Monday, September 5, 2011

Fox Snake Eggs Hatching

At the end of June Fridley Police found a Fox snake in the parking lot at a local hospital and brought it to Springbrook.  On July 13 the small snake laid 8 large eggs.  On September 1st, after 50 days of incubation, the eggs started to hatch all at once.  You can see the slits in the leathery eggs made by an egg 'tooth.' Lots of fluid is released from the holes, and the hatchlings wait a day to absorb the remaining yolk sac before leaving the egg.

You can see the one above is 'tasting' the air with its tongue, and then emerges further out of the egg when all seems safe.  The dark material on the egg is vermiculite from the moist incubating bed I kept the eggs in. The bubbles come from all the fluiod in the eggs and the babies breathing after they make the slits in the eggs.

Fox snake eggs stick to each other when laid, so you see them here as they were laid.
While all the eggs started to hatch at the same time, some babies took longer to emerge than others.  The eggs on either side of this one are empty and have begun to dry and shrivel up.  The ones to the lower left are still occupied, so are still moist and pliable.

Within minutes after I took this picture the snake emerged from the egg and sat on top of the eggs.  The eggs are 2 1/2 inches long, and the snakes are 12 inches long.  Hard to imagine how they fit into what seems a little egg.
At about seven days old the young snakes will shed their skins, getting rid of the left over egg smell on their bodies.  After they shed they will be hungry, and looking for a meal of baby mice, or something similar.

The babies are totally on their own.  The mother snake leaves the eggs after laying them and never sees them again. The baby snakes will turn the more traditional brown pattern color over the next few years.