Scientific name:
Zamensis Situla
The Leopard Snake..................

is widely considered to be the most stunning of all rat snakes, readily identifiable by it's reddish, dark edged markings that can take the form of spots (and less frequently) two parallel stripes. This is a fairly small snake, slender in appearance and reaching lengths of only about 100cm (but usually smaller). In the wild the adults feed on small mammals, mainly rodents, while juvenile snakes tend to eat small lizards. They are a ground dwelling snake that is active during the day and at dusk. They are found in semi rural areas, frequenting farm out buildings, rocky hillsides, dry stone walls, cultivated fields and isolated houses. They have been known to become house snakes, especially in Greece where they have been called "Spitofido", meaning 'House Snake'. This is mainly due to them being considered a 'good luck charm' because they kill rodents, hence the Greeks intentionally introduced them into their homes. Much like you and I would keep a cat.

Unfortunately wild populations are in rapid decline. Vast numbers are dying each year due to habitat destruction. This has led to a ban being enforced, forbidding the collection of wild specimens for the pet trade (Bern convention). They are also closely monitored by Cites. As a result the Leopard Snake is something of a rarity in UK collections. They are a temperate species, only producing a clutch of 2-7 eggs. Also only 3 out of every 4 eggs generally hatch, making captive bred specimens both scarce & expensive. You should expect to pay around £125.00 for a captive bred hatchling.

Distribution
The Leopard snake is a European Snake that is particularly prevalent in Greece (including Crete and the islands of Cicadi), western Turkey and Southern Italy (including Sicily).
Housing

Leopard snakes are a temperate species with a nervous disposition. They hate to be too warm and will freely strike if startled. It is very important to house them so they feel secure, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday home life.

All our snakes are housed in a converted cellar. This allows us to control the environment almost entirely while taking advantage of the natural year round humidity. We artificially control photo periods & room temperature which fluctuates with the seasons naturally but will only shift around 1 degree C during each day. This is especially useful for cooling our animals in the winter but also provides added peace of mind during Summer heatwaves. The ambient room temperature is checked each morning (to allow us to make any adjustments for the day ahead) & each evening. Good thermostats also provide added insurance against failing equipment. The daily use of a good digital thermometer cannot be stressed enough, especially with this species. If you find your Leopard snake sitting in it's water bowl, then your cage is too hot!

We house ours in a large sized (18"x10"x8") preformed plastic tank with a ventilated lid. This is heated at one end via a very small heat mat (8 watt). Only 4" of the tank actually rests indirectly on the mat. The tank has 5mm feet to allow for thermal ventilation. This provides a gentle heat (24c, floor temperature) for three quarters of the year. In the summer months the heat is turned off. The ambient temperature fluctuates naturally over the course of the year. In the winter it will drop to around 16c and rise to 30c in the summer. The snake utilises both ends of it's enclosure all year round, thermoregulating naturally. We use aspen bedding (about 1cm deep), two small cork bark hides (one at each end) & a small ceramic water bowl (placed in the cool end & refilled every other day). The humidity is naturally around 50% in the winter & 60% in the summer. These levels give us perfect sheds all year round. We've never had to raise humidity levels artificially.

Feeding
In our experience these snakes tend to do better on smaller food items. Hatchlings are naturally fed on pinkies, while adults (Leopard snakes reach maturity between 18 months - 3 years) will take small mice but seem to prefer fuzzies (or fluffs). Ours eats every 2 weeks, all year round but hibernation (between November & March, cooling them at 10c) seems essential for breeding. (Leopard Snakes have been known to go off their food during the summer months, so this is nothing to unduly worry about.) We gently thaw the food in luke warm water & then place the food item in the cage. Usually on top of a flat rock that we have placed in the centre of the cage. Leopard snakes will eat at what ever time food is offered, morning or evening but they must be left alone or they won't eat. If you stand watching they'll wait or strike the side of the cage. They can also be a little highly strung after feeding, striking if you walk past their enclosure.
In General
Leopard snakes are easy to care for but they require a little more consideration than say Corn snakes. They handle well but a very fast movers. They are a very nervous snake and can strike when you try and lift them from their cage. As long as they are kept warm (but not hot) in a quite location (away from direct sunlight & bright lights) they will flourish. They are a beautiful snake with amazing colouration and stunning black bellies.
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