Our animals are a male and a female Crotalus cerastes cercobombus.
We bought the male, captive bred in Germany in 1993, in February of 1996. The animal was and still is about 40 cm long. It was placed in a terrarium measuring 100x50x50 cm (wxdxh).
This terrarium was heated using a 60-Watt lightbulb, which was placed over a rocky cave.
As a substrate we used sand. Rocks, cactus wood were placed in the terrarium as decoration. And not forgetting a small water container.
The DTH (Day Time High) temperature was 35 Celsius under the lightbulb and 22 Celsius at the other end of the terrarium.
NTL (Night Time Low) temperature was 20 Celsius.
The male is a moderate eater who eats about six mice between two winterrests. After we had the male for about six months, we bought a beautiful looking female at a snake convention.
We could not be happier, but the very next morning she died. Several months later we bought ten one-month old juveniles.
Each animal was placed in a transparent shoebox with sand as a substrate, a hiding box and a water container. These shoeboxes were placed on a heating strip. In the beginning all the animals refused to eat, but after several force-feeding they all took pinkies willingly.
Prey was offered every seven to ten days and the juveniles did well. When the animals were about four months old they began to die one by one. Within a two day period they were all dead. After examination there was no cause found. All the young snakes ate well and died within two days. If there's anyone out there who has any idea why, please let us know. After this great disappointment we bought an adult female in October of 1998. Because we knew the owner and had seen the animal lots of times at his house we were sure we could place the two animals together.
Well, that was a hit. We introduced the female to the male at 1800 hrs and ten minutes later they were in copula until 11.20 hrs the next morning. This kind of mating was observed daily over a long period and when the animals were placed in hibernation there were 162 hours of mating on the record. The female had eaten the entire time, sometimes even during mating. The animals were placed in winterrest in November of 1998 at a constant temperature of 15 Celsius. In March the animals were placed back in the terrarium with the normal heating protocol. The female started eating right away but the male only wanted to mate. Maybe this is the time to mention that according to Ren Thijssen no two males can be kept together. He has observed that some males, who were kept together for a long time, started to bite each other severely for no apparent reason.
The actual breeding:
In the next weeks, We observed numerous matings. The female always stayed in the warm area of the terrarium and ate everything she could catch. She became heavier and on the 24th of June she laid eight infertile eggs. After we cleaned the terrarium I offered her two mice, which she took like there was no tomorrow. Much to my surprise, the two lovers were in copula the next morning. To be short, in October there were another 130 hours of mating on the record. But what went wrong the last time? Was one of the animals infertile or was the female already pregnant and did the eggs die during the winterrest? After discussing this with our friend Ren Thijssen we decided to try the following procedure. The animals were not placed in winterrest and a 15-Watt heating pad was placed under the rocky cave, which was left on permanently. The lightbulb was burning on the normal time schedule.
This gave the animals the chance to select their favourite spot. It was curious to see that the female stayed in the cool area of the terrarium almost all of the time. The animals just kept on mating and both kept takin food. In the beginning of March the female became extremely heavy. With a length of 52 cm, at mid-body she measured about 20 cm around. From March on she stayed on the heating pad at night with the rear end of her body, but as soon as the light went on she went to the cooler area. Her eating habit was ferocious, two to three mice were taken and if we were not careful, she would steal the mouse from the male.
From the end of April on she stayed almost constantly on the heating pad. Only with the extreme temperatures in the first two weeks of May she would sometimes leave the hotspot. On the 9th of May she refused food for the first time since 1998. She stayed near a mouse, with her head resting on it, as if she wanted to save it for later. After two days we removed the smelly mouse and she instantly moved to the warm end of the terrarium.
On the morning of May 14th, 2000 we noticed that the lightbulb was not working. Since it was 28 Celsius outside we decided to replace it later. When we opened the terrarium (after checking with a flashlight where the animals were) we could see the female dropping a young at the cool end. This was at about 21.00 hrs. We decided not to disturb the female and to check every hour. About 23.50 hrs the female was done giving birth. Surprisingly, the male was in the far end of the terrarium all this time, while normally they were together constantly. We took the adults out of the terrarium. The normally docile female was very aggressive at this time. We then took out all the rocks, flagstones, cactusplants and watercontainer (very carefully) to find the newly born. The result was twelve live young and five infertile eggs. The juveniles were placed in shoeboxes with a small drinking container and a shelter. The boxes were placed on a heating pad. As a substrate we used corn, which we use for the adults too, for about a year now. Now we have to wait and see if we can get the juveniles to grow to the adult stage. We already got a good tip from Rene Thijssen. He has bought several young sidewinders in the past and they all survived. One of his tricks is to give all the juveniles a drop of water on the mouth with a pipette on a regular bases. Placing a drop of water on the juveniles' mouth will sometimes trigger them to start drinking. We can't say if this method works, but it is worth trying. Our experience with young Bitis shows that young snakes of this species have to learn how to drink. In all rattlesnake literature it is said that C.cerastes get all the moisture they need from the prey animals that they eat (perhaps not).
We like to thank Rene Thijssen for his advice.
In 2001 we had a litter of 17 hatchlings.