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Mangrove Snake Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Mangrove Snake
Scientific Name:Boiga dendrophila
Life Span:12 to 20 years
Size:6 to 8 feet
Habitat:Coastal areas, lowland forests, and mangrove swamps
Country of Origin:Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand

Physical Description

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The Mangrove Snake, also known as a gold-ringed cat snake, is a slender species of snakes but is one of the longest or largest species of cat snakes around. This snake, which is primarily found in countries in Southeast Asia, has nine subspecies but most of the subspecies are primarily jet black in color but are patterned or covered by yellow evenly spaced striped scales that look like rings of gold. These golden rings cover its face and all over its body but are not always “rings” in the sense that they do not always join.

True to its name, the Mangrove Snake has eyes that are as large as cat eyes but have vertical slits. At times, their eyes truly look like the eyes of an actual cat. It is said that they have eyes like a cat’s so that they could see and hunt better at night much like how cats do.

The Mangrove Snake’s slightly enlarged venomous fangs can be found at the rear. They are mildly venomous and have glands that are different compared to the usual venom sacs that other venomous snakes have. Instead, they have what is called a Duvernoy’s gland, which is located behind the eye and is connected to the fangs. The fangs are not quite as large as a viper’s and have grooves to allow the flow of venom into their prey. They are also angled backward so that it will be easier for the snake to grip on to their prey. The Mangrove Snake is not very efficient at injecting its venom into its prey and would sometimes need a few bits or chews just so it could inject its venom.

Hatchling and juvenile Mangrove Snakes, like all other Boiga species, are essentially miniature versions of their adult counterparts and have no distinct features. They simply grow longer as they age. Likewise, there seems to be no distinct difference between the male and female versions of these snakes. However, unlike other snakes, the male Mangrove Snake is a lot longer and thicker than the female. In that sense, you will be able to tell them apart by looking at the size of two same-aged Mangrove Snakes.

Venom

Unlike their pit viper counterparts, Mangrove Snakes are not very venomous. Instead, they are considered only mildly venomous because they do not have a venom gland that is as developed as pit vipers and their fangs also are not hollow enough to deliver venom in an efficient way. These fangs must puncture the skin thoroughly for the snake to deliver its venom well enough. However, in some cases, it needs to hold on to its prey for long periods of time for the venom to become more potent as a mere bite will not always be enough to disable its prey. There are studies that suggest that the gland that Mangrove Snakes possess is merely an evolutionary precursor to the more developed venom gland that a viper has.

The Mangrove Snakes’ fangs may be large enough for its prey but they are too small for them to even take a bite on a human leg. As such, they may be venomous but their bites will not be able to deliver enough venom to cause damage to a human. It even has to chew on small prey just so it can deliver venom quicker and more efficiently.

Studies have shown that the Mangrove Snake’s venom works much more efficiently on birds, which are their favorite prey, as the smaller and lighter muscles of a bird are much more susceptible to its denmotoxin as compared to small mammals such as mice, which are able to withstand this snake’s venom better than a bird could.

Even though the teeth and the venom of a Mangrove Snake are not really enough to put down a human, that does not mean that anyone bitten by of these snakes should take the bit lightly. The bite and the venom of a Mangrove Snake are still enough to cause swelling, discoloration, and intense pain to any human if the wound is not treated right away.

Lifespan 

Mangrove Snakes usually live 12 to 20 years and can reasonably live longer than 15 years when given the proper care and environment that is suitable for these snakes to live in. It is believed that those that live in the wild do not get to live as long as those who are captive-bred because of how they are more susceptible to diseases, parasites, natural predators, and other life-threatening conditions in the wild.

Eating Habits

Like any other snake, the Mangrove Snake is a carnivorous reptile that will only feed on animals or anything with meat on it. In the wild, these snakes’ diet is mostly composed of different types of small animals that include mammals or small rodents, fish, eggs, bats, frogs, reptiles, or even other snakes. Meanwhile, smaller Mangrove Snakes that are not big enough to feast on what adults eat usually hunt for small lizards, frogs, or even slugs. However, because the Mangrove Snake is an arboreal reptile that loves to dwell on elevated places such as tree branches, their favorite meal is birds, which are more susceptible to their venom than other types of animals are. Some species of cat snakes are even considered invasive enough that they have caused a large decline in the population of some bird species.

