Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
Gary2sons
Posts: 297
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
Location: Camden County, Missouri

Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Gary2sons » November 21st, 2017, 1:35 pm

Would really like some expert opinions on this topic!

In 2004 we found a milk snake with completely brown blotches. I kept her in captivity for 13 years. Posted her pics on this forum at the time. This past August she escaped due to my carelessness. Very sad she was gone but on October 16th she was found again about 300 feet away under tin from the building she was kept. I thought that alone was amazing because she was originally found only about 200 feet from there. The first pic shows the building and the tree line where she was found. She was handled and measured and was there again 3 days later. Had thoughts of keeping her again but decided not to. 31 inches and looked good, so I had no regrets letting her go.

November 13th I opened the inside door to my snake room and THERE SHE WAS! Crawling on top of my bull snake cage!

How could she have found her way back and why? The room was cooling down and about 70 degrees inside that day.

Could it be possible her hibernating instincts to go back to her room were more powerful than to go back to where she was originally found? That's all I can come up with!!!!

User avatar
Gary2sons
Posts: 297
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
Location: Camden County, Missouri

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Gary2sons » November 21st, 2017, 2:18 pm

Having trouble down sizing the pics on my computer!

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4317
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Kelly Mc » November 21st, 2017, 7:58 pm

Gary I am no expert on telemetry or things like that, I am not going to speculate on homing instincts per hibernaculum, etcetera but I have had a lot of time around snakes and witnessed oddities of behavior that I would be reluctant to post, just because it would be so difficult to convey and convince others that I wasnt reading something into the event that i wanted to see, or that i was exaggerating. Two especially remarkable events of lost snakes returning/ being found come to mind personally, but not at such a distance or as impressive. Another circumstance involving a captive/escaped King Cobra that involved the grown son of an animal dealer in the 70s when he was a kid in Morrocco that was extremely credible - especially since the person was an especially humble and honest individual, and was reluctant to share the story.

The distance the Milk Snake traveled is compelling but doesnt strike an impossible or coincidental note.

I think it would be cool to examine and describe the details of the area. Did factors - a water feature, or other trail of resources or accommodating topography, incline, slope, a series of semi-substantial features lead the snake within recognizable scent range?

These are the things that are striking my matches at your post. Not as an expert but just thinking out loud here.

User avatar
Gary2sons
Posts: 297
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
Location: Camden County, Missouri

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Gary2sons » November 21st, 2017, 10:39 pm

Image

I give up!!!!! Went to windows 10 a couple years ago and my computer hasn't been the same since! Especially my photos, completely changed around and difficult to navigate. Seems no way to down size!

Maybe you can still go to my photobucket and see them.

User avatar
Gary2sons
Posts: 297
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
Location: Camden County, Missouri

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Gary2sons » November 21st, 2017, 10:44 pm

Thanks Kelly for the insight!

As you can see the building was about 300 feet from where the snake was found in October. Found just inside the tree line. The pasture was about 3 feet high in September and then was mowed to about 6 inches. No water barriers or anything that would deter or somehow lead the snake back there. Also there is a 6 x6 room inside that building where the snake was kept all those years.

The snake had many choices on where to go but she came back to where she was kept for 13 years! Can there be any logical explanation?

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4317
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Kelly Mc » November 21st, 2017, 11:40 pm

To be more accurate, im holding a lighter up to the absolute coolness of this event.

:thumb:

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4317
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Kelly Mc » November 22nd, 2017, 9:51 am

Gary I cant help but see this as yet unexplained proof of how acute snakes are, i am sure someone knowledgeable about air currents, even barometric factors and snake travel could have valuable data to share, although it is a good distance it is a fairly intimate range to study.

If I were you I would make it a personal project to pore over every detail, in manageable increments, someone who has done that kind of work could give details on method of that, also or you could research.

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4317
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Kelly Mc » November 22nd, 2017, 10:12 am

Gary2sons wrote:Thanks Kelly for the insight!

As you can see the building was about 300 feet from where the snake was found in October. Found just inside the tree line. The pasture was about 3 feet high in September and then was mowed to about 6 inches. No water barriers or anything that would deter or somehow lead the snake back there. Also there is a 6 x6 room inside that building where the snake was kept all those years.

The snake had many choices on where to go but she came back to where she was kept for 13 years! Can there be any logical explanation?

I have an untested and perhaps untestable theory about captivity that I have called The Utopia Effect. It has to do with the habituated sense of security fostered in captivity. Simplified, it is an acquired effect of abundant resources + the learned feature of absent predation and perhaps environmental hardship.

Ok that is all for me. I am very honored to share my views in light of your fascinating event.

Thanks Gary and Happy Thanksgiving.

Oh, and you better keep that snake, she has given your care quite a compliment :thumb:

-Kelly

Edit to add/clarify - I do not think all captive keeping methodologies induce what I have described. Or anything pro or con. Just describing an effect that can happen in some situations.

User avatar
Gary2sons
Posts: 297
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
Location: Camden County, Missouri

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Gary2sons » November 22nd, 2017, 12:32 pm

Thanks again for the insight Kelly!

