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 Post subject: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 1st, 2015, 7:25 am 

Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
Posts: 566
Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.
Having cared for a few handfuls of Eastern Hognose over the past 6 years, I was driving home last night thinking about kids' responses to my Eastern Hognoses when used in educational displays.

"This is an Eastern Hognose? The nose doesn't look as upturned as the one in the picture did."

That got me to thinking. It is true, that all of my Eastern Hognose snakes had a more upturned rostrum when I acquired them from the wild, regardless of age or gender, YoY or adult, male or female. Also regardless of habitat: sandhill, hardwood, or house.

Even captive bred Eastern Hognose snakes kept by friends exhibit the behavior that has lead to the rostral-dulling of my Eastern Hognose snakes. Between feedings, Eastern Hognose snakes begin to actively hunt for food and dig against any surface, including the glass or plastic cages they are kept in. Over time, they wear down their snout, when they first start to "reshape" their rostrum it scabs a little bit, but that fixes after a shed or two. Then it becomes more blunt and adapted to pushing on the glass.

My Western Hognose never had this issue, and I believe it has to do with shape of the rostrum. On the Western, Mexican, and Southern Hognoses, the rostrum exhibits a sharper upturn than on Eastern Hognose. The Eastern Hognose, having a more linearly pointed rostrum, may be under more direct-force pressure when pressing on the glass, while the rostrum shape of the other NA Hognose species will just slide upwards with the glass and not have too much direct pressure exerted on it over time. Push a straight twig into the ground, it snaps, push a curved twig into the ground, it slides the direction of the curve.

Have other Eastern Hognose keepers noticed this with "long-term" (usually happens about 4 months into captivity) captives? The rostrum is not as "hognose" as it was when the snake was acquired?

I'm wondering if the damage is from the cage corners, or just the sheet-shaped glass surface? If a circular cage can prevent this and preserve rostrum form, or if perhaps a fish-bowl shaped cage would be better suited to this? Or, maybe wooden instead of glass? I'd like to be able to figure this out, as I intend to spend many more years with the species for the educational benefits of their mock-displays and variable pattern. I'd like to be able to preserve the original pointed shape seen in wild Eastern Hognose where they have no walls to push against.

Or...is this just something that has to be accepted in captivity? It's always been said that they adapt well to captivity if fed toads, in old texts, but I wander if those authors ever noticed rostral dulling in even little YoY individuals?

If I can get my male or female to hold still while at work tomorrow, I'll take some pics of their heads to post here for reference to what I'm talking about.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 1st, 2015, 11:50 pm 
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Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm
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Location: San Francisco, California
A sad gallery of rostral and snout trauma due to dysphoric nose rubbing and chronic pressing can be found in Dr Frederic Frye's book Husbandry, Medicine & Surgery in Captive Reptiles. A lot of photos of imperator, from the days of keeping cages hot with radiant heat lamps, that were almost always too cramped, and desiccating subs of pine and corn cob bedding. The trauma heals, leaving various malformations. One photo most jarring was a pit with half of its snout gone, from years of trauma, healing, shedding and continued self injury of compulsive escape attempt behavior.

Although your hogs don't sound as severe, it seems to be the similiarly induced behavior, and probably would be worse if it were not for your stewardship in their care.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 2nd, 2015, 12:17 pm 

Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
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Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.
I think the best way to combat it would be to reduce their activity foraging along the edges of their tanks by boosting feeding regimes.
Didn't get the new shots like I promised, did my feeding last night so left my current pair alone today. Here's some old ones though that show it.

Here are some pics to show what I am talking about:
Headshot of my male:
Image
His nose has been like that since a few months after I got him. It has not got any worse over time. It's almost like it reaches a "balance" out point. The dulling isn't even all that extensive, and it can still be made out that he is indeed a hognose snake. It's basically been "sanded down" some.

Closeup of a female that I had for a while before parasites took her, they are the reason she is so thin - the entire ordeal is another post of its own. Here she is though:
Image
On her, the more accented rostrum can be seen. This is more what they look like when acquired either C(B)B hatchlings or as WC adults.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 2nd, 2015, 2:30 pm 
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Joined: June 11th, 2010, 4:21 pm
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So you find your will continue to do defensive displays even after long periods in captivity? Do most children get to watch this happen?

