How did you get started with snakes?

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Python

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I'm totally new to snakes as a pet. So I've asked some dumb questions, hopefully I'll learn more about them as the kind members answer.

But, I'm curious, how did you decide to have snakes as pets? Were you young and just really liked them, or did you get them after becoming an adult? I've been reading that temperatures make a difference to them due to being reptiles. And I've seen comments about baby rats for food for them? Am I getting this right?

So, tell me how you got started. Please.
 

Sdaji

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I was a kid who wanted snakes, so I got myself some snakes.

Temperature is overwhelmingly the most important aspect of keeping reptiles, and is absolutely critical to all reptiles.

Rats and mice are overwhelmingly the most common feed for pet snakes, not just babies. Most snake keepers don't use anything else, or at least use rats and mice as the overwhelming majority of what they feed to snakes.
 

Reptilechick

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@Python if you are wanting to know more about snakes pay close attention to this man above, sure he can be blunt and gruff at times haha and he doesnt really have patience for stupid people, he is by far one of the most knowledgeable and helpful members here.

If you genuinely want to learn, have a read through his past posts, I cannot tell you the amount of times I have been given advice that was totally wrong only to then refer to his methods and advice and get real results.

And if you are a newbie or an experienced keeper alike, take his advice this man truly knows his stuff....
 

Sdaji

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@Python if you are wanting to know more about snakes pay close attention to this man above, sure he can be blunt and gruff at times haha and he doesnt really have patience for stupid people, he is by far one of the most knowledgeable and helpful members here.

If you genuinely want to learn, have a read through his past posts, I cannot tell you the amount of times I have been given advice that was totally wrong only to then refer to his methods and advice and get real results.

And if you are a newbie or an experienced keeper alike, take his advice this man truly knows his stuff....

Wow, I definitely don't remember getting drunk and sending you money, but however much I sent, I'm getting good value!

Guilty as charged about not sugar coating things šŸ˜… I try to be helpful but sometimes a dose of reality is the most helpful thing šŸ˜…

You're spot on about so much information/conventional wisdom/common knowledge in the reptile world being incorrect. I learned that decades ago and realised I'd have to experiment and work everything out or confirm it for myself. There are some good people in our game whose honesty and experience I trust, but for the most part it's worth being sceptical of everything your hear and read.
 

Python

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I was a kid who wanted snakes, so I got myself some snakes.

Temperature is overwhelmingly the most important aspect of keeping reptiles, and is absolutely critical to all reptiles.

Rats and mice are overwhelmingly the most common feed for pet snakes, not just babies. Most snake keepers don't use anything else, or at least use rats and mice as the overwhelming majority of what they feed to snakes.
What were your first snakes, and how did you learn to keep them?
 

Sdaji

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What were your first snakes, and how did you learn to keep them?

Things were different back then. I read every reptile book I could possibly get my hands on, which was about 3 or 4, and none of them were about husbandry. I'd never used the internet, I didn't even know what the internet was at the time. Blue globes I wired up myself as a kid (which wasn't that weird at the time), no thermostat, an enclosure design I wouldn't dream of using these days. Funnily enough, as bad as all that might sound, in hindsight my snakes were in better hands and thrived more than what most people manage with all the advice from the Facebook groups and pet shop 'advice' these days!

My first snakes were hybrid Antaresia sold to me as pure Townsville 'Children's Pythons' (back then all Antaresia were considered the same species, Liasis childreni). At the time I didn't know anything so I believed it until I learned a bit more.

My next snakes were Tiger Snakes. Times were different, I was a kid and sent in the form and payment (a money order from the post office, I think) for my license to keep venomous snakes. I'm pretty sure the rule was that you had to be 18 years old to get the license, but they sent it to me anyway. There were no courses back then (I think it was better that way) and most people who worked with venomous snakes taught themselves as kids in the local swamp. I had no training, no mentor, I just winged it and had a heap of fun back in those days.

