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Old 11-23-17, 09:36 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Question Texas Rat Snake handling

Hello everyone,

So I own a leucisitic Texas Rat Snake that I acquired from someone that was not taking very good care of him. I unfortunately donít know many of the details but was told that he did not handle him well and was bitten a couple of times. Since then I had been able to touch/handle him early on with little issue but lately he has become very jumpy and skiddish about being handled. Anytime I have taken him out itís usually for less than a minute or so until heís trying to go back towards his cage.

Iíve been told by other Rat Snake owners that theirs donít care much for being handled either. Was wondering if anyone here possibly had any tips or advice for how to make him more comfortable with being held? Or if Rat Snakes really donít care much for being held in general how often I should try? Any help or information anyone could provide is greatly appreciated.

Thank You,
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Old 11-24-17, 02:49 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Texas Rat Snake handling

My little boy's P obsoletus has real attitude and is really quite difficult to get out of the viv.

Once out he is usually pretty fast moving and skittish and he is already in a defensive posture. He isn't unhandleable but I am very aware of his mood and 'tells'.

My little boy (5yo) isn't so tuned in but can manage him for short periods. He has been struck though through lack of attention (I intentionally let it happen - I could see what was going to happen but thought it a good primer on why focusing on the snake is more important than focusing on the TV).

I don't subscribe to the whole 'handle them lots and they get used to it'. Some of my snakes are fine (my boa imperator is a total sweetheart), some nervous, some defensive and a couple pyschotic. They all get handled about the same (not much for any of them) and they all respond differently.

I do find the rat snakes (I have a Persian rat as well) are very defensive but that said even a strike from one doesn't really hurt (I would not have let it strike my son of I thought it would do real damage.

As for handing - 5-10 minutes 2 or 3 times a week of toy do want to try and get it used to handling. As I say I'm dubious as to whether this actually works. Any more and you're likely to stress it. Don't handle for at least 24 hours after feeding. 48 hours even better.
0.1 B imperator, 1.0 M spilota harrisoni, 1.0 C hortulanus, 2.1 P reticulatus (Madu locality), 1.1 S amethystine, 1.1 L olivaceous, 1.0 C angulifer, 1.0 Z persicus, 0.1 P regius, 0.1 N natrix, 0.1 E climacophora, 1.0 P obsoletus, 0.1 L geluta nigrtia, 1.0 P catenifer sayi, 1.0 T lepidus
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Old 11-24-17, 03:05 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Texas Rat Snake handling

In contrast to above, I do believe that interaction and familiarity does in fact make a difference as individuals are generally less nervous and less prone to identify you as a threat when this occurs, but certainly not in all species or all individuals...think of it as trying to interact with someone extremely nervous or emotional-they tend to not even listen to you or take anything in at the time at that specific moment-kind of the same thing with a snake convinced you're a threat. If these animal don't have the capability of getting used to us or interacting with us, then why does tap training work?

No snake truly enjoys being handled, but many can come to tolerate it and be totally indifferent to it and appear to ejoy it in the eyes of the keeper. Consistent short and frequent (2 or 3 times a week) handling sessions is key, but depending on the individual they still may not take to this. If nothing else, it will assist you in being able to get a read on the snake and learn about it's behaviour, which is part of the joy of keeping these animals.

Last edited by Andy_G; 11-24-17 at 03:39 PM..
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Old 11-25-17, 02:51 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Texas Rat Snake handling

Imo tap training is a little different to handling. Tap training is a conditioning method to get the snake to associate the tap of a hook to no food being offered. Note however I have stopped to training my snakes as well (never started with most of them) and they are quite capable of determining whether did is in the offing or not anyway. I have never had a snake go into feeding mode when there is no good around. The retics and olives perk up when I go in the room sure but they know whether I have food or not and soon calm down if I don't.

Further tapping a snake gently with a hook or other object doesn't cause the same stress response as full handling.

As I say, I know I view this differently to most hence why I suggested short handling sessions of that's what the op wants to try.

I haven't found it makes any difference. Most of my animal's have grown out of the nippy, defensive stage (and some never had one) so I personally think it is coincidence that some snakes calm down with handling - they were going to anyway.

For reference out of my 18 or so snakes only 3 are extremely viv defensive and flighty and defensive when out - the P obsoletus, Z persicus and female L olivaceous.

The female Madu P reticulatus and S amethystina are very defensive in the viv and calm down once out. The C hortulanus is well, what it is for the species. Fine in the day-not so keen on sticking my hand in the viv at night!

Other than that all my snakes are very infrequently handled and all are absolutely fine. I appreciate these are just my own observations and there is no particular science to it but I have a fair range of species and a good number of animals on which to base these observations.

I think a snake that is nervous say of a new owner or surroundings would calm down over infrequent handling sessions just as it would over more frequent ones - it would just take longer. A snake that's not going to tolerate handling is never going to and indeed it may even be detrimental to handle frequently in an attempt to 'break' it as it would rather be left alone and would gain trust more of allowed to do so over a much longer period of time.

Of course, so long as handling is kept to short sessions 3 or so times a week it's unlikely to unduly stress the animal and gets you used to the snake as much as the other way round.
0.1 B imperator, 1.0 M spilota harrisoni, 1.0 C hortulanus, 2.1 P reticulatus (Madu locality), 1.1 S amethystine, 1.1 L olivaceous, 1.0 C angulifer, 1.0 Z persicus, 0.1 P regius, 0.1 N natrix, 0.1 E climacophora, 1.0 P obsoletus, 0.1 L geluta nigrtia, 1.0 P catenifer sayi, 1.0 T lepidus
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Old 11-27-17, 01:01 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Texas Rat Snake handling

I think it's more what happens when they are handled. You can try to handle a lot and just create stress, you can handle a little and create stress, and you can do either in ways that reduce stress. The amount doesn't matter if it's always stressful and have more positive impact regardless of amount if it never results in anything that negative. It's pretty true across all types of animals and due to our own personalities and reactions there isn't always a specific method, timing, etc... that gets the same result. I've found taking lots of people's approaches and mixing them until it matches me and the type of individuals out of even the same species but especially when we talk different breeds or species in a group of animals is necessary for best results. Having expanded to a very different type of animal than I have experience with that will likely continue to take time and first hand experience.

I don't handle mine a lot but I keep them in display tanks where I am around them a lot. I think it's less stressful when I do handle them just having my presence established as normal. They "tame" a lot when I spend the whole day on the computer next to them and cleaning the rooms or taking care of the other animals even if I don't open the enclosure. I exist and present no threat for large parts of most days so it doesn't take much direct interaction to bridge the remaining difference between being outside their enclosure versus in it compared to if they aren't even used to me. The bull snakes most certainly recognize people. Some of them will set off in threats at strangers or even my husband who works all day and doesn't find anything bigger than a corn snake interesting while they continue basking or resting in a sheltered area when I approach.
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