Eastern Ratsnake #16-2319

Admission Date: 
October 20, 2016
Release Date: 
May 4, 2017
Location of Rescue: 
King and Queen County
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
GI obstruction/swallowed a golf ball
Patient Status: 
Patient Archive

On October 19, an Eastern Ratsnake was rescued on a property in King and Queen County, where the homeowner observed the snake with a bulge in its abdomen in mid-September and again in mid-October. The homeowner thought the bulge hadn't moved and later noticed that a golf ball she placed in the chicken coop was missing (people will sometimes place golf balls or wooden eggs in coops to encourage chickens to lay eggs in a particular place). The rescuers captured the snake and brought it to a local animal hospital for an assessment. The snake was transferred to the Wildlife Center on October 20 and was admitted as patient #16-2319.

Radiographs at the Wildlife Center revealed an opacity in the snake's small intestines. Eastern Ratsnakes frequently eat eggs in the wild; occasionally, they confuse egg-like objects (e.g. golf balls) for food. The snake's gastrointestinal tract becomes obstructed and surgical intervention is necessary.

Dr. Ernesto performed surgery on the snake on October 21 to remove the golf ball, and the snake recovered well after surgery.

The veterinary team force-fed the snake a liquid diet every other day for a week following surgery; the liquid diet ensured that the sutures in the abdomen were not affected by solid food but that the snake would receive adequate nutrition to recover.

By October 30, the snake was healed well enough to eat whole food; the staff offered snake #16-2319 a dead mouse, but the snake did not show interest. They will offer a mouse again in several days.

The snake will remain at the Wildlife Center for the winter; reptiles cannot be released after October 1 because many species will prepare for a winter dormancy and would not survive in cold weather. In the spring, the snake will be released on the same property where it was rescued.

Your special donation will help the Center to provide care to this snake ... and to the 2,500 sick, injured, and orphaned wild animals the Center will treat this year.


May 9, 2017

On May 4, Eastern Ratsnake #16-2319's initial rescuer transported the snake to the King and Queen County, VA. The snake (nicknamed "Arnold Slither" by his rescuers, in honor of the famous golfer Arnold Palmer) slithered off into a wooded area after being released.

Video Still, courtesy of Cassie Williams -- initial rescuer

April 13, 2017

Through the winter, Eastern Ratsnake #16-2319 ate well and his incisions continued to heal. The staff reports that he is bright, alert, and feisty.

Ratsnake #16-2319 will remain under weekly evaluations until his surgical site heals completely and he is passing stool regularly.

Eastern Ratsnake #16-2319 is beginning to shed his skin in the above photo.

The rehabilitation permit conditions in Virginia (as well as the natural history of reptiles) dictate that reptiles should not be released before May 1; releasing reptiles too early in the spring could jeopardize their ability to survive if temperatures are not warm enough. The snake will remain at the hospital until at least May 1, and will be assessed for release this spring.

November 9, 2016

The veterinary team has been assessing daily how well Eastern Ratsnake #16-2319's surgical site is healing. On November 3, the snake's incision opened up and needed to be re-sutured.

The snake was offered a mouse the same day, and the vet staff tracked the progress of the mouse in the snake's gastrointestinal tract; they were able to palpate the mouse externally in the snake's abdomen and could see a lump. By November 5, the mouse was no longer palpable and the snake passed feces on November 7 after completely digesting the mouse. This indicates that the snake's digestive tract is healing well post surgery.

The staff will continue to monitor the snake's incision and appetite. Eastern Ratsnake #16-2319 will be offered bi-weekly meals beginning in mid-November.