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Twin Spotted Ratsnake
Elaphe bimaculata
Origin: Western China
Family: Colubridae
 
A small attractive ratsnake only reaching a usual maximum length of around 80cm and as such doesn't require an excessively large enclosure. As a species, it can be incredibly variable, some specimens being quite drab and others quite colourful. Their patterns also demonstrate a varied appearance, whilst some sport a row of clearly defined spots in pairs, others have these spots joined forming a row of bow-tie like motifs that run the length of their body. There are others still that have a more striped appearance, where their patterns appear compacted. Ground colours are variable, ranging from a warm yellow, grey to olive, with brown to orange blotches bordered in black. Bimacs or Twin Spotted Ratsnakes are a very under-rated snake, and make an interesting & rewarding captive.
 They are often found in the foothills and valleys, in forest edges or sparse vegetation, which no doubt provides suitable cover from predators. It  also seems to favour areas of high moisture around water or irrigation systems of cultivated areas. Another very interesting characteristic of this species is its impressive threat displays, occasionally, it will flatten its head, presumably imitating the head shape of a venomous species, in the hope that whatever is causing it distress, will reconsider its choice of meal and leave the snake well alone. If startled, they may attempt to bite, more usually they will vibrate their tails, which can be used to deter potential attackers, especially while doing so against some loose substrate like dead leaves or loose vegetation, to amplify the noise. Balling, the practice of burying its head in its coils is also employed when distressed. Another occasional defensive trait is the excretion of a strong smelling ruddy brown liquid, which is quite effective as a deterrent for interfering with this animal. These traits are more likely to be evident in fresh WC specimens, after acclimatising to captivity should prove to be more placid. Obviously, care should be taken to prevent the snake from feeling it needs to act in any of these ways where ever possible.
 
 Being a snake of relatively cool climes, its temperature requirements are cooler than that of most North American Rat snakes, for instance, like the ever popular Corn snake. As ever, a thermal gradient should be arrived at using a thermostatically controlled heating element, either a heat mat or ceramic heating unit placed at one end, so the snake may choose which temperature is best for itself. The recommended temperature range should be in the region of 22-26C (71-79F), with a night time drop of 4-5C (39-41F) throughout its range.
 
This species also seems to require a relatively high humidity, perhaps providing a large area of sphagnum moss or a ‘humidity’ box would benefit the snake, particularly during the sloughing cycle.. Being a relatively small snake, adult Bimacs will readily take small to half grown thawed frozen rodents as meals, with a preference for rat pups,  the frequency of which, will depend on the size of the rodent and proportions of the snake. If the food item is moved to replicate a living moving mouse, via the use of tongs holding the mouse by its tail, they can strike and coil constricting the dead mouse quite impressively, making feeding time more interesting for you and the snake.
 
 Adult females are usually bigger than males, presumably an adaptation for egg production and the cost in energy that entails. As you might expect due to their larger size, the females will eat a larger amount of food compared to their male counterparts. As young snakes, the size difference will become increasingly apparent as they age.
 
They are unfortunately an under kept snake in herpetoculture of today. As not much genetic diversity is currently available for this species in captivity, new stock from the wilds can only benefit to bolster the captive gene pool. WC animals should be treated with a little more care than their captive counterparts. Plenty of hides should be provided, to allow the snake to settle into its new home and allow thermoregulation to not be compromised for the snakes need for seclusion.
 
As mentioned before, this species relishes its seclusion, although it should be active throughout the day and during the late afternoon. The timing of which is perfect for opportunistic viewing of the snake while the owner is at home. A snake not readily available within the UK hobby, but one that is much sort after by Ratsnake hobbyists
This site has information on the following genera of Ratsnakes ... Spilotes, Spalerosophis, Ptyas, Zamenis, Elaphe, Rhinechis, Senticolis, Pseudelaphe, Pantherophis, Bogertophis, Orthriophis, Gonyosoma, Oreocryptophis, Oocatochus, Euprepiophis, Coelognathus, Archelaphe