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Old 09-18-18, 02:45 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Guess it was inevitable; he struck me, barely

My kingsnake is shy, timid, a touch-me-not. He's never been aggressive and only tries to move away from me. He has never, ever struck at me or even threatened to do so. When saying that, I am not including the several times in the last few months when he leapt out of his enclosure at feeding time. He might be timid the rest of the time, but when food is involved the guy is all kingsnake. It took a few tries, but I've got a system to keep him from doing that now. Though I remain vigilant. He's big enough that I don't think the cats would do anything to him, but I don't want to find out.

Anyway, yesterday was not feeding day. I'd not done anything that might lead him to believe it was feeding time. I tried to gently get him out of his enclosure. He didn't want to leave so I backed off. But then he slowly poked his head out and much of the rest of him followed soon after. Used the hook to support part of his body & moved my hand to support the rest as more of him emerged. That's when he suddenly struck at me & made contact, just barely. It felt like his nose hit my hand but there was the tiniest drop of blood so apparently a fang made contact. I was shocked, but not upset with him. I just used the hook to move him back into his home and closed the door.

Now I'm trying to figure out why. Was it defensive or prey drive? My thought is that I finally pushed him too far. But he was actually moving out of the cage on his own & not in a hurried way, not like he was trying to escape. Also, not like the times he lunged out to grab the mouse on the tongs. I think, perhaps, he was in the mood for food & my hand movement triggered something. Had been handling my rat snake just a little while before but had washed my hands & arms well after that. My BF reminded my that my shirt probably still smelled like snake. Good point, but if it was food drive would he not have tried to latch onto me rather than the glancing blow he gave me?

Just trying to tease out the actual cause so I can avoid it happening again. Mostly, I don't want to do things that scare or annoy him so much he wants to strike. I love the dude and want him happy, in his own snakey way.
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Old 09-18-18, 03:37 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Guess it was inevitable; he struck me, barely

It must be something going around K. My normally mild mannered scrub python tagged me last night too. He'd just eaten 3 days ago so he wasn't hungry. Maybe they were just in bad moods. Unlike you, I was upset though . I hate getting bit and definitely wouldn't want to take a bite from him when he's fully grown. Hope it was just an isolated event in both cases.
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Old 09-19-18, 04:03 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Guess it was inevitable; he struck me, barely

Kings can be temperamental. My boy Django is an absolute sweetheart. The sweetest King I've ever kept. But, he's a King. And I've been tagged by him. Sometimes they just want to be left alone, sometimes the littlest thing spooks them.
It definitely sounds like a defensive strike. Which would make sense. I think it's a case of your snake just wanting to be alone, and since he can't tell you, he showed you.
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Old 09-19-18, 05:18 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Guess it was inevitable; he struck me, barely

While you can certainly learn to read snakes' body language, don't stress yourself out over this. Who knows what went through it's head that led to it biting you. It could've been a number of things.

I've never been one to be bothered by snake bites (excluding venomous and larger boas/pythons, of course), but I've gotten some nasty bites by captive kings before. Huge difference between a defensive bite and a feeding response from them. Defensive bites are quick and not too bad...feeding responses tend to be more drawn out, painful, and bloody. This one sounds like a defensive bite.
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Old 09-19-18, 11:22 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Guess it was inevitable; he struck me, barely

El Zig, must be a GA thing.

Thanks, all, for the replies. My title, "Guess it was inevitable," came from my thought that he has made it clear he'd rather not be handled. Clearly this time I got too pushy. Have been using the hook because my hand coming at him causes him to move away. Using the hook makes it easier for me to get my hand under him with less stress to him. Nonetheless, he still would rather avoid any physical contact. Have continued to try a couple times a week just to ensure he can be handled when necessary. Clearly, yesterday I should have just stopped completely when he balked. My bad. At least he told me off in a mild manner.

And you've confirmed what I've read about food drive/eating mode. That's not something I'm anxious to experience.

What do you think about me continuing to try very, very brief handling sessions? (Like 30 second to 1 minute, that little.) He's 2 years old now so I don't think he'll suddenly decide to appreciate my efforts. Maybe I should just give up completely. The only reason I've persisted is the concern he'll need medical assistance or some such. I don't want him unhandleable. (My computer says that's not a word.)

Ah, well.
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Old 09-19-18, 11:40 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Guess it was inevitable; he struck me, barely

Small consistent handling periods is advised, and I would say at least 5 minutes a couple of times a week. If the snake is nervous, that may not change, but at least some kind of interaction will still take place. Your king probably has another year or so of fairly rapid growth, and when animals put on size they can become more confident, so don't count him out yet. If he needed medical attention in the future...even the feistiest and largest of kings would be pretty easy to handle/treat...we're not talking venomous or giant snakes here, but I understand that nobody really wants to get bitten when treating their animal. There is no reason to stress out over this. Sometimes just like us they can have bad days too. I'd love to say that he will never bite you again, but I tell people if they keep snakes, they will very likely get bitten at some point.
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Old 09-19-18, 12:14 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Guess it was inevitable; he struck me, barely

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy_G View Post
I tell people if they keep snakes, they will very likely get bitten at some point.
Hahaha, yup. Hang around the barbershop long enough, you're bound to get a haircut.
Hang out with clowns, you're gonna get some paint on your face.
Keep snakes, you'll eventually be bitten by a snake.

I would stick to short and sweet handling sessions. A few times a week. Anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Let the snake dictate the length of the session. If he's good and calm, go a bit longer. If he seems anxious or nervous, make it a shorter session.
In my experience with Kings they do mellow out as they get more size on them. But, they're still Kings and will sometimes strike first ask questions later.
Unfortunately, those tiny little teeth have a decent edge on them and we typically instinctually pull away to avoid a bite. It ends up being like dragging your hand along a tiny serrated knife. It actually hurts less when they strike and hold on. Then the teeth just leave tiny little holes in a u shape.
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Old 09-26-18, 09:00 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Guess it was inevitable; he struck me, barely

I've been bitten by a few of my snakes, all minor. Mostly defensive, or hoping my hand is food. My cal king though, is the crankiest snake ever and will coil up and strike repeatedly, while rattling his tail ominously. He really puts on a good show, silly little critter. It's funny how snakes can have such different personalities, isn't it?
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