Eastern Ratsnake #21-3630

Admission Date: 
November 11, 2021
Location of Rescue: 
Greene County, VA
Cause of Admission / Condition: 
Patient Status: 
Current Patient

On the morning of November 11, a private citizen found an Eastern Ratsnake stuck in an air vent in their home in Ruckersville, Virginia.  The snake had entered the ductwork from an unknown access point and managed to squeeze the first few inches of its body through the grille of the air vent before becoming stuck.  The concerned citizen carefully detached the entire vent from the floor, contacted the Wildlife Center for assistance, and transported the snake to the Center where veterinary staff could safely remove it from the vent.

On admission, the veterinary team immediately anesthetized the snake and used pliers and metal cutters to widen the spaces between the grilles.  Dr. Emily, one of the Center’s veterinary interns, applied a lubricating gel that allowed her to gently pull the snake free without causing additional damage to its scales.  After freeing the Ratsnake, Dr. Emily performed a full physical examination and found a small laceration on the right side of its body and several roughened scales that had been damaged by the vent. Radiographs did not reveal any broken bones or additional injuries.  Dr. Emily sutured the laceration closed and started the snake on anti-inflammatory and pain medications as well as supportive fluids.  

The snake’s prognosis is guarded; while its injuries are relatively minor, there is a possibility that the snake could experience complications from its entrapment.  For now, the snake is being housed in the Center’s climate-controlled reptile room where the veterinary team will continue to closely monitor its injuries.

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January 26, 2022

Eastern Ratsnake #21-3630 continues its rehabilitation process at the Wildlife Center of Virginia after it was admitted more than two months ago.  The laceration that the patient had sustained from being trapped in the air vent has healed appropriately, and the snake recently shed without complications.  Often, injuries to the body and scales of a snake can make a successful shed more difficult.

Although the ratsnake’s primary injuries have resolved, state rehabilitation permitting conditions require that any reptile or amphibian admitted into a rehabilitator’s care after October 1 must be overwintered until Spring the following year. This is because reptiles and amphibians—collectively known as herptiles—need time to acclimate to the colder weather in order to enter a stable state of dormancy to survive the winter months. The Wildlife Center of Virginia is currently housing around 29 reptiles this Winter. 

One challenge the rehabilitation team faces during this months-long process is to ensure that overwintering patients receive adequate enrichment.  The stress of captivity can make it difficult for many wildlife patients to thrive while being rehabilitated, and providing enrichment can make it easier for these animals to endure an extended stay in a hospital setting.  Rehabilitation staff at the Wildlife Center work to make sure that the enclosures of reptile patients contain features that allow the recovering patients to hide and explore in order to keep them stimulated and less stressed.  These features can be natural objects such as rocks or small logs, or they can be made from basic materials such as newspaper or cardboard as long as they have been disinfected and are safe for the animal.

This Eastern Ratsnake still has a few more months before it can be released, but the staff at the Wildlife Center of Virginia will do their best to make that time as easy as possible for all overwintering patients.

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