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Sand boa handling
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Taratron
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Location: AZ

PostPosted: 2005.03.04(Fri)21:44    Post subject: Sand boa handling Reply with quote

I know this is a fish board, and I don't think many people here have snakes, but perchance does any have, or has had in the past, Kenyan sand boas? I ask only because I think my pair of them are...well, oddities, to say the least!

I bought Nod, the male, and Sandstorm, the female, a little over two years ago. They are both around 14 inches long, and getting the weight of their bulk. Now, sand boas live -in- the sand, under the sand, you get the idea. They're not snakes that have much use for cruising in trees; as a matter of fact, they lack the muscles needed to climb well.

As such is their lifestyle, I was warned by the previous owner/breeders that sand boas overall do not like handling much. But my two do. They're captive bred, which may have something to do with it, and when I bought them, they were each at least a year old. They do cruise under the sand in their tank, but lately I've found Nod stretched up the glass to bump his head at the cage lid...wanting out, perhaps? So I take him out, he curls around my neck, and proceeds to use me as a tree. At least, that's what it feels like compared to my ball pythons, who are aboreal snakes, and not terrestrial, as the sand boas are.

Was just wondering, really. Are my two so friendly and handable because they're young, or because they, like many of us, just need a break from average surroundings once in a while? Very Happy
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kilted
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Joined: 02 Feb 2005
Location: Hendersonville, TN

PostPosted: 2005.03.04(Fri)22:50    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't call myself an expert on snakes but I ran pet shops that specialized in fish and reptiles for 15 years so I know a bit about them. I doubt your sand boas like to be handled, I really don't think any snake "likes" to be handled. Snakes are pretty much driven by instinct and so it would be my guess that to most snakes we look like something that is going to eat them, and who would want to be picked up by something that wants to eat them?
Many snakes seem to tolerate handling relatively well, and many snakes just aren't terribly prone to biting, ball pythons and sand boas are two good examples of this. I have picked up numerous ringneck snakes in the wild and not a single one of them has tried to bite, but this doesn't mean they were happy about it.
Furthermore your ball python is not at all an arboreal snake, they are deffinately terrestrial. Chunky snakes like ball pythons just aren't suited for life in trees and ball pythons would much rather curl up in a small hole in the ground or in a hollow log or in captivity in a box than they would climb around in a tree. Arboreal snakes tend to be fairly light bodied and slender for their length which makes them much more suited for clambering around on thin branches up in a bush or tree.
I can't tell you why your sand boas are acting the way that they are. Quite possibly there is no reason for it at all, not knowing exactly how your cage is set up it could have something to do with a variance in temprature in different areas of the tank, who knows. But I do feel it is important to not try and think for an animal like a snake, sure, it may seem to you that he is coming out because he wants to be held, but snakes aren't people and they don't think like people. Maybe you should try and think like your snake, try and figure out if there is an environmental factor in the cage that would be causing the snake to act this way. If you can think of something that would be causing it then make and changes that you need to. But I would suggest keeping handling to a minimum, it is probably the best thing for the snake.
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Huntress
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Location: Houston TX

PostPosted: 2005.03.04(Fri)23:34    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to totally disagree with that. The vet I've worked for specializes in snakes and reptiles and his ideas on snake personality is that while you have individuals, the ones that are handled more often gain a more personable personality. We had an albino burmese monster get grumpy if she wasn't handled on a regular basis. Our sand boa, who was donated to the clinic, did not like anyone. Dr White said that it is because he wasn't handled often enough. Snakes, especially the larger species of boas, have amazing human recognition and know their handler and show affection for people they know well. We had a small boa that was named Cuddles. That's really all he did, was curl around your arm and cuddle you. He didn't like being without human contact and affection for long periods of time.