No idea on the nose thing...but I think you are on the right track. Perhaps a bunch of objects on the tank edges so the snakes can't slide along the sides so easily.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 2nd, 2015, 4:18 pm 

Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
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Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.
Yes, well sort of. They do everything except play dead. I can take them out at work though and the first thing the kids see is a snake with a big cobra-like hood that is mad and hissing. Most of them though, enjoy it and are not scared of it. Occasionally my male will even mimic a cottonmouth and sit still with his mouth agape.

Lining might work to combat rostral dulling. I might try lining the cage edges with slabs of pine bark. Only thing is, like I mentioned, it levels out. Its sharp sharp sharp, then one day a little scabbed up, then the next shed its "good" and stays that way. I'd have to get another to really test if lining with something like pine bark would work. Regardless though, I like that idea a lot for the aesthetic and shed-assist value and am going to give it a go if I can get some good bark.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 2nd, 2015, 6:13 pm 
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Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm
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What you are seeing, the leveling out as you say - is tissue loss.

Its not a hognose thing, its a repeated adverse contact per confines thing, and its seen in many reptiles and in other confined animals, of many species.

I realize you do not have full control of your work environment, and that the damage, as pictured is marginal. But it is a sign of an underlying condition of their situ that is causing them distress. Feeding them more will create longer periods of sedentary behavior, but don't stop there in your investigations.

I have only cared for westerns, but I understand that hogs are rather strident, and strong in their instinct to burrow. One reason for burrowing is to seek or escape a condition. In the wild or in captivity. It doesn't matter, except that in a closed space - their quest is thwarted. Still they continue to seek it, and many higher vertebrates, have been known to do the same, with self injurious consequences


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 2nd, 2015, 8:02 pm 

Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
Posts: 566
Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.
Yeah, the scabs when they get them certainly hints to tissue loss :P.

These ones are mine, so I have total control over setup. The snakes at work don't have tissue loss despite rubbing on the glass, and other normal-nose snakes I have cared for, along with even western hognose, don't exhibit this issue when rubbing on glass either. Based on my own experiences and observations, under the condition they are getting dulled rostrums from tissue loss, it seems to be a hognose thing.

Certain conditions may cause similar effects on other snakes, such as when you first get a baby corn snake at a show or store, and it comes in the plastic tub with little holes cut in it. I've seen corn snakes get nose damage with those holes. A good friend of mine that kept Indigos back in the 60's experienced tissue loss at the rostrum when they snakes were transported in boxes and not put in a bag. They really just crammed their heads as hard as possible into the corners according to him.

With the westerns, when I had mine, I noticed that his nose would just slide up, as I said before, in line with the shape of the rostrum. The easterns are more pointed than upturned. I believe it is a burrowing behavior. Other snakes I've kept, when they reach a glass wall, just sort of gently slide up and try to climb. The eastern hognoses though, seem to push downwards or at the glass, vigorously, as they are tunneling in and out of the sand.

I've got some ideas I am going to try in the future, but I have to wait until next hatching season. The next time I get any more easterns (or any snake at all), will be when I get some good eggs from my female. It should be easy to trial ways to prevent rostrum dulling in smaller systems.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 2nd, 2015, 8:15 pm 
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Do you think the temp may be spiking in the room they're in at a time when you're routinely not at home? Or that it nay be too toasty at night?

And if they're outside or in a semi outdoor structure or area, and they are native, I have known snakes to be extra adamant in escape, pushing, wall swimming behaviors in their cages


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 2nd, 2015, 10:09 pm 
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A great danger in overspecializing ones perspectives is it becoming an obstacle to the information we seek.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 3rd, 2015, 2:58 am 
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Location: Alaska
Seems common in ratsnakes. Nearly every adult obsoletus-type ratsnake I see for sale has some degree of nose deformation. The two I've had tended to rub their noses when kept in glass enclosures and, starting out, I worried their health and appearance would suffer. I found the solution -- assuming all else is well temp and hide-wise-- is to keep them in something opaque, like a really useful box or other plastic sweater box. If they're rubbing their nose in there, it's usually because the temps are screwy. Glass is inexplicable to them and they try to push through it, but they seem to understand opaque whitish plastic as a solid obstacle to be nosed from time to time, but not constantly rammed and rubbed against. Corners are round too, so it might be your fishbowl theory at work as well. I'm not sure how visually oriented hognoses are, but the same might apply to them.

