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Bush League Breeders Club
January 2012 Edition 15
Chief Editor: Pitoon
- BLBC Member of the Month
- Ask the Dr. “How to quarantine ”
- Plethora of Morphs in Garter Snakes
Albino Red-Sided
Garter Snake
Picture Courtesy of Jeff Benfer
"dumb luck"
Website of the Month
Coastal Bend
Captive Breeding
How to “Pop” a snake
BLBC January
Picture of the Month
Big Tom’s Gecko Claus
The BLBC wishes you
a Happy New Year!
BLBC Member of the Month
Name/Screen Name:
Joshua Mentrup/Joe23
Osnabrück/ Germany
I’m doing an apprenticeship as a Businessman for Marketing Communication right
First Reptile:
I'd really like to tell a story on how i caught my first reptile as a kid, and from there
on I always kept them. But my first reptile ever, was a Boa constricor imperator which
i bought 7 years ago at a reptile show
Species You Most Prefer To Work With:
I guess Burmese Pythons are still my favorite species cause theyr’e so easy going and never make any problems. I guess i
could feed em Schnitzel...but Ball Pythons come close after.
How many years have you been working with reptiles?
Since i was 18, so basically 7 (ok- almost 8 right now) years ago.
Species you’d love to work with more and just haven’t:
Definetly Blood Pythons. I'm just a sucker for bigger snakes
Biggest Accomplishment (can be anything in your life):
puh... toughest question. I'm 25 years old right now and to be honest i havent achieved many goals of my own yet. So i
hope when u ask me the same question in ten years i've a better answer.
What do you enjoy doing when not working with the reptiles?
I really enjoy spending time with family and friends, but i also really like to watch documentaries on TV and playing some
What is your favorite flavor of Ice Cream?
Panna Cioccolato with Advocaat for sure
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be?
Hands down- the US of A. I just know it from TV, and someday i’ll just have to visit you guys over there
Additional Comments:
Thanks for the honor and i really appreciate the effort every user puts into the BLBC to make it the best reptile forum
around!!! So much knowledge in that place... its wonderful!!!
Ask the Dr. - How to Quarantine
Article by Quality Serpents
1. I recommend for the first week trying to keep the new additions under
conditions as close to what they were before you got them (unless that was
harmful to the snake of course). Then, ideally the new additions should be housed in
identical conditions to what they will be kept after the quarantine period is over.
Preferably, the quarantine area would be in a completely different room than your
reptile room. However, if your room is large enough to keep them completely separated
from the others, this will usually suffice.
2. Make sure when you do any work in your reptile room that whatever work is done on
the quarantined animals is done very last. Also make sure to wash your hands before
and after you work with the new additions.
3. Closely observe and treat any issues that arise during the quarantine period. I do not
recommend unwarranted preventive treatment of any kind during a quarantine period.
I recommend a 30 day quarantine period for snakes, but an argument could easily be
made for a longer one.
4. I recommend not feeding any new additions for 1 week after arrival (unless of course
the new addition is already malnourished for whatever reason). After this feeding should
be started as it will be continued after the quarantine period is over.
Hope this helps and good luck.
Dr. Shane Whitaker D.V.M.
*This is what Dr. Whitaker recommends for quarantine of newly acquired snakes. There
are other effective ways to do it, but this is his recommendation. If you have specific
questions, feel free to visit the “Ask the Dr.” page to submit those for Dr. Whitaker.
Plethora of Morphs in Garter Snakes
Article by Jeff Benfer
There are a ton of different garter snake morphs and morph combos available in the hobby
today. What can be confusing is that not only is there a bunch of different base color and
pattern mutations in garters, there are also many different species and sub-species of garters
with vastly different naturally occurring colors and patterns. Keeping up with all the different
species, sub-species, colors, patterns, mutations and combos can be mind boggling.
In this article I will be focusing on the better known, documented, and characterized (proven)
base morphs of some of the more commonly kept species and subspecies. In future articles I
will elaborate on the various designer combinations of morphs produced to date and may even
attempt to cover the 30 some species and numerous additional subspecies.
Most if not all base morphs originate from naturally occurring mutations discovered in the wild.
So if one individual is found in an area, chances are there are others, or at least carriers of “the”
gene or genes. There are a few morphs to my knowledge that have popped up in captive
collections; however they are yet to be proven inheritable. Likely at least a couple of these will
“prove out” in the next few years.
The vast majority of the morphs in garter snakes are simple recessive genes, however there are
a few genes that are considered co-dominate or possibly polygenic (meaning there are several or
many closely associated genes involved in the visual phenotype). Evidence for the theory of a
polygenic heritable trait is observed in the resulting outcrossed offspring exhibiting a wide
range or interval in the visual saturation of the phenotype.
Discussion of base morphs, I believe starts with the albinos.