Mangrove Snakes are nocturnal reptiles that are more active at night and are built to hunt in the dark. Their eyes, which are shaped like a cat’s, are also similar to an actual cat in the sense that they help them see better at night. They like stalking their prey at night and prefer to stay in branches looking for birds that are resting in their nests. If not, they can also be found on the ground hunting for prey that is small enough for them to swallow whole. The Mangrove Snake uses its venom to try to immobilize its prey. It is a mild kind of venom that will not cause a lot of harm on larger animals but is harmful enough to immobilize or even kill smaller animals.

In captivity, Mangrove Snakes are considered quite difficult to feed compared to other types of snakes, which are very active eaters. In some cases, Mangrove Snakes are only stubborn eaters because of the environmental conditions in their enclosure. Small differences such as time, temperature, and humidity can cause a lot of changes in the way this snake feeds. In that case, make sure to feed your Mangrove Snake at night because of how they tend to prefer to hunt when all the lights are off.

Mangrove Snakes are also picky when it comes to what you should feed them. Since birds are quite difficult to maintain as a regular prey for captive-bred Mangrove Snakes, rodents should be your best choice. However, you may want to opt for black or brown mice as these snakes are not too fond of the typical white mouse, which are regularly the main meal for other types of captive-bred snakes. Also, make sure that the prey that you feed your Mangrove Snake is not too large as the size of the animal can actually intimidate the snake.

Some pet owners, who have very stubborn Mangrove Snakes, often use a lot of different means to try to entice their snakes. There are times when they would try to put fuzzy mice on a nest perched on a branch or on a plant while covering them with bird feathers to simulate the conditions in the wild. In some cases, there are owners who actually rub mice with bird feathers or even lizards to make them smell like birds or lizards, which regularly form a Mangrove Snake’s diet. However, what you should also keep in mind that these snakes will not starve themselves to death and will eventually eat the prey you offer them if the conditions are right.

When feeding a Mangrove Snake, it is best to use tweezers when offering their prey to make sure your hands are as far away from their venomous fangs as possible. Their venom might not be enough to cause a lot of harm on a human but it is still best to be safe and sure by keeping any parts of your body as far away as possible from these snakes.

Sleeping Habits

Mangrove Snakes prefer to stay active during the night as they are nocturnal hunters. In that case, there is no need for you to keep the lights on for them during the day as they prefer to use the daytime to rest or sleep. They may sleep for up to 12 hours during the daytime and would start to become active as soon as all the lights are off. That means that you might not need to offer these snakes a strong light source during the day whenever they are sleeping.

Water

When it comes to reptiles, proper hydration almost always equals good health. In that regard, your Mangrove Snake should be given a water bowl that is not only large enough to provide it with a consistent source of water but is also big enough for soaking. Mangrove Snakes are not really known to soak themselves in water but having a large dish for drinking and soaking has always been a rule of thumb for reptile owners especially when it comes to keeping your snake hydrated both internally and externally. 

Breeding

Mangrove Snakes reach sexual maturity by the time they reach about 3 to 4 years old. However, since they are still growing at that age, it might be better if you wait until they are about 5 years old to safely breed them so as to avoid complications. 

Sexing Mangrove Snakes of different ages may be difficult because males and females look similar with the exception that the males are larger. Of course, it is only easier to tell which between the two is larger if they are of the same age. In that case, if you want to breed Mangrove Snakes and when you are sexing them, it is better to compare to different snakes of the same age when you want to tell their sex. Males are almost always a lot bigger than females of the same age.

Mangrove Snakes reproduce all year-round. That means that you can induce reproduction by introducing a male to a female in a single enclosure and then leaving them alone for a few days to copulate. You can tell if the female is receptive to copulation if it does not mind the male’s advances. However, if you notice that the female is no longer interested, it might be best to separate the two snakes.

Females love to lay their eggs on tree hollows. That means that it might be best for you to place something similar to a tree hollow in your female Mangrove Snake’s enclosure when you are expecting it to lay eggs any time soon. 

