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Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 6   
March, 2005
Feeding Snakes - Storing Frozen
In this Issue

Storing Frozen Food

Sacrificed food animals should be immediately fed to a snake or frozen and packaged in freezer bags. Zipper-type bags work well because they can be easily opened and resealed. Food animals too large for freezer bags can be wrapped in plastic or stored in sealed boxes to keep air exposure to a minimum.

There are basically two ways to package frozen food animals. One way is to fill a freezer bag with newly sacrificed rodents and freeze them all together. When this method is used, the food items will need to be disentangled from each other as they are needed. A benefit to this type of packaging is that there's very little air space, and it takes up less room. The other way is to freeze the animals in a bag or on a tray first, and after they're frozen, they can be easily sorted by size and packed in freezer bags. There are more air spaces created with this method, but the food items are much easier to select from when choosing one from a bag containing a range of sizes. Squeeze all excess air out of the bag before sealing it to maximize freshness.

When storing large quantities of the smaller food animals (mice, small rats), I like to pack them in small bags with 25 per bag and then put the small bags all into larger, quart or gallon-size "zip locks." This provides an extra measure of protection. Just leave one small bag out for current needs. Your snake's frozen food will stay in better condition this way because you're only exposing a small portion of the stock (one small bag) to room temperature at a time. Don't forget, by the time you get to the last animal in a bag of 25, it may have been out of the freezer already 24 times (if you used one feeder each time). That amount of handling shouldn't be detrimental because it doesn't take long to extract a food item and put the bag back in the freezer, but there's no need to expose frozen food to warm conditions more than is necessary. Frozen pinks should be pink, like their name. If you notice that they are turning red, then they're getting too warm.

Besides spoilage resulting from thawing, the main thing to guard against is premature deterioration of food from excessive freezer burn. When small white spots first appear on the skin surface of the animal, that's the beginning stage of dehydration caused by cold air, and that's perfectly normal. Some people vacuum pack frozen food animals, which may slow down this process, but a minimal amount of surface freezer burn on a food animal doesn't bother a snake at all as far as I can tell.

Once again, pink rodents require special care. They tend to freezer burn faster than older rodents that have a full coat of hair, so keep them double bagged as previously stated and plan for them to be used up by the time they're 3 to 4 months old maximum. Because they're hairless, you probably won't want to freeze pinks together. They should be packaged after freezing because they are delicate and difficult to separate if stuck together and then frozen.

If you want to stock a substantial quantity of large food animals for a collection of boas or pythons, a freezer dedicated solely to this purpose would be handy. However, the household freezer is adequate for most people's needs. This makes some people a bit squeamish, but it's all in the way you look at it. Most homes have dead cows, birds, pigs, fish, etc. in the freezer. So what harm is there in a few rodents tucked away in a brown paper bag? No one even has to know they're there.

Next Issue: FEEDING SNAKES - Part 4

Extract from "Snake Keeping - Proven Techniques Everyone Can Use" by Barry Neilsen


SNAKE MITES - Treatments for Snake Mite- Part 3

The previous articles on cleaning can be found at

Please note, Ark Reptile Group & are not in a position to recommend any of the treatments described below. It is therefore up to the individual's assessment, along with his/her Veterinary Surgeon's advice, as to which is the most appropriate treatment in any particular case. 

Part 1: Chris Jordan continues his article by discussing three products used to remove snake mites from an infested animal: Vapona, Mite-Off and Ivermec

First I will look at " Vapona ", a product designed as a fly killer and available from most supermarkets that also works well as a mite remover. The main ingredient in Vapona that kills the snake mites is dichlorvos. Vapona works by releasing the dichlorvos as a vapour, which then condenses into a thin film, covering all of the surfaces (possibly even the reptile) in the vivarium, so for this reason the water bowl should be removed during treatment with Vapona to avoid poisoning the reptile. The recommended dose rate is 6 mm of Vapona strip/0.27 m3), and when used the

Vapona should always be suspended in a sealed, perforated container such as a film cassette with small holes. An advantage of Vapona is that it treats the animal and the environment. However, Vapona does have one very serious disadvantage: it can potentially cause poisoning in the reptiles and the keeper. Symptoms of this poisoning are excessive 'dribbling' (saliva), anorexia, twitching, poor co-ordination, paralysis and, in the end, death.

