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Old 10-10-20, 10:43 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Unhappy handling new corn snake

i got my first snake a few weeks ago, around 4-5 weeks ago, and i'm still struggling to handle him. i know its usually fine to start the process after around 2 weeks but as this is my first snake im still nervous. ive held snakes before but they were all adults. the most progress we've gotten is him slithering across my hand, but he was startled when i raised my hand. he hasn't shown any signs of aggression but he does still seem a little skittish around me. during the times he seems calm and isn't running away im worried if he bites me i might flinch and harm him. any advice on how to feel comfortable holding a new young snake?

tl;dr, new snake not sure how to handle
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Old 10-12-20, 02:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: handling new corn snake

The first rule of handling a new snake is do not handle the snake until it takes three meals in a row from you. Handling the snake can be stressful and cause the snake to avoid eating.

Once the snake is established, eating regularly, shedding well, then you can start handling.

The basic theory behind handling is that snakes view themselves as prey and you need to teach the snake that you are not a predator. The application of this theory is where everyone seems to diverge but, for the most part, even contradictory approaches seem to be successful. The universally accepted bits seem to be to always try to pick the snake up from underneath it (most predators will come from above) and try not to squeeze/grab the snake, they prefer being able to move about freely.

One approach is to force handle the snake. You simply remove the snake from the cage and hold on to it for 30-60 minutes at a time. If it bites, keep holding it. If it musks, keep holding it. If it defecates, keep holding it. If it tries to flee, keep holding it. Try not to return the snake to the enclosure until it is more or less calm in your hands. If the snake presents a defensive strategy that causes you to stop handling it (like biting, musking, etc) then the snake will continue to do that because it worked in the past. This approach aims to demonstrate to the snake that none of the usual defensive behaviors work but it doesn't matter because no harm ever befalls the snake. Eventually the snake will know you are not going to harm it and will just tolerate handling.

The other approach is to condition the snake to believe you're just a weird piece of furniture. This approach involves allowing the snake to watch you from the cage, attempting to familiarize the snake with your scent, your motions, and your overall presence. (Some people will place a dirty sock or shirt in the snake cage to familiarize the snake with their scent.) Eventually the snake will learn that nothing harmful ever happens when you are around and it will tolerate handling, especially if you start slow.

People that use the first approach generally argue that all the second approach does is unnecessarily stress out a snake. People that follow the second say the same thing about the first. Both seem to produce results equally.

I would recommend picking the approach you feel most comfortable with and go with it. If the snake stops eating then I'd give it a break until it starts feeding consistently again. If you start with approach 1 and it isn't yielding success after several months then switch to approach 2. And vice versa. If neither works, then, well, some snakes just never really tolerate handling.
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Old 10-13-20, 06:09 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: handling new corn snake

Hey, Iím a novice herp keeper as well! I just got my baby Corn JŲrmungandr a little over two weeks ago.

Chairman hit the nail on the head about how divisive the community is about handle your new pet snake. The breeder that I received mine from told me that I should start handling him immediately, contrary to all the advice that I have read online. So I Personally decided to Let him have a couple of days in his new enclosure and then handle him for about 15 minutes every other day.

My sister also got a corn snake from the same breeder a week before I did. It is amazing the way these snakes differ from one another. My sister handles her snake every day and it has never once seemed defensive or stressed. Her snake Zero, wraps around her fingers and enjoys her warmth and during all three of her feeding session that little noodle scarfs that pinky down so quick, Iíve never seen anything like it.

JŲrmungandr, my snake on the other hand is much more timid and refused his first meal. Yesterday, I left him alone with the pinky and after 30 minutes by himself he took it (thank god).

I say all this because neither of our snakes seem to be defensive, but mine has been way more stressed. Everyday has been progress and it is great to see him gradually become more comfortable.

The last thing I want to say is that it is totally reasonable to be a little freaked out about getting tagged by your snake. I donít know why it is but it just feels like a primal instinct to be nervous about getting bit by a serpent. Just remember these reptiles can sense you being nervous, and they are soooo much more afraid of you! A cat trying to climb into your lap can hurt you worse than your baby corn snake. It may help to use a pair of gloves to boost your confidence until you feel comfortable.

I canít wait to see how our snakes grow! Keep me updated.
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