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  1. #1
    Registered User Caitlin's Avatar
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    Escape and near-tragedy

    Apologies in advance for a long post.

    I haven't posted in about a month, as one of the Children's Pythons that I just love was in a terrible accident and I nearly lost her (I may still), and it's honestly just been too hard to write about. I do think it's important to talk about it as a warning to other keepers.

    I recently moved Miso, a one-year-old Children's Python, from a Sterilite tub into a PVC enclosure that has sliding glass door panels. In many years of keeping, I had never had an escape and I wanted to keep it that way - so even though the gap between the sliding glass panels was very small, I added weather stripping to make the gap even smaller. Then I placed Miso in the enclosure and watched her like a hawk. Since Antaresia are curious, I knew she would start exploring right away and I wanted to be certain she couldn't escape. Sure enough, she located the gap and worked hard to try to get through it. After a lot of effort, she couldn't seem to shove even her nose through the gap, so I thought she was secure. I was wrong.

    She escaped during the night, crawled under a sliding glass patio door in the room, and the next morning that door was slid open and then closed on top of her. I was sure she was dead, but when I managed to extract her she moved slightly. I thought her spine was broken. I immediately called my vet, but due to COVID they couldn't see me for a week - not even to do the euthanasia I assumed was needed. So I set little Miso up with what I thought would be a peaceful place for her to die. I considered euthanizing her myself but I just couldn't do it (and thank god for that in hindsight) - so I gave her a quiet, warm, dark hide in a small tub, put a shallow water bowl near her head so she wouldn't have to reach far if she wanted it, and left her alone. The next day I went in fully expecting to remove her body, but she had managed to neatly coil herself and lifted her head to look up at me, flicking her tongue. I don't mind confessing that I burst into tears, and I am not a cryer.

    Long story short, that little girl has begun to recover. I was finally able to get her to my vet (I am very fortunate in having an excellent reptile vet), who confirmed that her spine is intact, though she has several broken ribs, and she didn't appear to have internal injuries other than severe bruising throughout her body and along the top of her spine. My vet was adamant in feeling Miso has a chance at recovery, so she came home with a month's worth of painkiller/muscle relaxant and antibiotic injections (which she HATES, so that's fun). The vet has emphasized that while snakes have remarkable resilience and recovery capacity, they also heal very slowly, so we are not by any means out of the woods, and have a long road ahead (likely months) before we can be sure she'll be OK.

    Two weeks later she crawled out of her hide and soaked herself for an hour in her water bowl. She had a complete shed the next day. Two days after that, she crawled up and out of the enclosure as I was cleaning it. One month after the accident, she ate (I offered her a smaller food item than normal). We're still not sure about her bowel function, so she's getting a warm water soak for 15 minutes every other day. Yesterday she crawled around her tub exploring and burrowed under her water bowl, which required a lot of movement. She's now able to partly curl her tail around my hand, which she was unable to do a month ago. I think Miso just might make it, though every day I half-expect to lose her.

    This experience has been horrible. I've of course lost animals to illness or age before, but this is the first time I have been the direct cause of great suffering in an animal I love. I can't forgive myself for it but I can sure as hell do a better job of preventing it - I'll certainly never again trust a sliding door entrance on an enclosure for any snake under 200 grams, even if it seems like there is no way on earth they could fit through the gap. I thought the added weather stripping plus my observation that she couldn't get her nose through the gap were enough. They weren't.

    Please send positive thoughts for little Miso, and please don't put anything other than heavy-bodied snakes in sliding front enclosures; put locks on them to prevent doors being pushed open, and double and triple-check and secure every single gap or hole - even if you think escape is impossible - before deciding any enclosure is safe.
    1.0 Jungle Carpet Python 'Ziggy'
    0.1 Brazilian Rainbow Boa 'Mara'
    1.1 Tarahumara Mountain Boas 'Paco' and 'Freda'
    1.0 Stimson's Python 'Jake'
    0.1 Children's Python 'Miso'
    1.0 Anthill Python 'Cricket'
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    1.0 Gray-banded Kingsnake 'Nacho'
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  3. #2
    BPnet Senior Member dakski's Avatar
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    Re: Escape and near-tragedy

    Thoughts are with you and Miso.

    Thank you for posting. It can only help others. Very brave.

