General questions

Can I ask a question about reptile care or breeding?

I try to be as helpful as I can, but I’m really not able to offer detailed reptile care advice to anyone who asks — I’m simply too swamped with work, illness and life to be able to do that. So I can’t promise to answer your e-mail. Sorry about that.

And, to be honest, I’ve gotten a little tired of having to answer the same, basic questions over and over when they’re answered in a dozen books and a hundred websites — especially when they’re answered on one of my websites! I wrote all those pages so I wouldn’t have to answer questions!

So before you e-mail me to ask me a question, take the following steps:

  1. If your question is about garter snakes, visit
  2. Read my web pages very carefully.
  3. Search the web. Google is your friend!
  4. Join a local reptile club! For example, if you’re in the Ottawa area, sign up for the ottawaherps mailing list and join the Ottawa Amphibian and Reptile Association.
  5. Melissa Kaplan’s website on reptile (especially iguana) care has a lot of good material. Read everything there that applies to your situation.

In other words, if you’re coming to me with a question, don’t make me do all the work: you’ll get better results, and a better answer, if you ask a specific question than a very general “how do I take care of my snake” kind of question.

I need to find a home for my animal. Can you help?

I can’t help you myself; we’re all full up.

Unless the reptile you’re trying to find a home for is a green iguana, red-eared slider or a very large python, you should have comparatively little trouble finding a home for it: post an ad on one of the popular reptile communities such as Reptiles Canada and see what happens. You might even be able to sell it.

But if you’re trying to get rid of a green iguana, red-eared slider or very large python, unfortunately you’re not alone: you’ll find it very hard to give it away, much less sell it; and reptile rescues are up to their armpits in sliders and iguanas (hundreds of them, in some cases). Which is not to say that it’s not impossible, but you’ll have to find out who it is in your locality that does such things. (I don’t keep a list.)

I found a snake in my yard. How do I take care of it?

First, you should immediately find out what the laws regarding wildlife are in your jurisdiction: in many places, it’s illegal to catch virtually any wild animal.

Second, you should find out what species it is. For one thing, you may have a species that is endangered, threatened or otherwise protected by your state, provincial or national government. For another, how you take care of the animal depends on which animal it is. Once you know what it is, you can search the web for care information.

If you have a protected species on your hands, you should release it immediately, exactly where you found it — wildlife conservation laws can be pretty severe.

If, however, it is legal to collect and possess this species, you may still want to release it where you found it. Wild snakes do not adjust as well to captivity and do not make as good pets as captive-bred snakes: they aren’t as tame, and they frequently come infested with parasites. And there are so many captive-bred snakes available that there really is no excuse for taking snakes from the wild.

It’s also possible that the species you have is not a good candidate for captivity. If you catch a garter snake, rat snake or bullsnake, you’re lucky: they’re reasonably plentiful and reasonably good captives. But if you have a red-bellied snake, a scarlet snake or a hooknose snake, you’ve got something complicated on your hands, and you’re almost certainly going to kill it. I probably would if I tried, and I’ve done my homework!

I’ve got snakes in my yard or my house. How do I get rid of them?

If they’re in your yard or house, it’s because something there is attracting them to it. That something may be a food source, such as mice or slugs, in which case you do want them around. Or you may simply, and inadvertently, be offering good snake habitat — apart from a source of food, that could mean a warm spot to bask or a good place to hibernate over the winter. Snakes usually turn up in people’s basements or living rooms because they’re looking for a place to spend the winter.

Seal up the cracks in the house to prevent snakes from getting in; as for your yard, if you have snakes coming to visit, it’s probably a good sign that you have a healthy yard and a healthy neighbourhood, with enough habitat to sustain not only snakes, but their prey as well.

What kind of snake is this?

I might be able to identify it if you upload a picture of the snake to a photo sharing site (like Flickr or Picasa) and send me the link. Be sure to mention where you found the snake: locality information makes a big difference in making a positive ID. I’m pretty good at North American snakes, less good on snakes from elsewhere. Without a photo, though, I’m no good at all: I usually won’t be able to identify a snake based on a verbal description.

