I have a number of wonderful Volunteers who come in to help care for all our critters here as the Museum several days a week. One of the things I always try and stress to them when they first start is that they have to expect the unexpected and learn to roll with the punches because in this line of work you never quite know what each day is going to throw at you. I was working at my desk this morning when my volunteer asked if I would come and look at something, well the 'something' turned out to be our female Banded Water Snake Nerodia sipedon giving birth! This particular species of snake is viviparous, which means it gives birth to live young, rather than producing eggs.
In this picture the emerging baby is just visible under the body of the mother. When our water snakes give birth we try to collect all the babies. The adults are kept in a fairly large tank with deep water and it is far easier to have the babies in something a bit smaller and more manageable for the first few months of their life. That way we can ensure that they all get food.
So once I had seen what was going on it was a question of stopping everything else we were working on and putting on our midwife hat!These snakes are notoriously unfriendly but thankfully the 'Mom' is a snake that I have raised from birth so she is reasonably comfortable being handled. This meant that as each little snake popped out into the world I was able to reach into the tank and gently lift it out.
I leave the babies for a couple of minutes to see if they break through the embryonic sack by themselves, which they usually do. If not then I just make a small tear in it and then they can wiggle their way out.
As with all baby snakes they immediately show aggression and take a strike pose. Because they are so low on the food chain at this age they tend to be far more aggressive than the adults. Well we went through this routine thirteen times and all the babies seem to be fit and healthy at this stage. Mom seems non the worse for her labours either.
We will leave the babies for a few days now as they will still be absorbing the amniotic nutrients for a couple of days. The next big hurdle will be seeing which ones are going to eat. There always seem to be a few in each clutch that just never work that out and obviously those don't last too long. Most of this clutch seem very strong and active so the signs are good.
Photo Credits - CJT
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