Bull-Pine-Gopher Snakes Forum
Pacific gopher snake breeding basics?
Yeah I know I’m asking a lot of questions here, I just found this site today so I’m getting it all out! ^^;
I’m looking at gopher snakes for sale and there’s this one guy selling Captive Bred & Born 07’ amelanistic pacific gophers. He’s got a deal on a female/male pair and says that they’re ready to cool/breed this year as a high color pit project. They look very healthy in pictures, of a good weight.
In my opinion, they’re still a bit pricy. He’s selling the pair for $400. What’s your opinion on how much a deal like that should cost? I want to know if I’d be getting ripped off or not.
I’ve never bred before and I’m still looking around for research. If someone could be so polite and tell me....everything? x) I’m serious though, any and all hints/tips/stories/experiences/links to informative websites etc etc are really appreciated! Even things you think would be common sense, I just want to make sure I don’t miss anything at all!
I’ve got the basic idea, but nothing specific on gophers. Are they an easy snake to breed when compared to others or is there another you’d recommend for a first time breeder? I’m hoping to use them as my first kinda as "practice" for when I breed my woma python in two or three years...
Could you give me a list of things I would need?
Two separate completely furnished enclosures for each parent right? Do I need a third for them to mate/lay eggs in or does that just happen in the female’s tank? Also what kind of incubator do I need and what is needed to warm it?
THANKS GUYS! ANY HELP IS APPRECIATED!
Message To: Just Curious~ In reference to Message Id: 2203702
Pacific gopher snake breeding basics?
By; Del Alspaw
Kern Reptile Research Center
Pituophis “pit-chew-o-fuss” is a genus of North American snake species that has many common names. It is called: Bull snake, Gopher snake, or Pine snake commonly through out America. I began working with pituophis when I decided to take up captive breeding. I wanted a species that was hearty and inexpensive. As I began to work with these animals I became more and more fascinated with this remarkable species. They display an awareness of the surroundings they live in that is uncommon among snakes.
I have discovered that pituophis is one of the few species left that still maintains clean lineage back to it’s wild ancestors. Most color morphs as well as what is known as “local specific” specimens can be traced back to their wild beginnings. I have also learned that true “pituophis people” are very particular about where and who they acquire animals from. I am breeder of both local specific and color morph specimens. Let me put you in the correct frame of mind by giving you the following examples and information before we get into the breeding side of things. Local specific specimens have pin point data as to their location in nature. This is a sort of premium status among collectors giving them a greater value in their eyes. Some color morphs pituophis command a lower price than some local specific types due to the fact that some breeders have bred a particular morph trait into their breeding colonies. By taking an albino or normal phase bull snake from Colorado and breeding it with a normal looking bull snake from Texas you have created an unfavorable animal by most pituophis peoples standards. However if you have an albino or normal phase Colorado bull snake and you breed it with a normal looking Colorado bull thus introducing the albino morph into that line but maintaining the locality purity, you have a more acceptable lineage. Now let’s say for the sake of example you breed a Pacific gopher snake (p. c. catenifer) with a Northern pine snake (p. m. melanoleucus) then you have committed a cardinal sin. Your reputation will be flawed in the eyes of most pituophis people and your live stock will be almost worthless. My advice is to stick with known lines and morphs that come from reputable breeders.
Let’s cover some legal aspects of the hobby. Most states require some form of permits for owning, breeding, collecting, and/or selling of reptiles native to that state. Other states require permits for any type of reptile ownership, commerce or breeding regardless if it is native or not. So please check you local laws before starting a project because it will save time and money in the long run. A plus to having permits for native species is that is also adds a pedigree status to the animal because now it’s capture data is listed in state records. Most people with permits have excellent husbandry habits since that state may have surprise inspections on the breeder and require yearly records to be submitted to the state. In California you must have a valid state-fishing license to hunt native reptiles plus an additional permit if you plan to captive produce natives for commercial and/or non-commercial purposes. I also can’t stress enough the importance of keeping records even if they are not required by your state. Keep track of everything about your animals, for example some of the items I regularly track are age, origin, history, any hidden traits such as het. for albino etc, feeding dates, feed items, shed dates, growth rates, breeding dates, brumation dates, offspring production and health problems and treatments.