Arguably, they are the heart of the morph craze and where a lot
of the morph breeding projects began. Perhaps second only to
the flame morph which has a long infamous history. Albinos of
some species and sub-species are actually quite commonly
found in certain parts of the country. Let’s start with the
different albinos of Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, commonly
called the eastern garter snake. The eastern garter is one of the
most widely dispersed garters, covering almost the entire
eastern United States and they are one of the most commonly
Albino Red-Sided Garter Snake
kept and bred garter snakes in captivity. Therefore it should
be no surprise that several different albino types of the eastern garter are currently being bred
in the hobby.
There are no less than 5 different eastern albino types currently in existence in the hobby:
Schuett, New York, Midwest, Bluegrass, and Florida. These are just the ones that I am familiar
with. There undoubtedly have been more types discovered that simply failed or have yet to
surface to the hobby.
The Schuett albino is a very dark caramel looking albino that is almost certainly a tyrosinase
positive (T+) type albino. This is evident in crosses with this albino type retaining quite a bit of
color. It is a beautiful albino type with a lot of potential for future combinations.
The New York albino was a paradox animal, that unfortunately that has failed to be reproduced
in captivity the past couple years, even though hets were produced. Not because it didn’t “prove
out” but simply the F1 hets haven’t produced babies yet.
Plethora of Morphs in Garter Snakes
Article by Jeff Benfer
The Midwest and the Bluegrass albinos have similar looks in that
they are a lighter, cleaner looking albino, most likely a T- type.
Unfortunately, these two albino types are not yet widely available
in the hobby.
The Florida albino has become very popular and more commonly
available in recent years. It is a beautiful albino with clean bright
light yellows and blue/purple hues and a very busy head pattern.
Most likely it is a T- type. Interestingly the Florida albino has
Nebraska Albino Garter Snake exhibited an inheritable paradox trait. I personally have a trio of
Florida albinos and all three have tiny black paradox spotting.
The black spots are not seen on the wild type related individuals.
Several other keepers have reported the same thing.
Florida Albino Garter Snake
The next most widely kept albinos are from Thamnophis radix,
commonly called the plains garter. There are two main types of
plains garter albinos circulating in the hobby; the Nebraska
strain, and the Iowa strain. The Nebraska is a dark albino with a
lot of straw yellow, caramel, and purple hues, likely a T+ type.
The Iowa strain is a bright clean albino with lemon yellow and
pinkish purple ground and likely a T- type.
Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis, the red-sided garter has produced at least two different types of
albinos. In my humble opinion is the most colorful albino type. The Kansas strain is very light
and bright, with lots of red-orange and yellow. The Iowa strain albinos are much darker, with
deep red and purple hues.
There are many other species and sub-species with albinos, including T. elegans terrestris
(the coast garter), T. butleri, T.sirtalis concinnus, T.marcianus marcianus, and T. ordinoides, and
possibly others.
There are several different forms of anerythristic
and/or axanthic type snakes in the eastern, radix,
and red-sideds. I listed them as anery and/or axanthic
because this has been a debated topic and nobody
really knows exactly which term is the more correct
classification. Regardless, when these morphs are
combined with albinos they have produced classic
snows. The anerythristic T.radix is a very dark, almost
Anery Red-Sided Garter Snake
jet black snake, yet still shows some gray patterning.
In addition to lacking the reds, yellows and browns, it appears this mutation may be also
causing additional production of dark pigment, which is a feature typically described as
hypermelanistic, or often commonly referred to as simply melanistic. This further complicates
putting a classical base mutation type name to it. When combined with the albino types to
produce a snow, this snake does almost completely remove the yellows from the albino.
Plethora of Morphs in Garter Snakes
Article by Jeff Benfer
There is also an axanthic morph that has a bluish tint to it in the plains garter. There is still a lot
of work to figure out this gene, but there may be preliminary evidence that it is co-allelic to the
anerythristic gene.
Hypermelanistic or melanistics occur in several species as
well. Two of the more common are the eastern melanistic
which is a solid jet black snake with variable amount of
white under the chin, and the melanistic wandering garter
which is a solid velvety black snake. These snakes are quite
popular in the hobby. Interestingly when the eastern
melanistic is combined with the Schuett albino it produces a
very dirty snow-like animal with a solid brownish purple
color, lacking pattern, but lighter colored under the chin.
Anerythristic plains Garter Snake
One of the most dramatic pattern base morphs occurs in
T.marcianus marcianus, the checkered garter. It is called the
granite gene, with amazing irregular polygonal shaped black
flecking. This is one of the more striking base morphs as seen in
the photo, but unfortunately there are not many other base
morphs in the checkered garter to combine with….yet.
