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How to combat a disinterested male in breeding season

Updated: Aug 8, 2021

One way to spur on the boys and get them ready for breeding season (ok I'll be honest they are usually a lot more into it than the girls!) is to get them to combat. Not every species of snake will combat, so this is not a technique that can work for every species in your collection.

In the wild males will combat which will give the dominant and triumphant male the right to breed with the female within the territory. Combat can be as short as a couple of minutes but can last up to half an hour. Combat can cause a great amount of stress on both animals and to a lesser extent the keeper. In some cases injury to one if not both snakes as they will bite and thrash around. You also need to bear in mind, some snakes are cannibalistic so if there is a considerable difference in size between the males you may end up paying the ultimate price for attempting combat. In captivity it also adds an extra element of danger for the keeper, as the two snakes will need to be separated and they will both be amped.

Some keepers evoke combat in their snakes, as it is natural behaviour and gets the hormones going, natural instinct kicks in and a seemingly uninterested snake can sometimes be spurred onto mating from the act of combatting.

We have just started our preparations for the breeding season. We find the safest way to excite the male into breeding mode is to introduce a slough from another male into the enclosure. (excuse the enclosure it was cleaned 15mins before the clip but every elapid keeper knows you clean and they poo instantly!) The slough of another male generally is enough to provoke the same response as combat and most of the risk has been eliminated.

The slough is from another male taipan, about a year younger. We will do that a few more times before we actually put him in with the female. He wasn't overly interested (in his defence he had just come out of opaque and will shed in a day or two) but there was certainly a bit of tongue flicking going on. As shown in the short video, waving the slough around and rubbing it all over him is enough.

It is a better idea to introduce the male into the female's enclosure as the male will only really have one thing on his mind. If you add the female to a male's enclosure she will want to check out the new enclosure and mating will be the furthest thing on her mind. By adding the male in with the female, she is in familiar territory and will be more receptive.

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References and recommended reading:

Eipper S.C. 2012, A Guide to Australian Snakes in Captivity - Elapids & Colubrids, Reptile Keeper Publications, Burleigh Heads

Eipper S.C. & Eipper T. 2019 A Natruralist's Guide to the Snakes of Australia, John Beaufoy Publishing, Oxford


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