Wednesday, February 16, 2011

King Zack

Zacharia is twenty-two years old. In snake years, that's senior citizen. Snakes aren't gifted with keen eyesight, even so, for the past few years, let's just say Zack has needed glasses. Only yesterday he tried to eat his own tail. Seriously.

Kingsnakes, like Zacharia, are what you might call "easy keepers". They are mellow enough to tolerate, maybe even enjoy, handling. As long as you maintain temperature in the range of 76 to 85 degrees, provide water, a place to hide, some light and some food, the snake should do well.

Kingsnakes are of the Family Colubridae. This is the largest of the snake families (subdivision of the suborder Serpentes). Colubridaes are mostly harmless snakes, that is, not very many are venomous or are likely to hurt you.

The group is quite varied to include burrowing snakes, constrictors, nocturnals, aquatics and so on. These snakes are considered "common" or "typical" in their snakeness. They are slender bodied and agile. (In contrast, the Boa Constrictor and the Anaconda are of the Family Boidae. These snakes are thicker in build and generally much longer in length.)

Kingsnakes are medium sized, three to six feet in length. The King designation is because of the not so insignificant fact that Kingsnakes are tough. They can, and do, overpower and eat Rattlesnakes.

The Kingsnake is a constrictor, which means they kill their prey by wrapping their body around the quarry and squeezing. The constriction doesn't crush the animal but with slow and steady pressure makes it impossible for the prey to expand their lungs to breathe. This of course, causes death. Then the snake swallows the victim whole.

Snakes are lovely pets: low maintenance, attractive, a joy to hold- literally. No, snakes are not slimy (unless it's an Anaconda fresh from a swim and only a crazy person would keep a pet snake big enough to eat you).

Once a Kingsnake is accustomed to being handled he usually is gentle and enchanting. When handled, Zacharia moves slowly along and coils around my hand or arm, his strength and beauty on display. The only time Zack doesn't appreciate being handled is just after he eats, mostly because he is sort of lumpy after swallowing five mice.

Because Zacharia was captive born, he's never had to hunt down and constrict critters for his meals. As a baby snake, he was fed dead baby mice. As he grew, the size of the rodent meal grew too. Zack the adolescent snake, ate baby rat. As an adult, he eats adult mice, five at a time about once a month.
How do you know when he's hungry? He stops pooping. Honestly. It takes some weeks for a snake to digest. And no, I don't catch mice in my garage and slit their little throats to feed my snake. It's all very civilized. Frozen mice are available for purchase at the local pet store. When it's time to feed, the mice sit in a pretty bowl till they thaw out. Then I drop them into Zack's cage and hang around till he's swallowed all the mice to be sure he doesn't accidentally swallow his own tail.

Recommended reading:
"The General Care and Maintenance of Common Kingsnakes" by David Perlowin
"The Book of Snakes" by Thomas Leetz


  1. Sorry, don't like snakes. Good post though.

  2. Eve, thanks for enduring your revulsion for snakes to read my snake post. You are most kind.

  3. I don't mind snakes at all!

    Good post, Lynn.