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Old 04-23-03, 06:25 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Captive garter snakes do not have the same resistance to disease and parasites that wild garter snakes do, and a wild garter's diet is chock-full of parasites that they normally tolerate well enough. Fish, frogs and earthworms all contain internal parasites -- but then so do wild mice. Feeding wild mice to a captive-bred corn snake is an awfully good way to get it sick; it's the same principle when feeding a garter's traditional diet to a garter. The difference is that there isn't the same availability of clean food items -- i.e., there are no fish/frog equivalents of lab/domestic mice.

So what do you do? As Flo and others pointed out, feeding live fish can cause all sorts of problems -- even if the fish doesn't have the thiaminase enzyme that destroys Vitamin B1. Feeder fish are chock-full of parasites, and that goes for goldfish, too, which are nutritionally junk fish at that. Frozen fish from the supermarket doesn't have the same problems, except that it's not nutritionally complete: the fillet doesn't contain the nutrients that the head and guts would. A diet of ocean perch, while inexpensive and safe from the point of view of thiaminase and internal parasites, wouldn't be a good idea.

Earthworms are usually a pretty good bet, except that the places they're collected from -- golf courses, for example -- are hardly examples of clean, pesticide-free locales. So you're running into risks there as well. Now I've used bait-store nightcrawlers with no apparent problems, but I know full well that those problems may present themselves down the line.

When you consider all the problems inherent in using fish and worms -- and frogs, with their parasite issues, which would otherwise be ideal -- you can see why many garter snake keepers opt for mice. Mice are nutritionally complete, as any corn snake or kingsnake keeper will tell you. And mice are vertebrates, just like frogs, so to say that a garter snake's system can't handle them is overstating things just a tad, and isn't really an informed opinion. Even earthworm specialists like Butler's garter snakes will take mice happily -- http://www.mcwetboy.com/articles/butlers.phtml -- and it's been documented that the diet of adult female garter snakes on the prairies -- wandering, plains, red-sided garters -- is almost exclusively rodents. They need the nutrition.

Finally, all I can say is to look at the experience of garter keepers who've been at it for a while. I've had seven of my garter snakes between 2.5 and three years on an almost exclusive mouse diet: eastern, red-sided, wandering and Butler's garters. They're doing really well. The snakes that were harder to convert to mice -- a melanistic eastern and an eastern blackneck -- ate mostly fish and have since died.

As for converting, almost all of my wandering, red-sided and eastern babies took UNSCENTED pinky parts the first time they were offered. In many cases, it depends on the species or locality from which they or their parents were collected -- some are just more die-hard fish-eaters than others.

Here's my care sheet again:
http://www.mcwetboy.com/gartercare/
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Old 04-23-03, 09:15 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Thanks for the great info and care sheet Johnathan!
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Old 04-23-03, 10:30 AM   #18 (permalink)
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If your local supermarket or fish shop fillets their own fish, it's very easy to ask them to save heads and entrails for you. Many don't even charge, they just throw the stuff out normally. You can freeze them and mix it in with f/t fish such as ocean perch, trout, etc. for a more nutritious meal with reduced parasite risk.
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Old 04-23-03, 10:35 AM   #19 (permalink)
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I've had Garters go crazy over whole trout blended with calciaum powder and gelatin. You can keep it in the freezer and then thaw what you plan on feeding. The gelatin helps it somewhat to hold it's shape. The snakes were VERY into this food.
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Old 04-23-03, 10:43 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Never thought to add gelatin, very clever!
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Old 04-23-03, 10:47 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Very clever indeed! But I can't take credit for it .

I got the recipe from Alan Francis' web page... http://www.gartersnake.co.uk/
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Old 04-23-03, 11:26 AM   #22 (permalink)
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Hee hee, I've poured over that website for ages but I didn't remember that! I'd never tried his recipe as I already had so many different foods in the house that my garters took readily.

Next time I'm running low on frozen fish and mice maybe I'll give it a try.
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Old 04-23-03, 11:36 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Just one warning....

Chop the heads into SMALL pieces. I fried my blender trying to blen large pieces...
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Old 04-23-03, 01:32 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Hey, thanks for all the info guys, but I was really wondering if anyone had any tips for converting him. He wont eat anything that is not alive and moving. I even tried a live pinky that I rubbed a fish on, and he showed no interest. I know mice are 100X better than goldies, I heard about the vitamin problems, but I just really need some ideas for converting him to mice.
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Old 04-23-03, 02:23 PM   #25 (permalink)
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It's mostly just being patient and offering new foods in different ways. Try scented vs. unscented, in the water dish vs. dry, mixed with goldfish vs. by itself.

Foods with the strongest smell seem to be accepted more readily, so frozen/thawed fish doesn't go over as big as one of the oily canned fish like salmon, at least in my experience.

Cranwill, blenders are for wimps!! I just get out my cleaver and hack and whack away!
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Old 04-23-03, 02:34 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Thanks!
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Old 04-23-03, 02:46 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Oh, and I haven't found a garter or ribbon yet that didn't like Fancy Feast Ocean Whitefish Fillet canned catfood!

I don't normally plug brand names but this brand has really worked well for me. Sometimes it takes them awhile to get up the nerve to try it but once they do they love it!
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Old 04-26-03, 10:30 PM   #28 (permalink)
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I have 15 garter snakes, i like to feed them a variety so that they get as much nutrition and differnet types of vitamins as possible. I feed them earthworms, minnows, and Mice to the larger ones. there is nothing wrong with feeding the garters mice, it is cheaper if you breed them yourself becuase you will always have too many. i have to breed mice for my corns so i have a surplus of mice therefore i feed them to the garters, mie are wuiet nutritional for them also
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