This is a partial update on the Nylon Mesh Erosion Control Snake Death Trap I posted back in 2010. For those of you who missed it, here's the original post regarding that tragic disaster: viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2515
I'll be posting an update on that continuing situation soon. (For now it turned out to be not quite so bad as originally predicted)
Now here's the story about 2 Fox snakes that were rescued from the nylon mesh area:
On May 12, 2011 while snakes were still being strangled in the mesh, a large female Fox snake was found under a flat rock only a few yards away. It was decided by me and a fellow field colleague that it was OK to bring her home, for we were both convinced she would be dead within a few days.
On May 28, a huge male was found crawling nearby where the female was found. I still haven't measured him yet, but it is the largest Fox sake I've ever seen! (5 ft plus at least)
They were both set up in a large naturalistic terrarium here at home. (The female bit me 6 times while I was replacing the water bowl, the big male has been as tame as a piece of rope since the minute I picked him up!)
They both began eating soon after they settled in and did quite well all summer. I decided they were going to be long term captives (at least thru the winter) so I began building a hibernation box here in the basement. And yes... as you will plainly see... I had all the time in the world to make it all WAY more detailed then it needed to be!
Starting out with scrap plywood and plexi-glass.
The plexi-glass is taped onto the bottom portion of the box to help keep the wood from rotting.
The bottom layer is filled with black dirt and leaves. The tree branch posts are there to prop up the second level.
Particle board with holes for access and water bowl.
Second level. Kasota Stone (Dolomite) limestone slabs and more supports. (These stones were collected along a railroad bed just outside of town. They are from the stone quarries in the Minnesota River Valley where the Fox snakes are from and comprise the bedrock where most of the populations find refuge below the frost line)
Water bowl and moss.
More rocks and supports. The smaller slabs are cemented in with rubber cement to help prevent the snakes from pushing them around and covering up the holes.
Top level. After the woodworking was done, I moved the operation into the coldest part of the basement where they’d be spending the winter
A nice new sheet of plexi-glass slides down over the front in 2 grooves along the edge. It worked for now but I’ll have to redesign that before next winter.
A hinged portion of the top lid allowed me to slide the plexi-glass up (for keeping the water bowl clean) without lifting up the whole top.
2 front doors keep out the light and help keep in the cool air.
All ready for 2 sleepy snakes.
Both snakes were put into the top level and they immediately crawled down into the bottom chambers. I only checked on them at night with all the basement lights turned off and used only a 25 watt red bulb so they wouldn’t be disturbed.
Occasionally I used a flash to get a good clear photo.
The female began crawling around the summer cage already during the first week of September (apparently looking for the underground area long before I had the box done) so she obtained a real nasty nose rub. I feel really bad about this, but I had no idea she would become so restless so early in the season.
After a few days down in the lower portion she had packed her sore nose with black dirt. She finally cooled down enough to settle down and let that nose heal up.
She spent the first few weeks down below the water container and actually vanished from view for days at a time.
The big male started out down in the moist portion too, but he spent most of the winter high and dry in the upper levels.
Early in January the female moved upstairs and stayed in the dry portion too. Thermometer down in the corner never got below 52 degrees F. Several times during this past crazy mild winter, I actually had to leave the basement window open during the day just to keep the temp below 58!
I had 2 other small adult Fox snakes brumating in a 20 gallon long aquarium above the box. During early February the female began crawling around and losing weight. She started out the winter season with too little fat reserve. I tried to get her to eat as much as possible last fall but it just wasn’t enough. (She was the only one of this bunch that was cut loose from the mesh, so there may have been some stress involved due to her not eating enough) I tried warming her up and offering food but it was too late and she died. I then moved the smaller male down into the big box with the other 2 large ones. Now I think I may have made a mistake by keeping the smaller pair in a glass aquarium. Most of the enclosure ended up being too damp and it looked like the smaller male was losing weight too, but as soon as I put him into the big dry box, he almost immediately swelled up and did just fine.
He’s the one on the left, a picture of health! (?) He was not actually cut from the netting either but was found too close to it and it was decided he should come home too for a while.
During the first week of March (with record high temps for Minnesota!!) The snakes began spending all their time on the upper level, and actually began moving around… and began rubbing their noses on the roof !!!
The original plan was to have a huge 6 foot long new enclosure all ready for them by the time they woke up (which here in southern Minnesota is usually sometime around the last week of April) but because they began to wake up early I had to quickly rebuild their old cage from last summer.
Drilled a hole through the bottom of the old cage, through the table and into the top of the hibernation box.
A piece of PVC pipe connected the two. (Someone was getting impatient!)
The new habitat is all set up and the connector pipe in place.
Checking out the new place.
The big male spent the first 2 days up in the new place, but the female remained down below for a while. The Male went back down into the lower den box the first 2 nights, then stayed upstairs after that.
The intensity of the basking spot depends on the conditions outside… Lights are off if it’s a cool, cloudy day. A 40 watt bulb is on from sun up to sundown if the daytime temps are 60-70 degrees. Just before feeding time… a 60 watt bulb is used to crank up the hot spot to 100 degrees. The 25 watt red bulb is on if it’s a warm night and also right after they eat. (Basically trying to re-create outside conditions)
If the light is on… they spend all day right under it.
First feeding of the season. Frozen thawed Mice. I didn’t record how much each one ate last summer but during June and July they both gobbled down at least a dozen large mice and small rats (each) to the point where I thought the female was becoming obese. The female stopped eating already during the last week of July and the big male had his last meal the first week of August! I was surprised they both stopped eating so early in the season and I was also taken by surprise that the female began looking for the underground hibernacula already in late August/early September.
(And this is the last time I feed them together too. The big guy always finishes first and then it’s a trick to keep him away from swiping the females lunch) I'll be keeping more detailed records on their feeding habits this year.
Back under the light and waiting for the first shed of the season.
There!!! Gonna post this quick and check over mistakes later... before I hit the wrong button again and delete everything!