Today I came across an article about a man who called animal control on his pet boa at 3am in the morning. Here’s a short excerpt so you are caught up on what we’re going to discuss and why.
CINCINNATI — A Covedale man called animal control overnight Wednesday when his boa constrictor became aggressive during a nighttime feeding.
“He’s normally pretty docile, but he’d gotten a little aggressive when we were trying to get him out of the cage,” said Mike Simpson, who bought the six-foot snake earlier this year from a friend.
Simpson said he placed a jumbo rat into his apartment’s bathtub before turning loose the snake, which he said would typically eat quickly.
But Lucious, the snake, still hadn’t eaten after more than an hour with the rat, and Simpson became impatient.
Initially when I read the article I was angry. Angry that Mr. Simpson was already planning on getting another snake. Angry that he had so easily turned the one he had over to animal control. Then I thought about it for a moment and realized that this could easily be myself or anyone else. It’s only through experience that you begin to learn how to deal with having an exotic pet such as a snake. They are entirely different and are not comparable to any other pet a person might have.
In the past I’ve written about both of the subjects that this man was dealing with. Most recently I gave my reasons why I believe that you should feed a snake in its own cage. A couple of readers disagreed with the idea that it is better to feed a snake in its own cage. The incident described in this news report is a prime example of why I believe very strongly in feeding a snake in it’s own cage. Before anyone winds up with the written barrage of reasons that I’m wrong let me say this; Had this boa’s owner (Mr. Simpson) fed his animal in its own cage you would not be reading this article right now.
- What went wrong?
- Since I wasn’t there I can only speculate based on the news article but it seems the following mistakes were made:
The feeding was an after thought
I base this on the fact that in the article it says it was 3am in the morning and they had to be to work by 8am. It was like they had a “Oh no! We forgot to feed the snake!” moment.
They weren’t ready to deal with an aggressive snake
Sometimes we forget that a snake is a wild animal and will act (or react) like a wild animal. I believe it is safe to say that we’ve all made that mistake. When the animal that spends hours draped around our shoulders becomes a monster straight out of a horror movie it can catch us off gaurd.
One of the first articles I wrote for this site was about handling aggressive snakes. There’s nothing to indicate that Mr. Simpson improperly handled the snake, but thought this would be a good opportunity to take a moment to look at some basic tenants of handling aggressive snakes.
The snake was cold
It says the snake was in the tub with the rat. I assume it was in a cold empty tub. Going from a warm, climate controlled cage to a cold bathtub could easily make the snake decide it wasn’t hungry. Snakes aren’t known for their tolerance of temperature changes, especially extremes. Now of course I could be wrong and the tub could have been heated prior to putting the boa in there, but given that this sounds like it was a last minute feeding that would be surprising.
They got impatient
Ultimately when the snake wouldn’t eat and it was time to put it back in its own cage the snake wasn’t cooperating and the owners got impatient with it. It was late, they had to be up in about 5 hours, and now this six foot long boa was cranky. I’d probably be a little impatient myself. Unfortunately being impatient leads to irrational actions which probably just irritated the snake even more.
- What could they have done differently?
- Once again this is speculation, but it is food for thought:
Plan the feeding
If you have a snake you know it needs to eat approximately once a week. That’s just a general rule of thumb for most snakes. It’s hard to believe that after having had the animal for any amount of time feeding day just snuck up on them. Sometimes I feed my snakes at 2am but I know well ahead of time when feeding day is. All my animals are fed on either Friday or Saturday. It’s not a surprise. I don’t suddenly walk past the cages and realize they haven’t been fed so I need to drag them out at the last minute.
There could have been circumstances beyond their control which prevented feeding Lucious (the boa’s name) at any time other than this but based on what was reported that is doubtful.
Always expect the unexpected
People say it all the time “Oh my snake would NEVER harm a flea!” Which I’m sorry to say is complete nonsense. A snake is not a domestic animal. It is a wild animal. It might get used to you, and even put up with you but in the end it is a creature driven by the instincts that God gave it. For someone to assume that a snake, just because it has been a pet, is actually tame is at best foolish. It can also be deadly if you are working alone with large contrictors.
A warm snake is a happy snake
Since snakes rely on their surroundings to regulate their temperatures putting it in a cold bathtub is going to leave the snake very few options. When a snake isn’t comfortable (being cold as a prime example) it isn’t going to eat. Mistakes in temperatures is a major reason that people have trouble getting their pet snake to feed. Now it sounds like being fed in the bathtub was fairly routine for this snake but for some reason on this particular night it wasn’t having any of it. Another reason to feed the snake in its own cage.
Waited until the next day
Snakes are known for going for weeks and even months without eating. Just going to bed and feeding it the next day (or even a week later) would have been the best course of action.
Ultimately they gave up the boa after having to call animal control because it had become aggressive. Had the snake been fed in its own cage they could have just gone to bed and either dealt with it in the morning or the rat would have been eaten. Of course I’m assuming this was a pre-killed or frozen/thawed rat and not a living one. If it was a living rat then obviously they would have had to deal with it before heading off to bed.
What are your thoughts on this? Would you have done anything differently? Agree or disagree with what has been said here?