The Persian Ratsnake (Zamenis persicus) has been found inhabit a relatively small range. They are
native to Northern & Northwestern Iran & Lenkoran District, Azerbaijan along the Caspian sea.
Found in the coastal mountain ranges, they have been found to live at elevations between 500 and
Persian ratsnake habitats are areas with dense vegetation, predominantly deciduous forests in
mountainous regions. These areas are found to be light to moderately moist. They have also been
found within human settlements, in houses and gardens.
SIZE & DESCRIPTION:
Persian ratsnakes are a small snake with an average adult size of 28" - 36" and rarely up to 47"
These snakes have an elongated head with minimal distinction from their neck. They have a rounded
snout that averages in length about 2 1/2 times their eye diameter. Tongue is dark in colour with light
Persian ratsnakes exist in a Melanistic phase (predominantly black with minimal white found on the
nape), Gray phase ( light - dark grey or grayish brown with brownish dorsal bloches), Red Phase
(rarely found more of a reddish brown), and Piebald ( Rare in collections)
HANDLING & TEMPERAMENT:
These that I keep are very docile. They are very comfortable being handled and will remain content
coiled around your hand for hours. I have never encountered any act of aggression with these
snakes at all.
They are inquisitive and an absolute joy to handle.
Persian snakes very much enjoy climbing and do best in a arboreal type set up.
They often prefer to both rest and hide above ground, some climbing branches are recommended.
As a small snake the enclosure needs only be a moderate size.
Moderately moist conditions are ideal.
A variety of substrates can be used. Personally I use a blend of cypress mulch, coconut fibre, and
I also provide a humid hide half filled with damp sphagnum moss.
Others have simply used aspen with a humid hide provided with success.
WATER & HUMIDITY:
A water bowl with fresh water should always be provided. It doesn’t need to be large, as I have never
observed my Persians soaking in it.
Humidity should be moderate, with a high humid hide also being provided.
Lightly mist occasionally.
TEMPERATURE & LIGHTING:
Persian ratsnakes come from cooler climates and need to be kept cooler than many other colubrids.
They like their temperature much the same as we do. Mid 70’s - around 81 degrees is ideal. A gradient
may be provided. High 60's -low 70' is fine for a night time temperature drop.
I keep mine at room temperature with no additional heating as the temperature in my house falls
within this range.
For lighting there is a window in the room that they are kept in that provides a normal light cycle.
Nothing more is required.
FEEDING & DIET:
First off it should be stressed here that as these snakes thrive in a cooler environment they digest at
a slower rate and need to be fed smaller meals. Many snakes eat larger meals that leave a significant
bulge in them after ingestion. This should not be the case with Persia ratsnakes. Metabolically they
are slower without the added heat source to aid in the digestion. Food items should not exceed the
girth of their body.
I feed mine a mouse or rat once every 7 days. The exception to this regiment is when they a visibly in
shed or when in brumation.
For adults a hopper mouse or a rat pink is simply left in a dish anywhere in the enclosure. Although
they don’t eat readily in front of me the food item is almost always gone when I check back in 20
Hatchlings can sometimes be difficult to get started. Some eat with no problems at all. Others
especially those born in the fall often refuse to eat until after being brumated.
I implement a brumation period of approximately 3 months. In late November I gradually bring the
temperature down slowly. I use an area under my basement staircase that is insulated, has a
concrete floor and 1 exterior wall. Depending on the outside temperatures I get temperatures from 70
degrees at the door to 50 degrees at the exterior wall. I gradually move them back towards the
exterior wall when brumation starts and back toward the door starting in the beginning of March. The
majority of that time is right at the back wall with temperatures between 45-55 degrees.
Fresh water is provided during brumation. No food is offer during this time. I am always sure to
provide a thick layer of substrate for them to burrow in during this period.
BREEDING & REPRODUCTION:
I have yet to breed mine, 2011 will be the first attempt.
Here is my understanding after reading what I could find and talking to a few that have bred them.
Most Persians are ready to breed in their third year. Breeding is done after the brumation period. I
begin feeding in around the second - third week of March. Temperatures at this time are in around
the low 70’s. Around mid May males are introduced to the females. Females are not always
receptive. Should this be the case remove the male and try again in a few days.
It is normal for the male to bite the female on the back of the neck during copulation.
Mating usually happens in the spring, late April or May. When you notice the female’s eyes clouding
up and her getting ready for her pre-lay shed, provide a moist lay bin/hide. My preference here is
sphagnum moss. Once the female has shed she will deposit her eggs in the lay bin in a period of 1-3
weeks. 4-8eggs are laid
After a 50 day gestation period her eggs will be laid. Eggs should be removed after being laid and
prepared for incubation. For this use small food saver Tupperware available from the local dollar
store. Small holes, 4 of them in total, should be drilled into the corners of the container. The bottom
of the container then needs to have a incubation medium placed. Use either vermiculite or perlite,
both work well. Eggs are placed partially buried within the medium and loosely covered with lightly
moistened sphagnum moss. Eggs are then incubated at 77-80 degrees with a humidity level of 95%.
The eggs will begin to hatch in about 50-60 days give or take.
If you like a sharp contrast, deep midnight black and pure white in a small docile snake that is a joy
to handle with ease of care this is the snake for you.
I haven't found anyone who isn't completely blown away and left wanting one after being introduced
up close and personal.
By: Jeff Moniz