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  1. #1
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    Mexican black kingsnake hunger strike

    I have a male mexican black kingsnake who is around 2 years old. He never missed meals before this and is healthy in weight and length for his age. I'm wondering how long they can safely be off food before I should be concerned about him. I know with adult snakes they can be safely off food for many months, but I'm unsure about a juvenile snake who is still growing like he is.

    My assumption is that he is in his breeding season mentality and off food because he's looking for a mate, based on the fact winter is ending here and he basically shed and then stopped eating. It's been about two months since he's taken a meal and he's used to eating every 5-7 days. He doesn't appear to have lost any weight and he is still very active. He'll smell the food and act interested but won't eat it. I've tried braining the mouse, warming the mouse, leaving it there for a couple hours and leaving the room, etc., he still has no appetite.

    How long before him not eating is a genuine health concern?

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    BPnet Veteran Homebody's Avatar
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    Re: Mexican black kingsnake hunger strike

    I've never kept colubrids, much less Mexican Black Kings, so I don't know how long they can go without eating. You may want to start weighing him, so you'll be sure to know if his weight starts dropping.
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  4. #3
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    As Homebody said, I'd weigh him every other week to make sure he's not losing more than 10% of his body weight. I can't remember the MBKs I used to have ever refusing food for ANY reason, but it still could be the spring-mating thing with yours, although it's not as common for immature snakes like yours. What size (approx. length & weight) is yours? I'm very much a colubrid keeper, btw.

    Have you listened closely to his breathing? For signs of an RI? Respiratory infections can put off a snake's appetite, as can other illnesses.

    Have his stools looked normal? Getting them tested by a qualified herp vet is another way to go- as parasites can also affect appetite. https://members.arav.org/search/custom.asp?id=3661

    Was he fed live prey ever? Live prey can pass along intestinal parasites to the snake consuming them.

    Probably a silly question, but how warm is he being kept? Have you checked to make sure his UTH (heat) is still operating & at the right temperature??? Or whatever you're using for heat? Details about his home would help- for example, if his enclosure is near the floor, it's much cooler there than if kept higher up- so maybe his heat is not adequate. Snakes that feel too cool anticipate winter & fast intentionally so they don't die if they get caught with undigested food in their gut that they cannot digest because it's too cool. And if you using only an overhead heating method, have you double checked the temperatures on the floor of his home? All this may matter- snakes are stuck where they are in captivity- they can't go searching for the right temperatures- we have to provide them, & if we fail to do so, it shows up in their lack of appetite.

    Another thing that can affect a snake's appetite is excessive handling. Also, if your house/room is on the cool side because it's winter, & you have him out of his warmer home for a significant amount of time, that alone may be enough to put him off food. But also there's the stress aspect of handling, regardless of temperatures- & not everyone means quite the same thing by "handling" either. For best results, if a snake isn't eating, it should not be handled until it is- in case the food refusal is actually due to stress.
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 03-11-2024 at 10:14 PM.
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    Re: Mexican black kingsnake hunger strike

    Thanks for the detailed response! I somehow didn't get notified about this via email so I'm answering a bit late.

    Fortunately I still don't see any signs of extreme weight loss yet, no saggy skin, concave belly, or obvious spine. The 10% body weight loss tip is EXTREMELY helpful, thank you, I'll keep an eye on that going forward. Going to weigh him frequently as you suggested now to keep an eye on it. If he drops weight quickly I'll definitely see a vet.

    I've been avoiding handling him as much as possible to try and reduce stress, basically just to check his body and his weight.

    He eats F/T not live, so hopefully no parasites. Breathing is good, no wheezing or huffing and no fluid near mouth, so probably not an RI. My guess is either stress or breeding season, unless I'm doing something incorrectly in my husbandry. I put all the info you asked for below. I'm still a fairly new snake keeper and sometimes research gives conflicting information, so I've done the best I can with what I've learned. Let me know if you see anything glaringly wrong. Thanks again for your help! Eclipse and I appreciate you

    Snake Length: approx. 3ft
    Snake Weight: 275g
    Tank Height: 4.5ft off the ground
    Warm Side: 80-85F
    Cool Side: 70-75F
    Humidity: approx. 50%
    Heating: Daytime heat lamp, and undertank heat pad
    Night Temp: 65F at the lowest on cool side (heat pad left on overnight)

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    Re: Mexican black kingsnake hunger strike

    Quote Originally Posted by AbbySnake View Post
    He doesn't appear to have lost any weight and he is still very active. He'll smell the food and act interested but won't eat it.
    I don't keep MBKs either, but that sounds a lot like seasonal male disorder (breeding-related behavior).