Same thing really goes for most animals. If cats, dogs and even birds aren't handled from a young age, they become man shy and skittish. At the clinic there are several cats who were born there and just haven't had enough handleing and socialization. They run when anyone comes near and won't let anyone touch them.
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kilted
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Joined: 02 Feb 2005
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PostPosted: 2005.03.05(Sat)0:05    Post subject: Reply with quote

My statement doesn't disagree with your statement completely, as I said some snakes tolerate being handled better than others, this doesn't mean that any of them "like" to be handled, that they enjoy being handled, heck, can anyone truthfully say that they know a snake is capable of enjoying anything? Anthropomorphism is something that all of us who love animals indulges in from time to time, and the vast majority of the time it is harmless. But sometimes it can cause problems.
Working in a veterinary clinic that deals with reptiles I am certain you are familiar with the tendancy of ball pythons to stop eating for extended periods of time, not all of them do it but many do, especially wild caught imports. There are many factors that can cause this but one I have seen over and over is when the snake owner takes the snake out and handles it every day because they think the snake enjoys it or that it will make the snake tamer. However this often keeps the snake so stressed out that it refuses to eat even if all of the other things effecting the snake are the way they should be. I have seen several ball pythons that refused to eat who when given a hide box and who were no longer handled started eating regularly. I can't say with 100% assuredness that the lack of handling caused the snakes to eat, but I have seen enough cases in which nothing else was changed and the snake developed an appitie that I strongly believe the lack of handling benifitted the animal.
Now I will disagree with your comment about snakes showing affection. First of all how does a snake show affection? What ever it is that the snake does that you think is affectionate behavior why do you think this way? Because the snake told you? Snakes don't even show affection for other snakes (the only possible exception might be some of the python species that take care of their eggs, but even this is a stretch) and if they don't show affection for other snakes why in the world would they show affection towards humans?
I will agree that snakes can learn to recognize humans, even particular individuals, but from my observations this is nothing more than a conditioned response. Most animals can learn through conditioning, even earthworms, but I doubt many people would claim that an earthworm is capable of loving or even appreciating a human.
Animals, all of them, are absolutely fascinating and should be appreciated for what they are, not what they would be if they thought like us. There is also no shame in realizing that some animals are more intelligent than others, I would never argue that a dog or cat can't show affection towards humans, but snakes aren't dogs or cats. They are animals possesing ingrained instinctual knowledge that serves them quite well and that hasn't been bred out of them by thousands of years of domestication as much of it has with dogs and cats. Snakes aren't dogs or cats, they also aren't people, they are snakes, and they do a pretty darn amazing job of being snakes. Lets let them do what they do best and not try to turn them into anything else.
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Taratron
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Location: AZ

PostPosted: 2005.03.05(Sat)4:24    Post subject: Reply with quote

So you are saying if I never handled -any- of my snakes, they would be much happier.


I am sorry, but that is the hugest load of BS I have -ever- heard.

Perhaps my use of the word "like" was inappropriate and anthro-ing said snakes with human capabilities. However, I do find it interesting that if I do -not- handle Nod when he starts climbing up the class and trying to lift the lid, he continues to do so until I -do- take him out. Then he seems quite content to explore on myself, running through my fingers, around my neck, and the like. When I put him back in his cage, he's good for another day or so before he starts trying to lift the lid again. At first, I offered him food when he started this behavior, thinking that perhaps his previous owner didn't feed him much. He refused any form of excess food after a short while and seemed only to want to be handled.

My mom has a trio of Brazilian rainbow bows. The largest female is -exceedingly- herky-jerky when being handled; my guess is because her previous owner never touched her, and moved her around via a snake hook. So we have some two to three years of this behavior to break before Mija gets to a considerable size. Her younger two, a male and female, were not.

I understand that this is an assumption. However, let us use Nod as an example. He does not bite when he is removed from his tank, even when not to be fed. He does not actively seek to escape my grasp. He does not writhe around as Mija does when he is touched. Can it be a safe assumption that he -likes- to be touched? Yes, we can argue about human body temperature, but after a certain point, a snake needs not to bask and moves on from his or her perch.

I am not saying that Nod loves me, or that he feels anything for me at all. Perhaps he just enjoys being out of his cage. But then one would think he would strive to get out more often, or he would act aggressive when he is placed back inside. He does not to either count. No, I do not believe that the snake has any understanding either that if he -does- bite me, the comings out stop for a while, or if he attempts to escape, the same result occurs. But I am saying that this may be his preference -to- be held. I have a trio of balls as well; my male Alien seems, again, to like being held. My two females are less enthusiastic about it.

