Rufous Beaked Snake

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Is the Rufous Beaked Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: African Sharp-Nosed Snake

Scientific name: Rhamphiophis rostratus

The basics:
This attractive snake’s unusual appearance and seeming interest in all that goes on about it has made t quite popular in certain snake-keeping schedules. But while human fatalities from bites have not been reported, the Rufous Beaked Snake’s size renders it capable of delivering a large amount of venom, and best considered as suitable for display in zoos only. A professional herpetologist should be consulted before one acquires this or another Rear-Fanged Snake.

The Rufous Beaked Snake’s range extends from southern Sudan and Ethiopia to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and northern South Africa, where it favors arid, sandy, sparsely-vegetated habitats,such as thorn scrub, bush veld and lightly-wooded plains.

Appearance / health:
An overhanging rostral scale (the tip of the snout) indeed brings to mind a beak and gives this creature the most distinctive “face” of any snake! A dark stripe running downward from the eye heightens this impression. Rufous Beaked Snakes 3.5 to 4 feet in length, with some individuals reaching 6 feet. The un-patterned body may be greyish, tan, or brown to reddish-brown in color, and a black or brown stripe runs through the eye and on to the snout. Hatchlings are clad in gray, tan, or pink, and are often mottled with dark spots and lines, which they lose before reaching adulthood.

Behavior / temperament:
Rufous Beaked Snakes should be viewed as creatures to observe rather than handle. Particular care should be taken at feeding time, as hungry individuals respond vigorously to the scent of food, and will strike at anything in their paths. While human fatalities from bites have not been reported, their size renders them capable of delivering a large amount of venom. Until we learn more about Rufous Beaked Snake venom, 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.

Rufous Beaked Snakes are very active, and seem to explore their surroundings to a greater degree than do other snakes (then again, they are always hungry…!). Several inches of cypress mulch, aspen chips, or a sand-soil mix are preferable to newspapers as substrates, as they like to burrow. A dry cave should be provided, but their preference is for a PVC tube buried below the substrate. Rufous Beaked Snakes should be provided the largest enclosure possible, as they truly come into their own when able when able to move about and explore. Ambient temperature: 78-85 F; Basking temperature: 95-97 F.

Rufous Beaked Snakes have fast metabolisms, especially at the warm temperatures they prefer, and so require more upkeep than similarly-sized snakes. Wastes should be removed in a manner that does not expose one to a bite, i.e. by using a Pilstrom Tong.

Rufous Beaked Snakes take a wide range of animals, including gerbils and other burrowing rodents, birds, lizards, frogs, and snakes. Hatchlings and smaller individuals have been observed feeding upon insects. Captives do well on a diet comprised primarily of mice. Two small weekly feedings are sometimes preferable, as they have fast metabolisms. Hungry individuals strike wildly, so always use a long-handled tong and exercise caution at feeding time. Hatchlings generally refuse all but snake or lizard-scented pink mice, but readily take unscented pinkies after a time.

Captive breeding is rare. Where breeding has occurred, a winter cooling-off period was not necessary in order to stimulate reproduction. Clutches may contain 6-20 eggs, which should be incubated in vermiculite at 82-85 F for 55-70 days. The hatchlings average 11-14 inches long.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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