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Old 06-14-19, 04:15 PM   #1 (permalink)
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New garter snake advice

I have an eastern garter snake. I've had him about 2-3 weeks. I already have him eating frozen pinkies. I like to mix some earthworms or a frog here and there. He is aprox. 18 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide. Not sure if he's a he. When I first got him and took him out of the small container he came in, I was handling him and he kind of edged up on my arm and I felt a tooth but he didn't bite me. I thought he was acting like he was going to though. He ended up biting himself and had himself wrapped tight around my finger, I had to as gently as I could slide him off my finger. He isn't hurt, he's shed and such since then and no sign of injury or anything. Now that he's good and used to me and his tank I want to work with handling him. I've been giving him one pinky per week mixed with some worms and maybe a frog(have given him cricket frogs and newly transformed fowler's toads) during that week. The next day after feeding, I can't even tell he ate a mouse. Should I be giving him maybe 2 pinkys a week? He certainly acts like he wants another after a few days. Can I keep more than one of these in a tank? I've read you can and wanted confirmation. Going to start hand training soon. I have a bunch of fossorial snakes and green snakes that are better off not being handled often. Many years back I had an albino striped corn snake that was close to 6 foot long. He was already used to being handled. I've already ordered a hatchling one of these and will have to do hand training with him too. Hand training advice? I'm not scared of being bitten, but I'd rather not stress the snake out.
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Old 06-19-19, 11:16 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

Hi David. Welcome.

I'm a newbie garter keeper, so I'm no expert, but I wanted to respond since no one with more experience has chimed in. I've had one for about a year and another for about half a year.

I feed my snakes about every three days at this age, but I only use silversides and worms, so I can't say how many pinkies you should feed. I think the conventional wisdom is feed a snake until there's a small bulge in their belly.

People do cohabitate garters (the species not known for cannibalism, because a few are allegedly more prone to cannibalism), but you have to make sure they're the same gender and are generally the same size. I currently keep both of my female garters separately because their size difference is too large, but I plan to cohabitate.

Both of mine are still very skittish, so my taming skills aren't to be lauded. But my general thoughts are:

-Keep their tanks in a room you're in a lot. Garters are so curious and will watch you if they can. This helps them adjust to you.

-Make sure their tanks are full of hiding spots so they feel secure, which helps with taming. I like to scatter dried leaves throughout my tank because it gives them cover as they navigate between hides, their water bowls and their basking spots.

-Top-opening cages can spook garters because they're cumbersome to unlock and open. I find that my snakes flinch when I'm fumbling with the top screen and locks. I wish I had front-opening tanks like the exo-terras. I really think that would cut down on their skittishness.

-I do scoop my snakes up, which they both still hate, to handle them. I don't know that you can "coax" a snake onto your hand the way you might be able to with a mammal like a hamster. You have to be firm and quick but not grasp them too hard. My snakes both calm down in the hand, but I would like to get to a point where they aren't scared when my hand is in the tank.

-If the timing works, I like to feed my snakes right after a handling session so they hopefully associate it with a positive reward.

-Make an effort to put your hand in the tank and just leave it there without handling the snake or fussing around with the tank's items. My eastern garter is so curious she'll come check out my hand. I'm hoping it will make her less stressed about my hand. I don't want her to associate it only with being forcibly pulled from her tank. My plains garter is the opposite and hides all of the time.

I'd recommend checking out the thamnophis forum and a few thamnophis facebook pages for advice. The forum can be kind of dead, but has a lot of great information and old threads. The Facebook pages are really great and active. Definitely find someone to sex your snake. You can post several photos of the tail and vent on one of the Facebook groups.