The snake community was completely different back then. Most herpers were desperately trying to push snakes to be mainstream pets, and for better or worse eventually they did indeed succeed, and the herp community is now unrecognisable from what it was. I still remember the day I joined this forum, I was a university student running an experiment with geckoes, the was playingon the computer I had the apparatus hooked up to and found APS, and signed up. That was around the time the herp scene was in its most rapid period of change and it was becoming very easy to connect with other herpers online and see how insane they all were and how badly they were keeping their snakes and misinforming each other šŸ™ƒ

Haha, good times.
 

Python

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It was literally 'learning the hard way', and was pretty effective.
You're right, learning resources now are tremendous and way much easier to access. But learning always boils down to love and interest.

I can't imagine you at such a young age having license to keep venomous snakes. But why not, apparently you know more about snakes much better than any other adults during that time.

Thank you for being a huge part of the community.

I enjoyed everything you said about kids in the local swamp, having no training, nor mentor, just winged it and had a heap of fun.

But, I won't do swamp.:)
 

Sdaji

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There were certainly a few adults around who knew how to handle snakes and though they may not have known anything like what we know now, they certainly knew more about snake husbandry at the time than I did at the time when I was still a stupid kid chasing Tiger Snakes around in the local swamp (as opposed to now being a stupid adult chasing snakes around all over the world).

Having said that, even decades ago some of the stuff I was working out is still not widely known or believed. I'm sure our community will always be a peculiar one (I'm exhibit A).
 

GBWhite

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I'm totally new to snakes as a pet. So I've asked some dumb questions, hopefully I'll learn more about them as the kind members answer.

But, I'm curious, how did you decide to have snakes as pets? Were you young and just really liked them, or did you get them after becoming an adult? I've been reading that temperatures make a difference to them due to being reptiles. And I've seen comments about baby rats for food for them? Am I getting this right?

So, tell me how you got started. Please.

Hi Python,

I first developed an interest in reptiles way back in 1967 when no licenses were required and the collecting and keeping of reptiles was pretty much free for all to engage in.

I had a friend that lived around the corner from my house in Belmore in Sydney's western Suburbs who had a Blue Tongue Lizard and a Long-necked Turtle and I became completely fascinated with them to a point where I bought a Blue tongue from our local pet shop. That same shop had all sorts of reptiles for sale including Blue Tongues, Shinglebacks, Bearded Dragons, both Short and Long-necked Turtles, Carpet and Diamond Pythons and occasionally Green Tree Snakes that were all kept together in the front window of the shop and my friend and I would often go to the shop and spend an hour or so just looking at all the snakes, lizards and turtles.

It wasn't long after that we both started exploring our local areas for lizards and would ride our bikes to various bushland, farming areas and National Parks where we'd spend the day catching all types and species and keep them to add to our collections.

My first experience with a snake was in bushland adjacent to Bardwell Park near Earlwood in Sydney. I was out with a group of friends when we came across a rather large Red Bellied Black Snake sunning itself in front of a rock. I grabbed it by the tail as I had seen George Cann Jnr do at the La Peruse Snake Pit and as I lifted it up it became evident that it was longer than I was tall so I stood atop the rock to keep it off the ground while one of my friends attempted to bag it. There were no such things as hoop bags in those days and after many attempts and a few near bites we were able to bag it in a pillow case which we used for bagging lizards.

I took it home and placed it in a spare outdoor cage that had previously held a couple of Blue Tongues and couldn't stop myself from sitting there at the cage watching it, sometimes for hours at a time. I have to admit that although they encouraged my interest and allowed me to keep the snake my aunt and uncle, who I lived with, weren't too keen on me having a Red Bellied Black at 12 years old. So after a couple of weeks my uncle proposed that if I let it go he would buy me a Carpet Python. An agreement was reached and a couple of weeks later I was less one Red Bellied Black but the proud owner of not 1 but 2 very nice Carpet Pythons and a Green Tree Snake.

