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  1. #1
    Registered User timeakinga's Avatar
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    Stressed Mexican Black Kingsnake

    Hi there. I recently got a Mexican black kingsnake at a show he is male and a few months old. I have 6 other snakes so I have some experience but this new snake absolutely hates when I handle him. I gave him a week to get settled in, then fed and he ate, husbandry is correct. But he pees and poops every time (I assume to repel me) when I handle him. All of my other species are very tolerant to my handling and I have tried to handle him for short amounts of times but consistently for the past few days. Today he puffed his throat from stress during handling.

    so in summary for experienced mexi black owners....
    have you had one that did not at all tolerate handling and work up to being able to handle them easily?
    what can I do better?


    thank you!

  2. #2
    Registered User Bogertophis's Avatar
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    He's a tiny baby snake yet, & after only a WEEK you expect him to be OK with a giant (you're at least 100 times his size, yeah?) picking him up?

    He's frightened & it's totally normal for baby kings to spray handlers with feces/musk as self-defense, because their mouth isn't big enough to bite effectively.
    He's trying to make himself unappealing so that you don't eat him. I trust it's working?

    Best results (for ALL snakes): don't handle until they've fed at least 3 times at normal intervals...NOT after you've only had him a week or so. Remember that
    he was also at a show...very scary to a snake...and stress reduces the effectiveness of a snake's immune system. So if you want to chance making him sick with
    any little thing he was exposed to (like at the show & before), then keep doing what you're doing. I recommend that you back off for a few weeks while he
    settles in, grows a bit & de-stresses. You also mention doing this repeatedly for the past few days ...I repeat, leave him alone to settle in.

    MBK's make great pets, but right now he's a tiny scared baby...he needs food & rest, NOT handling. Up to you to be patient...there is no rush to handle, he'll
    still be tiny in a few weeks.

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  4. #3
    BPnet Veteran Craiga 01453's Avatar
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    Bogertophis's reply is spot on.

    Juvenile Kings are tiny and EVERYTHING seems like a predator to them. So they musk to ward you (the predator) off, hoping the smell will make them unappealing and therefore, you won't eat them.

    The grow out of this stage as they put a little size on and gain confidence..... but this takes time. Be patient, hold off on handling (plenty of time for handling in the future, don't sweat it).

    I would wait until three consecutive meals without refusal starting now. Restart the clock as if you brought your snake home today. Let the animal acclimate and gain confidence, it's been a wild ride the past few weeks for the little guy.
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  6. #4
    BPnet Veteran pretends2bnormal's Avatar
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    Re: Stressed Mexican Black Kingsnake

    One of my 2 kings I've had nearly a year now and she's still irritable about any handling. She's 10x her starting size (15 grams up to around 150-160g now) and only just now getting better about musking... I'm 4 for 4 now in the last month of not getting musked, but before then it was exceedingly rare to not get musked (often for the entire duration of handling;and let me tell you.. a 90g king has a LOT of musk to go around compared to a 20g king LOL) She seems to have flipped a switch at about 140 grams to not musking.

    She's a chain/eastern king and I had better luck reducing handling to picking her up to do a spot clean (if I left her in, she would try chasing me out of the cage biting) about once a week when she pooped and making it 2 or 3 minutes longer than needed for that every other week and waiting for the calmer behavior before letting her go back to the cage. Truly calm was never going to happen the first few dozen times, so anything calmer than she started was my initial benchmark, like slowing her frantic fleeing behavior for half a seconr; now I'm getting close to waiting for truly calm behavior.

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

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  8. #5
    Registered User timeakinga's Avatar
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    Re: Stressed Mexican Black Kingsnake

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    He's a tiny baby snake yet, & after only a WEEK you expect him to be OK with a giant (you're at least 100 times his size, yeah?) picking him up?

    He's frightened & it's totally normal for baby kings to spray handlers with feces/musk as self-defense, because their mouth isn't big enough to bite effectively.
    He's trying to make himself unappealing so that you don't eat him. I trust it's working?