Oh, and no, I don't ask Nod or Sandstorm if they want to come out, if they liked that mouse, what they think of the weather today. I'm a zookeeper; I'm an aquarist. Not a crackpot. I may talk to my animals in passing, but I do -not- expect an answer!
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Huntress
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Location: Houston TX

PostPosted: 2005.03.05(Sat)9:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

You know, I think they like the warm body more than the human handler itself. LOL

So dogs and cats can show affection but not reptiles? I find that a load of bull. Considering that your thousands of years of domestication cannot suppress their natural instincts of the wild.

Now comparing snakes and earthworms is pretty insulting considering earthworms have no brain. They are a much lower form of life with only instinct ruling them. There have been studies concering the hiugher brain functions of reptiles. The larger the reptile, the more capable it is for "emotion" for lack of a better term. I am in no way giving these animals human qualities. One of my cliets keep iguanas and one of them shows affection exactly the way a dog or a cat will by climbing up into her lap and demanding attention. Would you call this a display of affection?

What exactly are your observations from? Owning said animals are dealing with them in the petstore setting?? Where are you getting your scientific basis from your theories?

While most snakes, who are solitary animals do not "enjoy" being handled much or show affection. There are many species who are NOT solitary and Do show affection in the way that we humans perceive it. Generalizing any snakes is the exact same as generalizing humans or dogs or cats. You just can't do it. Some species are different than others.

I'm sorry you don't agree, but not only does scientific research show differently, so does keepers experiences.
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Last edited by Huntress on 2005.03.05(Sat)12:20; edited 1 time in total
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kilted
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Joined: 02 Feb 2005
Location: Hendersonville, TN

PostPosted: 2005.03.05(Sat)11:16    Post subject: Reply with quote

Taratron wrote:
So you are saying if I never handled -any- of my snakes, they would be much happier.


Your snakes would be happiest in the most natural settings you could provide them with. In the wild they would never be handled by humans, therefore yes, your snakes would be happiest if you never handled them.

Taratron wrote:

I am sorry, but that is the hugest load of BS I have -ever- heard.


Nope, it is just the truth, backed up by common sense.

Taratron wrote:

Perhaps my use of the word "like" was inappropriate and anthro-ing said snakes with human capabilities. However, I do find it interesting that if I do -not- handle Nod when he starts climbing up the class and trying to lift the lid, he continues to do so until I -do- take him out. Then he seems quite content to explore on myself, running through my fingers, around my neck, and the like. When I put him back in his cage, he's good for another day or so before he starts trying to lift the lid again. At first, I offered him food when he started this behavior, thinking that perhaps his previous owner didn't feed him much. He refused any form of excess food after a short while and seemed only to want to be handled.


Of course he stops this behavior when you pick him up to handled him, you are forcing him to stop the behavior by picking him up! That would be like me saying that "I could drive for ever, I love driving, driving is great, but I am so glad that brick wall comes along to stop me!" I promise you, if you start looking for the reason why he does this every day, does it start at the same time each day? Is the sun hitting the cage in a particular way when he starts this? Has the heat or air conditioning in your how kicked on shortly before this behavior begins? Is someone in a room below the snake playing loud music? There is an environmental factor causing this behavior, I can almost promise this, look for it with that understanding and I bet you will be able to find it.

Taratron wrote:

I am not saying that Nod loves me, or that he feels anything for me at all. Perhaps he just enjoys being out of his cage. But then one would think he would strive to get out more often,


But one would think, one what? One sand boa? One human? How about one fruit fly, cause I am sure a fruit fly would see it differently. You are not a snake, your thought patterns are nothing like a snakes, you have to think like the snake to make yourself understand what the snake is thinking.

Taratron wrote:

Oh, and no, I don't ask Nod or Sandstorm if they want to come out, if they liked that mouse, what they think of the weather today. I'm a zookeeper; I'm an aquarist. Not a crackpot. I may talk to my animals in passing, but I do -not- expect an answer!


