One Lucky Shot

So, in case you have not figured it out by now, I breed western hognose snakes.

I bought a female back in 2010 from a breeder who instantly dropped contact with me after I purchased the snake. I thought their actions were a bit odd, but ignored them. The snake seemed fine health-wise, and I looked forward to my introduction in breeding snakes.

Two years and eight more snakes later, I notice something odd. The female that I purchased was a very picky eater and would not get above 120g in weight. It is recommended by most breeders to not breed a female under 200g.

Since female hogs tend to mature and reach breeding weight in two years, I found it odd that a 3 year old snake wasn’t much bigger than my male hogs. I decided that the possible reason for the breeder’s shady behavior was that the snake was not a female, but a male.

So when I moved back to Florida, 6 months before today, I had the snake in with the other males. If it was a male, I didn’t want it breeding with my females by accident.

I had a fellow herpetologist inspect the animal, and he and one of his coworkers deemed the snake a male after probing (a method in which a metal probe is inserted in the cloaca of a snake). So I went on with life and thought nothing of it.

Roughly a week ago I opened the snake’s tank for cleaning and discovered eggs in the water dish. So, as it turns out, the snake was a female after all.

To make things even more incredible, the eggs were fertile. Snakes can store sperm internally for years. In this case, the snake managed to store sperm for roughly 6 months. The snake had also happened to knock its bedding into the water dish, giving the eggs a nice humid bed. If she had laid them in the water, they would have died.

It also happened to be just warm enough that the eggs were developing.

They are now set up in an incubator and growing quickly.

I just can’t believe how many things worked out for this to happen. So many things could have gone wrong.

Makes me stop and think of my life, and the things that go wrong versus the things that go right. Quite often I find myself at the bottom of the hole, losing hope, and then suddenly everything will work out.

So I ask you, dear readers, what scenarios work out like this in your life? Do you have a name for such happenings (fate, karma, god)? What other amazing things have you heard of animals doing? What dessert do you eat on Sundays?

Until next time,
Lindsay

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About lvadams

I grew up in Central Florida for most of my life. I was one of those strange kids who liked to catch lizards and snakes, and brought everything home from stray kittens to baby chickens and ducks. I started writing around the age of 11 and never really stopped. I now have a Bachelor's of Science degree from Auburn University and hope to get a job working with animals. Until then I keep on writing. :)
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2 Responses to One Lucky Shot

  1. I don’t have a story of my own, but I loved yours. I wonder how the person who probed the snake and determine she was a male made the mistake. Not that I know anything about reptile sex organs. Very cool and interesting story. Thanks for sharing.

    • lvadams says:

      Well, all snake reproductive organs are located internally to make for better movement. Having important things dragging on the ground would be bad, lol.

      The females store the eggs through the lower 1/3 of their body length, and so there is nothing in their tails. The males store their inverted hemipenes in their tails.

      This is also I believe one of the reasons it is possible to sex snakes just by looking at tail length. Since females have nothing important there, they usually have much shorter tails.

      Anyway, when probing, you insert the probe in the cloaca and see how far it will go into the tail. If the probe will only go a short distance (one or two ventral (belly) scales), then the snake is a female. If it slides farther than that, then you know you are inside one of the interested hemipenes and the snake is a male.

      The probe on this snake went in far enough that it was possible for the snake to be a male. It also had a slight bulge after its cloaca in the tail that looked to my friend like stored hemipenes.

      I may try to probe her sometime myself to do another check and see how far the probe goes. If she is truly probing as a male there could be some interesting questions to ask.

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