Most Common Wild California Reptiles

Backwater Reptiles is based out of California and we experience many climates. We’ve got dry deserts, brisk coasts, and even mountains. This means that we’re lucky enough to have many different species of reptiles thriving in our own backyards!

In this blog article, we’ll tell you a little about some of the most commonly found wild reptiles we see in the Golden State.

California King Snake (Lampropeltis g. californiae)

In addition to being widespread in the wild throughout the state of California as their name suggests, California king snakes are also extremely popular pets in captivity.

Cal Kings can actually be found all along the west coast of North America. They are very adaptable and live in all types of habitats – woodland chaparral, grassland, deserts, marshes, and even developed suburban areas.

most common reptiles in California
This is a normal morph California king snake, although king snakes have been bred to express many different types of markings and colorations.

They have a habit of rattling their tail, coiling their bodies, and hissing when they feel threatened in an attempt to mimic their much more dangerous cousin, the rattlesnake. However, it should be noted that if you find a Cal King in the wild and are able to pick it up and handle it, these snakes are not venomous or dangerous to people. The worst that could happen to you is the snake might defecate on you or you could get a small bite.

Side Blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana)

The common side blotched lizard is found all along the Pacific coast of North America. They are small lizards that typically don’t surpass two and half inches long. Males are larger than females.

female side blotched lizard
This is a female side blotched lizard. Females are less colorful than males who often times have blue spots and stripes.

There are three distinct wild morphs of side blotched lizards. Each lizard has a different color throat (yellow, orange, or blue) and actually behaves differently when it comes to mating strategies. But one thing all three morphs have in common is a mark, blotch, or dot on their torso behind their forearms. This mark is what gives the lizard its common name and also helps identify it in the wild.

Side blotched lizards are really interesting to observe in the wild and do make good pets. However, be warned that they are small lizards and have relatively short life spans. They also don’t enjoy being held as they are prey for many predators in the wild, so it may take lots of handling to tame one as a pet.

Red Eared Slider Turtle (Trachemys s. elegans)

Let us preface this section by stating that although red eared slider turtles are now commonly seen in ponds and lakes throughout California, they are not endemic to the state. In fact, they are actually considered invasive as they compete with native turtles for food and basking spots.

Red eared sliders are very adaptive and can thrive in any body of water ranging from a river to a pond in your backyard. They are opportunistic omnivores and will eat decaying organic matter whether it’s protein-based or plant-based.

red eared slider turtle hatchlings
Red eared sliders are popular pets, but because they are invasive to the state of California, please re-home your turtle responsibly if you can no longer care for it.

While they make fantastic pets, many of the sliders found in the wild in California are actually pets that have been released into local ponds, canals, or estuaries when they are no longer wanted. If you own a red eared slider, please be a responsible pet owner and re-home your turtle appropriately if you can no longer care for it.

Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

Western fence lizards are extremely common not only in California, but also in Nevada, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Washington, and Northern Mexico. Many people refer to them as “blue bellies” due to the bold blue coloring on their throats and tummies.

western fence lizard
This is the common Western Fence Lizard, also known as the “blue belly” lizard. The photo shows its underside which demonstrates how this little lizard got its common name.

Western fence lizards are very common throughout all areas of California. They inhabit chaparral, grasslands, sage brush, woodland, forests, farmland, and surprisingly, even suburban areas. In fact, if you live in a sunny area of California, it’s not uncommon to find a blue belly basking in your yard or scuttling underfoot if you cross their path.

Gopher Snake (Pituophis catenifer)

Gopher snakes are very commonly found throughout much of North America and any California herp enthusiast has probably caught or encountered a wild one at some point in his or her life. This snake’s broad range is a testament to its adaptability, hardiness, and overall survival skills.

Although most California natives can probably find a gopher snake in their backyard or within an hour’s distance of their backyard, if you want one for a pet, we always recommend purchasing a captive bred animal. They generally don’t have any parasites, are more docile, and have grown accustomed to a captive life style.

gopher snake
Gopher snakes are usually pretty docile and captive bred animals take to human interaction well.

Gophers have simple care requirements. Virtually any type of substrate will suit them, although we prefer aspen snake bedding. Provide more horizontal floor space than vertical climbing space, a few hiding spots, and a water dish, and your gopher snake should thrive. It’s not even necessary to provide any special UV lighting, although we always use one just to help regulate the temperature and provide day/night cycles.

Conclusion

All of the species listed above are very commonly found throughout the state of California. We’d even wager that most California natives will or have already come in contact with three out of the five species listed.

How to Pick Up Your Pet Snake

If you’d like to learn how to pick up your pet snake, you’ve come to the right place. In truth, many pet reptiles and amphibians are better off as observational pets–in other words, it’s better for the animal’s health if you keep the human interaction to a minimum.

Luckily, this is not true for most species of snakes that are commonly kept as pets. In this article, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions about how to handle your pet snake.

How to pick up your pet snake

How should I pick up my snake?