I never said you were a crackpot, but you are antropomorphisizing, it is a very common thing, most people do it without even realizing they are doing it, but it would be best for our animals if we would stop. That's all I am saying, let your snakes be snakes and try to figure out what that means to the snake.
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kilted
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PostPosted: 2005.03.05(Sat)11:51    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huntress wrote:
You know, I think they like the warm body more than the human handler itself. LOL


Now you are speaking logicly Smile

Huntress wrote:

So dogs and cats can show affection but not reptiles? I find that a load of bull. Considering that your thousands of years of domestication cannot suppress their natural instincts of the wild.


First of all I said that I wouldn't argue that dogs and cats couldn't show affection and I said that snakes don't show affection towards other snakes so why would they show affection towards humans? Affection is something that snakes would probably find to be a completely forign concept, and I have never seen a snake in 15 years of experience in owning snakes ranging from small colubrids up to large boas that has ever done anything affectionate. You are seeing behaviors that you have convinced yourself are affectionate, the snake hasn't convinced you of this, logic hasn't convinced you of this, research hasn't convinced you of this, but you have managed to ignore all of the above and have decided for yourself that the snake is being affectionate, that is what is a load of bull. By the way, if you have ever watched dogs and then had the chance to also observe wolves in the wild it would be obvious to you that many of the dog's natural instincts have been supressed. This is not true in all dogs, but is very true in many.

Huntress wrote:

Now comparing snakes and earthworms is pretty insulting considering earthworms have no brain. They are a much lower form of life with only instinct ruling them. There have been studies concering the hiugher brain functions of reptiles. The larger the reptile, the more capable it is for "emotion" for lack of a better term. I am in no way giving these animals human qualities. One of my cliets keep iguanas and one of them shows affection exactly the way a dog or a cat will by climbing up into her lap and demanding attention. Would you call this a display of affection?


OK, first of all you need to take a basic biology course, earthworms do have brains and nervous systems, they are much simpler than vertebrate brains and nervous systems, but they are there. Also if you took that biology course you would realize how silly your claim about research into reptile emotion sounds. A brontosaurus was a really large reptile so I guess it would read Shakespear and sing love songs about the beauty of watching a sunrise pop up over the tree ferns on the horizon? How big the reptile is would have almost nothing to do with its abilities to have and voice emotions, much more important would be the relative brain to body size ratio. This of course means that a huge reptile could be emotionless and a very small one could be a stand up comedian, if that were at all possible, but it isn't.

Reptiles can show emotion, I have never claimed that they can't. Reptiles can fear, they can be angry, there are probably a few other emotions in there as well, but their range of emotions is SEVERELY limited when compared with humans. And you still haven't answered my question, if snakes don't show affection towards each other then why in the world would they show it towards humans? Do snakes develope emotions in captivity they have never had in the wild? No, but we as humans are more than happy to place emotions on them that they don't have. Is the snake you mentioned in your earlier post, I believe it was cuddles, is it cuddling or holding on for dear life because it fears it may fall? I won 't say which one it is because I'm not the snake and can never really know for sure but you are more than happy to decide what the snake is feeling for it. And you think my comparison to earthworms was insulting? By the way, neither is insulting because for either to be insulting the snake would have to be capable of feeling insulted and it isn't, so get off your politically correct high horse and come join us in the real world Smile

Huntress wrote:

What exactly are your observations from? Owning said animals are dealing with them in the petstore setting?? Where are you getting your scientific basis from your theories?


My observations come from observing animals in the shops I ran, owning numerous reptiles myself, helping countless other people with their reptiles, and being lucky enough to do a good amount of observation of reptiles in the wild. Now then, where do your observations come from? And while I respect the fact that you have worked at a veterinarians office do remember that vets are normally not trained animal behaviorists so even your vet's comments may not be terribly accurate.

Huntress wrote:

While most snakes, who are solitary animals do not "enjoy" being handled much or show affection. There are many species who are NOT solitary and Do show affection in the way that we humans perceive it. Generalizing any snakes is the exact same as generalizing humans or dogs or cats. You just can't do it. Some species are different than others.


List for me all of the social species of snakes, shouldn't take long because there are very few and those can only be called socila if we really stretch the menaing of the word. So please, go ahead, list them off for us, by the way, none of them are large boids or pythons, none, not a one, nil, animals that you generalized as being smart and affectionate.

