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The Ribbon Snake, Its Care And Feeding

A member of the garter snake family, the ribbon snake is a very attractive little snake. Like all garter snakes, it is a beneficial creature, eating caterpillars, spiders, and many different kinds of insects. An excellent swimmer, it also eats small fish, frogs, tadpoles, and other fresh water prey. While it primarily eats live, cold-blooded prey, it has also been observed to feed on carrion. This snake is always found in fairly close proximity to water, whether it be near a lake, a stream, a spring, or a bog. They are not too often seen in the open, and spend most of their time in dense, though sunlit vegetation, where they feel relatively safe from predators.

This snake is not poisonous, and it is a rather shy creature, though if you corner one it is apt to curl up, and flatten its raised head, somewhat resembling that of a cobra. It rarely strikes however, and given a chance, it will flee. If captured, it may wiggle violently and release a foul smelling substance, as well as attempting to defecate on its adversary. It often manages to escape by shedding a segment of its tail. When it is able to escape it can travel swiftly through the underbrush because of its thin body, and it is also a fast and excellent swimmer. The ribbon snake has many enemies, ranging from large fish to raptors to other snakes, as well as other animals such as weasels. In urban or suburban settings, the snake's main predators tend to be dogs and house cats. While its enemies include snakes, it coexists quite nicely with a few species, including  garter snakes, water snakes, and a few others with which it will sometimes share a hibernation burrow.

Caring For A Ribbon Snake

A ribbon snake can make a fine pet if properly cared for. The usual housing for the pet snake is in a terrarium. Once the snake has become used to its new owner, it can become quite tame, and will even slither into the owner's hand, allowing itself to be picked up. This snake, like most garter snakes, is actually somewhat fragile, and needs to be handled with care. It’s recommended that the snake's owner wash his or her hands before handling the snake, as handling it with dirty hands could cause the animal to become sick. Once a snake has been handled, it's usually advisable to wash one's hands again, as snakes can sometimes be carriers of pathogens, such as Salmonella.

In captivity, these snakes prefer to eat live food. Favorite foods include minnows, small goldfish, and guppies. The snake's water bowl therefore also serves as its dinner bowl. When feeding the snake live fish, bear in mind that the snake will go into the water after one, and having caught it, will attempt to swallow it whole, so size matters. An adult ribbon snake needs to be fed approximately once every 5 to 7 days. Young snakes may require several small feedings a day.

The snake should never be placed in a plain glass container or terrarium. It needs to live in a place that bears some semblance of its natural surroundings, including a water source, a substrate, a basking place, and a place where it will feel protected. Bark mulch, wood chips, and even recycled newspaper are good substrate choices. Artificial plants are fine, since the snake does not require plants for food. In addition, artificial plants can be kept clean, so they are not as apt to carry any diseases. As far as a place to hide is concerned, dense foliage is good, even if it is artificial, but there should be at least one box-like or cave-like feature in the terrarium where the snake can feel quite safe. If there are no places where the snake can feel protected, it can easily become stressed, and eventually will become ill.

While room temperature is the ideal temperature for the snake, most hobbyists like to put either a heating pad or a low wattage light bulb at one end of the terrarium to serve as a basking spot.  Its hiding spot or hiding box would be at the other, cooler, end of the terrarium.

What To Watch For

These snakes are susceptible to infestations by mites or ticks when in the wild, so the presence of these tiny creatures should be checked for on occasion, especially if the captive snake has been brought in from the wild, as most have. Rocks and sticks which are placed in the aquarium should first be washed and disinfected. Doing so will greatly reduce any chance of the snake having to deal with mites or ticks. Another important thing to watch for when caring for this or any snake, is to make certain that when it sheds its skin, as it will do, it does so completely. Any dead skin left on the snake's body, or near its eyes, can cause future problems, so it needs to be removed. By and large however, the ribbon snake is a relatively low maintenance pet.




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