Common Health Problems

Any sort of pet snake or reptile has a common health problem that may possibly threaten it or shorten its lifespan. As such, you have to know the health issues and illnesses that Mangrove Snakes commonly face to know how to avoid them and to make sure that your snake gets to live out its average lifespan without a lot of problems and complications. Here are some of the more common health problems that Mangrove Snakes face:

Respiratory illnesses

Mangrove Snakes and almost any other pet reptile commonly face respiratory infections that are caused by poor environmental conditions in their enclosure. It might be because the enclosure is too cold for them or that it has more than the required levels of humidity. In such conditions, your Mangrove Snake might suffer from respiratory illnesses that can cause them to feel fatigued and may even result in loss of appetite. If the mucus is present or if you notice that your snake has trouble breathing, it might be because of a respiratory infection.

Internal parasites

Internal parasitic infections are often acquired from the food that your Mangrove Snake eats or from an environment that is suitable for breeding any sort of parasite. Most often, wild-caught Mangrove Snakes already have internal parasites but these snakes’ immune systems are strong enough to fight off against such parasites. It is only when the stress of transport and acclimation that their immune systems weaken to a point where the parasites will be able to take over. As such, it might be best to go for a captive-bred Mangrove Snake instead.

External parasites

External parasites in Mangrove Snakes come in the form of mites and tics. These parasites usually hide underneath the scales sucking blood from your snake. Mites are sort of tricky to spot because they are tiny and black and can easily hide in the darker areas of your snake’s scales. Improper sanitation can lead to mites. And when you are handling your snakes, you might also be transferring mites that you acquired somewhere else.

Preventing Illness

Preventing illnesses in Mangrove Snakes is a matter of providing an enclosure or an environment that is suitable for them and is also regularly sanitized to prevent bacteria and parasites from propagating. Always see to it that the enclosure has the right temperature and humidity levels to prevent any sort of respiratory infections or illnesses that might arise. Also, see to it that you regularly clean the Mangrove Snake’s enclosure and always sanitize their water dish to prevent any sort of water-borne disease or bacteria.

In any other case, keep a list of vets that specialize in reptiles and snakes so that it will be easy for you to get treatment for your Mangrove Snake in case of any problems or illnesses that might arise. See to it that the vet knows how to handle snakes or any other exotic pet to minimize the risk of a wrong diagnosis and treatment.

Behavior

Mangrove Snakes are primarily arboreal, which means that they spend the majority of their time on an elevated place such as a tree branch. Thus, in the wild, they primarily hunt for birds or for anything that is also arboreal in by nature. However, it is not uncommon to see a Mangrove Snake spending time on the ground from time to time whenever it is hunting for food.

Because the Mangrove Snake is nocturnal, you can expect it to be asleep during the day. It will hide in sheltered areas such as a shaded tree branch, underneath rocks, or in caves. In captivity, they will most likely spend their daytime on top of a decorative branch especially if it is shaded. If not, you might find them hiding under all sorts of decorations in their enclosure when the sun is up. But if you keep your snake’s enclosure a bit dark even during the day, your Mangrove Snake might not need to find shelter or shade.

Whenever the Mangrove Snake feels threatened, it is quite aggressive. It will not hesitate to attack anyone or anything that comes too close to it as it is a very defensive reptile that will strike fast with its bite. Any potential predator will be dealt with quickly with its fast strike although it is not expected to kill larger animals quickly because of its mild venom. Nevertheless, the Mangrove Snake will not hesitate to defend itself. It will curl up in an S-shape stance whenever it feels threatened. When you see it curling up, expect it to bite at you if you come too close to it.

Hibernation Cycle

Mangrove Snakes are found primarily in Southeast Asian countries and regions that are tropical in nature and do not experience cold seasons such as winter. As such, it is not normal for a Mangrove Snake to be hibernating when the seasons get cold. During the winter, you might want to keep the temperatures in your snake’s enclosure consistent so as to make sure that it does not get sick due to the cold weather. The Mangrove Snake, however, might undergo periods wherein they are a bit less active. This usually happens during the colder seasons such as fall or winter but they will not go into hibernation.

