Newborn Texas Brown Snake (Storeria dekayi
Background: A small snake was found in Round Rock, Texas, on 9-2-2002 that was unusually large in girth, compared to the size of its head. Its midsection was soft and spongy. This suggested it was a female carrying either eggs or live young. However, its tail was fairly long, while the tails of the females of many snake species are relatively short. Was this a male?
I palpated the snake's midsection gently, to avoid injuring the young, without reaching a firm conclusion. I then decided to place it in an enclosure with several other snake species, while studying the literature to identify its species, and wait to see what developed.
On September 20, around 8:45 a.m., I noticed several tiny snakes in one of the snake enclosures in the lab, one of which is shown in the photos on this page. Since the enclosure involved contained four species of snakes, I was not immediately certain who the mother was. Picking one of the little guys up, I examined it under magnification. The dark patch on each side of the snake's body, just behind its head, was all I needed to see.
Removing all the newborn snakes from the enclosure, to prevent them from being consumed by the other snakes (some of whom eat lizards and, most likely, small, tender, newborn snakes), I placed them in their own enclosure along with an ample supply of tiny live crickets and a small container of water. I found the mother, whose midsection was now much smaller. She was left in the original enclosure. Once live snakes are delivered, they are able to fend for themselves.
The dark marking below the eye is more prominent in the young, and does not have the inverted "V" pattern as in the mother. The dark spot between this marking and the dark patch behind the head are also found in the mother, as is the smaller dark spot distal of the dark patch.
The markings on the head of the newborn shown in these photos are identical, though more prominent, to those of the mother. Note that the tip of the tail still has a remnant of the snake's birthing skin, which is shed immediately after birth.
The newborns measured from 4 to 6 centimeters long, with considerable variation in size and mobility between them. A few tended to remain stationary, while others were constantly on the move. All of them exhibited the same rotating wriggle when handled, just like their mother.
Notice the light band directly behind the head. This is much lighter than the body in the newborns, and appears to be a yellow band around the snake's neck. This marking is characteristic of S. dekayi texana juveniles.
This specimen's vent is about as far from the tip of its tail as that of the mother. So much for sexing by the length of the tail.
It is possible to obtain small crickets in quantity, but slugs and snails are not so easy to come by. I plan to stock the dedicated enclosure containing these snakes with crickets and small mealworms and see if they are able to obtain sufficient nutriment from such prey.
Collecting of reptiles is regulated by the Texas Parks & Wildlife department. An individual may collect no more than 10 of a given species, and no more than 25 specimens in the aggregate, regardless of species, without acquiring a non-game collection permit.
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