We’d like to start off by stating that even docile snakes can be slightly skittish or nervous when you are in the process of removing them from their enclosure. Sometimes this is due to the temperament of the species, sometimes it is because you are waking up a sleepy snake, and other times, you might unintentionally frighten your snake.

The bottom line is that even the best pet snakes do strike out from time to time, and it is usually when they are in the process of being taken out of the cage to be held.

how to handle your pet snake
This is a gopher snake being held. Gophers aren’t traditionally “friendly” snakes, although they’re also not typically aggressive. But as you can see, most snakes are friendly once you let them grow accustomed to you.

We also recommend transferring your snake to a separate container for meals. If you feed your snake in its normal enclosure, it could begin to associate the cage opening and therefore seeing you with food. This will lead to unintentional striking and biting at you as the snake will think that every time the cage opens, it’s dinner time.

Getting your pet snake out of its cage is not as simple as grabbing it and lifting it out. There are certain things you should do and things you should also avoid.

Here are some DO’s for picking up your pet snake:

-Do grab the snake around the middle section of its body.

-Do support as much of the snake’s body as much as you can. Try letting it wrap around your fingers, arm, and wrist so that it feels secure.

-Do be confident and consistent in your mannerisms when you pick up your snake. Try not to be timid, shy, or nervous as this will translate in your body language. Consistency will teach the snake that no harm will come to it when you pick it up and it will get used to interacting with you.

sunbeam snake
When your pet snake is relatively small, it will enjoy wrapping itself around your fingers and wrist. Just make sure most of the snake is supported, and it should be a pleasant experience for both the snake and the owner.

And on the other side of things, here are some definite things you want to avoid when picking up your pet snake:

-Don’t grab the snake by the tail. Many snakes will spin or thrash around if you grab their tail, and this behavior can cause the snake bodily harm.

-Don’t pick up your snake by its head. Many snakes are “head-shy,” which means that anything suddenly touching the animal’s head will scare it and could result in biting.

-Don’t let your snake flail around in your grip. You want the animal to be relaxed and calm, which will happen if you support its body and allow it to feel safe.

What snakes react best to being handled?

Corn snakes, king snakes, boas, pythons, and milk snakes are all good snakes for people that enjoy holding and connecting with their pet through physical contact.

All of these species adapt very well to captivity and many are even captive bred so they have no parasites and are in overall peak health.

Another good thing about many of these species is that they have relatively calm temperaments and with the exception of a few species of constrictors, they also don’t usually grow overly large. Smaller snake = smaller and less harmful bite if the snake does happen to strike at you for some reason.

rubber boa
Pictured is a rubber boa. These are very calm, docile snakes and will take to being held very well.

I own a venomous pet snake. How should I pick it up?

We highly recommend that you keep the handling and interaction with venomous snake species to an absolute minimum.

Unless you are an expert, playing with, holding, and otherwise having contact with a venomous snake can spell disaster.

However, if you feel ready to own a venomous pet snake and you want to remove it from its enclosure, we highly recommend using a snake hook, which we will talk about more below.

Should I use a snake hook to pick up my snake?

If you are unfamiliar with what a snake hook is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a metal tool with a handle on one end and a hook on the other end. They are used to handle venomous, aggressive, or nervous snakes.

snake hook
This is what a snake hook looks like. We recommend using them with venomous species as well as aggressive species.

Generally, once you get to know your pet snake and its own individual disposition, you’ll be able to read its body language. If your snake is in a defensive posture and you need to pick it up, we recommend using a snake hood to avoid being bitten.

Once you have removed the snake from the enclosure using the hook, it is usually safe to transfer it to your hands. Again, as we’ve previously mentioned, snakes tend to be at their most nervous at the initial time you are taking them out of the cage.

Conclusion – How to pick up my pet snake

Many species of snakes do well when interacting with people. Most are content to sit in the palm of your hand, but others develop habits of wrapping around your arm, shoulder, or neck.

No matter where your snake likes to sit, if you follow our tips and tricks, you’ll have a calmer, more pleasant experience each time you hold your snake.

The Smallest Pet Snakes

What are the smallest pet snakes? Most people imagine enormous constrictor snakes when they think of a pet snake. While it’s true that enormous snakes do make fulfilling pets, due to their large size, they are quite care intensive and require a large environment to call home.

The aim of this blog article is to showcase the smallest species of snakes sold at Backwater Reptiles. Small snakes deserve loving homes too and many people are surprised to learn how little space they actually do require to be healthy and happy.

The Smallest Pet Snakes List

Bimini Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

There are many species of blind snakes, but they all have one thing in common – they are tiny! In fact, blind snakes are so minuscule that they are very often mistaken for earth worms.

In addition to resembling earth worms in physical appearance, blind snakes also behave very similarly to worms. They are burrowers and are most common found in moist soil. They’ve even been known to live in garden flower pots, which is how they received their other common name – Flowerpot Snake.

the smallest pet snakes
As you can see from this photo, blind snakes very closely resemble earth worms in appearance and size. Definitely one of the smallest pet snakes.

The Bimini Blind Snake, which is one of the more common blind snake species, has very minimal care requirements. All a tiny blind snake needs for a home is a medium-sized glass jar with moist soil and a hiding place or two.

