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Red-tailed Green Ratsnake Care Sheet

Common Name: Red-tailed Green Ratsnake; Red-tailed Racer

 

Scientific Name: Gonyosoma oxycephalum

 

Group or Family: Colubridae

 

PR Keeper Level: 4

 

PR Handler Level: Red

 

Species Background/Natural History: This is a diurnal, arboreal species, usually found in trees and bushes bordering mangrove swamps and the banks of rivers. They frequently raid bird nests, but are also capable of catching birds in flight. This species is frequently imported for the pet trade, though it has been bred in captivity since the late 1950s.

 

Physical Description: A very long and slender-bodied snake, red-tailed green ratsnakes are most commonly green, with black skin between scales that shows during threat displays. Despite the name, the tail can also be lavender or gray-blue. There are also naturally occurring “silver” and “orange” colored morphs from Java, Indonesia. All color variants have large, green eyes and a black tongue with blue-striped edges. They can grow up to 7.5 feet long.

 

Distribution: Southeast Asia (India, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia)

 

Lifespan: 15 years

 

Caging: Enclosures should be spacious and tall to accommodate the arboreal habits of this species. A bark or mulch substrate should be used to maintain humidity, and several climbing branches should be used. Fake greenery can also help provide cover for this shy species.

 

Cage Décor: Branches are required to facilitate climbing. Greenery is recommended to provide cover.

 

Temperature: 77-84°F

 

Heating and Lighting: A light source is not required, but under-tank heating is recommended.

 

Humidity and Water: 80-90% - Daily spraying helps maintain humidity and also provides water droplets for drinking (arboreal species sometimes do not drink from water bowls).

 

Diet and Feeding: Neonates and juveniles can be a challenge as they sometimes will not eat pinkies. Adults will generally take f/t rodents, but wild-caught individuals may only accept birds.

 

Supplements: None required.

 

Breeding: Breeding pairs can be kept together year-round, and can potentially produce 1-4 clutches of 3-8 eggs throughout the year. Incubation time at 79°F is approximately 3 months (97-106 days). Humidity should remain high to prevent the eggs from drying out.

 

Handling your new pet: Gonyosoma are renowned for having a poor temperament. This is a very fast species, and handling is not recommended. Defensive behaviors include a slow tongue flick, tail rattling, throat inflation and gaping, as well as musking. They are particularly prone to striking.

 

PR Comments: This is a very visual species – they will watch your movements carefully. In most cases, red-tailed racers tend to be shy and thus do not make for good display animals. Imported specimens often have damaged noses from pushing against their enclosures, resulting in white scarring and even loss of the rostral scale.