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Feeding Incident – “Catnip” Behavior

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Posted by: Ameron at Wed Feb 8 01:18:15 2012  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by Ameron ]  
   

With a Russian, no less! The ones never known to refuse feed!! My new hatchling first fed on 3 mice pinkies a few days ago, and his species’ non-constriction preference was confirmed. Then I saw something that I’ve never seen that quite amazed me.

(I have seen a female Sonoran Black Kingsnake play with her food before, even dragging it around her vivarium awhile before eating, but nothing this bizarre.)

I placed pinkie #1 on a branch near the hatchling. When he neared that area, he smelled the prey and approached slowly. Then, amazingly, he spent the next *5 minutes* closely sniffing, rubbing against and moving around the prey.

After 5 minutes, it dropped between 2 branches onto the ground behind a rock where he no longer saw it. He began eagerly seeking his lost “gem”, seeking all around the area, slowly dropping down to explore, then finally crawling down to investigate the ground below.

To save time, I then plopped in the other 2 pinkies I had warmed in my hand. They remained stuck together in a ball on the bedding.

He immediately regarded the OTHER 2 pinkies very differently. He saw them and approached in typical Rat Snake stalking fashion. Moving in a deliberate beeline to the prey, eyes focused on it, slightly increasing speed as he moved forward.

When about 3 inches away, he struck quickly, grabbing pinkie #2 pulling him back a few inches onto the ground near him. He immediately began chewing on & swallowing the prey. When he was 90% done swallowing, only then did he use a small portion of his side to guide the prey down to finish swallowing. He took only 1 minute to swallow.

He had barely finished swallowing pinkie #2, and it was not even one third of the way down his body, when he snatched pinkie #3 the same way and began chewing and swallowing it before the first was even half way down his body! He again took 1 minute to swallow.

(I’ve never seen any snake take so little time to swallow & position prey before going after more. Most at least partially position the prey half way down their body before going after more items.)

I then found the hidden pinkie #1 and placed him on the ground near the snake. He AGAIN closely sniffed and rubbed against the pinkie, which moved at times. His movement almost seemed sensual, like a cat responding to Catnip.

After 2 minutes (a total of 7 minutes sniffing that prey) he grasped the pinkie on the shoulders and began slowly swallowing and better positioning to the head. His speed and grasping technique were very different, and he took 2 minutes to swallow. Twice as long as for the other 2 pinkies.

I watched the drama closely, and the evidence seemed to suggest that although the pinkies all came from the same litter nest, pinkie #1 had some scent on it that enticed the snake, and he somehow regarded that pinkie as non-prey. It was very much like a Catnip effect on a reptile.

He spent the next 30-40 minutes circling back & forth between the upper branch and the spot where he fed on the ground – just to be sure that he had not overlooked any food items. He wanted more, and would have eaten 3 more if I would have let him.

1.0 Elaphe schrencki
1.0 Pantherophis obsoletus rossalleni


   

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