One of my personal favorite morphs
to look at, and yet at the same time
the most frustrating to work with is
the silver morph of the eastern garter. This snake has a very
lavender look, with ruby eyes. There seems to be not only an
absence of xanthins and erythrins, but also a reduction of melanin
as well. This snake has so much potential for combos, but
unfortunately like a lot of these dramatic mutations, there is a
price. It is a considered a proven recessive trait, however the hets
seem to have a very distinctive look. Unfortunately there seems to
Silver Garter Snake
be some issues with the silver, similar to the stargazing seen in
spider ball pythons. They also tend to be sporadic feeders. Interestingly they have produced a
high ratio of males in the homozygous animals (visuals). There have been very few silver
females produced during the past several years. None the less, this is an incredible animal to see
in person.
Granite Garter Snake
Plethora of Morphs in Garter Snakes
Article by Jeff Benfer
Last but not least I want to touch on the infamous “Flame”
gene. This is a base morph that really lives up to its name.
This is a beautiful snake with bright yellows flaming up the
sides turning into oranges and reds, with black and white
checkering on the back. Flames have been the poster child
for selective breeding for over a decade. Some have been
produced that are nearly solid red. Flame babies in a single
litter tend to exhibit a variable amount of saturation of the
red-orange, often marketed as different grades. This gene is
Flame Garter Snake
often referred to as a co-dominate trait, confused by the
resulting ratio in offspring. Due to the extreme variability this trait is likely polygenic. I recently
vended at a local reptile show and nothing gets the OOOhs and WOWs like the flames.
There are many, many other base morphs that I haven’t even covered, but this is plenty to digest
for now. There are new base morphs found in the wild every year. Some become mainstay in the
hobby and some fail. There are also many base morphs that are currently in the process of being
“proven out” as inheritable traits. Since garters are commonly found all over North America,
there will undoubtedly be more base morphs found in the near future and brought up to the
surface in this great hobby. I personally look forward to working with as many new base morphs
as possible. Like most snake species, “the garters are all morphed out now too.” Hopefully you
have a new appreciation for the incredible diversity of base morphs in garter snakes.
Panhead’s “dumb luck”
Growing up in northern California I used to collect western fence lizards. These guy's
were very fast and super wary. The best way to catch them was to make a "noose" and
slip it over their head to snag them. We usually used a stalk of tall wheat type grass.
Just strip it down and make a slip noose on the end for catching the lizards.
Fast foward a few years. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton when I was in the Marines.
One day I decided to go out and see if I could find a few lizrads just to kill some time. I
had a fellow Marine go with me just for fun. I made some noose's and we went out into
the brush to see what we could find.
We split up and about a half hour later this guy comes up to me and say's,
"Is this a rattlesnake?". I'm looking at him as he's holding this piece of wheat noose
in front of him with about a 10" Western Diamondback hanging off the end of it. I took
the snake and threw it out into the weeds and then I asked him how he had caught it.
He told me "Well I was flipping some boards, and it was curled up under one of them. I
tried to noose it but it was coiled up pretty tight". So how did you get it I asked. "Oh, I
just tapped it on the head a couple of time's till it lifted it's head so I could noose it"
How to pop a snake
Article by Pitoon
I’ve received several emails on how to pop a snake. I wrote a “How To” on a forum a while back. So I figured I’ll
just post it on my website as another article. Popping a snake is very easy, but it does take practice to get them
to pop quickly.
First you need to pick up the snake, support the body on your
forearm or have someone hold it.
Then you place your thumb in a way that the tip of your thumb
should be right at the snakes vent pointing towards the tail.
Then with the other hand place your thumb a little way past the
mid point on the tail towards the tip.
With the thumb on the vent gently pull back putting light pressure,
so that you open the vent slightly, while at the same time with the
thumb on the tail roll your thumb at the same time putting
pressure towards the vent. Keep in mind that both thumbs should
be moving in unison.
How to pop a snake
Article by Pitoon
When doing this once your thumb on the tail gets to the vent
everything will pop out….if it doesn't then re-roll again. If you have
a male and know for sure that it's a male then you need to move
your thumb on the tail more towards the tip of the tail and re-roll.
Below are pics of popping an adult male.
Many people that don't know how to pop think that you just put pressure on the tail while opening the vent and
the hemi’s will pop out. When you put pressure on the tail you are also putting pressure on the hemi's, and that's
why they can't pop out.
The key is to roll from mid point or slightly past mid point towards the tail, then you put the pressure and then
you roll towards the vent. The hemi’s will pop out for sure. Practice a few times on one snake and then give that
snake a break and move to another to practice.
Popping an adult is no different than popping a hatchling. The adult does have more control, but you can get
adult hemi’s to pop out the same. Probing is a lot faster, and a more secure way of sexing. However since it’s so
easy on hatchlings it’s the preferred method.
Practice makes perfect!
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member yet?