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She’s a momma!

July 28, 2013
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

No, this is not a story about the princess and the much awaited royal baby. Although, as I am writing this the news has just broken that Kate is in labor and the birth will be soon.

A few weeks ago, I relayed the story of a red garter snake that now resides in the Heritage Center in Morrison. We'll call her Kate. She is a part of the live animal/reptile exhibit there. And while not attracting the paparazzi, she has had to deal with some celebrity attention. The snake has been doing well and seems to have adapted quite nicely to the new home which I might add includes a common garter snake as a roommate.

If you will recall from the story, I wondered if it was a gravid (pregnant) female. Garter snakes are live-bearers which mean that they retain the eggs inside and when they hatch it appears as though the young are being born similar to mammals.

Article Photos

Less than half of the newly hatched baby garter snakes in their nursery at the museum.

Monday morning, my daughter Shannon noticed that the snake was underneath the carpet liner in the aquarium that makes up the garter snake enclosure. After a second day of this behavior, I decided to check closer and know what I found? You guessed it baby garter snakes. Not one. Not six. Not an even a dozen. There were 26 alive and two dead! Some would describe it as a scene from an Indiana Jones film. To me it was beautiful.

The little fellas are five to six inches long. They all look like regular, normal colored garter snakes. A few have hints of red along their sides like red-sided garter snakes do. Nobody is the striking red-all-over color of their momma. As I had envisioned a host of red babies, that was rather disappointing, but the plethora of tiny baby snakes was still exciting.

I did some internet searching and found out how to care for newly hatched garter snakes. While the number of babies may seem high, it could have been double, or possibly triple that! Some may have already been eaten by the other garter snake in the enclosure. If not, momma would have been in line at some point to do it. So, the first thing I set about to do was to remove them to their own enclosure. Then, I went grocery shopping and brought back meal-worms and wax worms to begin offering to them.

I've got some more research to do. I am hoping that the gene from their momma might not manifest in them until they do some growing but right now that is conjecture and more than that probably wishful thinking on my part.

For the next several weeks, I plan to care for the young and see what happens. More than likely, I will be releasing them to the wild in plenty of time for them to locate their first hibernaculum (winter hibernating den) before the cold stuff arrives. Now that I think about it, I might keep one and name it after the royal baby.



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