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Cliff, the King Snake
updated: Dec 07, 2012, 8:57 PM

By Edhat Subscriber

We rescued a baby California King Snake (hatchling, probably 1 - 2 weeks old, approx. 12" long) from the base of the cliffs along Arroyo Burro beach. Probably would have drowned at the next high tide.

He now haunts a heated terrarium and we feed him goodies - yes, they eat little frozen mouses whole - (warning - photos attached).

He is a smilin' King!!

What should we do with him after he gets back on his "feet"?

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Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 351575 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 09:04 PM

Let him go in my yard


 COMMENT 351576P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 09:07 PM

Ask the curator at the Natural History museum. Great photos, cute snake.


 COMMENT 351577P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 09:11 PM

Call me weird, but he is adorable! Maybe you should eventually feed him some live mice to make sure he knows how to catch his food? Otherwise he will be looking for mouse-cicles out there when you release him!


 COMMENT 351578 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 09:37 PM

Maybe you should've let him drown? Not that I'm anti-saving-animals, but that's how they evolve and learn how to propagate as a species -- the ones who know to stay away from the ocean are successful. Interfering in the learning of evolution of a species maybe harms their learning curve? But to be honest, I might've done the same thing as you. Not sure it's helpful, though. Species learn through mistakes and that's what makes them survive stronger.


 COMMENT 351580P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 09:44 PM

The first photo made me double take - looked like he was eating a big toe (with red nail polish). I'm Glad you rescued him.


 COMMENT 351583P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 09:57 PM

1-2 weeks old and twelve inches?!!

Hope the mouse was well-defrosted, and that's good advice on "teaching" him to eat live prey. Keep an eye on the heating element after feeding - a friend had a snake die when the power cord was damaged, heat went off and snake couldn't digest.

If no herpetologists chime in here, do start by calling some reputable pet shops, I'm thinking the one on Broadmoor/upper State across from Farmer Boy (Sean at Sensational Pets (805) 898-1500) or the one on Calle Real -- The Pet House (805) 967-7716

At least you didn't find an iguana. Snakes are much easier.


 COMMENT 351586P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 10:24 PM

Happy to hear you''ll put him/her back into the wild.


 COMMENT 351587P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 10:28 PM

Good for you! Thanks for the rescue! He's a beautiful creature and no more than letting a dog run off the cliff, survival of the fittest!, should one leave a creature to drown.

As for what to do, how about returning him to the Wilcox area, if there's enough wild left there. Someone at the SBWCN probably would know what to do or could find someone who would know. I don't have their number and their web site hotline is not available via my iPad or iPhone, but you should be able to find it. Or call the zoo or the Museum of Natural History, ask for the reptile curator

Please report back what you do with "Cliff"!


 EDDIEKD agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 10:41 PM

Natureboy might have a point. But I think that there is also a chance some human-related activity caused the mother to perish, or led to him/her being stranded along the rocks. That, and odds are so tough for wildlife nowadays with cars, pavement, chemicals, global warming, etc. I am thinking it's OK to lend a helping hand. Kind of like trying to tip the scales in favor of the animals we've interfered with. Even if we help the losers and less than bright ones sometimes.


 COMMENT 351590 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 10:56 PM

EDDIEKID you certainly make a good point. It's hard to decide whether us humans should accept the effect we have on wildlife, or try to un-do that effect. We certainly do hamper their ability to exist in the natural world... Ugh. It's a difficult question to answer. But my ultimate answer is that, since we DO encroach into their world, that they should learn to evolve around us, as awful as that seems to be.


 COMMENT 351592 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 10:59 PM

And of course i meant "EDDIEKD"


 COMMENT 351595P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-07 11:12 PM

Eeek! Things like this are why I don't go to the beach! LOL!


 YIN YANG agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 12:48 AM

Here's the SB Wildlife Care Network #

RESCUE HOTLINE: 805.681.1080

Hope it can live in your neighborhood if it doesn't go to Wilcox!
Thanks for helping the snake.

(Nature Boy, I see a bit of your point, but how is the wildlife around us ever going to adapt to freeways and automobiles, let alone pollution?! Your screen name is so ironic on your posts in this thread. Not meant personally, just my point of view.)


 COMMENT 351603 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 02:21 AM

EDDIEKD. Your comment put a big, huge, goofy grin on my face. Boy, do I love snakes. All animals. And snakes are so, so cool.

@595P. Whatever you do, don't go to Australia. Loads of coastline/beaches and a plethora of snakes. Not just snakes and more snakes, but Aus also has one of the deadliest species of snakes found anywhere in the world.

Tip: Hawaii and New Zealand have no snakes, but then there's that coastline/beach issue again.

Why do people live in SB and not go to the beach? Must admit, I'm glad about it, though.


 COMMENT 351613 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 06:49 AM

While NATUREBOY makes a good point as relates to evolution I don't see how it relates to individual experiences. If mistakes made by individuals affected the entire species we'd have far fewer numbers than we do. Individuals learn from their mistakes/experiences not those of the collective clan/species. But the issue is really a lot deeper than a 400 character field can carry.


 SBBEEBOY agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 06:56 AM

Love the snake, and really love seeing 100% subscriber comments!


 COMMENT 351618 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 07:00 AM

Set the snake free at the north edge of the preserve. Dont feed it. Thanks for rescuing it

Are we not part of nature? Some seem to believe our "intelligence" sets us apart, snakes live in their world and should adapt to "ours" and we should adapt nature to suit our needs.

