When Alice arrived shortly before I started For Pete’s Snakes, she was a nervous, sassy baby who thought I wanted to eat her. 😂 Most of my animals were adult or juvenile adoptions, so Alice was my first opportunity to raise a hatchling and put my socialization methodology to the test. Could I transform this sassy little boa into an educational ambassador for children?
Socialization a gradual process, but there’s two very simple things I do that seem very effective on babies. Firstly, if they demonstrate any defensiveness whatsoever (gaping, hissing or striking) they immediately get picked up & handled. Backing off would reinforce the defensive behaviour, so I scoop them up immediately. I’m likely to get bitten or musked, but almost ALL snakes, wild or pets, will calm down once they realize they’re not being harmed. Once they’ve calmed, I immediately let them return to their enclosure. When doing so, the second key thing is to let them leave my hand to return to safety at their own leisure. I don’t coax them or pinch their tails to scare them into moving quicker. My intention is to condition the snake to understand that handling is a temporary experience, and they’ll soon be able to return to safety.
The results have been amazing! With time & patience, Alice has been growing more & more tolerant of humans. The first time I took her on an outing, she served as an excellent example of a semi-arboreal species, but I didn’t permit any handling. At her second outing, the group was so gentle with the other snakes, I allowed Alice to climb from my hand to some of the older children for a bit.
Gradually, over the course of the past two years, Alice has become one of my most important ambassadors and a fan-favourite for many! ❤ After seeing her many antics on social media, parents ask for her by name. 😊 So many have fallen in love with her gendle, plodding nature, and the way she nuzzles in once she’s found a secure, comfortable spot… and there’s no hug quite like a boa-hug 🤗🥰
Without even knowing it, YOU have been key in her socialization, as well! The gentleness and affection you have shown to Alice has reinforced everything I’ve tried to teach her, and helped her to accept that humans are not dangerous. Thank you for loving Alice like I do! ❤ And thank you, Alice, for being such an amazing ambassador! You have changed so many hearts & minds, I couldn’t possibly be more proud of you!! 🥰😊