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What to Look for When Buying a Snake
The first and most important ingredient in choosing the right snake is the animal’s health. Once that’s out of the way, a few other elements come into the equation. Species, age, temperament, color, pattern, sex, eating habits and price are all points to consider when looking for a snake.
If you are looking at a snake in a pet store or other places, don’t just look at the snake. Look inside and outside the cage for signs of a dirty, unsanitary environment. No matter how good the shop is, you will inevitably find peeled skins, feces and other dirty materials in the cage. However, look at the consequence of your findings and overly dirty surroundings. Overcrowding in tanks should be avoided, and if any dead animals are found in nearby enclosures, stay away from purchasing the animal. Make sure you are buying captive bred; wild-caught snakes can cause all kinds of problems and should be avoided by beginners.
Look at the shape of the snake in its resting position. Never buy a snake that you see resting on its side with its head down on the floor. If its mouth is slightly agape, stay away. The spine of the snake should be visible, but not excessively so. If the snake looks skinny, don’t buy it, regardless of its eating habits. Most snakes are generally very consistent when it comes to shedding their skin, so if you see one with bits of skin stuck all over, be careful. Loose folds in the skin are visible in dehydrated snakes, advise the shop owner if you see this in their stock but DO NOT purchase the animal.
– Never buy a snake or other reptile based on your feelings for that animal. Many pet stores have come and gone, the best always stayed the longest. Careless shops soon realize their problems and either fade away, or change their problems. Buying a snake that has suffered from the shop’s neglect will only cause the shop to continue their onslaught. As hard as it is, please remember, the death of one snake could potentially save many more.’
If you buy an animal knowing of potential problems, make sure it is vetted as an animal as soon as possible. Save the snake’s most recent stool sample and keep it in the refrigerator until the vet can examine it. Never introduce newly acquired snakes into other snakes’ enclosures without having it thoroughly examined. Larger breeders should keep quarantine areas separate from the rest of their collection. Newly acquired snakes should be quarantined for at least 3 months if feasible for the breeder.
With snakes, age is often a pale factor in deciding what species you would like. Baby corn snakes are good starters, and although they can be a little feisty, they settle down quickly and can develop into beautiful animals. One thing that needs to be taken care of when buying a baby is to make sure that it is fed. If you are not sure about its feeding habits, buy slightly grown on young ones. Adults or raised on snakes that have already been handled and are guaranteed feeders, perhaps a better choice for the complete novice. However, baby snakes can be more rewarding for anyone to successfully breed.
Always ask yourself; ‘quality or quantity?’ If something is cheap, there is reasoning behind it. Oftentimes, paying for something you really want can actually turn out to be something it wasn’t purchased for. If you pay too much, you will lose money at worst, but you can be sure to get something of quality. Don’t look to buy any animal that is too cheap. Instead, buy the animal you really want to buy and pay what the animal is worth.
Where to Buy?
There are a few places to look when buying a snake. I would encourage anyone to look for a reputable breeder who has extensive experience and a good reputation in the industry. Honesty is the most important factor for any breeder selling animals; do not buy from anyone who you know has misrepresented animals in the past.
It is important to note that a breeder does not have to breed many hundreds of snakes. In fact, some of the best snakes will come from dedicated hobbyists, often having only a couple of a particular species. If you are buying the most commonly seen species, you may want to seek out private individuals and seek their advice. With the more expensive snake species and color morphs, there are fewer breeders to choose from. Always communicate with the breeder before actually buying the animal. Ask about the age, size, pedigree, temperament, health and eating habits of the animal in question. A good breeder will spend time trying to help you, while many other breeders will brush you off, giving minimal details and only answering what needs to be answered. As a breeder yourself, please be aware that with hundreds of snakes to care for, in addition to doing various things in your personal life, time can be a virtue. Don’t expect an essay when emailing a breeder, rather expect a polite reply with all the necessary information.
Most breeders will not offer a refund after the sale; this is common when dealing with animals. Unfortunately with animals, buyer mistakes can easily be made. It is therefore too risky for the seller to guarantee animal life when it is completely out of their hands. However, try and be sure when dealing with a breeder that they will help you even after the sale. If you run into any problems, they will be there to give you more advice.
Reptile Shows / Exhibitions
Reptile shows offer a great place to meet new people and see many new things, not only with snakes but also with other reptiles. Look for breeders who have spent the money showing their animals. Well-constructed, stylish display stands with clean cages and tubs show that the breeder is making an extra effort to sell his animals. It shows that the breeders are dedicated, and their effort comes from more than just breeding and selling animals. These people are often the ones who will try to help you further if needed after the sale.
If you buy a snake from a show, be careful. You must realize that you do not know the people standing before you, nor the background behind any of the snakes. Many good breeders will have photo albums of their adult stock on the tables. This is a great bonus; it allows you to see the parents and the lineage of the particular animals you are looking to buy. It also shows that breeders are again trying to sell their animals and are proud of their stock.
Avoid any breeders who are unable to answer your questions. Request hatch dates, parentage information and feeding records. These are minimum details that any good breeder should be able to offer without a problem. Any vendor at the show who is unable to provide this information should be avoided.
Don’t rush to buy from the breeders at the table. Ask as many questions as you feel appropriate and see what they have to offer. Ask for the breeders contact details, email, website and their phone number. If they don’t want to offer their phone number, try to stay away from them. Not giving out their phone number allows them to choose whether or not to respond to your emails. It is these people who are unlikely to help you after a sale is made.
Newspaper Ads / Internet Ads
This is a way to get some fantastic animals, but at the same time the most common way for buyers to get ripped off and often left with unhealthy animals. Many breeders, good and bad will use the internet classifieds. Remember to ask all the necessary questions before buying, ask for photos where possible and expect a polite and informative response. Be careful when viewing photos that they look normally colored and not distorted or strange in appearance. Look for other objects in the photo to get an idea of the exact size and color of the animal. It is common to see people falsely advertising animals, and enhancing images to better fit their descriptions. Try to build a relationship with the seller before you buy the animal.
Also remember, ‘you get what you pay for’. Don’t expect to get bargains; you get what you pay for and rarely anything else. Look for the people who are less willing to give you a good deal, these are often the people who are confident in their animals, and confident that another buyer will come along if you don’t buy.
Beware of “Free” Snakes. It is common to see advertisements for “Free to Good Home”. Ask yourself why, and check if the snake is really what you want. Pretend that the snake is really quite expensive; would you still buy it? If not, don’t get it.
For more information on reptiles and their care, go to: http://whitepython.com/reptile-care-articles/
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