Good luck!
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Old 06-19-19, 09:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

I would like to add that two males can't be placed in the same cage. If you do it, they will fight one another.
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Old 06-20-19, 11:33 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

I have not kept two males in the same tank, but have read that others do with no problems if they are similar in size. Please see the thamnophis forum for more information.
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Old 06-21-19, 04:24 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

Thanks for the advice. I haven't started with getting him used to hands yet, he is about to go into a shed. I have held him without incident and have lightly run my finger down his back to get his attention. He was in the back of the tank and not paying attention to me trying to feed him that time. He did not even jump for that. He's only been jumpy at me spot cleaning and doing some in tank stuff. He's definitely curious, he only jumps when I'm in tank and bonk something on accident. I'm not sure he is a he, I just refer to him that way. As far as feeding I've been giving him a pinky every 4 days or so. I do like to give my animals variety in food wherever I can so I will probably be implementing frogs/worms when I can. I haven't bothered with fish, would these be worth adding to something I give him every now and again?
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Old 06-21-19, 08:53 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

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Originally Posted by David339 View Post
Thanks for the advice. I haven't started with getting him used to hands yet, he is about to go into a shed. I have held him without incident and have lightly run my finger down his back to get his attention. He was in the back of the tank and not paying attention to me trying to feed him that time. He did not even jump for that. He's only been jumpy at me spot cleaning and doing some in tank stuff. He's definitely curious, he only jumps when I'm in tank and bonk something on accident. I'm not sure he is a he, I just refer to him that way. As far as feeding I've been giving him a pinky every 4 days or so. I do like to give my animals variety in food wherever I can so I will probably be implementing frogs/worms when I can. I haven't bothered with fish, would these be worth adding to something I give him every now and again?
Yes, fish is a good food source for garters. Just don't feed fish that have thiamanise, an enzyme that can harm your snakes. Unfortunately, that includes the most readily available live feeder fish -- goldfish and rosy reds.

Most people recommend feeding frozen-thawed fish anyway to kill parasites that may be present in live fish. I feed silversides.

Here's a list of safe fish from the the thamnophis forum: https://www.thamnophis.com/forum/hus...fish-list.html
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Old 06-21-19, 07:02 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

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Originally Posted by MnGuy View Post
Yes, fish is a good food source for garters. Just don't feed fish that have thiamanise, an enzyme that can harm your snakes. Unfortunately, that includes the most readily available live feeder fish -- goldfish and rosy reds.

Most people recommend feeding frozen-thawed fish anyway to kill parasites that may be present in live fish. I feed silversides.

Here's a list of safe fish from the the thamnophis forum: https://www.thamnophis.com/forum/hus...fish-list.html
I had read about the thiamanise and was avoiding fish altogether. I will have to look into it. After my garter sheds I will let you know how handling goes. Do I really need a tetanus shot if he bites me? I was reading that it's recommended for bites. That I wouldn't be too excited about. I had the wrong substrate and had to change it and I didn't have an issue then. I gave him his space when he backed in a corner and looked like he wanted to strike. I was able to pick him up when he moved to try and go hide I guess. I wasn't handling him, just putting him in a bucket til I cleaned and changed substrate in the tank. I'm using aspen now. He's had time to get used to me and his tank now. He watches me when I'm tending the other animals I have. 40 something now with the new baby snakes. If he wants food he gets up against the glass and watches me. So far I've been doing thawed pinkys every 4 or 5 days and earthworm or frog snack in between.
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Old 06-22-19, 05:02 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

Unless you are prone to infections I wouldn't worry about a tetanus shot.
When I get bit I just wash the bite and slap a little disinfectant on the spot just to be safe.
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Old 06-24-19, 05:11 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

Nope not prone to anything really but I do hate doctors, not fear. Needles don't bother me, but I really don't wanna see a doctor. He shed today so I will try him out tomorrow before I feed him his pinky.
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Old 06-25-19, 06:30 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: New garter snake advice

He kept running from me so I didn't force him into being handled. I'll try again in a day or so, he just ate. I did keep my hand in the tank before I tried and he was curious. He ran if I tried to go for him or touched him.
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