Choosing a Honduran Milk Snake

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Behavior

Honduran milk snakes are hardy, reasonably gentle, but difficult to hold. Some, when held, have a disconcerting habit of slowly and gently exploring your fingers or soft portions of your hand with their snout, then deliberately biting and chewing.

Hatchlings are often more apt to bite than adults. We have not found a great difference in the disposition between wild-collected and captive-bred examples. With gentle and frequent handling, this snake may tame somewhat. Newly captured specimens, or those otherwise frightened, may defecate on their captor.

Although they can climb, the Honduran milk snake is essentially a terrestrial snake. They are secretive, but may occasionally emerge from beneath boulders or surface debris to bask. They are especially secretive when preparing to shed their skin.

Because of their cannibalistic tendencies, Honduran milk snakes should be housed separately. Captives must be provided with one or more cage-bottom hiding areas.

Handling

Handling these nervous snakes soon after they eat may cause them to regurgitate their meal. This is especially true if that meal was large. Do not lift the snakes for a few days after they have eaten. Baby milk snakes and those preparing to shed may strike or bite.

Snakes typically respond defensively to fast movements but are tolerant of slow movements. Snakes typically shy away from movements above them but are somewhat less wary of movements from the side. To avoid being bitten, do not handle your snake when it is preparing to shed its skin. Also approach it slowly and from the side. By gently lifting your milk snake several times daily, it may become accustomed to being handled.

Grasping your snake by its neck will frighten it and cause it to whip to and fro. Instead, slide one hand under it about a third of the way rearward from the head, the other hand about a quarter of the way forward from the tail tip, and holding it loosely, lift the animal slowly. If not startled or frightened, the snake will probably hold you. Keep it away from your face.

Medical Concerns

Thermal burns from a malfunctioning hot rock or improperly baffled bulb or ceramic heater can be serious.

Rodent bites can be very serious. We suggest that you never feed a snake a live rodent.

Mouth rot (infectious stomatitis) can occur if a snake’s teeth are broken, the mouth lining is injured, or if a struggling rodent being constricted bites the snake.

Respiratory distress can occur if the cage temperature changes radically, especially if humidity is high or the cage is damp.

Milk snakes are quite susceptible to blister disease. This can occur if the cage substrate is too wet, and especially if the cage is both wet and dirty.

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