Huntress wrote:

I'm sorry you don't agree, but not only does scientific research show differently, so does keepers experiences.


Well since you have sourced no scientific research, since you have blown your credibility by talking about earthworms without brains or nervous systems, and since you have only the anecdotal evidence of yourself to provide (hey, I admit it, I am guilty of that myself too) the I would still have to say you are wrong. But I won't waste any more of my time telling you that since you don't seem to be interested in logic or reasoning. You remind me of the PETA people who walked into my store once and wanted to buy a large burmese python from me so that they could trun it loose and so it would be "free". Of course they wanted to turn it loose here in Tennessee where it would be free to freeze to death or free to damage the ecosystem as all introduced species have a tendancy to do, but these people had convinced themselves that a burmese python thought exactly as they did and that it would much rather be "free". Again I say, let snakes be snakes, that's what they are best at.
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Huntress
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PostPosted: 2005.03.05(Sat)12:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well since you are not going to even look at another side of the story, I'll leave it at that, but you should take a biology course because while earthworms do have a brainlike organ which sends commands to the nervous system it is not the be all and end all of it's life. An earthworm can survive quite handily if it's segments were separated from the "brain" (which is not a brain as we know it in even higher forms of insects) it can still feed, burrow, eliminate and totally function as a new creature, except probably reproduce.

Have you ever had the chance to observe wolves in the wild except on some TV program?? I have and it was an amazing experience. while dogs live with humans their natural instincs are pretty suppressed, but have you ever seen domesticated dogs that have gone wild and live in the streets or the forested areas? They rebound right back to their wild instincts and behaviours. Right down to establishing a pack, heirachy and all. Here in Houston we have had to deal with several packs and they are absolutely no different from their wild counterparts, except for one thing, they have very little fear of man, unless they have been out there from birth.

Now this was getting into an interesting debate until you made a personal attack and compared me to those fanatics at PETA. Considering you have absolutely no idea who I am or anything about me, a comment like that based on two or three posts is even more insulting. I refuse to continue this discussion.
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PostPosted: 2005.03.05(Sat)12:51    Post subject: Reply with quote

Huntress wrote:
Well since you are not going to even look at another side of the story, I'll leave it at that, but you should take a biology course because while earthworms do have a brainlike organ which sends commands to the nervous system it is not the be all and end all of it's life. An earthworm can survive quite handily if it's segments were separated from the "brain" (which is not a brain as we know it in even higher forms of insects) it can still feed, burrow, eliminate and totally function as a new creature, except probably reproduce.

Have you ever had the chance to observe wolves in the wild except on some TV program?? I have and it was an amazing experience. while dogs live with humans their natural instincs are pretty suppressed, but have you ever seen domesticated dogs that have gone wild and live in the streets or the forested areas? They rebound right back to their wild instincts and behaviours. Right down to establishing a pack, heirachy and all. Here in Houston we have had to deal with several packs and they are absolutely no different from their wild counterparts, except for one thing, they have very little fear of man, unless they have been out there from birth.

Now this was getting into an interesting debate until you made a personal attack and compared me to those fanatics at PETA. Considering you have absolutely no idea who I am or anything about me, a comment like that based on two or three posts is even more insulting. I refuse to continue this discussion.


Well thank you for admitting that earthworms do have brains and nervous systems, something you emphatically denied they had in your last post, and thank you for admitting that domestication does suppress natural instincts, again something you said wasn't true in your last post. As far as the comparison to PETA it was like my mentioning of earthworms earliert. I mentioned that both earthworms and snakes can be trained through conditioned responses, of course so can dogs and humans, I was not inferring that snakes and earthowrms were similar in terms of intelligence. With the PETA comment I was referring to your want to place human desires and emotions on a snake, just as the PETA people in my shop were doing. I never said that either you or the PETA people didn't have the animal's welfare in mind. What I was saying is the both of you weren't looking at things from the animals viewpoint which very well could be completely and totally different from anything we could ever imagine. This has been my point all along, try, as best as you can, to see things from the animal's viewpoint without clouding things up by placing human desires and emotions on the animal. It is tough to do, we, all of us, may never be able to see things without filtering our views through human emotions to some extent, but for the animal's sake we owe it to them to try our best.
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