We just have one Adder left to give birth. And of course its the one I really, really want to give birth. The Pilbara Death Adder Acanthophis wellsei is the last one to go. We had a couple of great litters with the Barkley Adders and the Floodplain Adders. Patience is not my strong point - its at the point I'm thinking a gentle little squeeze.....
Thought we would share how we keep the Pilbara Death Adder for those interested...
The Pilbara Death Adder is NOT a starter species of elapid for those wanting to get into the keeping of venomous snakes. This is because of the toxicity of the venom combined with potential difficulties in handling especially in neonates as they are quite small. We at Nature 4 You do not endorse the keeping of venomous snakes without suitable experience.
A single adult Pilbara Death Adder needs a terrestrial cage about 300mm wide X 800mm Long X 400mm High. As far as Adders go, they are quite small. The housing of juveniles is best done by housing them in Plastic bread box style enclosures with ventilation holes either drilled or melted with a soldiering iron. This plastic tub can be placed inside the larger enclosure. Plastic tubs are often utilized for small snakes as they are cheap, easy to clean and seal very well. Juveniles can be kept in smaller conditions but should be kept by themselves.
The cage can have a variety of substrates ranging from gravel (not recommended) to newspaper. We personally use a Kitty Litter made of recycled paper – excellent for absorbing clumping “deposits” or butchers paper on our adult Adders as its easily cleaned. Other effective substrates include newspaper, fake grass and paper towel. We use paper towel on our neonates. If using fake grass you should have 2 pieces cut to size. So when one gets soiled the other can be put in while other gets washed.
Pilbara Death Adders need cover in which they can hide...this can be provided by a hollow log or a rock near the back wall, leaf litter and other things like a flower pot cut in half, commercially bought hides, etc. Care should be taken when entering the enclosure as all Adders like to bury in their substrate when they can, so it would be in your best interests to locate the Adder before entering the enclosure. At least one hide should be in the warm end and one in the cool end of the cage. The use of trap boxes is an excellent idea with this species.The cage also needs to be well ventilated; a series of cupboard vents cut into both the front and back work well allowing the air to flow though. The water bowl should large enough for the snake to soak in. This should be situated in the cool end of the cage. The cage should be cleaned out at least once a week to prevent the build-up of germs etc.However, traces of faeces and urine should be cleaned as soon as it’s noticed.
All heating should be placed at one end of the cage and controlled by a reliable thermostat. This creates a thermal gradient. This is vital for the survival of the occupants as if the cage is either too hot or to cool the snake has a place to retreat to. Ways of heating include a 40-watt coloured light bulb(s) placed at one end of the cage connected to a thermostat. A heat mat at one end or both the light bulb and the heat mat. Excessive heat will kill your snake very quickly, Any light globes inside the enclosure should be placed in such a way that the snake is unable to come in contact with them, a mesh type globe cover is ideal as it prevents the snake coming in direct contact with the globe but the allows the heat generated from the light to escape. We have found our Adders climbing side lips on the enclosures and resting on the top lip inside the enclosures, so don't believe the old wives tale that venomous snakes don't climb! Heat cord under the enclosure is another way to heat the cage effectively. Ideal temperatures for the Pilbara Death Adder are about 32 degrees at the warm and and 24 degrees Celsius at the cool end of the cage.
If heating the cage with a globe set up, the cage must have dark coloured globes such as green or blue. This will then not interrupt its photoperiod. The Pilbara Death Adder is mainly nocturnal (active during the night). Thus the photoperiod of 14 hours light to 8 dark in summer and 12 hours light and 12 dark in winter is acceptable.
Cooling allows for the males sperm to be produced and the in the females ova to be made. The temperature of cooling should drop to about room temperature. However this drop should not be sudden, by turning on the heat for 4 hours in the morning for 4 weeks either side of the cooling period (1-month) this will allow the snake to gently go into torpor. (In Australia most reptiles don't truly go into hibernation.). please note that snakes should not be fed during the cooling period. They won't have enough heat to digest their meals and you run the risk of an undigested meal sitting in their stomach, just rotting away.
Your snake should be feeding on mice or small rats. The size of the prey item and the amount of them is dependant on the snake in question. As juveniles, they should be fed weekly, but once at adult size this can be reduced to once every fortnight. Pilbara Death Adders will also take fish. A suitable fed for the snake is a meal that will cause a slight bulge in the snake’s mid body. Food should generally not be offered while the snake is coming into or having a slough.
Pilbara Death Adders are live bearers. The litter can vary from 14 to 20 young with an average litter of about 17. Their young are quite small and not vivacious eaters, so an inexperienced keeper may struggle to get them feeding.
The first photo is the actual pairing, the second photo is the gravid female and the third photo is the female on a hook - you can see the bumps going down indicating babies.