Elaphe dione / Diones ratsnake - Care

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Specification Description
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Scientific name: Elaphe dione
Reproduction: oviparous / egglaying
Status: Non threatened
Cites: non

Elaphe dione, (Pallas, 1773)

The Elaphe dione has the biggest geographical range of all ratsnakes. They adapt easily to varies circumstances and are therefore easy to care for in captivity. This and the fact more and more local forms and varieties are bred in captivity makes them an ideal smaller alternative for the well-known cornsnakes (Pantherophis guttatus)


General appearance:  There has been many mixing of variaties within Elaphe dione simply because the owner had no idea of what origin their Elaphe dione was or because of personal experiments. The most kept and bred form is the Chinese variant which often has a more yellow or light brown base colour. Specimens from the Vlavidistok are often a very nice red colour. Elaphe dione lays eggs but the eggs have a relatively short incubation period of 20 to 30 days. Hatchlings are on average 15 to 20cm when they crawl out of the egg. On average adult males get 50 to 60 cm long, females 90-100cm to 120cm with peaks of up to 150cm and more.


Behaviour:  They are curious snakes that are quite active. They are normally calm animals and rarely bite. When disturbed they vibrate their tails as many other ratsnakes do as well.


Origin and habitat:  As mentioned, this species has a large distribution. From mid Russia to Korea.


Housing:  This species demands little specific care. Males can be accommodated in a terrarium of 60x45x45, females or couples in one of 100x40x40. Again, bigger is always better. Substrate may consist of beech chips or Zoomed Reptibark. You can also go for a more natural ground cover such as a mixture of sand, coco peat, bark and dried moss and leaves. Remove waste immediately and replace your substrate once a month. Provide the animals with a basking spot with an average temperature of 26C in the warm zone and 30C unded the hotspot. Temperatures on the cooler side of the terrarium can be 22 to 24C. In the evening the temperature may drop to 17C. Elaphe dione does not tolerate constant high temperatures well, if your Elaphe dione is spending a lot of time in the waterbowl this is often a sign the temperatures are too high. Offer at any time fresh water. Provide the animals with several hides in the various temperature zones of your terrarium. Climbing opportunities as trunks and branches will be used regularly.


Diet: Young Elaphe dione are already quit big when they hatch and start up easily with feeding on pinky mice. The first year you can feed once every 5 days, adult animals once can be fed every 7 to 10 days. When they are in shed food is often refused so best not to offer them any food in this period and use it as a small pause. Elaphe dione will not feed on prey that are much bigger then themselves. So do not offer prey that are bigger than 110% of their thickest body part. This means in many cases that even for big adults small adult mouse are sufficient. It is best to feed several medium sized prey instead of one that is very big.


Hibernation:  Elaphe dione naturally goes in to hibernation during the colder seasons. In captivity this hibernation is sometimes skipped by upholding temperatures and not shortening the daylight hours. However, there are animals that despite this stop eating and look as much as possible for the cool zone. If is the case and we do not supply them with a hibernation at the correct temperatures they will lose weight because the higher temperatures keeps up their metabolic rate but they are not getting any nutrition because they are not feeding. Because this hibernation is a natural pause and part of their ecology we would always recommend to provide these snakes with a hibernation.

One begins initiating hibernation in late September to October. Stop feeding and start to shorten the hours of daylight. Make sure that the animal can still bask so that they are able to digest and secrete any of the content of the gastrointestinal tract. Sometimes one gives a bath to make sure that the snake has secreted everything and they go into hibernation with a clear intestine. Reduce the light hours (and if you have a heat spot also the heating hours) from 12 to 8 to 7 hours during month. Let the animal than stay in the terrarium for a week without any lights or heating. After this you can place the animal into hibernation at temperatures averaging 8 to 10C, lower temperatures can be tolerated. The hibernation takes an average of 8 to 16 weeks. Often the keepers choose to give yearlings a bit shorter hibernation. After this hibernation period you can place the snake back in the terrarium without lighting or heating for a week. After this week you can start lighting and heating again.

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