Snake wrangler helps mum hatch her very lucky brood
SOUTH Grafton snake wrangler Paul Jones is delighted to be playing midwife to a carpet snake and her brood of eggs he took charge of at Southgate earlier this week.
Mr Jones, a WIRES carer, has special affinity for the reptiles and he has owned a pet carpet snake, Jacqueline, for 25 years.
He said he stepped in for this snake and her eggs when farmhands slashing a paddock near the Southgate Ferry found her.
"She was lucky, they had not set the height of the slasher low enough to hurt her," Mr Jones said.
"The saw the eggs and found the snake nearby and called me."
Mr Jones gathered up the eggs in a box, and kept the mother with them.
"Sometimes carpet snakes will leave the eggs once they've been disturbed," he said.
"But she has stuck with them and I'll keep her with them."
He said if he notices any sign of rejection, he has an incubator where he can hatch the brood.
While the female carpet snake is a devoted mother when it comes to caring for her eggs, her mood changes after hatching.
"The young leave the area pretty quickly and can fend for themselves virtually straight away," Mr Jones said.
"If they stick around, mum will eat them. She's been sitting on the nest for weeks without eating, so she's starving.
"Anything is food."
He said incubation can take 12 to 14 weeks.
But he was not sure how far this snake was through this period. Mr Jones said when the brood hatches, all the snakes will be returned to the wild.
Girls hot, males cool
Herpetologists (snake scientists) know the temperatures at which snake eggs are incubated at least partly determines their sex.
This is a technique favoured by many egg-laying reptiles, especially crocodiles, turtles and some lizards.
In snakes, it seems the hotter temperatures during incubation produce females, and cooler ones favour males.
The female snake wraps around her clutch of eggs and by "shivering" can raise the temperature by 10 degrees.
Eggs on the outside of the clutch become hotter.
Those in the middle remain cooler.
Mum also provides moisture for the eggs to stop them from drying out.