Sunday, June 3, 2018

Red Tail Boa

So, here's one more post not dealing with the fluffies for the moment.  We got in, last week, a redtail boa.  I knew pretty much nothing about the snake, going into taking it in, but I was meeting the owner at their workplace to pick up the snake. 

Seems there's plenty of bad / neglectful / couldn't-possibly-care-less owners, regardless of the species.

So I got there, the owner seemed like a very nice person.  I asked her, how old is the snake.  Her answer was that she's had her 1-2 years.  Ok, unfortunately that doesn't answer my question, so I asked again.  Same answer.  Ok, I asked, how old was the snake, when she got her.  She didn't know.  I asked, was she the same size.  Yes. 

Well, that's kind of odd.  See, redtails are kind of like weeds.  You blink and they're twice the size, especially as youngsters.  If she had her for 1-2 years and she was fed correctly, there's no way she should have been the same size now, as when this person got her.

So then, she tells me, the snake has some stuck shed, so she looks kinda bad right now.  She said I might have to mist her to get it off, and I said no big deal, I'd sauna her and get it off if it was that bad. 

I asked what she eats.  Live rats.  Bad bad bad.  In case you're not a snake person and not familiar, feeding live is bad.  It's traumatic for the rodents, but even for the snakes, the rodents can attack the snakes before / while being eaten, and rats can actually kill snakes.  So then I asked, ok, when was the last time she was fed?  She didn't know. 

She then explained, she had originally gotten this female redtail to breed.  Then her other redtails died and she handed this snake off to her grandparents, and they'd been caring for it for 1-2 years.  Wait, she said she only had the snake for 1-2 years.  So... the grandparents had it 99% of the time? 

I asked if the snake had a name.  Oh, she did.  But she couldn't remember what it was.

Then she told me, something was wrong with the snake's lower jaw.  She wasn't sure what it was, but said that it might have to do with the stuck shed.  This was followed up by informing me that because the snake is temperamental (greeeeeeaaaaaaaat), she wasn't even going to try to mess with that.  She even gave me a snake hook, in case I needed it.  Double great. 

She ended up the whole thing by saying, she didn't have a spot for a big snake.  That's sort of like saying, "I don't know why I got a great dane, I live in a studio apartment."  Redtails can get to 10 feet long, and 50 pounds, as adults.  They are NOT small snakes.

Anyway, I just had to share the backstory for this snake, before I show you the pics.  So... I was actually on my way to dog class when I'd picked up the redtail, so I had to pack her into a carrier to take her into dog class (amazingly, after all these years, no one asks anymore, "what's in the carrier?" lol).  Being careful, I get the snake hook and hook her into my carrier, get her in.  She didn't seem overly hissy or strike-y, but better safe than sorry. 

Pics from the carrier:

Yikes.  That's more than "a little stuck shed" -- uh... there had to be like 0% humidity in the tank, for it to be this bad.  It shouldn't look like the snake is wearing torn fishnets.  So, I got her home, put her in a small container with warm water and a washcloth, to help get the shed off, in the reptile / herp world, it's called a sauna (makes sense, right?).  Let her soak, replaced now-cold-water with warmer water... rinse and repeat, several times over.

Sauna-ing the snake:

That jaw / under-the-neck problem area (see pics below)... turned out to be layers upon layers of stuck shed.  After several soaks, I was able to start peeling it all off, and got about 80% of it off the first night.  Within the next few days, I was able to get the rest off, and am now peeling away the little flakeys that are still appearing here and there.  The pictures do not adequately show how thick the section under her neck was, it was basically like leather.

See how her mouth doesn't quite close?  The person said she didn't get her like that, and it doesn't appear to be due to the stuck shed.  It was tight, but not that tight... I've talked with some snake people, and the consensus seems to be that she could have gotten bitten by one of her dinner rats, and the scarring caused it to heal funky.  So now, when you hold her, she drools, since her mouth is open.

I was able to get the rest of her body shed off... after all those soaks, I let her slither through my hands, while holding on tight enough (but not tight) that the shed would stay behind in my hands, and then rinse and repeat.  This took several attempts, but most of the shed came off the first night, and I was able to get her tail tip shed off (yay! that can constrict blood flow, and can cause amputation of tail tip if left on), the second day.

So, these are two pics from the first night, after I got as much shed off as I was able.  She eventually did start getting antsy, but never did try to bite me or act hissy.

The sad thing is, she's only 3 feet long (yes, I measured).  For a 2-3 year old redtail, that's considerably small.  So, I suppose it won't surprise you to know that she is a super thin little thing, with her spine being easily felt through her scales.  Bad bad bad.

So you might be wondering, due to the mouth issue, can she eat normally?  And also, since she was fed live (which she won't be here), will she take a frozen / thawed mouse?  Turns out, the answer to both of those is "yes."  I will pick up some frozen rats for her at the next expo (there are calcium / protein / etc etc etc differences between mice and rats, even if the size is similar, i.e. small rat vs. xl mouse), but for the moment, I have mice here for my corn snakes.  The day after I got her was my typical feeding day for my snakes (Friday), so I defrosted her a mouse and (to my happy relief) she ate it. 

She is currently still doing well. 

She did show her hissy-ness the other day.  Issa was here, and we had her out to put her in the new tank, but in the meantime, I had her draped over my shoulder, drooling all over me, while we switched the tank.  He sort of leaned down in front of me, by her head, and leaned in to get a closer look at her, and she struck at him.  Course... even he said, he shouldn't have gotten up in her face.  She's awesome though.

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