Your Utopia Effect theory is interesting. Have to say I agree but probably only happens in the rarest of circumstances.

I think she did have the best care. Was handled occasionally and that is also a long time to spend in the same cage.

And yes it would be hard to give he up now! Never went through an emotional roller coaster over a pet snake before :lol:

User avatar
Kelly Mc
Posts: 4317
Joined: October 18th, 2011, 12:03 pm

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Kelly Mc » November 22nd, 2017, 2:32 pm

Its great you have 2 Sons; what a wonderful family story.

You guys will always remember it. What a beautiful snake as well.

ADCIII
Posts: 100
Joined: August 26th, 2010, 9:56 am

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by ADCIII » December 10th, 2018, 3:15 pm

Any contact in 2018 on this remarkable story? Thanks, Art

User avatar
Gary2sons
Posts: 297
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
Location: Camden County, Missouri

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Gary2sons » December 14th, 2018, 5:58 pm

Art, no contact if you mean other people asking for more details. I know it is a little hard to believe! Not sure I would believe it myself! Almost has to be the smell that helped her find her way back home. I have seen several snakes but not milks over the years go under the concrete foundation. She could have easily made it back there and lived a long time without being seen. But somehow she made it not only back inside but on top of another cage in the month of November.

The pics of the building are in the January 22, 2018 post with some comments.


Another interesting fact was over the 3 months she was gone she went from 197 grams down to 150 grams. That leads me to believe she fed very little if at all while gone. This past summer she went back up to 195 grams. So evidently it wasn't old age :D

Have also thought that perhaps red milk snakes have a very small range. In the 18 years we have checked our AC almost all the adults have been found in about a 200 foot circle over our 8 acres. While juveniles have been found in a much larger area.

Thanks for the comment! Gary

User avatar
jonathan
Posts: 3627
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:39 am
Contact:

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by jonathan » December 23rd, 2018, 11:44 pm

In tracking burmese pythons in Bangladesh, we would take pythons that had preyed on ducks in villages and relocate them something like 7-10km away. A behavior that was observed at least once, and I believe repeatedly, was for a python to lounge around in the new locality for a month or two, and then make a beeline almost perfectly in the direction of the village it originally started in until it arrived back a few weeks later. In one case a python covered 1.5km of that distance in just three days.

I don't know if I got the exact distances/times correct but those numbers are broadly accurate. It was striking behavior.

Questions abound. Did something about the trauma of relocation lead the python to take a month or so to rest before it returned? Or was that the first moment that it knew where it was, perhaps it was only moving small distances in random directions until it sensed a clue that enabled it to recognize its location? And what was that clue - a particular scent, or a particular geographical feature, an old nesting locale or ambush location? And when it did realize where it was, how did it figure out which way was "back"?

Tamara D. McConnell
Posts: 2249
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:42 am

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Tamara D. McConnell » December 24th, 2018, 4:34 am

A few years ago, I heard birds out in the front yard making a commotion. Went out to check, and there was a young adult rat snake approaching a nest of baby birds. The bird parents were understandably upset. I wanted to redirect the snake, but didn't want to cheat it out of a meal, so I took it indoors, fed it a couple of f/t mice, then released it into the backyard, approx 100 yards from point of capture.
The following week, we found the same ratsnake (yes, it was quite obviously the same animal) in a closet in a bedroom. I don't know how it got in, but our house is somewhat old, so there's probably plenty of ways. I fed it a couple of mice and released it into the backyard, same place as before.
A few days later, we found the same ratsnake crawling up an interior back deck door, as if attempting to get back into the house. I fed it, of course, and put it back in the yard.
I thought this was kind of odd and also delightful.
Haven't seen the snake since, I hope it's doing well. I always keep a few extra frozen mice on hand, just in case of a return visit.

User avatar
Gary2sons
Posts: 297
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 3:44 pm
Location: Camden County, Missouri

Re: Very Unusual Red Milk Snake Story That Started in 2004!

Post by Gary2sons » December 24th, 2018, 3:53 pm

jonathan wrote:In tracking burmese pythons in Bangladesh, we would take pythons that had preyed on ducks in villages and relocate them something like 7-10km away. A behavior that was observed at least once, and I believe repeatedly, was for a python to lounge around in the new locality for a month or two, and then make a beeline almost perfectly in the direction of the village it originally started in until it arrived back a few weeks later. In one case a python covered 1.5km of that distance in just three days.

I don't know if I got the exact distances/times correct but those numbers are broadly accurate. It was striking behavior.

Questions abound. Did something about the trauma of relocation lead the python to take a month or so to rest before it returned? Or was that the first moment that it knew where it was, perhaps it was only moving small distances in random directions until it sensed a clue that enabled it to recognize its location? And what was that clue - a particular scent, or a particular geographical feature, an old nesting locale or ambush location? And when it did realize where it was, how did it figure out which way was "back"?

Thanks for the comment Jonathan!

Fascinating study on the pythons!! And no matter what caused the milk snake to come back it did find it's way. The cooler temps in November was likely a factor but like you say which way is back for the snake!

Post Reply