Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus
The Northern Pine Snake is a non-venomous constrictor. It has a relatively small, pointed head with a muscular neck. A prominent rostral scale is used by the Pine Snake for burrowing. This snake is recommended for intermediate keepers due to its large adult size and its voracious appetite.
Northern Pine Snakes are common to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. They can also be found in southern Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, and northern portions of Alabama and Georgia. Their preferred habitat is sandy pine barrens, sand hills, and pine woods.
Adult Northern Pine Snakes are a heavy bodied snake that can reach 7 feet, but the average is 5-6 feet.
Pine snakes are known for being very docile and easy to handle, and therefore they rarely bite. They will often hiss, squirm, vibrate their tail, and strike with the mouth closed. Usually they will calm down and tolerate handling with ease. If you plan on handling your snake on a regular basis, it is a good idea to get the snake used to being handled while it is young.
Under proper conditions, a Northern Pine Snake can live from 15-20 years.
Pine Snakes should be fed a meal that is the same diameter of the snake. It’s a good idea to get young snakes eating rats of an appropriate size as soon as possible. This will avoid later problems with a snake that will only eat mice. Full grown Northern Pine Snakes can eat 2 rats, or up to 6 mice per meal. Pine Snakes should be fed every 5-7 days. Do not handle or disturb the snake for up to 48 hours after eating.
Pine Snake enclosures should be kept at 72-75 degrees on the cool side and around 85 degrees on the warm side. Night temps can be a few degrees cooler. Pine Snakes are found in relatively dry areas, so the humidity should be kept fairly low. Too much humidity can result in respiratory problems and skin blisters.
Hatchlings can be kept in a shoebox style enclosure. As the snake grows, it will need a larger enclosure. An adult Northern Pine Snake will need an enclosure that is at least 3 to 4 feet long and at least 2 feet wide. Aspen shavings, Reptibark, paper towels, or black and white newspaper are suitable choices for substrate. If you use aspen or Reptibark, it is recommended to feed your snake outside of the cage to avoid any possible ingestion of the bedding. The enclosure will also require a water bowl, a hide box, and a rock. An abrasive rock will aid the snake when shedding its skin.
The Northern Pine Snake should be a minimum of 4 ½ feet long before breeding. Also make sure the snake has good body weight and is healthy.Stop feeding the snakes 2 weeks prior to brumation, which is a period of hibernation. This will give them enough time to empty their bowels. Cool down the snakes in a dark quiet area at 50-55F. During the brumation period of
8-9 weeks, the snakes will only need fresh water.
After the brumation period, you should warm the snakes back up to around 80F. It’s time to resume feeding. The females will usually eat more than normal to prepare their body for egg production. Approximately 4-6 weeks after the brumation period, the snakes will shed their skin.
Put the male into the female’s enclosure for 3-4 weeks. The snakes should be separated only for the purpose of feeding, followed by digestion. The female will usually stop eating when she starts developing eggs. You will start to notice that the rear portion of the female’s body will look a bit swollen, and the spine will noticeably stand out along her back. Knowing the female is gravid, the male can be removed from the female’s enclosure. The female will usually refuse food as the eggs develop.
Approximately 10-14 days prior to egg laying, the female will shed her skin. Prepare a laying box with damp sphagnum moss for her to lay the eggs. A plastic shoe box with a hole roughly twice the size of the female’s body will suffice. Once the eggs are laid, and the female has left the laying box, you can cover the hole and move the box to your incubation area. Try to achieve 75F, and ensure the eggs don’t dry out, or get too damp. Keep the moss damp, but not wet. Do not mist water directly onto the eggs. Open the box for about 15-20 minutes daily for ventilation. Using the lay box as the incubation box will build up excess moisture if not ventilated. Removing the lid is for ventilation, visibly inspecting eggs, and checking moisture of the medium. The incubation period for Pine
Snakes is around 75 days. Do not remove hatchlings from the eggs after they pip. They will come out on their own after they absorb the egg yolk. Although cannibalism is rare among Pine Snakes, it is advisable to separate the hatchlings into individual enclosures. They will shed approximately 4-7 days after hatching. You can now begin feeding a pinky or maybe even a peach fuzzy mouse to the hatchlings.