A perfect tiny little Northern Brownsnake just made my day. As soon as I saw her, I fell in love. She must be a few months old. Born this springtime. Gorgeous silvery-pewter colour. Perfect little head, smaller than half the size of my pinky fingernail. Alert and unbelievably cute.
I’m not sure why she was brought in to TWC. Senior staff member D said that she didn’t find anything wrong with her. But now that it’s November and she is not in hibernation, she might have to stay at TWC over winter until it is warm enough to release her back into the wild.
So I set up a little enclosure for her. A small aquarium with a very, very fine double mesh lid. Bricks to hold down the lid securely. Newspaper on the bottom, then filled the aquarium about two inches high with coconut substrate.
Why coconut substrate? It’s like a cross between soil and a very fine mulch. The fibers are soft, naturally anti-microbial, very absorbent, resist mold, and it is great for burrowing into. The alternative would have been paper towel bottom with shredded paper for the little snake to move around in. Not nearly as nice for her.
After setting the substrate, I put in a hide for her. A plastic dome that looks like a rock with a cave opening on one side. And I found a small plastic box with round entrance/exit hole in one end, to be her humidity box. Substrate was placed in it up to the hole, I dampened that substrate, and placed the box in her enclosure. A small water dish, made from a clean blue plastic jar lid, was filled halfway with water and placed in a corner.
D then brought her out from the Assessment room. She was hiding and staying warm in the folds of a towel that was in the small critter carrier for her, until we moved her into her new enclosure.
Once she was safely moved, I got her two micro mealworms and two phoenix worms, and D found a tiny baby earthworm. We put these in the enclosure so she would have something to eat when she felt ready. It’s hard to find food small enough for her! Her head is smaller than the eraser on a mechanical pencil.
She brought back memories of Long John Slither, my childhood pet. When I was little, I studied snakes and I had asked my mom for one for more than a year. She thought it was a phase that would pass. We ended up purchasing Slither, a Garder Snake, from a local pet store when he was a tiny baby.
L. J. Slither was a beloved family member with us for 4 or 5 years when I was in elementary school. I still have photo albums of his sheddings and photos of us together. Seeing this sweet little wild brownsnake, I couldn’t help think of Slither. Of course, this little one will be at the TWC only until it is safe for her to be returned to her home in the urban wild.
Northern Brownsnakes, a.k.a. Dekay’s Brownsnakes, are pretty common in Ontario. Smaller than other snakes. And totally harmless. I have only seen snakes in the daytime, so I didn’t realize until now that they are mostly (though not totally) nocturnal. This one is too young for the rows of dots down her back to be visible yet.
Her enclosure was placed on a heating pad in front of the viewing window. So that people bringing in new patients, and visitors to the Toronto Wildlife Centre, can see this beautiful little brownsnake while she is with us.