    Best results (for ALL snakes): don't handle until they've fed at least 3 times at normal intervals...NOT after you've only had him a week or so. Remember that
    he was also at a show...very scary to a snake...and stress reduces the effectiveness of a snake's immune system. So if you want to chance making him sick with
    any little thing he was exposed to (like at the show & before), then keep doing what you're doing. I recommend that you back off for a few weeks while he
    settles in, grows a bit & de-stresses. You also mention doing this repeatedly for the past few days ...I repeat, leave him alone to settle in.

    MBK's make great pets, but right now he's a tiny scared baby...he needs food & rest, NOT handling. Up to you to be patient...there is no rush to handle, he'll
    still be tiny in a few weeks.

    Again I have 6 other snakes I am not BRAND new to this and Iím asking for advice not attitude. I also mentioned that I gave him a week before his first handling. Because he was so stressed I gave him at least another week off before trying again maybe once and another 5 days and another few more but because now itís been weeks is why Iíve seen people recommend consistency in handling them so I guess maybe each to their own Iím sure Iíll figure it out since all of my others are just fine with them! And having many more snakes Iím used to their urine and poop so it doesnít quite scare me off lol but thanks!

  9. #6
    Registered User timeakinga's Avatar
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    Re: Stressed Mexican Black Kingsnake

    Quote Originally Posted by craigafrechette View Post
    Bogertophis's reply is spot on.

    Juvenile Kings are tiny and EVERYTHING seems like a predator to them. So they musk to ward you (the predator) off, hoping the smell will make them unappealing and therefore, you won't eat them.

    The grow out of this stage as they put a little size on and gain confidence..... but this takes time. Be patient, hold off on handling (plenty of time for handling in the future, don't sweat it).

    I would wait until three consecutive meals without refusal starting now. Restart the clock as if you brought your snake home today. Let the animal acclimate and gain confidence, it's been a wild ride the past few weeks for the little guy.

    Ehhhh I think their response could have done much better without attitude but I sure appreciate your reply! None of my others had been so nippy when they were that young and just with no improvement whatsoever the past few weeks I got skeptical about whether this would be something Iím still dealing with later on. Which is fine considering Iíve worked with venomous but never had interest in kings at all before so wanted experienced opinions! Thank you!

  10. #7
    Registered User timeakinga's Avatar
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    Re: Stressed Mexican Black Kingsnake

    Quote Originally Posted by pretends2bnormal View Post
    One of my 2 kings I've had nearly a year now and she's still irritable about any handling. She's 10x her starting size (15 grams up to around 150-160g now) and only just now getting better about musking... I'm 4 for 4 now in the last month of not getting musked, but before then it was exceedingly rare to not get musked (often for the entire duration of handling;and let me tell you.. a 90g king has a LOT of musk to go around compared to a 20g king LOL) She seems to have flipped a switch at about 140 grams to not musking.

    She's a chain/eastern king and I had better luck reducing handling to picking her up to do a spot clean (if I left her in, she would try chasing me out of the cage biting) about once a week when she pooped and making it 2 or 3 minutes longer than needed for that every other week and waiting for the calmer behavior before letting her go back to the cage. Truly calm was never going to happen the first few dozen times, so anything calmer than she started was my initial benchmark, like slowing her frantic fleeing behavior for half a seconr; now I'm getting close to waiting for truly calm behavior.

