An account of the UK's First Captive-Breeding.
The Texas Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoletus lindheimeri) is, in its normal form, very variable in colouration and markings but is generally a fairly dull brown, black and tan blotched animal. It shares with the Grey Rat the characteristic of retaining juvenile saddle-pattern.
They are now available in a number of different colour mutations, the most attractive of which is probably the leucistic form. Such animals have opaque, pattern white skin and dark (often almost blue) eyes. This differs from the true albino form in which the translucent skin allows the underlying blood vessels to lend the animal an overall pinkish colouration. The Texas Ratsnake is also available in an amelanistic form in which some remnant of the dark saddle pattern is still visible. In both of these forms the eyes are pink.
Texas Ratsnakes grow to around 2185 mm (86 inches) and are often considered more aggressive than other North American ratsnakes. Captive husbandry is similar to that required by the other more familiar P. obsoletus sub-species.
CAPTIVE CARE AND BREEDING
A pair of leucistic Texas Ratsnakes (Pantherophis obsoletus lindheimeri ) were purchased in 1990. They had been recently imported from the United States and were believed to have been the first specimens seen in the U.K.
The pair were kept separately in plastic boxes and thrived on a diet of pinky mice. As the snakes matured, the size of the prey increased. When originally purchased the snakes were white in colour and lacking any pattern. The eyes were blue and appeared large, not dissimilar to the Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Bogertophis subocularis ). I feel this was due totally to the purity of the snakes’ colouration when young. As the snakes matured, the colour became more of a rich cream, particularly in the female.
The female always fed well but the male was a rather intermittent feeder. Both, however, developed satisfactorily and in the spring of 1993 it was decided to pair them for attempted breeding. The breeding was successful and twelve eggs were laid in the nest box supplied.
All twelve eggs hatched on 13th July, the hatchlings being bright pink, which came as quite a surprise as the original pair had more closely resembled the adult colouration when purchased. As this was the first time this colour form had been bred in the U.K. there was no data available for comparison. After three or four sloughs the pigment changed and within two months the neonates were white in colour.
All of the twelve eggs hatched, producing an equal sex ratio of six females and six males. Eleven of the neonates fed regularly and made excellent progress but, unfortunately, the twelfth a male, had to be euthanased due to a growth on its head.
As youngsters the temperament was typical of the sub species, i.e. aggressive. Although the snakes were rarely handled, they calmed down and have be come quite placid. Two pairs were retained and, at the time of writing, are six months old, 710mm (28 inches) in length and weigh an average of 104 grams.
Reproduced by kind permission of the Reptilian Magazine.