We’ve actually written a detailed care article on the Bimini blind snake that discusses everything from what these itty bitty reptiles like to eat to how to set up a habitat.

Ringneck Snake (Diadphis sp.)

Ringneck snakes are not all that much larger than some blind snakes, although you can definitely tell that a ringneck snake is not a worm.

Ringnecks are black with a bright orange collar or necklace around their neck, hence their common name.

ringneck snake
Ringneck snakes are distinguished by their orange or yellow band around their necks.

Many people assume that ringnecks are baby snakes, but the truth is that full grown, mature snakes still only grow to be approximately fifteen inches long. They also won’t usually get thicker than a pencil in diameter.

In the wild, ringnecks consume everything from worms to small invertebrates. In captivity, we recommend feeding them night crawlers, but some people have reported success giving them crickets.

Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus)

Many people are drawn to hognose snakes because they have cute upturned noses used for shoveling sand when they burrow. They can vary highly in terms of color and markings, but they are all very stout-bodied. They’re also known to resemble rattlesnakes to the untrained eye, although herp hobbyists know better.

As far as size is concerned, hognose snakes are quite a bit larger than blind snakes and ringneck snakes, but they’re still considered small pet snakes. They can grow to two to three feet long and have very long life spans for such small critters. With proper care and husbandry, hognose snakes can live to twenty years or longer!

western hognose snake
Hognose snakes are recognizable by their upturned, pig-like noses.

A snake the size of a Western hognose should be given a tank that is around twenty gallons. Unless you have a particularly large specimen, you can usually even house a breeding pair together as well.

Because hognoses are burrowers by nature, we recommend providing a sandy substrate to allow for this behavior.

Ball Python (Python regius)

Not only are ball pythons very reasonably sized as far as snakes are concerned (often considered a small pet snake), but they are also extremely mild-mannered with pleasant dispositions. This is what makes them quite possibly the most popular pet snake on the planet.

Ball pythons breed readily in captivity, which means that they are available in a multitude of morphs. You can get a ball python that is pure white and everything in between as far as markings and coloration are concerned.

ball python
Ball pythons are the most well-known pet snake on this list, as well as the largest.

Ball pythons are also the largest snake species on this list, although we’d still say that they are “small” for a pet snake. Males are typically smaller than females, reaching lengths between two to three feet long. Females will be anywhere from three to five feet long.

Conclusion – The Smallest Pet Snakes

If you’re in the market for a small pet snake and you have limited room in your home for a cage or vivarium, then we think any of the snakes on this list would be a good fit you. All of them attain reasonable sizes and are known for placid demeanors and even-tempered personalities.

 

Bimini Blind Snake Care (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

Although Bimini Blind Snakes and their other blind snake relatives are not the most interactive or involved pet reptiles, they are most certainly interesting and somewhat uncommon in the pet world.

Relatively little is known about these tiny snakes, but this blog article will discuss how we care for them at Backwater Reptiles.

Bimini Blind Snake Description

If you weren’t paying close attention, you could easily mistake any of the species of small blind snakes for earthworms. In fact, the main feature that distinguishes blind snakes from worms is that blind snakes do not have segmented bodies. They are reptiles and therefore possess scales instead of segments.

bimini blind snake care
As you can see, blind snakes very closely resemble earth worms. However, they aren’t segmented and if you look closely, you will see that they have scales.

Blind snakes are approximately the same size as a night crawler worm and can be anywhere from two and a half to six inches in length when full grown. They can be several different colors including shiny, silvery grey, purple, or dull charcoal.

You’ll have to look very closely at a blind snake to determine which end is the head and which is the tail as both ends look very similar. The head does however have tiny eyes which are protected underneath translucent scales. These protective scales are actually what renders the snake blind, allowing it to only sense light intensity but not form images.

Fun fact: blind snakes are parthenogenetic and do not reproduce sexually. All known species collected have been female and all offpsring produced are identical females.

Blind snakes are also very similar to worms as far as temperament is concerned. They are not fast snakes that strike or bite. Their main defense mechanism is to burrow, hide, or run away. Ultimately, this means that keeping a pet blind snake will be a lot like keeping a pet earth worm. Your blind snake will not be very interactive and would prefer to be left alone, but you can hold it if you desire.

Bimini Blind Snake Care

Because blind snakes are not commonly kept as pets, their care regiments and requirements vary from keeper to keeper. We’ve found that the methods listed below work best for us.

blind snake
Here a blind snake is shown next to a Sharpie marker to illustrate scale.

Blind snakes have a tendency to hide or burrow and we always provide a moist substrate such as organic potting soil to facilitate this behavior. If you want to see your blind snake emerge from hiding, we do recommend placing something such as a “tented” moist paper towel or another similar light, small hiding place above ground.

The size of the blind snake’s enclosure will vary based on the size of the snake. But in most cases, even a ten gallon tank is not necessary. The smaller snakes will be just fine in a large glass jar.

