By Rus Wilson
Adapting 8-12 g Reptilinks for Tiny Garter Snakes
I started using Reptilinks almost a year ago, for our first snake. The young hypomelanistic corn snake took a 8-12g quail/rabbit link the first day we offered one, after we scented the link with a fuzzy mouse. It wasn’t long before the snake recognized unscented links as food. He was a bit small for his age when we got him, but has been growing steadily...he was about 60-70 grams when he started on the links, and is now quickly approaching 300 grams, with lots of growing to do yet! His sheds, which were not always in one piece when we first got him, are now invariably perfect. He is glossy and gorgeous.
When I recently acquired a reverse trio of very young juvenile California Red-Sided Garters, it was only natural to contemplate incorporating Reptilinks into their diet as well. The 8-12 gram links I had on hand for our corn snake were obviously much too large. If you haven’t worked with neonate garters before, they are tiny...too small by far to even think about taking a pinky mouse.
When I purchased the snakes, the breeder informed me that they had been eating live earthworms and small pieces of F/T pinkies. Naturally, I started out by offering these same foods, both of which they took very eagerly when I offered them.
Though earthworms are a natural food item for wild garter snakes, worms require supplementation, as they are not nutritionally complete. They are also more difficult to obtain in the cold months of the year. Pinkies are a much more nutritious staple than earthworms, but I had seen how Reptilinks had benefitted my corn snake, and wanted my little garter trio to get the same nutritional benefits. Needless to say, though mice will certainly make up a part of my garters’ future diet, and I am certainly willing to chop up pinkies for my garters when needed, it is not my favorite activity.
I thought about ordering some of the frog micro links, since frogs are a very natural food for many garter snakes, including red-sided garters. I may very well order some soon, but as I was thinking of options, inspiration struck: why not slice open a defrosted quail-rabbit link, and offer appropriately sized pieces of it to the garters? I sent a message via the chat function on the Reptilinks page, to ask their opinion of offering small pieces of a Reptilink. They indicated that I could go ahead and try it.
The next time I thawed a couple of links for my corn snake, I cut off a about 1/4th of one of them and removed the casing. I then fashioned the small link portion, as if it were modeling-clay, into small, worm-like shapes, approximately the diameter of real earthworms, but much shorter. I offered the remainder of the link to the corn snake, who, of course, obligingly gulped it down.
I was interested to see how the garters would react to the my improvised micro links, without scenting of any kind. I proffered the first piece to the female, the largest of the diminutive trio. Within seconds, she grabbed the link-worm and gobbled it down. She is a voracious little noodle!
The two male garters required a little more persuasion. Since I do not use pesticides on my lawn, I went out to the backyard and dug up a couple of earthworms. I gave the earthworms a good rinse in tap water to remove the dirt. Then, I put the earthworms in a two-ounce deli cup along with the miniature linklets. Both snakes became interested immediately, their little tongues flicking. Within moments, they had downed their Reptilink portions as well. Success with all three on the first attempt!
The three have since taken to the Reptilink ‘worms’ even more readily. For their most recent feeding, I did not need to scent the links with earthworms. The wee garters will even follow the tongs up onto my hands in their eagerness to eat.
I am sorely tempted to try frog micro links with my juvenile garters—I may well do so with my next order—but I am excited that my garters, as tiny as they are, were almost immediately able to reap the benefits of the nutrition offered by Reptilinks.
Check out my Garter Snake Update Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BceYoDs-iio