Some snakes are notably more sensitive to Vapona than others, especially white-lipped pythons, bismark pythons and some Asian ratsnakes, and so it should not be used on these species. It is thought that Vapona has no effect on snake mite eggs and so the eggs must be physically removed or the population will continue. Vapona should not be used in a room that contains arachnids or invertebrates, and it has also been reported to be harmful to finely scaled lizards like day geckos. (Editor's note (2004): this product is no longer available due to concerns regarding the possible carcinogenic properties of dichlorvos ) 

" Mite Off " is a commercially available spray, made by Zoo Med, which is often available at reptile shops. "Mite Off" is spray that is sprayed onto the reptile, thinly coating the entire animal so suffocating the mites that are on it. Advantages of "Mite Off" are that is contains no pesticides, is easy to use and has no harmful side effects on the animals that have been noticed.

A disadvantage of the product is that it only treats the animal not the vivarium or the surrounding room. This means when using this product the vivarium also needs to be thoroughly cleaned and eggs and mites removed. The room it is in should also be treated, possibly by Vapona (as it will not then kill the animal, though the owner could be affected) or even mothballs, which are very effective in killing mites but the fumes are fatal to snakes as well as mites.

" Ivermec " is a form of ivermectin that is commercially available, however, it can only be obtained through a vet. It was originally formulated for use on horses, but it can be used to control or wipe out mites on snakes. Ivermec can be administered orally or injected, and is a very powerful drug when injected, so the recommended dosages are very small. For a spray, the Ivermec is diluted in water to make a 2 % solution (e.g. in 100 ml of this solution, there is 2 ml of Ivermec and 98 ml of water).

The spray apparently kills mite on contact, while not harming the snake, and the injection also kills all mites and tick on the snake with no adverse side effects if injected in the right amount. As well as working very well, another advantage of Ivermec is that it can be applied on to cages and the furniture, and outside the cages, as well as just on the snake, so can treat mites in the environment as well. Water bowls should be removed during spraying of the cage and animal to prevent them from being 'contaminated' with Ivermec.

Treatment can be repeated once a week for a few weeks until there has been no sign of mites for a while. One possible disadvantage of Ivermec is that when used on wild-caught snakes in could possibly kill infestations of lungworms, which are quite common parasites in many boids and colubrids, due to inhalation of the spray, which would then lead to death in the snake if the infestation were heavy. However, this is only theoretical, and could be overcome by using Ivermec as an injection, in which case care must be taken to inject exactly the right amount. One other slight disadvantage is that Ivermec is only available through a vet so is likely to be expensive. 

If I had to use one of these treatments, I would use Ivermec. It seems to have no major disadvantages that cannot be overcome (and most disadvantages are only theoretical) and seems to be a safe and very effective way of eradicating snake mites in a collection of reptiles. As well as being used on the reptile, Ivermec can also be used on the environment, which makes it even more effective. However, more extensive work needs to be carried out to ensure Ivermectin is safe, as it has not been used extensively yet.

Next Issue: SNAKE MITES - Part 2: Further Discussion and Alternative Treatments.

Reproduced with permission from Ark Reptile Group. Original article by Chris Jordan

Dumaril's Boa Care

As readers sometimes make requests for me to provide information on a particular species I will do my best to find out what I can about that particular animal. One such request was for some information on Dumeril Boa.

Dumeril's mostly inhabit the arid desert part of Madagascar called the Spiny Desert which is on the western side of the island. The region looks much like the deserts of Mexico and south west USA and is very arid, although some of the Dumeril's range does extend into more temperate woodlands.

Dumeril's Boa
Click image to Enlarge

Night time summer temperatures often drop into the high 60's or low 70's with day time temps staying in the mid to high 90's. During the winter months of December and January average daytime temps are in the lower 70's with nighttime temps in the 50's.