Blind snakes are tropical, so we do provide a temperature gradient by heating one side of the enclosure with a heat bulb. The temperature should be anywhere from 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Because blind snakes do tend to hide, we’ve never really worried about exposure to UV rays, but if you do happen to notice your blind snake emerging from underground a lot, it might be wise to provide a UV light for basking purposes. We’ve heard that some actually do enjoy basking – it varies from subspecies to subspecies.

Bimini Blind Snake Feeding

We bet you’re wondering what on earth such a small snake could eat. Obviously the normal snake diet of mice isn’t appropriate.

In the wild, blind snakes eat mostly small invertebrates such as termites, ants, small beetles, small worms, and larva. They’ve also been known to consume caterpillar feces while living in garden flowerpots.

In captivity, we recommend feeding your blind snake termites or ants as these are the most commonly available feeder insects of an appropriate size. However, if you have access to a garden with aphids and other small insects and larvae, you can actually harvest your own food.

bimini blind snake
You can handle your blind snake if you choose because they are not aggressive at all.

Conclusion

Because Bimini blind snakes are indeed very similar to earth worms, many people might not think twice about keeping one as a pet. And while it is certainly true that they’re small, unobtrusive, and maybe even somewhat boring, they can still make rewarding pets.

Blind snakes don’t require a lot to stay happy. They are extremely low maintenance and we think they make great starter pets for kids.

Elephant Trunk Snake Care (Acrochordus javanicus)

The Elephant Trunk Snake (Acrochordus javanicus) is quite a bizarre species of snake that has very specific care requirements. Because they have such a unique and comical appearance (more on that later), elephant trunk snakes could be viewed as novelty pets, but in this blog article, we’ll explain why we feel these snakes are best suited for experienced reptile keepers. Let’s get into some detail on Elephant trunk snake care below.

Elephant Trunk Snake Description

We’ve already hinted at it, but the physical appearance of the elephant trunk snake is definitely unique. If we had to choose a single word to describe this species, we’d call it “soggy.”

We think it’s also fair to say that this snake’s common name offers a very apt interpretation of its appearance as it does closely resemble the trunk of an elephant, both in texture and in shape.

elephant trunk snake care
As you can see from this photo, the elephant trunk snake appears quite soggy with loose skin, almost reminiscent of a Green anaconda. Their care is specialized.

Elephant trunk snakes are various shades of brown and some have spots, stripes, or a combination of both. Their bellies are generally a lighter tone closer to an ivory, cream, or pale yellow. They have loose-fitting skin that suits their aquatic lifestyle and allows them fluid movement within the water. The scales of the snake are rough, projectiles that are often described as “warty.”

Males of this species are smaller than the females at maturity. Neither gender usually exceeds eight feet in length, making them a moderately-sized animal to keep as a pet. They tend to live between twelve and twenty years in captivity.

Elephant Trunk Snake Habitat

Elephant trunk snakes are one of the few species of pet snakes that are truly aquatic. This means that as an owner, you’ll need to provide an aquarium rather than a vivarium to keep this species happy and healthy. This is one area of their care that is extremely unique.

A mature animal will require a tank that holds at least 40 gallons, but anything larger is also fine. We don’t recommend housing multiple snakes together, but a breeding male and female pair can be allowed to cohabitate.

Elephant trunk snakes are known for being escape artists, so be sure that your tank has a secure fitting lid on top. We also weigh our lids down with either a hardback book or two on each side or a rock or hefty paperweight.

Water in the tank should be warm. We recommend maintaining a temperature in the low eighties, although allowing the water to cool to room temperature at night shouldn’t be an issue.

Make sure to provide plenty of hiding places within your tank as this species is an ambush predator and also can be somewhat shy. Another necessity is an elevated, out of water platform such as floating cork bark. Although they live aquatic lives, these snakes do enjoy basking and will emerge from water to do so.

Elephant Trunk Snake Feeding Habits

One of the most important facets of Elephant trunk snake care is their feeding habits and preferences. Most terrestrial snakes that people keep as pets eat mice or rats. The elephant trunk snake has a completely different diet because it eats aquatic prey.

elephant trunk snake
Elephant trunk snakes et aquatic animals such as fish and frogs.

The elephant trunk snakes at Backwater Reptiles are offered feeder fish. Many owners allow a small feeder fish population to exist within the tank, while others place only one or two fish at a time in the tank.

In the wild, elephant trunk snakes eat frogs as well, however many pet stores don’t carry feeder frogs, and we don’t think its a necessity to include frogs in your snake’s diet unless you are so inclined.

Elephant Trunk Snake Temperament

Elephant trunk snakes are extremely mellow and non-aggressive towards people. However, we must mention that although you can remove the snake from water, handling should be limited to removing the snake for cleaning of its tank or other such necessities.

No discussion on Elephant snake care would be complete without mentioning the aspect of handling these special reptiles.

Due to the way it is built, the elephant trunk snake is not meant to be picked up and held. It will be detrimental to the animal’s health if you attempt to hold it or interact with it in the same manner that you would a traditional boa, python, or corn snake.