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    Caitlin (08-02-2020),Craiga 01453 (08-02-2020)

  5. #3
    BPnet Veteran Craiga 01453's Avatar
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    I'm so sorry you and Miso had to go through that. All my best wishes being sent your way. Try not to beat yourself up, we all make mistakes. I know, easier said than done, I'm great at beating myself up (but working on it). My lil' Hognose escaped a while back and I only found out cause he was face to face with one of my ferrets....ugggh. I got lucky there, no harm was done. But you better believe I have double and triple checked his enclosure every time I closed it since (screen top, I put it on wrong).

    Thank you for sharing your story, I'm sure it wasn't easy. But hey, it's worth it if it helps someone else out in the future. Good on you

    P.S. I'd have cried too...and I'm a 41 year old guy. No shame in that. I don't care what anyone says.
    ...life is beautiful...

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  7. #4
    Registered User Luvyna's Avatar
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    Poor baby, this is a very sobering story. I cannot imagine how it must have felt to find her like that and how much pain Miso must have gone through. I absolutely would have cried as well. I'm glad to hear she is on the mend and being well taken care of now. Thank you for sharing this, hopefully it will be a learning opportunity for others and help prevent similar tragedies. Wishing you both the best and a smooth recovery for Miso.

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    Caitlin (08-01-2020),Craiga 01453 (08-02-2020)

  9. #5
    Registered User Namea's Avatar
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    Best of luck to you and your scale baby!
    Some girls were horse girls growing up. I was a snake girl.

    Daughter of a herpetologist, student of the "Snake Man" Al Robbins, lover of all animals.
    Almost done with my DVM! Finally!

    I specialize in rehabilitation and work with local fish and wildlife for rehab/release of native species. For exotics I work with reptile sanctuaries to rehabilitate and rehome to either qualified private owners or humane licensed facilities. I do not believe in fatal population control.
    Please feel free to message me with any questions. I don't know everything but I can point you towards resources.
    Do not message me with images of a snake you killed to identify it. I will ignore you.

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    Caitlin (08-01-2020)

  11. #6
    BPnet Veteran Bogertophis's Avatar
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    What a scary & close call...I wish only the best for you and Miso... Really excellent that you shared this experience so others may learn & prevent similar accidents.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  13. #7
    BPnet Veteran Bogertophis's Avatar
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    Re: Escape and near-tragedy

    Quote Originally Posted by Caitlin View Post
    ...
    This experience has been horrible. I've of course lost animals to illness or age before, but this is the first time I have been the direct cause of great suffering in an animal I love. I can't forgive myself for it but I can sure as hell do a better job of preventing it - I'll certainly never again trust a sliding door entrance on an enclosure for any snake under 200 grams, even if it seems like there is no way on earth they could fit through the gap. I thought the added weather stripping plus my observation that she couldn't get her nose through the gap were enough. They weren't.

    Please send positive thoughts for little Miso, and please don't put anything other than heavy-bodied snakes in sliding front enclosures; put locks on them to prevent doors being pushed open, and double and triple-check and secure every single gap or hole - even if you think escape is impossible - before deciding any enclosure is safe.

    This is a perfect illustration of why housing for snakes is not a "one-size fits all" answer. While this is a site for BPs, there are many other species discussed & kept by readers here, yet it's all to easy to get the impression that stackable sliding-front enclosures are "THE" perfect home for any & all kinds of snakes. That bit of wiggle room between the front sliders is an "attractive nuisance" to a snake in the very same way a backyard swimming pool inadvertently invites trouble from neighborhood children.

    In the past I have put snakes on my floor for closely supervised exploration and noticed how they'd gravitate to a sliding glass door, obviously aware of the "outside" air that they found enticing. That was much like what happened with your enclosure, only on a larger scale & with a sickening & guilt-inducing outcome.

    I also can remember when I was fairly new to keeping snakes & housed a hatchling king snake in a terrarium with a sliding screen lid: that tiny but energetic soul did the unthinkable- she squeezed herself into the tiny (maybe .25") gap left in the track of the screen lid even when the locking peg was inserted...I never imagined how determined a snake might be, & in that case, it wasn't a matter of any difference in air flow that attracted her. No, she just found a gap to explore & "went for it"; happily she was uninjured from her escape, & happily I found her in the toe of a boot in my closet later that same day, but that's when I knew I'd be making my own cage tops for my glass tanks (as I'd done in the past for other small pets) from then on.