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    Re: Mexican black kingsnake hunger strike

    Your care stats sound fine- & at 3' long, he's a young adult, so yeah, his mind might just be on finding a mate, especially if he's had more than enough food anyway.

    And that brings me to another thing it "could be" (not saying it is, as we're not SEEING him...hint hint), & that's simply that you're feeding him more food than he needs & should have.

    You wouldn't be the first- & btw, I don't obsess over weighing my snakes, so I honestly cannot tell much by the weight you gave for him. And since most ppl here are keeping BPs, the weight of an MBK won't tell them much either.

    As I said before, I had a pair of MBKs thru adulthood that never quit eating for any reason. These snakes typically have massive appetites, as do Cal-kings- and they'll usually eat more than they should, if allowed. Which makes them fun to keep, but you have to know when to just say "Sorry, no! You've had enough."

    And most likely, your snake's issue is a combination of both issues above.

    ******For some reason I didn't catch this before, but by the time a colubrid snake is a year old, they should be fed about once every 10 days. You're feeding him too much &/or too often. What exactly are you feeding him? (size & type of prey) A 3' king snake should be eating one small adult mouse every 10 days. Also, don't feed them when they're in shed- they won't starve.******

    ******Feeding a colubrid snake every 5-7 days is for hatchlings ONLY- because they're eating small pinky mice that digest quickly, & are mostly water with very little nutrition. You're supposed to gradually increase the time between feedings as a colubrid snake grows & is able to eat slightly larger prey, so that by the time they're a year old, they're eating once every 10 days, & when they get to elderly*, you can gradually go to feeding them every 2 weeks or longer, depending on their health, activity & appetites. (*MBKs can live 15-20 years with good care, good genes & good luck, so "elderly" would be about 12-13 years of age, & you'll probably notice they have less appetite & slow down some.) A really old snake might be happy & just fine with eating once every 3+ weeks, fyi.******
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 03-15-2024 at 04:57 PM.
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  12. #7
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    Re: Mexican black kingsnake hunger strike

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogertophis View Post
    Your care stats sound fine- & at 3' long, he's a young adult, so yeah, his mind might just be on finding a mate, especially if he's had more than enough food anyway.

    And that brings me to another thing it "could be" (not saying it is, as we're not SEEING him...hint hint), & that's simply that you're feeding him more food than he needs & should have.

    You wouldn't be the first- & btw, I don't obsess over weighing my snakes, so I honestly cannot tell much by the weight you gave for him. And since most ppl here are keeping BPs, the weight of an MBK won't tell them much either.

    As I said before, I had a pair of MBKs thru adulthood that never quit eating for any reason. These snakes typically have massive appetites, as do Cal-kings- and they'll usually eat more than they should, if allowed. Which makes them fun to keep, but you have to know when to just say "Sorry, no! You've had enough."

    And most likely, your snake's issue is a combination of both issues above.

    ******For some reason I didn't catch this before, but by the time a colubrid snake is a year old, they should be fed about once every 10 days. You're feeding him too much &/or too often. What exactly are you feeding him? (size & type of prey) A 3' king snake should be eating one small adult mouse every 10 days. Also, don't feed them when they're in shed- they won't starve.******

    ******Feeding a colubrid snake every 5-7 days is for hatchlings ONLY- because they're eating small pinky mice that digest quickly, & are mostly water with very little nutrition. You're supposed to gradually increase the time between feedings as a colubrid snake grows & is able to eat slightly larger prey, so that by the time they're a year old, they're eating once every 10 days, & when they get to elderly*, you can gradually go to feeding them every 2 weeks or longer, depending on their health, activity & appetites. (*MBKs can live 15-20 years with good care, good genes & good luck, so "elderly" would be about 12-13 years of age, & you'll probably notice they have less appetite & slow down some.) A really old snake might be happy & just fine with eating once every 3+ weeks, fyi.******
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    Re: Mexican black kingsnake hunger strike

    I agree that eating every 5-7 days is a bit often for a juvenile MBK. I’d probably move to a 7-10 or 7-14 day feeding cycle. When I did keep them, my kings would go off food for 3-4 months every year during the winter and breeding season. You can just wait them out and they’ll eat again when they’re ready. I would sometimes get impatient and offer a small live feeder and that usually stimulated their appetites. Kings are usually pretty voracious eaters. I loved how hard they would hit their food for such small snakes. I’m sure your guy will fire up again soon.
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