The bottom line is, although elephant trunk snakes might be friendly to people, DO NOT pick them up or handle them on a regular basis. Just like you wouldn’t hold a pet fish because it is bad for the animal’s health, you shouldn’t hold your pet elephant trunk snake.

Conclusion – Elephant trunk snake care

Because they are not interactive pets and because they require a completely different set up and care requirements than traditional pet reptiles, we recommend elephant trunk snakes for experienced herp owners only. Their aquatic care and preferred diet makes them unique reptiles.

 

What’s the Difference Between Snakes and Legless Lizards?

What comes to mind when you hear the words legless lizard? For a great number of people, the answer is a snake. Logically, a lizard without legs that slithers as a means of locomotion would be classified as a snake, right? Not the case!

What’s the Difference Between Snakes & Legless Lizards?

In this article, we’ll address these questions:
-What exactly is a legless lizard?
-What makes a legless lizard different from a snake?
-Do legless lizards make good pets?

The Difference Between Snakes and Legless Lizards

What is a legless lizard?

Also commonly known as glass lizards, legless lizards are any number of lizards from the family Pygopodidae that have either completely lost their limbs or have reduced them in size to the point that they are no longer useful in locomotion.

legless lizards versus snakes
As you can see from this photo, upon first glance, this legless lizard appears very much the same as a snake. However, there are actually many physical traits that make the two reptiles different from one another.

As you might surmise, legless lizards closely resemble snakes in terms of appearance. They come in many color schemes and can be found in various climates.

What makes a legless lizard different from a snake?

First of all, observant people who are not afraid to get up close and personal with reptiles will be able to see physical differences between legless lizards and snakes.

Legless lizards have eyelids and can blink, whereas snakes lack eyelids and therefore cannot blink. Although we’ve never tried it, we’re sure that if you stared at a legless lizard long enough, you’d eventually see it blink.

If you turn a snake over and examine its belly, you’ll notice it will have a broad, single row of scales that runs the length of its body. When you take a look at the belly of a legless lizard however, you’ll be able to see that it lacks this feature.

Another physical trait you can observe in a legless lizard is an external ear opening. Snakes actually don’t have ears. They sense sound in a different manner than most animals, so they have no need for external ears.

The last physical trait you can observe that distinguishes legless lizards from snakes is the length of the animal’s body. This might seem silly, but snakes have long bodies with short tails, whereas legless lizards have short bodies with long tails. It might take a bit more practice to recognize where an animal’s tail begins, but combined with all the other visible traits that differentiate legless lizards from snakes, we think even reptile novices will be able to tell the difference between the two.

legless lizard
A closer look at this glass lizard’s face will show you that it has external ear openings, which snakes lack.

Lastly, snakes have a jaw that can unhinge to allow for them to consume prey much larger than most animals. A snake can eat something as large or sometimes larger than its head, whereas its unwise to feed a lizard anything larger than the space between its eyes, regardless of whether or not that lizard has legs. Legless lizards do not possess the proper anatomy to be able to unhinge their jaw and therefore eat mostly small invertebrates, whereas snakes generally eat small mammals.

Do legless lizards make good pets?

At Backwater Reptiles, we think every critter we sell would make a good fit for the right type of person.

Glass lizards are sort of just very chill versions of “normal” lizards with legs. We’ve found that some lizard species are naturally more flighty and timid, which means they don’t enjoy being held. They’re prone to skuttling out of your hand or squiggling uncomfortably. Because legless lizards are not the speediest of reptiles, they’re usually just fine to relax in your hands, although they’re not as likely to wind around your wrist or wrap around your fingers as a pet snake would be.

glass lizard
Glass lizards even flick their tongues out in the same way that snakes do, however their tongues are shaped slightly different.

As we’ve previously touched upon, legless lizards are carnivores, so as long as you feed them a varied diet of different invertebrates, your legless lizard will thrive. In the wild, they’ll eat everything from worms to other reptiles’ eggs. At Backwater Reptiles, we feed ours gutloaded crickets, mealworms, night crawlers on occasion, and wax worms as treats.

Conclusion

So, we’ve learned that legless lizards and snakes are definitely not the same. Although they are very similar in appearance, they are very different creatures with different care requirements.

If this discussion has got you thinking you’d enjoy a pet legless lizard of your own, Backwater Reptiles sells them.

 

Most Interactive Pet Reptiles

What are the most interactive pet reptiles? Some people have said to us that they don’t understand why people keep reptiles as pets. Because they are technically an exotic species, most types of reptiles, whether lizard, snake, turtle, or tortoise, are not particularly cuddly or playful towards their owners in the same manner that a dog or cat would be.

However, this blog article will prove those naysayers wrong. While it’s true that many reptile species are best kept as “decorative” pets, there are species out there that bond with their owners and like being taken out of their cage to be played with. Read on to find out which species we’ve ranked as the most interactive pet reptiles.

The Most Interactive Pet Reptiles

Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)

Bearded dragons are bred to be many different colors and textures (i.e. they are available in countless morphs) to appeal to owners with all kinds of aesthetics, but they are also one of the most relaxed, uncomplicated species of lizards you’ll ever encounter.

most interactive pet reptiles
This hatchling bearded dragon is quite at ease being held and touched by people.