Shedding

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Similar to any other snake, the Mangrove Snake occasionally sheds its old skin to make way for new skin to grow. This usually happens when it is growing as its old skin will not be able to house its growing body. The Mangrove Snake will shed more often during its juvenile years or during the first few years of its life cycle when it is still in the middle of rapid growth. You will know that your snake is shedding healthily when it sheds its skin whole. However, if it is shedding piece by piece, it might be because its skin is too dry due to low humidity levels in its enclosure. As such, always see to it that its skin is properly hydrated so that it will be able to shed easier.

Habitat

The Mangrove Snake’s enclosure is one of the more important things to focus on for pet owners. Because these snakes are arboreal, you might want to use an enclosure or a habitat that is high instead of wide. An enclosure that is about 4 feet high and a few feet wide might be enough for these snakes as you might need to put decorations that are at least a foot high off the ground so that your snake can have an elevated place it can spend the majority of its time on.

You may want to use glass terrariums that are safely secured and are high enough for your snake. If you cannot get your hands on some pre-made Mangrove Snake enclosures in your vicinity, you might want to use housing that is made out of plywood and glass. You can have three walls that are made out of plywood but keep a window made out of glass so that you can observe your snake. Small openings should also be placed so that air flows well in and out of the enclosure. A door should be kept on top of the enclosure but make sure you keep it securely locked at all times to prevent the snake from escaping. A sliding door at the front is also good because of how it makes it easier for you to access the entire enclosure from the front.

There are stores that sell polyethylene plastic enclosures that are also useful as houses for your Mangrove Snakes. Some owners feel like these containers are good houses for Mangrove Snakes because they hold temperatures and humidity levels better than most other types of enclosures. However, these enclosures are not as spacious as glass terrariums or homemade houses for your Mangrove Snake.

Keep in mind that it is very important to decorate your Mangrove Snake’s enclosure well. Place living plants with strong branches that are at least a foot high off the ground so that your snake can have something to climb on to. Plants that are at least 3 feet tall are good for your snake. Artificial plants may also be used but they are not as efficient as real plants when it comes to helping in making the enclosure humid.

You should also place decorations that can be used as hiding spots for your snake since this reptile prefers to hide during the day whenever it is sleeping. Rocks that are large enough may do the trick. You can also place logs or other similar decorations to add more hiding places for your Mangrove Snake. Always remember that hides and plants are the most important things to put in your Mangrove Snake’s enclosure as they give your reptile a more natural feel in its housing.

Lighting and Humidity

Mangrove Snakes are nocturnal animals that prefer to spend the daytime hiding, resting, and sleeping. That means that it is not important to keep a strong lighting unit in the snake’s enclosure as these reptiles do not need light both during the day and the night. The only reason for keeping a strong light source is to keep temperatures up. Other than that, you may want to ditch lighting altogether. A UVB lamp also is not essential because Mangrove Snakes are not the type of reptiles that are deficient in vitamin D3 but you may also place one in the enclosure for supplementation.

In terms of humidity, Mangrove Snakes are used to the humid climates of the tropical Southeast Asian countries where rainfall is abundant. Keep humidity levels over 50% but not too humid as it might cause respiratory infections. Misting the enclosure is a good way of maintaining humidity. Always see to it that the substrate is damp and not too dry. Keeping a water dish that is large enough for your snake is also a good way to maintain humidity levels in the enclosure. The highest humidity level should be 90% but this should only be so after misting. It will drop consistently to about 50 to 60% as the conditions dry up a bit.

Temperature

Given that these reptiles are used to the tropical climate of Southeast Asian countries, Mangrove Snakes prefer to be in a warm environment. Always make sure to keep temperatures warm enough for your snake and should be somewhere over 84 degrees Fahrenheit but probably not higher than 95 degrees as things might get too hot for your Mangrove Snake. At night, it may fall down to 78 degrees. Keep temperatures steady during the winter so as to prevent any sort of illness that may arise.

