Pine Snake Care

Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus), also called bull snake, black and white snake, carpet snake, chicken snake, common bull snake, eastern bull snake, horned snake, pilot snake, white gopher snake.

Popularity: Make good pets

Origin: North America

Native habitat: cultivated fields, chaparral, open brush land, pine flatwoods, prairies, rocky desert, sandy pine-oak woodlands that range from sea level up to 9,000 feet

Size: 6 feet is typical, but up to 9 feet

Lifespan: 15-20 years

Appearance: Small, slightly pointed head with enlarged rostral scale extending upward between the internasal scales. Usually has four prefrontal scales. There are dozens of rows of keeled dorsal scales in the middle of the body. The anal plate is single. The color pattern is a light ground color overlaid with black, brown or reddish-brown blotches.

Diet: rats, mice, moles, other small mammals, bird’s eggs

Defense Mechanisms: Hisses loudly when irritated. It will sometimes flatten its head and vibrate its tail like a Rattlesnake, then strike at an intruder. Some species will use Cloacal Popping, or farting, as a defense mechanism. To make the sound, the snakes contract their cloacal sphincter, forcing air (and any other material that happens to be there) out. It can be heard from six or seven feet away, and leaves an extremely foul smell that sometimes scares away predators.

Misc characteristics: Pine Snakes can catch multiple rodents simultaneously by pressing them against a wall or burrow with the coils of their tails. They dig their own burrows to lay eggs.

BASIC CARE

Housing

Good housing is an aquarium tank that is at least 30-gallons. It is necessary to have a secure lid that provides good airflow. The snake needs a least one hide, but two is better — one in a warm area and one in a cooler area of the tank. There should also be a couple branches for the snake to climb on.

Substrate

They like to burrow, so the substrate should accommodate that activity. Good ones include commercially prepared potting soil and cypress mulch. Not as good for burrowing but still effective is butcher’s paper and indoor/outdoor carpeting. Remove wet or soiled substrate regularly.

Temperature

Ambient temperatures of 75-80 F are ideal for Pine Snakes. To get this effect, put a heat pad under one-third of the tank. This provides the necessary thermal gradient. The temperature can go down into the low 70s at night. The snake needs a basking area that is around 90 degrees F, but not over 95. Use thermometers placed an inch above the substrate to check temperatures in the tank. Potting soil will not transfer the heat well from a heat pad, so if you use potting soil, heat the tank with a reflecting light bulb or external heat emitter.

Lighting

Make sure the snake gets 10-12 hours of supplemental UVB light each day by using a fluorescent bulb designed for snake enclosures. They also need normal day/night cycles. An average household provides these, but if not, make sure they have 10-12 hours of darkness each day.

Feeding

Start hatchlings off on pinkie mice. Feed adult Pine Snakes mostly pre-killed feeder mice and rats. If you choose to feed them live feeder animals, you need to pay attention to the make sure the prey does not harm the snake (rats can do this). Normally, you should feed them once every week to 10 days. Unless you are using paper or carpeting, do not feed them on the substrate. If they ingest it, it can be harmful to them. Instead, feed them in a separate container.

Pine Snakes do well in low humidity, but they do need a way to submerge themselves periodically. Always leave a large water bowl filled with chlorine-free water that large enough for that. Replace the water daily. You can help the snake shed by misting it during when it is shedding.

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