Bearded dragons are captive bred through enough generations at this point that while they are not technically domesticated, they have become quite tame.

It’s not uncommon for Beardies to enjoy being taken out of their cage to spend time with their owners. Many people like to place their Beardie on their shoulder while they sit at the computer and still others will take their Beardie to the couch to watch TV with them!

The point we’re making here is that Beardies are extremely friendly, mid-size companion lizards that will enjoy human interaction.

Ball Python (Python regius)

Although they’re a bit on the quiet side, ball pythons are very calm, docile snakes and have been dubbed the most popular pet snake in the reptile world.

Like bearded dragons, they can also be bred to express any number of traits in a seemingly endless number of morphs. Some of the most popular are albino, pastel, and fire.

baby ball python
This “normal” phase baby ball python is perfectly content to curl up in a ball and sit in the palm of your hand.

Ball python hatchlings are usually sold at around ten inches long and will mature into mid-size snakes that max out at approximately six feet in length, although three feet is a far more common size.

Ball pythons enjoy curling up into a ball and sitting in your hand, but once they reach adult size, many people also enjoy wrapping the snake around their neck. Ball pythons are not super squiggly snakes, so they tend to move slowly and more often than not, they will stay put wherever you place them.

Sulcata Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)

If you want a carefree pet that will make itself at home in your backyard, then we highly recommend you get yourself a sulcata tortoise.

sulcata tortoise outdoors
This adult sulcata tortoise is enjoying wandering around outside in the nice weather. If you create a proper outdoor enclosure, your pet sulcata will feel the same.

Not only do these tortoises live very long lives (most will outlive their owners!), they’re also very low key. If you let your tortoise roam your yard, odds are you’ll see it at feeding time and out basking when the weather is nice.

The bottom line is that sulcatas don’t ask much from their owner. They are content to wander your yard and they’ll come say hi and get their shell scratched from time to time.

Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus)

A word of warning before we start singing the praises of the Savannah monitor – these lizards grow large. If you are not prepared to house a lizard that will top out at around five feet long, then please, stick to one of the other smaller species on this list.

baby savannah monitor
Baby Savannah monitors are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but be warned – they grow to be around five feet long!

Savannahs are friendly as babies and with training and socialization, they can become as tame as a dog or cat. In fact, there are many videos online that show massive Savannahs watching TV sitting on their owners’ laps or on leashes going for walks. Once they are full-grown, a Savannah that is well cared for will be friendly and sociable with people.

We recommend starting out with a hatchling Savannah monitor and forming a bond with it as it grows. Babies can comfortably sit in the palm of your hand and if you teach them that being taken out of their cage means petting, food, and positive interaction with people, before long you’ll have a Savannah monitor that you’ll be happy to introduce to your friends and family.

Conclusion – Most interactive pet reptiles

We hope we’ve shown you that although reptiles are not necessarily going to share your bed like a cat or dog would, they can capture your heart just as quickly. They can be loving, friendly, and full of personality just like any other pet.

If you wish to purchase a pet bearded dragon, ball python, sulcata tortoise, or savannah monitor, Backwater Reptiles sells all of these interactive pet reptiles.

 

How do I get my snake to eat

Although snakes are very common pet reptiles, it’s not uncommon for them to refuse food from time to time. In fact, at Backwater Reptiles, one of the most commonly asked questions we get when it comes to reptile care is – how do I get my pet snake to eat?

So, if you’ve ever struggled with a picky eater or are currently trying to get your snake to eat, continue reading to learn what tips and tricks we use at Backwater Reptiles to get our own snakes to eat regularly and healthily.

Live Prey vs. Frozen Prey

The biggest problem many snake owners seem to encounter is getting their snake to eat dead prey. In the wild, obviously snakes kill and eat live animals, so some snakes need to be taught that when you present them with a dead mouse, the mouse is meant to be eaten.

How to get my pet snake to eat
This green water snake (Nerodia floridana) could prove to be a tricky eater as they are primarily known to eat small amphibians in the wild.

Many small animals that snakes eat in the wild (i.e. mice, gophers, rabbits, etc.) are mammals that create their own body heat. The key word here is heat. If your thawed frozen mouse is not warm enough, your snake might not recognize it as a food source.

In order to thaw and warm up a frozen mouse of any size, do NOT place it in the microwave. Ever. You will wind up having to clean mouse innards out of your microwave. Instead, thaw the mouse the same way you might a chicken breast. Place the mouse in warm water or run it under warm water until it is warm to the touch.

In addition to feeling warm, the mouse should also not be hard in the center. If the feeder mouse is hard or tough in the center when you squeeze it gently, it’s still frozen inside. This might not only deter your snake from eating it, but it can also create digestive issues down the line.

Throughout the years, we’ve also learned that some snakes just don’t like to eat thawed food. Maybe they fancy themselves food critics – who knows? But the only real way to feed a snake that refuses to eat thawed food is to feed it living food.

red tail green rat snake
A small, slender snake like this red tail green rat snake (Gonysoma oxycephala) should be eating small mice.

