usually the case--since I was aiming it at him... Sometimes, after he'd gotten it, he kinda gnawed it into position, if that makes sense.) I don't know that the snake would need to use its entire body to wrap around the prey, but that is the shape it winds into, all its muscles taut in a coil. (Also, if the snake is larger, obviously you feed it larger stuff. Rats, in various stages of development.)

jeseymour
05-24-2012, 12:46 AM
We have a red-tailed boa, about a year and a half old. (Percy Jackson.) He has only ever eaten frozen rats, never live fed. My daughter used to feed him by holding the rat over his head and waving it back and forth, but he went seriously off his feed this winter. While she was away I took over and modified his feeding routine in hopes of getting him to eat. He now eats in a separate plastic box rather than in his tank, and I thaw the rat with hot water so it is warm, put the rat in the box, wash my hands, and put Percy in the box. Then I have to wrap the box with a towel, leaving just the top exposed (top has air holes.) Then we leave him alone. Occasional peeking is allowed, and I've seen that he does constrict his prey before eating it. It takes him about an hour and a half to eat. Percy is a very gentle snake, and allows us to handle him, but some snakes are less tame. We just adopted a 12 year old corn snake who has never eaten anything but live mice, so this is going to be a new experience for us. We haven't fed her yet, as she just went through a shed, and we literally just got her. Jewel is not quite as tame as Percy, but will tolerate handling. I never thought I would want a snake as a pet, but I really like Percy, and am hoping Jewel will also be a good addition to our pet family. (We also have an adopted greyhound, a Goffin Cockatoo, three barn cats, a retired racehorse, four ponies and a burro.)