The Bull Snake is also known as the gopher snake and the pine snake. It is native to the central United States and is a great snake to own. They are non-venomous and as adults, they are friendly and tame.
In the wild, bull snakes are commonly misidentified as rattle snakes because of their dusty, brown, black and tan colors. They are not poisonous and adults can reach a length of 8 feet long. If cared for properly a bull snake will live from 15-25 years of age so be ready for a long term commitment.
When startled in the wild, a bull snake will lift itself up and shake the tip of its tail on the ground to act like a rattlesnake. Although they have no venom, they have a powerful bite and should be treated with respect. Hatchlings are difficult to tame, but as they get older, they mellow out and can become very friendly to you. Many snakes only are aggressive when they are startled or threatened.
Like many snakes of North America, the bull snake consumes small rodents like mice and rats. In captivity frozen then thawed mice and rats are healthier because they cannot fight back or spread disease. Adult snakes need to eat only once every 7-10 days.
The size of rodent you should feed varies depending on the size of your snake. A rule of thumb is to provide a mouse or rat that will make a noticeable lump at the snake's thickest point, but not awkwardly protruding. A 6' bull snake can eat full sized rats, but hatchlings should be eating pinkie mice. Do not handle your snake within 48 hours of its last meal to avoid regurgitation of undigested food.
At a minimum, a 6 foot long bull snake needs to be kept in a 55 gallon enclosure with a screen lid. Snakes are solitary animals and do best on their own, but if you plan to breed two snakes, a 70 gallon enclosure will be enough room. When it comes to cage size, the more room the better. Hatchlings on need a 10 gallon aquarium, but increase the size as they grow so they do not become cramped and stressed.
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If you are looking for a simple, inexpensive and clean substrate use butcher paper, paper towels or newspaper for your bull snake. If you want a more natural look, options like aspen bedding or cypress mulch. When given the opportunity, bull snakes will burro a couple of inches into loose substrates. Do not ever use cedar or pine chips of any kind because they are toxic to all reptiles.
A minimum of two hide boxes should be used in the enclosure. These hide boxes should be dark and snug so the snake has a place to feel safe and secure. Provide large, sturdy branches for the bull snake to climb on and explore.
A basking spot of 85F should be located on one end of the enclosure. If you need to provide heat to reach 85F, a heat bulb or a heat pad will work. If you are using a heat pad make sure that it is made for reptiles and you have a thermometer in the cage at all times. The other end on the cage can be kept at room temperature. Snakes are exothermic so if there is not enough heat, their bodies will literally stop. No additional UVA or UVB rays are required for this species of snake.
No extra humidity is required for bull snakes, but a large water bowl needs to be in the cage. Clean and refill the water daily because they are known to defecate and swim in their water bowl.
Paper substrates need to be replaced when soiled and loose substrates need to be replaced every three months. Spot clean the enclosure and clean the water bowl daily.
In captivity a male and a female can be introduced at any time during the year. Make sure that they are both at least 2 years old and are fully matures so neither one is harmed. Most snakes will mate right away or within the week. Once they have mated, separate the male and the female so the male does not try to mate again because this will cause problems for the female.
Females should be fed medium portions every 5 days until the bulge of the eggs is very noticeable. Right before she is ready to lay her eggs, the female will stop eating. Once the eggs are laid, they should be moved as soon as possible into an incubator and keep them at 85F until they hatch.
A hatchling bull snake only needs a 10 gallon enclosure for the first couple months of its life. It will eat frozen thawed pinkie mice every 5 days and should be kept on a newspaper substrate. Young bull snakes can be jumpy and nippy, so watch out for your fingers. A hot spot of 85F needs to be maintained and give them enough water to soak in.
Bull snakes are also commonly known as gopher snakes and pine snakes. They are from the central United States and grow into very lovable pets. Remember, do your research before buying any pet so that it can live happily and healthily.