Pet snakes for Beginners
Snakes may not be the most cuddly of pets, but for those with an interest they can still be a rewarding one. The three best options for pet snakes are the three most common species kept in homes - corn snakes, ball pythons and garter snakes.
"These three are relatively inexpensive and easy to handle, " says Tanya Master, a veterinary surgeon at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Hong Kong www.spca.org.hk
Corn snakes, Master says, are probably the best option for a beginner, as they become docile and tolerant of frequent handling, are hardy, and a readily available captive-bred species. They are good eaters, can grow up to 1.9 metres long and are slightly heavier than the other two. Although ball pythons can become tame, as babies, they are shy and nervous.
"They also come in many different patterns, some of the more unusual colours costing tens of thousands of dollars, " says Master.
While garter snakes are the smallest of the three, they have a tendency to musk - excrete an oily, smelly substance when stressed - more often than other species.
"They also tend to do better on a diet of fish, which can make feeding more difficult, " Master says.
She says the three snakes have similar housing requirements but each species has its own dietary, temperature and humidity needs, which can vary, so it is important to understand what is required.
Ball pythons are constrictors, so they feed on small rodents and will eat every seven to 10 days. They are terrestrial and like a lot of floor space, are nocturnal and generally shy - a box in which to hide is a must. They will often refuse food if they are handled excessively or when their habitat changes, and will need time to get comfortable in new surroundings.
Corn snakes are also constrictors, so they have a similar diet but will also feed on chicks and small lizards, and will feed once or twice a week. "Their vivariums can be set up as woodland or desert-types, but they like to climb, so they need lots of branches and a tall tree limb, " Master advises.
Garter snakes are active and need to be fed frequently. Their diet consists of small fish, earthworms, insects and frogs. The vivarium can be set up as an aqua or woodland-type, but it requires high humidity and vertical tree limbs to climb.