Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Rescue Snakes- Dealing With Mites

(I promise this will be the last snakey post for a while)

"Two snakes, four snakes, what's the difference?"

So we were thinking. We like snakes, and there are lots of snakes out there that need a home. These two lovely creatures are a morph called mahogany (we affectionately call them 'the hogs'), which unfortunately isn't very popular as it looks very similar to a normal. We got them from a man in South Yorkshire when we went to visit family up there, and he really didn't know what he was getting into when he bought them. They weren't terribly looked after, but it was dirty and they hadn't been handled much. Also, they had mites. He didn't tell us they had mites, the bastard, we only found out when we'd got them home. I hate to think how long they'd had them.

They went straight into quarantine, and we began a strict regime of mite-killing. We ordered mite spray online but it was going to take 2 weeks to arrive. In the meantime, we set them up in a separate room of the house. Every night I'd take the two snakes out, wipe them with baby wipes until I wasn't getting any more mites off, and then soak them in the bath for 20 minutes before wiping away any stragglers. Whilst I was doing this my boyfriend would clean their vivariums thoroughly and replace the cardboard hides with new ones before we put them back in. Then we'd put our clothes in the wash and shower and put on clean clothes before going anywhere near Cuddles and Nymeria. That's the key to dealing with mites: do not cross-contaminate anything between your mitey snakes and your healthy snakes. Don't think "oh I'll just top up their water and I don't need to change clothes afterwards." No. The mites will crawl onto you and then you'll have a big problem.

Bath time with the hogs.

By the time the mite spray arrived I wasn't finding any more mites on them, but we treated all the snakes and the vivariums for another couple of weeks to be on the safe side. We haven't had any problems since, and despite them living most of their lives up to now in a hovel and being covered in mites, they're very healthy.

Houdini, the male mahogany:

Bath time with Houdini was always a challenge, and he was very easy to name because of this. He'd start at one end (usually pushing off his sister) and sprint to the other side of the bath, hook his head over the side, and then pull himself up by his chin. It was honestly impressive to watch and he got a lot better at it over time. Because he hated the bath it always felt like he was being very affectionate, wrapping himself round my forearms and refusing to let go, or using my hand as an island. He's the brave one of the two, rarely sitting still, and very quick. He's wriggled underneath most things in the living room, and is very very escape-y. He'll also let you touch his nose, which is pretty rare for a ball python.

Miss Piggy, the female mahogany:

Miss Piggy is a real sweetie. While her brother is throwing himself at the walls of baths, she's curled up and happily enjoying the warm soak. She's probably the smarter of the two, as she'd hold her head underwater to drown the mites whereas I had to chase him down with baby wipes. She moves slowly, doesn't fall off things, and as long as you're warm will let you just hold her like a baby in your arms. She's essentially a big happy plop, and is growing at an impressive rate. She almost a whole kilo now, she's put on over 200g in the last month. I think she's going through snake-puberty, personally. Miss Piggy started out shy and she's improved so much with regular handling. I love to cuddle her in the evenings.

Since everything with me comes back to genetics (I know, I know) I must admit that there's an ulterior motive to rescuing these little fellows. The super form of the mahogany gene (inheriting the allele from both parents) is a black snake with a red stripe down its back. A quarter of the babies will look almost mythical. With Miss Piggy growing at the rate she is, next year we may have some tiny hatchlings, and goal 34 will be complete.

Limpet x

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