Age and size
Let’s say you just got your hands on a cool pair of hatchling bull snakes. The female needs to be a minimum of three years old before breeding should be allowed. With some pituophis it is more of a size issue than age. Like with Black pines (p. m. lodingi) their eggs are so large that it is sometimes better to wait an extra year in order to get the females size up to par. Snakes that are to small or “power fed” in order to reproduce faster often become “egg bound” add this to the several other known complications and this can be very costly to you and the snake. A good rule of thumb is make sure your female is past the three-year mark, and adult in size. Some males will breed in two years though with very little side effects. Males will also be smaller most of the time. Pituophis will reproduce most of their lives. I have heard of breeders in excess of twenty years of age.
Feeding and diet
I have discovered that most pituophis have a very good appetite and will eat live or thawed food items without much concern on the owner’s part. The question what to feed your growing and/or breeder pituophis. I maintain mine on a primary diet of rodents. I feed them mice or rats that are about twice the size as the snake’s head. Large snakes get two or three of these and smaller only gets one. I also supplement them with baby chicks every so often just for a change plus pituophis seem to relish them. I have found that baby chicks can stimulate their feeding reactions when they don’t seem to be interested in rodents due to pre or post brumation cycle etc. It should be noted that a diet of only rodents is an acceptable diet, where a diet consisting only of chicks is not, chicks should be used only as a supplement. Also steer clear of tap water; try to use bottled or filtered water to avoid all the chemicals found in municipal water supplies. When feeding “captive produced” animals always remember that they have not been exposed to the same elements as animals in nature so it is not recommended to feed your captive a wild caught lizards, birds or rodents.
Housing of breeding stock
Pituophis do require a good amount of room in their enclosures. My males do fine in single level cages that are about 36 inches long x 18 inches wide x 6 inches tall. The females are in cages that are “bi-level”. This works out well because I use the bottom level as the “nest box”. These cages are about 24 inches square, the bottom level is 6 inches tall and the top level is about 14 inches tall. There is a 2 ½ diameter piece of p.v.c. pipe that connects two levels and allows the snake to crawl to either level with ease. I place the water dish and food items in the top level and the snake comes up from the bottom and feeds/drinks almost replicating nature in some fashion. The bedding we use is a sterilized hardwood chip product that we prefer over the usual aspen bedding found in most pet stores. However the aspen shavings, newspaper, and paper towel also work well.
I prefer the term brumation to hibernation because pituophis don’t actually hibernate. They stay somewhat active during their winter recluse. I find that it’s more of the light cycle they react to than temps. so I keep my pituophis in total darkness during their whole brumation cycle. Our brumation chamber is basically a large wood crate lined with 1 inch styra-foam that has a heat element in set up to come on when the temp dips below 46 degrees. We place our breeders in plastic containers with ventilation holes and a small dish of water. To save space and give them the feeling of a more natural like den you can put several males in one container and females into another. Also place an extra amount of bedding in the container, as the snakes will like to burrow into it. We stack all these containers in the chamber close it up, only opening it to check the snakes every 3 weeks. To actually start the brumation cycle I drop their temp a few degrees each day. I don’t allow their temp to drop lower than 46 degrees, 51 being ideal. I keep them down in this range for ten to eleven weeks. When I bring them out I gently increase their temps a few degrees each day until they are back to about 73 to 78 degrees.
Now that you have your pits up to normal 78-degree temp ranges let’s start feeding them. I feed mine every 6 to 10 days feeding the males less often than the females. Once you have brought them out of brumation feed them regularly until they begin their post brumation shed cycle. After the post brumation shed, put the female and male together. I keep them together for 3 days then I separate them, feed them. After 3 days of digesting I place them back together for another 3 days and repeat the process. I alternate witch cage I place the breeders in, sometimes the male goes in her cage and sometimes I do it the other way. The male may stop feeding until after the female sheds again thus ending the breeding season. Once the breeding season ends and the male starts eating again be sure to get good amount of weight back on in time for the next brumation cycle.
