Northern Pine Snake (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus) - Wiki
Northern Pine Snake
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[Photo] My pet pine snake Angel, taken using a camera phone 01/17/07. Photo by Emblazingstar and released to the public domain
Pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) are a large species of non-venomous colubrid snakes native to the United States. Sometimes mistaken for rattlesnakes, pine snakes are able to hiss quite loudly and will shake their tails when threatened. Unless stated otherwise, Pine Snake generally refers to the Northern Pine Snake although there are other subspecies such as the Black, Florida, or Louisiana Pine Snake.
Range and Habitat
Of the pine snakes, P. m. melanoleucus enjoys the largest range. The Northern Pine, as the name suggests, does occur in the north, but the main body of the range traverses several southern states. An isolated population occurs in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, and small, scattered populations are known throughout the Blue Ridge escarpment in extreme west central Virginia.
Habitats required by P. m. melanoleucus are provided primarily within dry pine-oak forest types growing on very infertile sandy soils. Within these generalized habitats, pine snakes select open sandy clearings with little ground cover for nesting. Summer den sites are also typically located in clearings near fallen logs. Winter hibernacula are located in nearby areas providing more vegetation cover and leaf litter. The greater spatial frequency and temporal persistence of clearings within sandy, infertile soils may partially account for association of pine snakes with these soils. Soil texture may also be important because pine snakes are among the only snakes known to excavate their own hibernacula and summer dens.
Pine snakes are large and powerfully built with a small head. They are light-colored with black or brown blotches on back and sides, or all black. (Albinos and other anomalies exist.) The snout is somewhat pointed, with an enlarged rostral scale extending upward between internasal scales. Pine snakes have keeled scales in about 27-37 rows with an average of 4 prefrontal scales.
Diet and Prey
Pines snakes are 100% carnivorous. In the wild, Pine snakes will consume a variety of prey items. These include but are not limited to: mice, moles, gophers, chipmunks, squirrels, birds, small rabbits and eggs in some cases. Occasionally a Northern Pine will enter an animal burrow, consume the inhabitants, and then take possession of the burrow.
In captivity, an exclusive diet of mice or small rats fulfills all nutrition requirements.
Captivity and Care
A 20-gallon+ aquarium or other similar glass or acrylic glass-lined enclosures are usually most suitable because they allow optimum visualization of and safety for the snake. It is especially important the aquarium has a tight-fitting, secure lid. Well-known for being escape artists, pine snakes can fit out any hole the size of their head.
Day temperature should be gradient from 75 to 90 degrees F. with an optional 5-15 degrees F. drop at night. The water bowl should be kept on the cool side of the tank to maintain the low level of humidity pine snakes desire and a reptile heating pad should be placed underneath 1/3 of the tank on the opposing side. A heat lamp should also be placed above the heated side, equipped with a digital thermostat to make sure the temperature does not exceed 95 degrees F. It is vital to keep the heat high enough to ensure proper digestion after a feeding.
Floor Coverings and Enclosure Items
Optimal floor coverings allow the pine snake to burrow like they naturally do in the wild. Potting soil, aspen shavings, cypress mulch, or commercial pet bedding are good choices. Newspaper, carpeting, and astroturf also work but must be switched out and cleaned often.
It's essential to provide a hide box to allow the pine snake to feel secure and out of view. Hide boxes can range from fake logs to empty kleenex or cereal boxes. If a pine snake is unable to hide, it stresses and may refuse to eat or become ill. Pine snakes are known to sacrifice a comfortable temperature for the security of being out of view, so it is suggested that an owner provide one hide box on each side of the aquarium.
Water and Feeding
Water should be provided at all times. Pine snakes may drink infrequently, however the water container should be roomy enough to allow adequate soaking and be heavy enough so it cannot be easily overturned. Water containers must also be thoroughly and regularly cleaned. Failure to do so encourages bacterial proliferation.
An adult pine snake should be fed a large mouse or small rat once every 7-10 days. If fed live prey, it is important to make sure the snake eats within 30 minutes or the mouse/rat needs to be removed. Rodents left unattended may inflict serious bite wounds on the pine snake and even blind it. Pine snakes are known to stop eating for no reason at all, but if normal feeding does not resume within 2-3 weeks a visit to the vet may be in order to check for illness.
Adult pine snakes shed about four times a year. Always make sure all the shed skin has come off, especially over the eyes and the tip of the tail. Snakes are somewhat blind while in the opaque or "blue" stage of shedding and should not be handled. A damp towel may be used to gently peel off stubborn skin fragments.
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