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What to Look for When Buying a Snake
The first and foremost component to choosing the right snake is the animal’s health. Once that’s out, a number of other elements enter the equation. Species, age, temperament, color, pattern, sex, feeding 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 setting, don’t just look at the snake. Look inside and outside the cage for signs of a dirty and unsanitary environment. No matter how good the store is, you will inevitably find cut skins, feces, and other dirty materials in the cage. However, look at the consistency of your findings and the highly polluted environment. Overcrowding in tanks should be avoided, and if any dead animals are found in the vicinity, stay away from purchasing the animal. Make sure you are buying captive bred stock; Wild-caught snakes can harbor all sorts 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 on the floor. If her mouth is slightly open, 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 feeding habits. Most snakes are generally very durable when shedding their skin, so if you see one with bits of skin stuck all over, be careful. Loose skin folds are visible in dehydrated snakes, advise the store owner if you see this in their stock, but DO NOT buy the animal.
Never buy a snake or any other reptile based on your feelings about that animal. Many pet stores have come and gone, the best have always lasted the longest. Neglected stores soon realize their problems and either disappear or fix their problems. Buying a snake that has suffered from the store’s neglect will only make the store continue their attack. As difficult as it may be, please remember, the death of one snake can potentially save many more.’
If you buy an animal knowing of any potential problems, make sure it is checked as soon as possible. Keep the last fecal sample from the snake and store it in the refrigerator until the vet examines it. Never introduce newly acquired snakes into other snakes’ enclosures without thoroughly examining them. 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 this is possible for the breeder.
With snakes, age is often a minor factor in deciding what species you would like. Small corn snakes are good starter snakes, and although they can be a little wild, they calm down quickly and can evolve into beautiful animals. One thing to watch out for when buying a baby is to make sure it is fed. If you are not sure about its feeding habits, buy an adult slightly to juvenile. Adults or adults on snakes that have already been treated and are guaranteed feeders, perhaps a better choice for the complete beginner. However, small snakes can be more rewarding for anyone to raise successfully.
Always ask yourself; ‘quality or quantity?’ If something is free, there is reasoning behind it. Often, if you pay for something you really want, it may actually turn out to be something that wasn’t bought. If you pay too much, you will lose money at worst, but you can be sure that you will buy something of quality. Don’t look to buy any pet 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 number of 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; don’t buy from anyone you know has misrepresented animals in the past.
It is important to understand that a breeder should not breed many hundreds of snakes. In fact, some of the best snakes will come from dedicated hobbyists, often having only one pair of a particular species. If you are buying the more common species, you may want to seek out private individuals and ask for their advice. With more expensive snake species and color morphs, there are fewer breeders to choose from. Always communicate with the breeder before purchasing the animal. Ask questions about the age, size, breed, temperament, health and feeding habits of the animal in question. A good breeder will spend time trying to help you, while many other breeders will push you away, 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, plus doing various things in your personal life, time can be a virtue. Don’t expect an essay when you e-mail a breeder, rather a polite reply with all the necessary information should be expected.
Most breeders will not offer refunds after the sale; this is common when dealing with animals. Unfortunately with animals, buyer mistakes can easily be made. It is therefore very dangerous for the seller to guarantee the life of animals, when it is completely out of their hands. However, try to 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 provide a great place to meet new people and see lots of new things, not only with snakes but with other reptiles as well. Look for breeders who have spent the money to show their animals. Well-built, classy-looking stalls with clean cages and tubs show that the breeder is making an extra effort to sell his or her animals. This shows that breeders are dedicated and their effort stems from more than just breeding and selling animals. These people are often the ones who will go out of their way 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 do you know the background behind any of the snakes. Many good breeders will have photo albums of their reared stock on their desks. This is a huge bonus; enables you to view the parents and pedigree of the particular animal you are looking to purchase. It also shows that breeders are again putting more effort into selling their animals and taking pride in their stock.
Avoid any breeder who is unable to answer your questions. Look for hatch dates, parent information and feeding data. These are minimum details that any good breeder should be able to provide without problem. Any vendor at the show who is unable to provide this information should be avoided.
Don’t feel rushed to buy from breeders at the table. Ask as many questions as you feel are appropriate and take a look at what they have to offer. Look for the breeders contact details, e-mail, website and their phone number. If they are not willing to provide their phone number, try to stay away from them. Not giving out your phone number allows them to choose whether or not to respond to your emails. These are the people who are unlikely to help you once a sale is made.
Newspaper ads / Online classifieds
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 end up with unhealthy animals. Many breeders, good and bad, will use internet advertising. Remember to ask all the necessary questions before you buy, ask for photos where possible and expect a polite and informative response. Be careful when viewing the photos that they appear in normal colors 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 the images to better match their descriptions. Try to establish a relationship with the seller before purchasing 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 least willing to give you a good offer, these are often the people who are confident in their animals and confident that another buyer will come along if you don’t buy.
Be wary of ‘loose’ 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 actually quite expensive; would you still buy it? If not, don’t take it.
For more information on reptiles and their care, go to: http://whitepython.com/reptile-care-articles/
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