Pre-egg laying care
The female should be fed every 4 to 6 days after the breeding season ends. Once you know she is gravid then as time to lay grows near cut down on the size of the food slightly but not the frequency. She should begin to show signs of egg production shortly after she sheds. As she begins to swell try not to disturb her very much, keep her warm, clean and calm. Once she starts hanging out in the nest box check check here every day for eggs. The ball park time for egg laying is 30 to 45 days after copulation. Try to provide the female a warm spot on the floor of about 85 degrees to aid in her egg development.
Nesting and egg laying
As I said earlier I use the lower level of my cages to create a nest box for the female to lay her eggs in. The lower level is actually a kitty litter tray. Once I see the female begin to roam the cage as if she is looking for something I remove the bedding substrate and replace if with damp green moss that you can get from your gardening store. The female will almost immediately go into the box and begin to nest.
I have found that green moss works much better than vermiculite as a nesting and incubation substrate. I take the moss and mist it until it is nice and damp but not dripping wet. I then place it in the nest box. Be sure to check every day or so and mist it if it seems dry. The female may not be very happy about all the misting so when the time draws near refrain from it. Within a few days the female will lay her clutch of eggs in the nest box. Once they have been laid you must move them to the incubator before the eggs dry out.
I keep the eggs in plastic containers with 1/8-inch holes punched about every inch or around the top edge. I fill it with about an inch of damp (not dripping) green moss, place the eggs inside sitting basically in the same position as when laid, then cover them with about another inch of damp moss, and close the lid. If the eggs are stuck together DO NOT try to separate them! I have found that green moss has a much better fungicide action than does vermiculite type products. Moss also suspends the eggs with less substrate contact to the shell thus allowing more airflow around the egg. Eggs can die if placed in vermiculite that is to damp thus causing over absorption by the egg. I then place this container inside a larger plastic tub that has holes too. I fill this container with about an inch of water so to keep the humidity up in the egg container. Once I have the incubator all set up I place it all into a dark warm area that stays around 78 to 84 degrees most of the time. The eggs also seem to develop better with a bit of variation in the incubation temp. The warmer the temp the sooner the eggs will hatch so figuring the exact hatch date can be a challenge so I take the easy way out and stick with the 50 to 70 day rule.
John Cherry – Cherryville Farms states; “We use a closed airtight box with a vermiculite/perlite mixture with the eggs half way down. The vermiculite/perlite is dampen to the point where when squeezed in the hand it clumps together, but no water runs out. Adding a little perlite to the mix at a ratio of 20% perlite will loosen the media. The box is opened every 5 days to check for moisture content, mold etc. The eggs are placed about an 1 ½” apart in the rubber maid sealed boxes. If moisture is needed spray distilled water on the sides of the box rather than on the eggs. We incubate at 82 – 84 degrees and do not use an incubator, rather we use a small open air (an old bathroom actually) room in our facility where we regulate the temp using a space heater on a thermostat. Using this technique we have had 98.64 % hatch in the last five years with over 11,700 animals hatched.”
These opinions only prove that there are several different ways to achieve the same results the trick is find what works best you and your area.
This article is intended for the beginning herpetologist/herpteculturist who is interested in captive breeding. I feel that pituophis are the perfect species beginners as well as the advanced herpetologist. Their attitude, size, and heartiness make them the ultimate pet as well as a breeding project. Keep good notes and records and you will begin to see patterns and cycles that are quite fascinating. Nothing is more rewarding as when you begin to see your own ideas, creations, and predictions come to pass. Get involved your local reptile club, zoo, etc. too and help inform and educate the public about these and all the other wonderful reptiles and how necessary they are for the survival of our planet.
Special thanks to;
Terry Parks, John Ginter, Bart Bruno, Terry Vandeventer, Gerry Salmon, Gary Ballam, Glen Fankhauser, Terry Lilley, Steve Weissman, John Cherry, John Meltzer, Mike Waters, KJ Lodrigue, and all the others.
Message To: Greatballzofire In reference to Message Id: 2203765
Pacific gopher snake breeding basics?
THANK YOU SO MUCH! That was very helpful! ^^