Being a ground dweller they like to hide during the day and will often take refuge in burrows and hollow logs etc and they are a shy snake. They like

The animals that are currently sold in the US all originate from a small population that was imported into the country but quickly halted by the Madagascan government. It is thought that of all the boa species in the US, Dumeril's has the

Interesting Facts:

The name for Dumeril’s boa in Malagash, the native language of Madagascar, is “do,” pronounced like “dough!”

Dumeril’s boas have been kept by some local peoples to help control rodents. In other areas they are greatly feared and killed whenever possible, even though they are not dangerous to humans!

Length & Weight

Dumeril’s boas reach an average length of 4-5 feet (1.21-1.5 m) and usually weigh less than 20 pounds (9 kg).

The maximum recorded length is 7 feet (2.1 m). Females are larger than males.


As Dumeril's spend a lot of time in hiding in the wild they should be given plenty of hiding places within their cage. Hides, hollow logs and places to hide are important to avoid stress. Aquariums are not good cages for these animals as they are a shy snake. A wooden cage with a glass or perspex front is the recommended enclosure.

Young Dumerils should be kept in containers that are small enough to allow the snake to feel secure and also should have a hiding place. A good container is one similar to the container for small snake in the "How to build reptile enclosures booklet". Dumeril's will suffer stress if placed in an oversized cage or an aquarium.


Newspaper and commercial substrates can be used. Avoid substrates tat expand if the animal is fed in the same cage as they can be ingested and cause blockages.

Aspen shavings is a recommended substrate for Dumeril's as it allows them to burrow.


Dumeril's will happily exist on rodents. Dumeril's should be fed as per their defecation schedule, ie when they defecate their last meal they can take another feed. Over feeding should be avoided, so if the snake has to wait some time before the next meal, that is not a problem.

Dumeril's being an ambush snake have a slow metabolism. Over feeding does not make a snake healthier but, like people, the opposite.

Feeding should be about once per week for the first 18-24 months and the size of the feed should increase in size as the snake grows, starting off with small pinkie mice. The food should not be wider than the widest part of the snake.

Water should be available in both the warmer and cooler parts of the snake's cage.


During the daytime temperatures should be maintained with a basking area of up to 30°C (87°F), dropping down to a cooler end of 25°C (78°F). At night the temperature should be dropped to between 23 - 25°C (75 - 78°F).


Heating can be provided from heat lamps (ceramic or globe) and heat mats can be used. The cage should have a thermal gradient (a range of temperatures from one end to the other) to allow the animal to regulate it's body temperature. Heat mats should only cover 1/2 to 2/3's of the cage if used.

Dumeril's are a very docile animal whose future is endangered due to the destruction of their environment.

Like all keepers, it is important to arm yourself with knowledge to look after your valuable pet and maintain the optimal environment for their continued well being.

Updating and Feedback

As part of the continuous evolution and improvements of products is planning a review of it's Reptile Cage eBook.

I would appreciate any feedback, good and bad. I am looking for information, constructive criticism and ideas. These could include things like:

  • What sort of additions could be made
  • How could the cages be improved further
  • What are you particularly proud of
  • What worked well for you
  • What did not work well
  • What was difficult and how you got around it
  • Requests and ideas
IGUANA CAGE PLANS has launched

The feedback on these plans has been very positive. Made by a recognized iguana cage maker with many years experience and a wealth of knowledge about keeping Iguanas. These cages are fabulous and could be easily adapted to large snakes and large lizards or arboreal species.

When you purchase reptile cage plans you also get access to a copy of these plans as part of your purchase. They can be used for large lizards and large snakes quite easily, but you do need some room to put them in as they are quite large

They are easy to make and it does take a little time. But you get a great cage in return. You can alter the cage to suit your own personal style and there are hints and tips throughout the book.

If you have already purchased reptile cage plans you can collect you copy of this eBook for free. Simply email me and let me know you would like a copy and I will send you a username and password so you can download your own copy.

Otherwise, go and make a purchase now and get a copy of this fantastic resource as well as the original plans plus all of the great bonuses. You will not find a better deal anywhere.

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These could include:

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Remember - there are lots of people who would love to hear your stories. Just e-mail me at: Reptile-Cage-Plans


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