Mangrove Snakes

Mangrove Snakes Mangrove Snakes

The mangrove snake is a vividly marked snake with bold yellow bands on a black satin background. There is also a melanistic population in which the yellow pigment is missing leaving white banded morph. Mangroves are mildly venomous, rear-fanged snakes, found throughout the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia, and Philippines. This nocturnal and arboreal hunter is often seen during the morning basking in the higher branches of the mangrove trees along water ways. It grows to average lengths of six to seven feet. There are seven know forms of mangrove snakes which are identified by their number and size of bands that form the pattern, color, and scale count. The above subspecies, which is most commonly imported, occurs in the Malay Peninsula and adjacent Sumatra. The nominate race, B. d. dendrphila, occurs on Java, B. d. annectans is found on Kalimantan (Borneo), and B. d. gemmicincta is confined to the Celebes Islands. Three forms also inhabit the Philippines, B. d. multicincta of Palawan, B. d. divergens of Luzon, and B. d. latifasciata of Mindanao. The genus Boiga is wide spread and is composed of more than twenty species occurring in Africa, southern Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea, and Australia. They are commonly called the cat-eyed snakes because of their vertical pupils similar to that of a cat’s eye.

HUSBANDRY: Since the mangrove snakes are arboreal, thrive in the Mangrove swamps and edges of rainforests, I have house these animals with this in mind. My display units vary in sizes but all are large and tall approximately 4-6 feet tall by 3-4 feet wide and 2-3 feet deep. For a substrate I recommend the coconut chip because it retains moisture creating a higher humidity with out much molding. Other types of forest, aspen or cypress mulch would also work as a substrate. Sphagnum moss can be added to help increase the humidity. We usually mist once a day. I use a variety of sturdy living indoor plants to create a more natural environment. However, artificial plants seem to thrive much longer. For their arboreal needs, I use the decorative grape wood which is attached to the entire height of the cage. These snake are mainly nocturnal in habit, but they are known to bask during the day stretched out on branches fifteen feet or more above the ground. I have used various flourescent lights and heat tape to keep their environment warm. The cage temperature ranges from about 80*F to 88*F (night/day) during the summer and from about 74*F to 85*F (night/day) during the winter. All lights are turned off during the night allowing for a seasonal temperature fluctuation. The photo period is approximately 9-10 hours throughout the year (8 am to about 6 pm) which is controlled by timers.

FEEDING: Mangrove snakes feed on a wide variety of prey including birds (chicks), snakes, lizards, frogs, and small mammals. Acclimated snakes will often accept prekilled mice and rats from tongs. I house the male and female together for breeding purposes only, but it is best to fed them in separate cages or try to feed them separately and simultaneously because of their aggressive feeding behavior and observe them carefully to avoid any conflicts. I have disengaged one snake from swallowing up to seven inches of the other on one occasion. At night, their behavior and feeding response is more aggressive along with a keener vision and striking accuracy.

BREEDING: I have successfully bred several species of Boigas and often the babies look totally different from the parents. In the common mangrove snake, the babies usually look identical in coloration and pattern to the parents. In the blue-chinned green cat-eyed snake, Boiga cyanea, the babies are a reddish brown with a green head. The golden lace or yellow-bellied mangrove, Boiga tanahjampeana, the babies resemble the parents. The Sulawesi cat-eyed, Boiga d. gemmicincta, the parents are all indigo black but the babies are beautifully ringed with yellow and red bands on a black background. The mangrove snakes can lay up to 2-3 clutches throughout the year. I presume that most of the breeding takes place during the night. Only on a few rare occasionally have I actually observed breeding during the day. The male can be very aggressive, biting and holding the female on the neck and head and sometimes swallowing her head. Sometimes I wonder if the male is going to bred or eat her. Gestation is about 45 days in which 8-12 eggs are laid. A first time captive breeder, measuring about 53 inches, laid 10 eggs. Incubation at 83-84*F takes about 95-104 days, much longer than most colubrids. Neonates measure 12-14 inches at hatching. They leave the egg after absorbing a large egg sack. Their first molt takes place about fourteen days later. Pinki mice are then offered in their little hide area and left over night and a second night. Some will eat the first night, and others often eat the second day. 20-30% may feed on rodents the first feeding. I scent pinkies with lizards or frog for those that do not eat right away. I have also had success teasing the neonate with a pinki. Holding the snake about an inch behind the head, I move the pinki back and forth in front of it's mouth until it bites the pinki. They often swallow it if it isn’t too large of a meal. I very slowly set the snake down and let him finish his meal. This is called "assist feeding". A very low lighted room or almost dark room works best. Sooner or later they all become aggressive feeders. I house the neonates individually in shoe boxes to reduce stress and distraction. They feed best in the dark or in their hide area probably because they are nocturnal having better night vision and feel more concealed. They can grow very rapidly depending on their feeding schedule. They can definitely be ready for breeding in three years. I also recommend housing the neonates separately to prevent them from eating each other.

VENOM POISONING: I have not experienced a severe bit from an adult. I have been bitten by babies and have had no noticeable reaction. I have not found much information on the toxicity of the venom of mangrove snakes. I do have one report from a customer whose girl friend was bitten by a mangrove snake. The woman was reaching into a dark closet was bitten on the forearm by an escaped mangrove snake which was about 4' in length. It apparently was able to chew allowing venom to penetrate the wound. Her arm swelled and doctors could not do much to reverse the swelling. After three days the swelling stopped and her arm returned to it's natural size without any side affects. Some people may experience a more severe reaction if they have an allergic reaction to the venom. Even though the mangrove snake is not considered very dangerous to us, like all other rear-fanged snakes, it should be treat with respect. They are technically classified as opisthoglyphous snakes, your rear-fanged snakes, which have 1, 2 or 3 rear maxillary teeth, depending on the genus, that are enlarged and anteriorly grooved. The salivary secretions drain in the area of the enlarge teeth which is a pre-digestant and incapacitates or kills the prey. Representatives included here are the boomslang, Dispholidus, and the twig snake, Thelotornis, both of Africa, have been responsible for human deaths. Other well-known rear-fanged snakes of lesser toxicity are the long-nosed tree snake, Dryophis nasuta, lyre snake, Trimorphodon, hognose snake, Heterodon, tree snake, Imantodes,vine snake, Oxybelis, cat-eye, Leptodeira, of North America, the cat-eyed snake, Telescopus, southern Europe and Africa, montpellier snake, Malpolon, of southern Europe, African beaked snake, Rhamphiophis, of Africa, false water cobra, Hydrodynastes, tricolored hognose, Lystrophis, mussuranas, Boiruna, formerly Clelia, of South America, and the Malagasy hognose snake, Lioheterodon, of Madagascar. These are some of the more common rear-fanged snakes associated with the hobbyist and pet trade. You should check with your state wildlife agency to see which rear-fanged species might be restricted or require a special permit. The lesser toxic species are usually not restricted.

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