Thamnophis eques cuitzeoensis (Conant, 2003); The Lake Cuitzeo Garter Snake
Length and size of Thamnophis eques cuitzeoensis
T.eques is a very large and heavily built gartersnake and Conant (2003) had set the new record for T.eques (obscurus) at 121,6 cm total length. Especially female Thamnophis eques can grow very large and heavy. In fact adult female T.eques are the largest gartersnakes I have ever seen. The only garter snake that really grows to much larger size is Thamnophis gigas from California. The new record for T.eques is now set at 130,7 cm (Bol, 2012).
When I compare T.e.cuitzeoensis with T.e.scotti and T.e.obscurus so far I have the impression that cuitzeoensis remains somewhat smaller and the juveniles do not grow as fast as the other 2 subspecies. My females were 91 – 97 cm at an age of 3 and 5 years, the males were 80 – 86 cm at an age of 3 and 5 years.
The Lake Cuitzeo Gartersnake does very well in captivity. Due to its large size its recommended to keep them in a terrarium with a minimum size (for one adult couple) of 100 x 50 x 50 cm. They do well in a dry and well ventilated cage with just a water bowl for swimming and drinking. The water bowl should be big enough for them to submerge in. Local temperatures in the terrarium should rise to 30 – 35 °C.
A very nice and attractive way for keeping this species is giving them a very large aqua terrarium with a lot of water. The dry part could consist of a floating plateau.
The cage should be very well ventilated and the dry land part should be kept at 30 – 35 °C during day time so the snakes can bask and completely dry.
T.e.cuitzeoensis are good feeders and relatively easy to keep. They tend to be relatively shy although especially the captive bred specimens often lose much of their shyness when they grow older. In certain times of the year, especially in spring and fall, the snakes show themselves a lot basking on a branch under the lamp. Especially when the terrarium is not so warm and the snakes need to bask on the hottest spot to reach their optimal body temperatures. When you move too much however they will often retreat in their hiding spots.
So observing the snakes in the terrarium is almost like you do observations in the wild. A hibernation will not be absolutely necessary although it is expected that they will have a resting period in nature when they are less active.
A cool period in the terrarium of 2 – 3 months will probably be sufficient to keep the snakes in good health and to stimulate breeding. Up to now I hardly give the snakes a hibernation. But the snakes are clearly less active in the coldest winter months; they bask less and often refuse to eat for several months. So do not worry when this happens. Night temperatures in my snake room (and in the terrariums) drop at night to 8 – 12 °C. I keep my adult snakes in a completely dry terrarium with a water bowl. This species is also very suitable for a so-called “aqua-terrarium” with a lots of water and only a small (completely dry!) land part which is heated by a powerful lamp to 30 – 35 °C. In such a habitat terrarium the highly aquatic snakes will show more of their natural behavior.
When fed with life fish one should be able to observe a unique hunting technique (that I have personally never witnessed) which the snakes use in the wild (Conant, 2003). The snakes float in a single looped position, head submersed near the tail. They wiggle their tales as a lure to attract fish.
The young are usually born in my terrariums in June or July.
Sometimes females have a second clutch in October.
My recent article about Thamnophis eques scotti that can be found online in english on this website can serve as a standard recommendation (caresheet) how to care of Thamnophis eques cuitzeoensis.