    Sent from my SM-G950U using Tapatalk

    They can definitely be a challenge (snakes in general)! But itís one thing I enjoy about them. I appreciate the thorough and honest response rather than just the ďoh yea itíll get betterĒ! Despite other answers I still just have a feeling mines going to be a continuous challenge for many months longer but I guess iíll see. What point did you switch the way you were doing things to the reduced handling and slow increases? I hope your musk-free streak continues!!! Hahahaha

  11. #8
    BPnet Veteran pretends2bnormal's Avatar
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    Re: Stressed Mexican Black Kingsnake

    Quote Originally Posted by timeakinga View Post
    They can definitely be a challenge (snakes in general)! But itís one thing I enjoy about them. I appreciate the thorough and honest response rather than just the ďoh yea itíll get betterĒ! Despite other answers I still just have a feeling mines going to be a continuous challenge for many months longer but I guess iíll see. What point did you switch the way you were doing things to the reduced handling and slow increases? I hope your musk-free streak continues!!! Hahahaha
    Sorry in advance for the rambling, lol. All this is just my trial and error. Though she did musk a lot, I never saw any other stress behaviors from her (throat puffing, regurgitation, meal refusal, etc.)

    I let her settle in for a few weeks; QT for me means paper towels so after meal 1 she got 1 pick up/relocate handle so I could change the towels from poop/pee weekly (more if she pooped or peed more of course). Did that for most of QT and she wasn't super musk-y then, almost entirely rattle and flee, but I only had hands on her 20 seconds or so at a time.

    By the end of that, she was probably 30 grams? So I tried 2x weekly handling for a few minutes at a time; that's where she really started in earnest due to opportunity; I'm sure she would have musked more during QT if I had handled for more than the time to move her around. She was so squirmy I didn't want to freak her out and I had others that I could handle for my "fix" of snakes.

    Continue like that till she wa 50-60g which is when my corn had started to really calm down, so I had hoped she would too; it seemed like enough added size to at least begin calming. That's when I came across the frequent, very brief sessions that you aim to end positively (all directions said snake must be calm to end, but that was not gonna happen for her in < 5 minutes, so I adjusted to "calmer than the start").

    It worked... ok? She did calm a little bit, but pretty much musked for the full 5 mins with 10 seconds burst of freeze/no musk "calm"... not really a positive as it was definitely a fear state. I gave it the good old college try and didn't give up right away in case the changed process was her issue rather than the handling at all, so I did it for 4 or 5 weeks, I think.

    By then, especially since she started "projectile musking" the first session after a meal and being super dramatic about it, more than she was before, I decided it was not a good method for her (even if people online found success with it on other snakes). Also, I was sick of cleaning musk off of not only my hands, but my shirt, pants, the floor, her tub, her hides, her water bowl... etc. It was not very localized once she was long enough to swing her tail around and get it everywhere.

    From there I kind of decided she was not likely to be a handling snake. I considered seeing if there were any breeders looking for a female with a year of feeding down that wouldn't care if she hated handling, but ultimately decided that I was committed to her. Even with her "awful" personality, I was too attached.

    Instead I thought I would do a combo approach for 2 different things. Unlike most kings people talk about, when I had her in a display-type cage, she was NEVER out, and if she was would be extremely frightened if anyone entered the room. So I have her in an opaque tub; she is maybe 2.5 feet now and in a 3ft long tub. If/when she gets over 3-3.5 feet, I'll look for a bigger tub for her. Even if I need to make it opaque myself with spray paint, lol.

    2nd I stopped handling her if at all possible. In the tub, she mostly pooped away from her preferred hide, so if I was quiet I could sneak it out of the substrate without disturbing her; I could also manage the water the same way. So I had probably 3 months where she was handled twice to do a full cage clean and nothing else. Then I moved to this every other week lift her out when spot cleaning, and keep her out about 2 minutes longer. I also tried for a bit leaving dirty socks or scrap fabric I had carried all day in her tub to hide in and smell me, but it didn't make a noticeable difference.

    In a few months I may work up to weekly holding past the cleaning or just 5-10 minute sessions every 2 weeks, but we will see if her improvements hold.