Feeding your snake living mice, rats, or in some cases, even rabbits, can be distressing to both you, the owner, and the snake. Even though it’s part of life and the food chain, it can be tough to have to administer a living animal to another living animal. And as far as distress to the snake is concerned, if your snake doesn’t capture and eat the prey immediately, the prey can actually injure the snake! It’s not unheard of for unattended live mice left in a snake’s cage to actually gnaw on the snake and create wounds.

Ultimately, we highly recommend frozen food if your snake will eat it for both safety and convenience’s sake, but live prey is always an option should you have a very picky eater on your hands.

Color of Food

It has also been suggested that the color of the prey item makes a difference in the snake’s appetite.

Many mice obtained from pet stores for snake food are white, which is not a naturally occurring mouse color in the wild. Most wild mice are grey, brown, or some combination thereof.

This might not hold true for all snakes, but some owners swear that snakes will refuse white mice but eat naturally-colored ones with no problem.

Feeding Schedule & Feeding Tanks

If you can, we do recommend sticking to a schedule. Regularity will help the snake to know when it’s feeding time.

Most mature snakes should eat once every one or two weeks. Growing hatchlings should eat no less than once per week. Some will have large appetites and even consume multiple mice in one sitting.

Along with the schedule, you should create regularity in how the snake is fed. We highly recommend utilizing a feeding tank so that your snake will come to understand that being placed in the feeding tank means food will arrive shortly. This will not only encourage eating, but will also encourage your snake to strike less when you take it out to handle it because it won’t associate your hand with food every time the cage is opened.

Shedding Time

The only time that a snake will normally refuse food is when it is preparing to shed. Your snake will become dull and its eyes will become cloudy or opaque and this indicates that it will shed shortly.

ball python
Ball Pythons are notorious for refusing food from time to time, although they usually overcome this habit.

Most snakes do not feed in the wild when they are preparing to shed because their eyesight is compromised. This behavior also holds true in captivity and is to be expected.

The bottom line is that you should withhold food until your snake has completed its shed because the snake will probably refuse the food anyway.

Snake Constipation

As silly as it seems, sometimes a snake can get constipated and will therefore decline food due to an upset stomach.

A good remedy for this is to give the snake a good soak. Prepare a lukewarm water bath and allow your snake to sit for anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes.

The moisture can sometimes help stimulate the snake to defecate, not to mention that nearly all reptiles enjoy a good soak.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why snakes sometimes won’t eat. Some are picky eaters and some might even be in pain without your knowledge.

We recommend trying out our tips and tricks and if your snake still won’t eat after three weeks of trying, it’s time to see the vet.

 

 

What Reptiles Give Birth to Live Young?

Most reptiles reproduce by laying eggs, but did you know that a handful of reptiles actually give birth to live young?

Want to learn more about which species don’t lay eggs? Then this is the blog article for you!

Explanation of Terms

In order to discuss laying eggs versus giving live birth, you’ll need to know some terms that explain the three types of reptile births.

Most snakes and lizards are oviparous, which means that the animal lays eggs in order to reproduce. Once the eggs have been deposited, they need to be incubated or kept warm and safe until the hatchlings are ready to emerge.

When a reptile gives birth to a baby without the use of an egg, it is termed viviparous. This means that the animal nourishes its young internally through a placenta and yolk sac. This is the rarest reptile birthing method.

ovoviviparous jackson's chameleon live young
This is a female Jackson’s Chameleon (Chamaeleo jacksonii). Female Jackson’s are ovoviviparous and give birth to fully formed babies.

Boa constrictors and green anacondas are two examples of snakes that are viviparous.

Finally, if a reptile develops eggs inside its body but still gives birth to babies instead of laying the eggs, this is called being ovoviviparous. Essentially, the female keeps the remnants of the eggs inside her while the fully formed babies emerge, making it seem as though the babies were true “live” births.

An example of an ovoviviparous reptile is the rattlesnake. If you were to x-ray a gravid female rattlesnake, you would be able to see both the skeletons of the babies and the outlines of the eggs.

Which Snakes Give Live Birth?

As previously discussed, both ovoviviparous and viviparous reptiles birth fully formed, functional babies.

Most vipers and all rattlesnakes fall into this category. The Boidae family, which includes boa constrictors and other boa snakes, are viviparous and therefore don’t produce eggs to insulate their babies at any time. The same is true of green anacondas.

dumerils boa
Pictured is a Dumeril’s Boa (Boa dumerili). As a member of the boa family, this snake does not lay eggs to reproduce.

Most sea snakes also give birth to live young. Baby sea snakes are born directly into the ocean! The only exception to this is the genus Laticauda. The females of this sea snake species emerge from the ocean and lay eggs on land, making them oviparous.

It’s interesting to note that all species of snakes that give birth to live young offer no parenting to their babies. Viviparous and ovoviviparous infant snakes are on their own from the instant they are born. It’s said this is why baby rattlesnakes are born with a full “venom tank” and are ready to bite from day one.

