Keeping Longnose Snakes (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
This is a very pretty, strange-looking snake which really doesn't attract as much attention in the herp trade as it should. It's found in several western states and in Mexico. It gets its moniker from the shape of its snout, which is relatively pointed. This is a small snake, with "speckled" half-formed bands that are reminiscent of corals or tricolors. Another great feature about these are "handleable" snakes - they feel like kingsnakes or ratsnakes when you hold them, not like racers or watersnakes. They will curl in your fingers and wrap around your hand to hold on.
|The husbandry for this snake is relatively simple. Keep it in a moderate sized tank with some heat (I prefer to just keep my cages in a heated room with no extra "hot rocks" or heat lamps). These snakes like to burrow, so if you don't use a newspaper substrate, give them a hide-box. Keep the water bowl fresh and keep the lid tight. That's about it. These are not difficult snakes to keep.
So, you might ask, why don't more people keep these snakes? The reason has to do with their feeding. Some longnose snakes can be picky eaters. In the wild, longnose snakes eat small rodents, lizards, reptile eggs, and insects. In captivity, some individuals will feed only on selected food items. For example, I used to have a male that would only eat lizards. It ate both geckos and anoles with great relish. A friend of mine had one that would only eat Sceloporus lizards. I currently have one pair of longnose snakes. My male will eat small rodents, but will only eat live ones. My female would only eat live rodents when I first got her, but I was eventually able to get her to feed on thawed (previously frozen) fuzzies. It just took a little patience. Before you purchase a longnose snake, you should make certain that it is feeding on rodents.
Because most longnose snakes on the market are wild-caught, you won't usually come across babies, unless someone has hatched them from a clutch laid by a wild-caught female. You'll have to experiment - you may be able to get them to eat small crickets, mouse tails, or lizard tails. I'd like to hear from anyone with experience with baby longnose snakes.
Because these are wild-caught animals, you may have to deal with parasites, etc. This is especially true if you have to feed them lizards. Just be careful and keep an eye on them. As these are burrowing snakes, they may also be more prone to substrate irritations. I had to switch my female to a newspaper substrate when she developed soreness around her tail from the aspen bedding, but other than that, I haven't had any unusual health problems with these snakes.
Temperament-wise, most longnose snakes, even freshly wild-caught snakes, are fairly docile (though they might musk at first). These are pleasant snakes to own, not difficult to keep, and a fresh challenge for those of you who are bored with California Kings.