“Dad, can I get a snake?”
2 birthdays, one christmas, “…can I please get a snake?”  I finally agreed, but we had a bit of research to do.

Snakes can get huge.  You go into your typical reptile store and it’s filled with small 18 inch young snakes.  You ask a few questions and soon learn that only a handful stop growing at a mere 10 feet.  I wanted to support him on his desire to get a snake, but I didn’t want to be building new enclosures every few years until we had something the size of a twin bed.  Not to mention my own feelings of having a ten foot snake living in the house – just a bit creepy.

So that narrows the options to things like garter snakes – really cheap, less than $20, they stay small – 3-5 feet.  “So my son wants to hold the snake regularly, is this a good snake to hold?”

“Well – they musk on you when you hold them.  It smells kind of like a skunk.”

Yea, that’s what I’m looking for to have in the house.  And, then there’s this part – you have to feed them live goldfish – 5-6 fish per week.  And, the goldfish can only live for about a week, so you have to trek to the reptile store and buy these for a few dollars every – single – week.  Yea, no.

Ten year old boy with Arizona Mountain King Snake

So then we get to the other snakes that stay small – king snakes, and milk snakes, ball pythons, rosy boas, and rat snakes.  Some of these we crossed off the list right away due to aggressive behavior / biting tendencies.  Then came the food issue.  Most of these snakes eat mice – live mice.  There’s a whole set of terms for them – the smallest are pinkies – defenseless infant mice that haven’t even opened their eyes.  Next come fuzzies, and up from there.  Of course the biggest snakes will eat full grown rats.  Problem is, most snakes will only eat live mice.  I hadn’t planned on going to the reptile store weekly to buy a live mouse in a bag, only to bring it home to it’s death.  Nor did we want to be keeping yet another pet – or pets – raising mice in a cage next to the snake.

Frozen – that’s what we were looking for.  You can buy any size mouse from the reptile store frozen, you just have to have a snake that’s willing to eat a lifeless, reheated meaty treat that doesn’t try to run away.  Frozen mice are actually quite cheap – you can get 100 online for $16.  With the snake eating one per week, that’s pretty economical, although, who wants 100 dead mice in the freezer next to the lasagna?  We opted to buy them 10 at a time.

So what’s the dream snake: stays small, docile, doesn’t stink and likes reheated mouse popsicles – Arizona Mountain King snake.  She’s quite pretty isn’t she?  She’s a year old and about 19 inches.  She’ll grow to about 3 feet max – probably more like 2 1/2 feet (the males stay even smaller).  She eats once a week and it’s not terrible if she misses a meal.  My son and I built her enclosure, and it won’t ever change.  You do need to keep a heat bulb on in her home.  As a green energy geek that part didn’t thrill me, but at least the juice comes from the solar panels.  We built an all wood enclosure which is more insulating and put the heat bulb on a dimmer so we can get the temperature just right while using the least amount of electricity possible.

How did we find her?  Turns out most are hatched and available mid to late summer, but we found Zona online – we bought her at a year old.  She took the red-eye – for a mere $35.  Kind of weird to have a snake shipped, but my son was happy to give her a better home than where she was, at a reptile store.  So far so good.

Ten year old boy holding an Arizona Mountain King Snake