Various Snake Units Courtesy Pat Briggs, Lloyd Lemke, and Mike and Isis Madec







 Great for incubating reptile eggs 


Keeping Bull snakes, Gopher snakes, and Pine snakes in Captivity



The vivaria below are 4-foot long by 23 inches deep by 17 inches high wooden cages surfaced within with melamine for easy cleaning. I screw in a 40-50 watt heat emitter on the upper right for a warmer side and a florescent tube also under the top for lighting. There are 3 vents across the upper backside of the vivarium.  I place a  ZooMed brand dual gauge thermometer-humidity reading on each end to view the range variance. These enclosures are great for keeping one or  two adult "Pits". The lowest cage has wheels, and I stack the others four cages high, but they can be stacked higher. In the enclosure illustrated below the sliding glass door is open and a female bull snake nearly 6 feet in length is resting on my substrate blend of shredded redwood, aspen, and cypress mulch for the bedding. I have also placed a heavy bowel of water that she cannot tip over. The sliding glass doors can be locked. The cage below houses  Black pine snakes with only shredded aspen being used for bedding.



Keeping Bull snakes, Gopher snakes, and Pine snakes In Captivity

By Patrick H. Briggs


I’ve been keeping snakes over 45 years and I think the bull snakes, gopher snakes, and pine snakes of the genus Pituophis are a group of snakes probably best kept by intermediate to expert reptile enthusiasts. There are specific things that the new keeper may not be used to doing or being around. Some of these things include dealing with the feisty temperaments of loud hissing or with upset or threatened snakes wanting to strike or bite. Also, from time to time, keepers are sprayed with smelly urine-defecated musk. Keeping these ophidians also may require maintaining and feeding either live or frozen, then thawed dead rodents to keep the snakes alive. Other “less fun to do chores” include cleaning snake dung, and occasionally, eliminating spit-up partially-digested food animals, and inhaling the delightful foul smells involved. It will require setting up cages, vivaria, or enclosures that allow for thermoregulation and good humidity levels. It will require knowledge in eliminating mites, and controlling sickness. Moreover, because these snakes can sometimes reach sizes over 7 or 8 feet in length, and are powerful for their size, the keeper will need to have some experience with snakes. Even with all the challenges involved, most individuals who keep these snakes, not only enjoy having them, but become addicted to having them, and they find that the efforts or chores are well worth all the satisfaction and enjoyment realized as they observe, learn, and become familiar with this particular group of snakes in captivity. They systematically begin acquiring more and more animals until they have incredible collections!



Rack Set-ups like the one below are great for keeping and breeding multiple snakes and snakes of different sizes.

They are light, easy to clean, well vented, allow for heat tubes or cables at the rear, and have wheels for convenient moving.

Photo by Patrick Briggs Courtesy  Bobby McGregor



There are many types of enclosures that you can utilize to successfully keep your snakes alive and healthy. Unlike many other animals, these reptiles require little space. Whatever vivaria is used, consider also that being fossorial ophidians, they are burrowers and like to be under things, and spend much of their time coiled under some object resting on the substrate used. A flat rock or board, or a curved piece of wood are examples of such objects. When these snakes are under something, they feel safe and not stressed, and along with a comfortable temperature, this allows them to digest their food easier and they are able to relax. Rack setups are one of the enclosure types used by herpetoculturists. One advantage of utilising the rack setups such as the one above is that when any soft plastic box, housing a snake, is slid back into place, the vented top allows the snake to feel like it is already underneath something. Even so, to further eliminate any stress, many keepers add another item within the box itself for the snake to hide under or in (such as a cardboard toilet paper roll).  Some herpetoculturists, for neonate or juvenile snakes, use rack setups of clear hard plastic shoe boxes with some holes drilled on the sides for ventilation(see the example below).  These herpers will use the larger clear plastic sweater boxes for the larger adult Pituophis. Rack setups are also great if you have many animals. Other simpler enclosures available, depending on how large and how many snakes are involved, include glass or acrylic aquariums, vivariums, or terrariums of different sizes from 1 gallon to 200 gallons which make wonderful vivaria or terraria as long as the enclosure tops are fitted tight or specifically made for snakes. Snakes are physically built and programed to find  and escape through any cracks, crevices, or holes, many which would appear impossible to slip through. The keeper must make it impossible for the snake to escape or things will be very difficult or frustrating as an attempt is made to locate precious or expensive escapees. The keeper may choose simple or fancier and more elaborate types of caging such as custom made from wood, melamine, or other materials with smooth surfaces for easy cleaning. Probably what is most important is that the cage can be kept clean, vented, and that the serpent cannot escape from it.


Hard plastic shoe boxes and sweater boxes have been used to keep and breed snakes for decades.

Photo by Patrick H. Briggs



 Melamine is smooth and easy to clean. I keep bull snakes, gopher snakes, and pine snakes in these cages. Black pine snakes are in this one.

Photo  by Patrick Briggs





Here's a 7 foot long terrarium-vivarium with a custom made top that houses my 6 foot gopher snakes.

Photo by Patrick Houston Briggs



 A simple reptile cage with sliding screen top held shut with a pin is also very popular for many herp enthusiasts.

They come in many sizes. The one below displays my large female Black milk snake, but will work just fine for Pits.

Photo by Pat Briggs


I keep some of my finest younger snakes such as "gibsoni",  "jani", and "vertebralis" in these contemparary what ZooMed calls a naturalistic terrarium.

They have a screen top that snaps right off and on with openings for cords or hoses. A few inches up from the bottom in front, there is additional

venting, and a glass door that swings open and closes. Some locks can be added to lessen the probability of folks handling your animals without asking;

you'll also have to put on black duct tape to keep the screens down, otherwise they are easily removed, and the ophidians can be removed from the top.

Of course, I put a small heat-pad underneath at the back and to one side so that the snakes can thermoregulate. At night, if the vivaria are outside, I leave the

heat pads on, but if the enclosures are inside, either I or a timer will turn them off.


Photo by Pat Briggs




Here's an old school aquarium or terrarium sectioned into 4 spaces and with sliding stainless steel tops with holes. It is 45 inches long by 15 inches

high by 16 inches deep. I only need two heat-pads strategically placed at the back, one straddling sections 1 and 2 underneath, and the other

straddling sections 3 and 4. I placed a double hood light on top allowing me to see the snakes.


The melamine enclosure below is perfect for larger Pituophis. It measures 74 inches long by 20 inches deep by 19 inches high. I keep

Black Pine Snakes over 6 feet long,  bull snakes, and Northern Pines Snakes in these that I have at home. They are vented and have

lights and a ceramic heat emitter 50 watt on the right upper top side. I also have thermometers and humidity gauges on each side.




 Melamine is smooth and easy to clean. I keep many kinds of snakes in these cages. Not the heat emitter above to the right and the florescent tube above.

Photo  by Patrick Briggs




Bearded Dragons Slide scan by Pat Briggs Courtesy Isis Reptiles 





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