Aug 2008

Q: Is this boa too fat to breed?

Q: The main reason I asked, is that I'm finding myself in an unfamiliar place, as I'm used to the underweight snakes, not the obese snakes.  I found a very nice looking normal rtb that I had intentions of breeding this year.  Pictures are always deceiving, and I could tell she was a well fed girl, and at least 7 feet.  I was excited to get another breeding project gearing up for this upcoming season, to go with my two pastels.  Well, I swear this snake looks like it swallowed 50 f/t jumbo rats at once.  This girl easily weighs 35-40 pounds, and is just plain fat.  The guy who sold her to me was so proud of her size, as you could tell he really wanted a "big" snake.  I've never seen anything quite like her before, and my question is this: I know that overweight male snakes don't make good breeders, but what about the girls? Would the extra weight provide her with more nourishment for the babies? Or am I going to have to slim her down, and wait until next year? I want what's best for her, but had purchased her with breeding in mind.  Other than the weight, she seems healthy, and active enough to constantly test the limits of her cage (she's an escape artist per her previous owner).  Thanks!

A: Kudos to you for taking the time to consider this type of question before rushing into a potentially dangerous situation. She looks plump and eager to breed, but you're taking an unnecessary risk in breeding her if she's of questionable weight (I suppose the jury is still out on that one). I'd advise you to always err on the side of caution. You haven't really lost anything if you give her a year to settle in and lose some weight before breeding her -- I suppose you lose that breeding season. But if hastiness means you lose the snake, well... hindsight is 20/20. Use your best judgement. But that brings up the next question: how do you healthily reduce the weight of a snake? I mean, if sugarbusters fails, of course... Well, you're dealing with an ectotherm -- your snake's temperature, which you more or less control, determines her metabolism. This is NOT to say "turn up the heat and watch her shed the meat." You should never keep a snake at temperatures which exceed its species-specific requirements. That being said, however, make sure the gradient you offer her DOES cover the higher range of temperatures she needs to thoroughly digest meals and begin burning those calorie reserves. For RTBs I think these are upwards of 82 - 90º F, even up to 95º F in the basking area (cooler on the other side of the enclosure, of course, and at night) -- but double check these values, I'm not an expert. As with all species, exercise is also an important factor. If she won't chase a tennis ball, at least make sure her enclosure is large enough that she can crawl around and explore. If she's handleable get her out and really let her roam. The more she's moving the more energy she's using which, in biological terms, equates to flopping off the flub. Finally, of course, cut back her diet. Make sure to do this slowly though. Reptiles are slow to do everything and they don't appreciate sudden changes. Keep her on her current diet until she's settled. Once she's comfortable and established in her new home, slowly begin cutting back -- maybe continue feeding her what the previous owner was providing (e.g. 2 F/T adult rats once every 2 weeks), but smaller sized ones (e.g. medium-sized rats instead of JUMBO). Continue this until you arrive at something more compatible with a snake of her size. Use caution when feeding and handling her at this time; no one likes to be put on a diet, including your snake, and she's likely to become more temperamental. Be persistent and she'll get over it. Keep in mind, too, that smaller more frequent meals are always preferable and more conducive to healthy body weight than are larger less frequent meals (the same is true in humans!). Make sure she always has plenty of water and monitor her carefully to evaluate her progress. I hope this provides a good jump off point. Good luck to you and the 7-foot tubster! - BJW