To paraphrase a previous poster child "But my ultimate answer is that, since [you] DO encroach into [my] world, that [you] should learn to evolve around [me], as awful as that seems to be.>

Can we consciously evolve past the anthropocentric and narcissistic frame of mind please.


 COMMENT 351653 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 08:32 AM

Technically, if this snake's evolutionary "fate" was to drown, removing it and keeping it in a terrarium will not affect its fitness in any way.

If it either dies or lives a life of solitude with no further chances to reproduce, its alleles still die with it.

Picking it up and moving it another, safe, place is actually further necessitating the anthropocentric idea that we are superior and can artificially select things as we please.


 COMMENT 351654 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 08:35 AM

Personally, and for completely selfish reasons... I'd raise it to full size, teaching it to catch live prey and then let it go in my yard. They are one of the Rattlesnakes few natural predators and I just recently found a similarly sized rattler in my kids play yard. I love California King snakes and wish I had more of them on my property!


 COMMENT 351684 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 09:25 AM

A snake on the beach is NOT lost.They hunt on the beach as other animals do.They can swim better than you and I and they eat their young.I havebeen surfing the area for 44 years and have seen many animals on the beach including deer, cows, and pigs.Last time I saw a kingsnake on the beach was at Jalama,and it was waiting for a swallow baby to fall out of one of the nests that was above it.Pretty smart if you ask me.Snakes are on there own after they are born,since they tend to eat one another.


 COMMENT 351685 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 09:26 AM

Beautiful creature, great postings, and--got to learn a new word! EdHat rules!


 COMMENT 351688 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 09:31 AM

Agree with 618, just release him, and instincts will do the rest! I once was sitting on the edge of the Santa Ynez River off Paradise road, and saw a HUGE king snake swim across and slither up the bluff-they are strong and agile. Beautiful animals!


 EDDIEKD agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 11:47 AM

Oh, good point, Natureboy. I think you've won me over to your point of view. After all, for better or worse, we too are animals, and part of the scene. We are certainly unique in the rough, messy left with our planetary footprints, but we are here to stay it seems. If we artificially prop up other species by rescuing the individuals the larger system would cull, the species ultimately suffers.
I love a well-reasoned argument!


 COMMENT 351733 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 12:21 PM

I've kept "wild" and captive born snakes for many years. I had a gopher snake for many years and always fed her live prey, no artificial heat, and she grew to be almost 6 feet long. I kept her as I was a science educator and could pass her around a large circle of children and she was super mellow. She taught a lot of people what snakes are really like and was a wonderful ambassador. But she should have stayed in the wild. Looking back, I would never keep a wild snake in captivity unless it could not be released due to a medical condition.

Once this one has eaten, I'd release it early on a warm day up on the Wilcox property.


 COMMENT 351736 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 12:43 PM

JOELOWPRO - +1. I, too, like to have King Snakes on my foothill property for Rattlesnake control and have brought several Kings home over the years when I have found them on roads.

The "King" is named the king for a reason. It is impervious to rattlesnake venom. Thus, when it comes upon a potential rattlesnake dinner the face-off begins.

The rattler attempts to envenomate the king and the king (a constrictor) will then squeeze the life out of its natural enemy. And then - B-U-U-R-R-P!


 COMMENT 351810 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-08 07:44 PM

I love Cliff! Thanks for sharing!


 COMMENT 352010 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-09 06:00 PM


Your understanding of evolution is errant in a number of ways. First evolution operates on populations, not individuals, so only a concerted effort to rescue snakes that would have drown will have any effect. Second, it would only have an effect if the might-have-drowned snakes have some genetic predisposition that other snakes don't. Third, it only matters if this snake is released and has offspring. Fourth ... it doesn't matter; if we stop rescuing snakes, the offspring with the drowning gene will drown and evolution will be right back on track (but evolution doesn't have a track).


 COMMENT 352319 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-10 01:01 PM

I'm surprised it has not been said since it is brought up in most other threads concerning wild animals, but isn't it illegal to do what the OP did? A snake on the beach is not in danger. A baby king is not lost or abandoned by its mother. They are on their own from the time they hatch. It probably wouldn't have drowned rather it likely would have climbed the rocks before the next high tide. Keeping it in captivity and feeding it thawed rodents is not healthy for the snake. The longer you keep it in this fabricated environment with artificial heat the harder it will be for it to reacclimate to its natural habitat. You should set it free asap.


 COMMENT 352361 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-12-10 02:08 PM

219: Yes, exactly. I was wondering how no one had mentioned that it's illegal to take/feed a wild snake either. If you are concerned for an animals welfare, you call someone who is licensed and knows how to care for the wild animal. You don't take it in, and ask a random online community how to care for it. PS: you're feeding a wild animal f/t pinkies (frozen/thawed newborn mice, for non-herpers). What the heck do you think you're doing?!?! Do you think he'll learn to hunt like that? Let him lose in your yard after you keep him for a while on f/t pinkies, and all you'll have is a dead snake in your yard. Call ART or WCN or some local organization and ask them what you should do, not edhat. Geez. Sorry for the rant, but really. If you found a baby bobcat, you wouldn't think to raise it like you would a kitten & then release it when it's grown & think it'd be just fine, would you?


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