Mexican Vine Snake

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Is the Mexican Vine Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Brown Vine Snake

Scientific name: Oxybelis aeneus

The basics:
The Mexican Vine Snake is unique among similar species in that its range extends into the USA...but just barely. The US population is limited to the Atascosa, Patagonia and Pajarito Mountains in extreme south-central Arizona, where this “tropical-looking” snake seems somewhat out-of-place. The remainder of the range is huge, extending from Mexico to Brazil, Peru and Bolivia, and including the islands of Margarita, Trinidad and Tobago. In common with the other 3 species in its genus, the Mexican Vine Snake is entirely arboreal. The Mexican Vine Snake inhabits relatively arid environments, including dry forest edges, overgrown thickets, wooded grasslands, brushy hillsides and densely-vegetated canyons.

Appearance / health:
Mexican Vine Snakes are very thin and “vine-like” in profile (no surprises there!). Although somberly-colored, the various shades of gray, silver and copper that they exhibit blend into one another in an attractive manner. A dark line extends from the snout through the eye and down the neck. The chin and area below the eyes is usually bright yellow in color. Typical adults measure 4.5 - 5 feet in length. The Mexican Vine Snake is a rear-fanged species that uses venom to kill its prey (please see below).

Behavior / temperament:
Mexican Vine Snakes are notoriously high-strung, and should be viewed as creatures to observe rather than handle. When approached, they open the mouth to expose its black interior and strike repeatedly. Although their venom is not considered dangerous to humans, they are best considered as suitable for display in zoos rather than private collections. A professional herpetologist should be consulted before one acquires a Rear-Fanged Snake of any species. Please also see the cautions outlined in the group description of Rear Fanged Snakes.

Captive Care:
Mexican Vine Snakes are best housed in large, vertically-oriented terrariums or custom-built cages. Climbing space is essential. The enclosure should be provided with numerous branches and tangles of real or artificial vines. They will not thrive in small enclosures or if denied arboreal cover…hanging live or artificial plants should be positioned over branches to act as sheltering sites. Like many arboreal snakes, Mexican Vine Snakes will drink from water sprayed onto the body coils; some will also accept water from a bowl. As these snakes do not take well to disturbances, cypress mulch or similar materials that allow for spot-cleaning are preferable to newspapers as a substrate. The cage should be located in a quiet area of the home. Ambient temperature: 75- 80 F; basking temperature: 88 F.

Droppings should be removed in a manner that does not disturb the snakes or expose one to a bite. The cage should be misted lightly each day, but dry conditions should prevail. As individuals offered for sale will likely be wild-caught, all new arrivals should be seen by an experienced veterinarian.

Mexican Vine Snakes feed upon lizards, treefrogs and small birds; small arboreal rodents and insects may also be taken, but further field studies are needed to confirm this. Green Anoles and other Anolis lizards are the most reliably-accepted captive foods, but small geckos, chicks and pink or fuzzy mice are taken by some individuals. The use of large food items has been linked to intestinal blockages. Youngsters feed primarily on frogs and lizards, and usually refuse all else. Scenting a pink mouse with a frog or anole may induce feeding.

Captive breeding has rarely been accomplished, and is not documented in the literature. Field studies indicate that 4-8 eggs are typically produced.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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