A month or so after that my friend purchased a Swamp Snake from a gentleman named Graham Settle who worked with Hal Cogger at the Australian Museum in Sydney and Graham introduced us both to the Australian Herpetological Society that met once a month in the bowels of the Australian Museum. That was the real start of my reptile journey and where I became friends with people like Richard Wells (of Wells and Wellington fame), Peter Rankin, Gerry Swan, Brian Lazell and many more of the fledgling herpers of that era.

From there, when I wasn't playing or training for rugby league I spent nearly all my spare time either at home looking after my collection or engaging with adults, buying, borrowing and reading as many books as I could to gain as much knowledge as possible or out in the scrub with friends collecting reptiles including a wide variety of venomous snakes. As my interest grew and I got older I would swap all species of reptiles with friends interstate including Steve Wilson and Mike Swan and also send reptiles to Brian Barnett who operated the now defunct Marbuk Reptile Park at Port Macquarie.

Eventually, at around 15 years of age my main interest settled on the Broad-headed Snake (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) and that's where I placed most of my energy and interest.

Things changed drastically in the early 70's whereby NSW NPWS decided to outlaw the keeping of almost all species of reptiles except for a limited few of the common species and as such the number of keepers diminished drastically while other just dropped of the scene. Some complied with the new legislation and were content to keep the designated number of 12 animal (which could consist of all the same species or a selection of those allowed to be kept but, what ever the case may be, no one except licensed zoos/wildlife parks etc could keep more than 12 individual animals).

So as it turned out Broad Heads were classified as endangered and were definitely not on the list of permitted species. I had no choice but to release my animals back into the locations where they were first collected.

The new laws didn't perturb me from maintaining my interest so I, like may others, simply went underground as as a means to pursue our interest. I also moved away from the city to live in Bellingen Shire on the NSW Mid North Coast. I didn't keep much but over the next couple of decades I spent a lot of time in the scrub all over the state and occasionally interstate locating, catching and even just observing and recording activities of species and their environment .

Then in the early 90's I returned to live in Sydney for a period of time where I reacquainted myself with the local herp scene, attended meetings of the AHS where I even had the privilege of spending 12 months as President and Field Trip Coordinator and had a spell working as a keeper/demonstrator with the Australian Reptile Park. During my time in Sydney I also authored several species profiles for NSW NPWS and was provided with a permit to hold specimens of venomous species on their behalf which included those classed as endangered or threatened that had either been handed in or confiscated. I was also engaged by Rich Shine to assist Dr John Webb with his PhD on the Broad-Headed Snake. I also, at the bequest of Harold Ehmann, undertook, contributed to and successfully completed the Advanced Herpetology Course at the University of Technology Sydney.

I eventually returned to Bellingen a couple of years later and in 1998 established a very popular mobile live reptile display called Unreal Reptiles performing live demonstrations and educating the public about a wide variety of reptiles including highly venomous species of snakes at major shopping centers, agricultural shows and similar events as well as private functions and schools. Due to the time required to operate as a sole trader, time away from home and family reasons I closed the business in 2004 and returned to my previous employment as a Private Investigator.

My interest has never waned and I have previously been granted Scientific Licenses to collect, hold, etc any species of reptile in NSW and still hold a class 4 NSW keepers license which basically allows me to acquire and keep any and all species of Australian reptiles other than crocs.

Other than occasionally visiting here and for a number of reasons, I don't engage much with the herp community in general these days and mainly just tend to stick with my old associates. I consider myself very lucky, as the area I live provides a wide and diverse range of species of reptiles that I encounter on a regular basis. I currently maintain a small collection of snakes including a dozen pure Coastal Carpets, Olive Pythons, Red Bellied Blacks. Tigers and Colletts Black Snakes as well as provide information to the general public and remove venomous snakes from local properties, private residents, businesses and schools as a community service totally free of charge simple as a means of concern for the welfare of the said snake.

Cheers,

George.
 
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Python

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Hi GBWhite,

You talked about reptiles like they are your whole life. It's a great story you have just shared, I really enjoyed reading it and realized how enormous the knowledge becomes. Thank you for sharing it with us, and for sharing your knowledge with everyone.
 

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