I'm writing this column with the hope that it will help educate you if you ever think about owning a pet snake. I will also touch on the fact that it is illegal to have some native wildlife as pets.
In my line of work I have seen everything. I have seen pet snakes, lizards and turtles who have wonderful owners and are extremely well care of.
I have also seen neglect and abuse of these reptiles. On the side, I have been called to see if I could take in a sick and neglected reptile and, of course, I have. It's disgusting the way people have treated these beautiful creatures. Some people have not provided food so they almost starve to death and by not keeping their living area clean so the pets become prone to infections.
Yes, my friends reptiles can get very ill also, just like our domestic dogs and cats.
Snakes can develop mouth rot which, when not treated, can be very painful because they become unable to eat. Snakes can also have a mite problem that stems from not keeping the cage clean; sometimes this happens to good owners based on where they obtain the food to feed their snake.
A mite is only contagious to other snakes. It can affect their skin and, since snakes have no legs, they have no way to scratch the itch.
Snakes can also get respiratory infections which makes them not be able to breathe right, and can interfere with their eating.
Mainly, the pet snakes that have come to me have been sick. I have to take the snake to a vet specialist who takes care of reptiles. It costs money, which comes out of my own pocket because I care and want the snakes to recover and to hopefully find a wonderful home. I have been very lucky that out of the 30 to 40 sick snakes I've rescued, I have only lost one.
The sad story about Rose, a 6-foot red-tail boa, is she was just something the previous owners stored in a garage like an old tire. Of course they lived on a gorgeous horse farm and had a very large home. But they could not even care for this snake like they cared for their beautiful horses. Rose had severe mouth rot, she lost one eye, and her skin was infested with mites and infection.
When I saw the condition this snake was in I became very angry but I took her even knowing I could not save her, so at least she died peacefully in a clean tank, with clean water and proper heat.
Rose lived for only two days when I got her home and before I could take her to the vet. So, please, if you are going to own a pet snake or are considering owning a pet snake please do your research and understand it is a living, breathing creature with feelings that does feel pain if not properly taken care of.
Do not even think twice if you see a little baby fox, raccoon, opossum or baby deer and try to bring it home and raise it as a pet. It is highly illegal to have these animals in Maryland. You could receive a large fine and do extreme harm to the animal.
If the animal is injured they need to be taken to a licensed wildlife rehabber. That is why you call your local animal control or Department of Natural Resources to handle this situation. If you have any questions please post them in the comment section and I will to the best of my ability answer your questions.
Until next time ...
Tammy McCormack is a professional snake trapper. She writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.