Since the Mangrove Snake is nocturnal, a heat lamp is not the best way to keep things warm in its enclosure. Instead, try using heating pads or heat panels that are placed just under the enclosure to provide the warmth that your snake needs. The heating pads should cover about half of the entire enclosure and should be enough to keep the entire habitat warm enough for the snake.

Sanitation

One of the most important things that you need to keep in mind when it comes to providing a good kind of habitat for your Mangrove Snake is sanitation. Keeping things clean and sanitary is the best way to avoid any kind of infection and illness that could shorten your snake’s lifespan. To that end, always see to it that you regularly clean the Mangrove Snake’s enclosure whenever you see signs of feces and molds building up. Keep an eye on the water dish and make sure you change the water regularly while also sanitizing the entire dish as some snakes have a tendency of defecating in water. Use a good commercial cleaning solution to sanitize the enclosure as well as the water dish.

Natural Environment – Substrate

Although Mangrove Snakes spend most of their time on elevated places, a good substrate is still important in their enclosure because it helps maintain humidity levels. Try to go as natural as possible by choosing to go with soil. If soil is not in the option, using cypress mulch is the next best thing because it is resistant to molds no matter how damp the substrate gets. Mulch is also great at holding moisture so that you no longer have to regularly mist the enclosure whenever the substrate gets a bit dry. Coconut husk can also be a good alternative for cypress mulch but do not expect it to be as effective as mulch is when it comes to keeping humidity levels consistent.

Hydration

Mangrove Snakes need to be near a constant body of water because that is how they hydrate both their internals and externals. They might not be heavy water drinkers but they like to spend a lot of time in the water as well to keep their skin moist and hydrated. This allows them to stay cool in warm environments and to prevent their skin from drying up. Moist snakeskin allows your Mangrove Snakes to shed better and more efficiently. 

Availability – Where to Get One?

Mangrove Snakes can be found in many reptiles stores and exotic pet shops because they are pretty popular pet snakes. You may want to check online for some reputable Mangrove Snake breeders if you do not know where to find one in your locality. There are plenty of good breeders of Mangrove Snakes out there. And when choosing one, make sure you purchase a snake that was captive-bred instead of wild-caught as the latter are prone to internal parasites and other illnesses.

How to Care for a Mangrove Snake?

Here are some tips on how to care for a Mangrove Snake:

  • Mangrove Snakes are aggressively defensive and will bite anything it deems as a threat. That means that you should handle it at a minimum especially when it is not yet used to you as its handler.
  • The venom of a Mangrove Snake might not be potent enough to cause a lot of damage to humans but they still hurt. When you get bitten by one, make sure you treat it right away to avoid any lasting damage.
  • It might be difficult to feed Mangrove Snakes at first because they tend to be stubborn eaters in captivity. As such, try all sorts of ways when introducing live prey to them such as mimicking conditions in the wild to entice them to eat the prey.
  • Mangrove Snakes are not easy reptiles to take care of and are not recommended for beginners. That is because there are plenty of things to keep in mind when it comes to taking care of these snakes. They are venomous, difficult to feed, and dangerous to handle because of their aggressive nature. As such, they are best saved for pet owners with a bit of experience in handling snakes.

FAQ Section

What do I feed my Mangrove SSnake?

Mangrove Snakes love eating all sorts of small animals such as rodents, snakes, lizards, and frogs. Birds might be their favored meal but you may want to opt for dark-colored rats instead because it can be difficult to get your hands on a constant supply of birds.

Are Mangrove Snakes venomous?

Mangrove Snakes are mildly venomous and have venom sacs that are not as developed as pit vipers. That means that they are not efficient when it comes to venom delivery and are not the most dangerous types of venomous snakes.

Are Mangrove Snakes safe to handle?

Probably not because of how defensive these snakes are. But if they are used to you, you may handle them cautiously to avoid getting their venomous fangs.

Are Mangrove Snakes good for beginners?

Mangrove Snakes are not the best snakes for beginners because of how they are venomous and quite difficult to feed.

How big can a Mangrove Snake get?

Mangrove Snakes are pretty large snakes and can grow up to 8 feet.

Do Mangrove Snakes need light at night?

Mangrove Snakes hardly need any light at all regardless of whether it is night or day because they are nocturnal animals.

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