Is this snake dangerous?

More than 80 percent of the world’s snake species are harmless to human beings, but some people are convinced that every snake they encounter is dangerous. If you encounter snakes on a regular basis and are concerned about this, you owe it to yourself to find out whether there are any venomous snakes in your area. (Six out of ten Canadian provinces have no venomous snakes, for example.) If there are no venomous snakes in your area, you have very little, outside of an escaped pet cobra, to worry about. But if there are, you should learn how to identify them. (In the United States and Canada, for example, venomous snakes are easy to distinguish from harmless ones.)

If I’m able to identify the snake in question, I will be able to tell you whether the snake is dangerous or not. But I may not be able to identify it if it’s a species I’m unfamiliar with or if you can’t give me enough information about it.

Our collection

Can I arrange a tour of your facilities?

No, because there are no facilities to tour. We don’t have a store, and we don’t keep regular business hours; everything’s kept at home. Keeping and breeding reptiles is not our day job; it’s something we do on the side. We’re usually too busy to offer full tours of our reptile collection, which can easily eat up an hour or two that we generally can’t spare. And I’m sure you can appreciate that we’re not comfortable inviting complete strangers into our home.

Read this blog entry, which says the same thing in stronger language; it was written after a co-worker’s friend called us asking for a tour for his grandson.

Reptile sales

Do you have any animals for sale?

We have not offered reptiles for sale for several years. In the event that this changes — if, for example, one of our snakes produces a surprise litter — we will list anything we have for sale on the price list page. This page will be updated as soon as something is available for sale and will be as accurate and complete as possible. Rely on it: if it’s not listed there, it’s not for sale. Breeding projects that might come to fruition in a couple of years have been listed on the projects page, but to be honest we’re just not trying very hard to breed any of our snakes.

Do you sell cages or other supplies?

No. Your best bet is a pet store or a reptile expo. Other places you can buy supplies include feed and seed stores for substrate and incubators, drug stores for heating pads, and hardware stores for miscellaneous supplies.

Do you sell mice?

No, we don’t — we buy frozen rodents in bulk. Pet store prices may seem high, but their wholesale prices (i.e., the ones they have to pay) are higher than you might think, mostly because they’re not buying their frozen mice in bulk quantities. The best prices come from buying in bulk (i.e., lots of 50 of more). There are usually several rodent suppliers at reptile shows (such as the Ontario Reptile Expo); buy a lot to get the best price.

If you’re in the Ottawa area, we recommend Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo in the south of Ottawa: their prices are much better than they would be elsewhere — especially, as I said, if you buy in bulk.

I’m looking for a species you don’t have. Can you help?

Probably not. While we know many breeders in the Ottawa area, some in southern Ontario, and a few across Canada, we don’t really have our fingers on the hobby’s pulse enough to know who’s breeding what at any given time. If you’re having trouble finding a specific species, your best bet is to visit a reptile show such as the Ontario Reptile Expo, which takes place five times a year. You could also browse the ads in the classifieds, or post an ad there yourself.

I’m trying to sell an animal. Would you be interested?

Not unless you have some captive-bred garter snakes for me, otherwise, no. Like most hobbyists, we’re pretty full up, so we’re very selective about adding another reptile to the collection. You can always ask, but I can always ignore your message. To save you the trouble, I can definitively say that we’re not interested in green iguanas, red-eared sliders or other large aquatic turtles, large boas or pythons, or crocodilians — which is what most people are trying to get rid of.

Would you be interested in a trade?

Not unless you’re offering an animal we’re interested in, which is unlikely. (Again, we’re pretty full up.) If the animal you’re offering is substantially less valuable than the animal you’re interested in — which happens a lot when someone wants to make a trade like this — then we’re definitely not interested.

Last updated: November 30, 2010.