The trade off is not being able to see your animals as well, and it could be argued that it reduces their exposure to positive outside stimuli. But I've found my animals are much healthier (and I can only assume happier) in various all-plastic opaque enclosure than in anything with glass. Temps are easier to maintain too, which helps reduce the possibility that the rubbing is from thermoregulatory issues. Which is a big concern in drafty Alaskan houses.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 3rd, 2015, 5:16 am 
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Blocking off range of vision in permanently opaque surroundings does seem to suppress many behaviors, again just like it does with other animals. In some specimens being habituated to restricted range has the effect of intolerance to normal open circumstances, and motion. But if they are to be closed in permanently that way in their keeping plan, its not an issue for the convenience of the keeper.

It seems like a sacrifice of principle though, to apply reductive measures to minimize something like nose rubbing, which also supresses a myriad of normal, non dysphoric activity in captivity which in any closed system , is already restricted by its own design.

I never have nose rub in my snakes, and don't keep any adults in tubs. They are active though and assess their closed space of glass, or glass and wood, in what seems to be a healthy pattern.

I've set up many western hogs in environments that include uvb and deep sub and have received many positive reports of entertaining behaviors of basking, complex tunneling, no nose rub. We had one here at home, an old guy in a 75, actually owned by my roommate. He set it up really nice, museum quality. The snake would bask stretched out on a deer antler.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 8th, 2015, 1:02 pm 
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Simus: Very cool! I've toyed the idea of getting into hognose and wasn't sure if they would still do their defensive display.Are Westerns similar in that regard?

With eggeaters I find they eventually stop doing the saw scale thing. Well-I did get a pair of Dasypeltis gansi recently. The male is the calmer of the two but will regularly saw scale if provoked. The female tends to just run for it. I'm working to see if I can calm the female down as she gets bigger but I kinda hope the male keeps that behavior.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 8th, 2015, 1:15 pm 

Joined: December 3rd, 2010, 12:06 pm
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Simus, one way you could "round out" those 90-degree intersections between each of the 4 sides, and between the sides and the bottom, would be to use epoxy or some other putty/filler to create concave fillet joints. Just a thought.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 8th, 2015, 5:55 pm 

Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
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Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.
Joseph, my western did not exhibit this behavior when I kept him"basically". When I changed him to flat-rocks and a good humid soil that held burrow shape and encouraged his burrowing activity, he began to show the behavior. He still never exhibited it anything like easterns do though.

Jimi wrote:
Simus, one way you could "round out" those 90-degree intersections between each of the 4 sides, and between the sides and the bottom, would be to use epoxy or some other putty/filler to create concave fillet joints. Just a thought.


Thanks Jimi, I'll keep this in mind for next season. As I've mentioned earlier, its not an issue for my adults now that their noses have hit an "equilibrium" and don't get rubbed down anymore. However, I'll be trying all sorts of stuff to avoid it once I get some neonates from my pair.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 8th, 2015, 7:49 pm 
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Burrowing usually means achieving cooler temperatures. If it isn't achieved in the space, that can translate as Just Keep Burrowng. Push. Dig. Press. More.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 28th, 2015, 12:37 pm 
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Do you find Easterns need as hot of temperatures as the Westerns do to do well?


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: October 29th, 2015, 9:57 am 

Joined: March 30th, 2014, 12:16 pm
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Location: Okaloosa ca, Fla.
I keep mine at a variety of temperatures. Their most common "active" temperatures in the wild are in the low 70s through low 80s, and they seem to seek shelter and become less common in the wild once temps reach into the upper 80s +. I usually keep my Easterns at room temp (77 ambient room temp) and will use a 100w heat lamp for a few days if I give them a particularly large food item (such as adult leopard frogs). When I use heat lamps though, they seems to seek shelter while when I don't have them in, they tend to be out sitting on top of their furnishings more.

Also, right now I'm trying to get them to build up some body mass to help with brumation so I can try again at breeding next year.


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 Post subject: Re: An key observational note on Eastern Hognose care
PostPosted: November 1st, 2015, 5:15 pm 
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I didn't read all of this, so apologies in advance if this has been suggested.

I keep a western and I notice sometimes she gets into a "burrow" rut, where she'll just pace the tank and burrow through the same tunnels over and over again. She's never really messed up her nose, but when I see this start to develop, I repack the substrate a bit, and change up the decor. Maybe add a small cardboard box here or there, move some hides around, etc. It seems like it gives her more enrichment. This usually breaks the rut. I also provide a rather thick layer of substrate for her to burrow in. I have a small pile of rocks and small tiles I bought from a hardware store that she likes to push around. It gives some resistence, without damaging her.

Maybe you could try a few of these tricks and see if it helps cut down on the rostral rubbing.


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