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RE: Musings of a Student/ Why I'm a Milkman

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Posted by: SunHerp at Thu Jan 10 15:52:21 2013  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by SunHerp ]  

Has anyone given any thought to the idea that there may be differences among the groups of people in the snake keeping society?

Oh yeah - every time I visit a forum dedicated to another species (or species group).

I have found that the folks on this forum are more polite, more engaged in the natural history of the animal and less likely to view the animal as part of a business operation.

I think you nailed it, right there. The alterna/mexicana-complex and pyromelana/zonata folks are right there with us, though. The keepers of some other species are less likely, for some reason, to be "naturalists", it seems.

What are the implications of referring to our pets are a "collection".

For me? I have a moderately large collection of snakes, most of which are Lampropeltis triangulum. It means that very few of my animals are given names and that I don't don't engage in anthropomorphism. I enjoy my animals immensely and they receive the best care possible. I'm utterly fascinated by their natural history, spend countless dollars and hours observing them in the wild as well as captivity, but they aren't my companions. My family and dogs are companions.


Keepers of many types of animals use quarantine. This certainly includes all herps, fish, birds, small mammals, invertebrates, etc. It's a safety net to prevent the spread of disease from a newly acquired specimen (or group) to the animals already under the keeper’s care. Many infections, whether they be bacterial, viral, fungal, parasitic, or protozoan in nature, can quickly infect and kill established and previously healthy animals. Why would you subject animals you care about to that risk?

And lastly, the division we impose upon milksnakes. Why do we do that? I understand for taxonomic reasons why genetic divisions are important, but are not all milk snakes Lampropeltis triangulum?

All milksnakes are currently classified as Lampropeltis triangulum, but that may not reflect reality. There may, in fact, be more than one distinct lineage masquerading as Lampropeltis triangulum. Additionally, each subspecies has adapted to a unique geographic region and the environmental conditions thereof.

The subspecies is just a locality?

No, it isn’t. A subspecies, as alluded to above, is a genetically and morphologically distinct population within the species which occupies a geographically distinct portion of the species’ range. The subspecies concept simply provides us a way to describe the variation seen across a species’ range. Locality is the place where a specimen is found. For example, this is a Pale Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum multistrata) from the locality of Cherry County, Nebraska, USA (my buddy Dell’s photo).

This is a Pale Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum multistrata) from the locality of Yellowstone County, Montana.

These animals are the same subspecies, but different localities - that's common. You CANNOT, however, have members of two subspecies at the SAME locality. This is a fundamental principle of the subspecies concept.

There might be some morphological differences, but does it really matter that much if its a Nelson's or Sinaloan? Or Honduran?
They’re very different animals, really. They differ genetically, ecologically, behaviorally, and morphologically. The Honduran Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum hondurensis) is adapted to the lowland moist forests along the Caribbean versant of Honduras and Nicaragua. It’s habitat and interspecies relationships (i.e.; ecology) differs significantly from that of the Sinaloa Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum sinaloae), which is adapted to the semi-arid thorn scrub and tropical deciduous forests of northwestern Mexico. The selective pressures that have molded them into the beasts we see today are very different. Many milk-heads appreciate those differences and grow to have a great respect for the diversity we see in the species (or several species, as it may turn out there are).

Why is there such pressure to have pure stock? Does any of it really matter?

It so totally does (at least to me and a few others) because of the reasons I listed above. I’m fascinated by the natural history of Lampropeltis triangulum, including its intraspecific diversity, and if I’m going to keep an animal captive, I strive to make sure I preserve that diversity and thus the impetus for me wanting to keep it captive in the first place.

An awesome snake is an awesome snake.

Ok… but “awesome” is subjective and in my eyes, a snake loses ALL of its “awesome” once it’s no longer a product of nature, but of some breeder with no regard for its natural history.




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