    It's easy to underestimate things a snake might do: some years back, I was about to clean the large tank that housed one of my adult FL rat snakes. I unlocked the heavy wire mesh & wood top, but left it in place while I left the room briefly to do or get something (I forget exactly what now). When I returned, that snake had pushed her way out from under the top to escape, but inexplicably stopped with the cage top resting on her tail tip! She had to have her tail tip surgically removed, but otherwise she was fine. So even with many years of keeping snakes, the point is that we can STILL be surprised by some of the things our snakes will do.

    In the past, I've only ever used 2 enclosures with overlapping glass sliders...they were wood furniture cabinets that I modified as snake homes, & I never had any trouble since the snakes were larger...one was an adult gopher snake, the other an adult king snake. The other thing is that plate glass doesn't have as much "give" to it as the plexi that's typically used on enclosures (because it's lighter weight), but that matters little to a determined snake.

    Anyway, don't beat yourself up...we all make some mistakes...& I hope she makes a full recovery.
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 08-02-2020 at 11:26 AM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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    Caitlin (08-05-2020)

  15. #8
    BPnet Senior Member CloudtheBoa's Avatar
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    Omg, that sounds like an extremely scary situation. So sorry you all went through that, but so glad to hear Miso is recovering nicely.
    3.3 Boa imperator ('15 sunglow "Nymeria," '11 wild-type "Cloud," '15 ghost "Tirel," '16 anery motley "Crona," '10 ghost "Howl," '08 junge "Dominika")
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    Caitlin (08-04-2020)

  17. #9
    Registered User Caitlin's Avatar
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    Many thanks to all of you for being so kind and supportive. Miso is still hanging in there; she continues to be engaged and interested in what's going on around her, which is always a good sign, and she's able to get a slightly better grip with her tail.

    So, a couple of notes on enclosures. While I will never again use an enclosure with overlapping glass sliding doors for my smaller snakes, I think they are fine for my larger/heavier bodied snakes - though a showcase-style lock is still needed, as snakes are good at pushing sliders open. For anyone considering a PVC with sliders, I would recommend using tempered glass for the doors and not plexiglass. Plexi is too flexible, and besides, over time it tends to develop scratches.

    I have a couple of PVC enclosures with grommets set into the back to cover the holes drilled for inserting wires, as well as a couple of glass enclosures with very small holes in the lids for wires. For the PVC enclosures I am now siliconing the grommets in place in a closed position. For the lids on the glass enclosures I used modeling clay to block the holes. At this point I am just not willing to tempt fate by using tape anywhere, not even on the outside of enclosures. The modeling clay has been a useful alternative.

    Finally, the snake gods seem to be trying to send me a message. As mentioned in my first post, Miso's escape was my first in many years of keeping. After her escape and accident, I immediately put my other Antaresia into tubs until I could re-evaluate their enclosures for safety. Like so many of us, I have always felt very confident when using the Sterilite gasket boxes with multiple clips. I believed they were escape-proof. Well...the photo below shows what I found a few hours after moving Ozzy, my male Children's Python, into a Sterilite gasket tub with SIX clips. I still have no freaking idea how he managed this, and I'm shocked because for years, I've felt so safe using Sterilite tubs. I am still figuring this one out, but thought I'd share.
    Last edited by Caitlin; 08-04-2020 at 02:04 PM.
    1.0 Jungle Carpet Python 'Ziggy'
    0.1 Brazilian Rainbow Boa 'Mara'
    1.1 Tarahumara Mountain Boas 'Paco' and 'Freda'
    1.0 Stimson's Python 'Jake'
    0.1 Children's Python 'Miso'
    1.0 Anthill Python 'Cricket'
    1.0 Ball Python (BEL) 'Sugar'
    1.0 Gray-banded Kingsnake 'Nacho'
    1.0 Green Tree Python (Aru) 'Jade'

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  19. #10
    BPnet Veteran Bogertophis's Avatar
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    That's one reason I'm no fan of sterilite or similar plastic containers...they're very flexible & many snakes can get hurt trying to escape these too.

    Every kind of enclosure for snakes has it's own pro's & con's though- all require awareness of the shortfalls, and extra vigilance for safety and security.

    BTW, in the past I used some NEODESHA cages...they too had sliding glass across the front, but it was only one solid piece, with a hole for a locking peg on either side of the glass. When I converted some furniture cabinets to snake homes, I used the same method to lock the glass sliders in place...in the wood on either side, I drilled a hole for a fat metal peg to make it impossible for any snake occupant to open the sliders, instead of needing any sort of display-case locks.
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 08-04-2020 at 02:52 PM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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