Which Lizards Give Live Birth?

Interestingly enough, there is a species of lizard called the Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) that is fully viviparous – go figure. This lizard is found in Europe and Asia and is the only species in the genus Zootoca.

Many species of skinks, including the very popular Blue Tongue Skink (Tiliqua sp.) give birth to live young. Blueys actually have a very complex placental mechanism that delivers oxygen to the developing fetus and carries carbon dioxide away. However, all reptiles, whether they are born live or hatch out of eggs are nourished through a yolk sac. This is still true of the blue tongue skink.

baby blue tongue skink
Baby blue tongue skinks (Tiliqua sp.) are born fully formed and ready to take on the world.

Gravid Jackson’s chameleons are ovoviviparous and all species of Jackson’s give live birth. A female Jackson’s chameleon will typically birth between twenty to thirty babies per brood, although the Mt. Meru Jackson’s Chameleon, which is the smallest of the Jackson’s chameleons, will typically have fewer than twenty babies at a time.

Conclusion – Reptiles and Live Birth

Most lizards and snakes are oviparous and lay eggs to reproduce. However, there are both lizards and snakes that bear live young.

The reptiles that do in fact give live birth are pretty well-known amongst reptile hobbyists and enthusiasts. And although we might not have listed every individual species on our lists above, we did mention general groupings and families that are known to give live birth. So, if your reptile in question is not described above, then it’s probably safe to assume that it reproduces by laying eggs.

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Care (Gonysoma oxycephala)

Are you in the market for a colorful, mid-size snake with a reasonable temperament? Then we think a red tail green rat snake might be for you.

red tail green rat snake care
Red tail green rat snakes are sleek and limber snakes.

As its name suggests, the red tail green rat snake sometimes has a red tail. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes the tail only has a slight hint of a red tint to it and sometimes it’s not even red at all. The body of the snake itself is usually a brilliant green color, but variation exists and some snakes are grey, silver, or brown.

Green rat snakes will grow to be anywhere from sixty to seventy inches long and are considered mid-size snakes by reptile hobbyists, even though they are actually the largest species of rat snake. Because they are arboreal, their bodies are very limber and strong to enable them to navigate tree branches.

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Housing

An enclosure that is at least 36 inches long and 30 inches tall is recommended for a single green tree rat snake. Because they are semi-arboreal, a green tree rat snake’s home will require things to climb on such as wooden branches and either real or fake foliage.

As far as flooring is concerned, we recommend a traditional snake substrate such as aspen shavings or coconut fiber. A good substrate for a green rat snake is something that holds moisture but doesn’t remain too wet. Just like any other snake species, you’ll want to be sure that there is adequate moisture inside the snake’s home, but also avoid keeping things too wet as this could foster respiratory infections. Choosing a good substrate is the first step to respiratory health.

green rat snake
As this photo shows, the red tail green rat snake does not always have a bright red tail.

Cage décor for red tail green rat snakes need not be elaborate, although there are two things that you want to be sure not to exclude. The first item is a large water dish. Humidity is important when keeping reptiles of all species and water dishes help to maintain proper moisture levels. We also want to recommend that some type of ground-level hide be placed in the cage, even if your snake does spend a lot of time climbing. Replaceable toilet paper rolls, bark hide spaces from pet stores, and even homemade hideouts are all acceptable options.

The temperature in your green tail rat snake’s enclosure should stay in the range of 77 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use reptile heat tape, heating pads, or lamps to maintain this temperature. It’s also wise to invest in a thermometer so you can monitor this closely and make sure it doesn’t fluctuate too much.

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Feeding

Although red tail green rat snakes eat lots of small animals in the wild, they will take to eating frozen/thawed mice pretty quickly, even if your pet snake happens to not be a captive bred animal. It might take some training, but green rat snakes will readily accept pre-killed food. We recommend feeding around every seven to ten days for adults and bi-weekly for hatchlings.

red tail green rat snake
Red tail green rat snakes are arboreal, so be sure to provide them with a habitat that accommodates this behavior.

Red Tail Green Rat Snake Temperament

While red tail green rat snakes are not known for being particularly docile, they are also not known for being on the defensive or aggressive side. We’ve found that if you handle your green rat snake regularly and teach it to associate time outside the cage being handled with good things, it will take to human interaction quite well.

handling your green rat snake
Be calm and confident when handling your red tail green rat snake and it will respond to you well.

As far as handling is concerned, the only word of advice we have when it comes to picking up your green rat snake is to be wary when you first remove it from its cage. Like many snake species, it’s not uncommon for a green rat snake to be a bit nervous and fidgety, which can translate to a bad experience for both owner and animal if caution is not exercised. Just be calm and confident with your snake and it will cooperate with you.

Conclusion

Red tail green rat snakes make exceptional and rewarding pets. We recommend them for hobbyists with moderate levels of experience due to their habitat requirements and somewhat flighty nature.

Think you’re ready to purchase a red tail green rat snake of your own? Backwater Reptiles has got you covered!