Snakes/acclimating a new royal python
QUESTION: I got my beautiful royal 4 days ago. Approx 12 in. I have since gotten a large enclosure (45gal) my husband has fallen in love and insists on handling her a small amount each day. I'm worried she may becoming over stressed, as on day 2 I offered a pinky mouse and it was refused. (Of course in a separate container, supervised, and with appropriate time to become interested.) So, my concern is she doesn't flick her tongue when handled, stays fairly still in her cage, and looks directly up with a bit of a stiff neck, and seems a bit stiff even when she's elongated. How long should it take a royal to acclimate? Does this suggest any ailments?
ANSWER: Congrats on your new baby, to start off the 45 gallon is way to big. With snakes smaller is actually better (ESPECIALLY with babies) I usually have people get a 20 gallon for a newborn corn snake and they cant figure out why they snake is not eating and getting sick, I have them change the snake over to a shoe box bin and they get better within a week, so with the size she is at now I would keep her in a 10 gallon, nothing bigger than a 20 gallon LONG, not a 20 gallon tall. Not only does it allow them to feel more secure but it allows for better heat and humidity in the tank for them.
Also make sure she has a hide box of some sort, put it on the warm side of the cage, if you notice she does not use it then move it to the cold side and check your temps, they may be to warm. But I would for sure move her to a smaller enclosure. Even if you just get a 32 qt bin with a lid and drill some holes in it for now. It will take her about a year to grow into the 45 gallon tank and if a snake feels unsafe or is stressed by a large enclosure or is not getting the proper heat and humidity they will not eat.
Any snake should be brought home and left alone for a week, offer food and if it is refused then wait 2 or 3 days, offer new food, and continue till she eats. Do NOT hold her until she eats 2 or 3 solid meals. You can move her to clean but don't bother her unless you have to. Also make sure the pinky is a good size for her, I usually start my royals on pre killed hoppers. You want the size of the food to be slightly bigger than the biggest part of the snakes body ( in other words you should see a lump after she is eating) and when you start her on a fuzzy or a hopper wet the fur slightly so it helps her swallow it better.
Some snakes will stretch, I have a 16 foot reticulated python that will stretch from our first floor up 6 or so feet to a section in the stairs and go upstairs. She stiffens her neck as well, but if they begin stargazing, she does not eat even after she has been introduced properly and her cage has been changed, or if she sheds in chunks several times then I would take her to a vet. It could be a disease called IBD (inclusion body disease) basically all the signs I listed are what you will see if she has this and it is incurable and lethal. But not very common at all, snakes get it from other snakes that have it and a shop or breeder should be able to tell and remove the ill snake. But some people are not as careful, so its not likely that's what it is but just watch her.
Try moving her into a smaller enclosure and giving her a hide box and more time to adjust and eat a few meals and she should come around, and once she eats don't hold her for at least 2 days, you can cause her to throw up her food and not only is a half digested mouse gross, but it can cause problems for her.
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QUESTION: Thank you again. I put a reptile cave big enough for her to curl up in but not too big. She has relaxed a bit but as she curls up in it she gets flipped over on her back. I don't want to handle her needlessly, so my question is, is this normal behaviour and should I be concerned enough to turn her over. -worried new snake mama.
ANSWER: To be honest it sounds like she has a problem, whether it be neurological from being to hot at one time, from birth or from a illness, its hard to tell without her being my own snake. But if she is constantly winding up on her back that is not right at all. I cant even get some of my own snakes on their back when I am trying to force them, they are solid muscle and should easily be able to correct themselves. I would watch her and if it continues or she starts acting weird, wheezing, losing weight rapidly, anything that would basically mean she could be ill. I would take her to a vet or return her. When you have held her, does she grip you? Or does she feel very limp and soft. She should grip you and feel firm, like a muscle basically.
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QUESTION: Well, I asked this question and went out for dinner. Upon my return our beautiful marylin was dead. She was acting strange from the start, rolling on her back when coiling, staring straight up at a freakish 90° angle, all of this seemed very odd but I hoped it was just stress and chalked my worry up to my lack of knowledge. Both of my parents own royals (Monty and Kaa, both very old but very yealthy) but they are as old as I am, a ripe old 26 years, hence my fascination with the breed and lack of knowledge on the normal behaviour of a baby snake. In your opinion, was the strange behaviour excess stress or something more complex and out of my control? Again, thank you so much for your patience and for speaking with me.
You are welcome and I am sorry to hear that. Snakes are pretty hardy animals and even mass amounts of stress wouldn't cause this. I take new born babies thousands of miles in a truck or plane and they sit at shows for days being bothered and handled. although stressing them out isn't the best, it wouldn't have caused these issues. She had to have been ill or had a issue from the get go, nothing you could have changed. Again sorry to hear and I wish you best of luck when you get another baby.