    She is probably 1 year old now, I got her early March of last year as a probably 1-2 month old. (And I do NOT touch her in shed.. she's so skittish and defensive that it isn't worth it at all for her; as soon as I notice, I avoid even lifting hides to look in on her until I spot shed in the tub and only spot-clean the open area outside the hides; tub gets fully cleaned when she is shed out usually)

    I'm convinced that her calmness has nothing to do with being handled. I think it is almost purely her increasing size and her comfort and security in her tub. Even now, if I open the tub and wake her up without immediately scooping her up, she rattles like mad and if I hesitate I can almost guarantee it will cause her to musk me. She also rears up rattlesnake style and will chase me out of the tub trying to bite. Needless to say, I don't hesitate and if I do by accident somehow, I just close the tub and try another day.

    I have done the "you can't scare me, I will handle anyway" routine, but she never calms if I do that and usually the next few sessions are bad for us both (I stopped doing that "handle anyway" during the low handling time about 2 or 3 months ago; I doubt her improvement is related, but she hasn't regressed after brief improvements like she had been doing consistently before); as long as I get her out promptly before she fully wakes up to be fearful, she doesn't seem to have the association that she "scared" me off before nor is she as afraid of being out..


    What works for me may not work for you, and I don't know how temperamentally similar a MBK is to a chain king, but you can try any of the methods to see what helps you. Just don't make changes constantly to your process. Pick a few things and do them for 1-2 months minimum once yours has had a few more weeks to settle in (like boger said).

    For example, 1) keep lots of clutter & low traffic, 2) handle only for spot cleaning + or - a few extra minutes, 3) don't wait for the snake to wake up fully and get into full fear mode by seeing you (I gently touch the side if lifting the hide got no reaction, then smoothly lift from the middle body onto a flat palm; enough to say "hey I'm here" before just scooping a fully asleep snake;if the hide lift results in movement, I just scoop up cuz that means she isn't asleep).

    Or do it reverse on #2 & 3, handle often and briefly and ensure the snake knows you are there well before attempting to handle... success has come from both directions that I've heard.

    I don't get pics of her often since she is a handful, but here is an older feeding shot.


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    Last edited by pretends2bnormal; 01-31-2019 at 10:58 AM. Reason: Add picture :)

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  13. #9
    BPnet Veteran Ax01's Avatar
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    i have a mix of Colubrids including an MBK. i have been musked by each and everyone of them except for my Coxi (Thai Bamboo Ratsnake). even if u have experience w/ other snakes, many peeps are still be caught off guard by Colubrids b/c among other things:
    1. they are micro-sized as babies
    2. they are fast
    3. they rattle their tails to mimic rattlesnakes
    4. they multi-strike and it sounds scary
    5. they don't just try to slither away, they thrash/are spastic
    6. they musk!


    anyways i agree w/ bits and pieces of what everyone has said so far but want to emphasize what Pretends2 said about size; i agree that Colubrids will calm down w/ size and age. my MBK was chill when i picked her outta the clutch from a show but went spaztic as soon as i got her home and warmed up. i wasn't necessarily trying to handle her but take a few pix. so i left her alone, fed her, cleaned up after her, let her grow and sprinkle in a few handling or photo sessions here and there. now that she has gone from a tiny baby eating pinkies to a nice sized pre-adult taking adult mice, she has confidence in herself and familiarity in me. so IMO u still have alotta time w/ your new baby MBK before handling sessions become pleasant.
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  15. #10
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    Re: Stressed Mexican Black Kingsnake

    Quote Originally Posted by timeakinga View Post
    Again I have 6 other snakes I am not BRAND new to this and Iím asking for advice not attitude. I also mentioned that I gave him a week before his first handling. Because he was so stressed I gave him at least another week off before trying again maybe once and another 5 days and another few more but because now itís been weeks is why Iíve seen people recommend consistency in handling them so I guess maybe each to their own Iím sure Iíll figure it out since all of my others are just fine with them! And having many more snakes Iím used to their urine and poop so it doesnít quite scare me off lol but thanks!
    I have two at work that I handle two to three times a week. I have had them since April. They still musk. They are getting better....but they still musk. Some quit mucking right away other do it for quite some time. It is t how long or how many other snakes you own, it's about the new snake feeling comfortable enough. Just be patient....
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