DeKay's Brown Snake Pet

Yesterday, while doing yard work, I stumbled across an absolutely adorable DeKay’s Brown Snake. They are probably the most common snake in my area, and I have found at least fifteen in my yard in the past three years. Anyways, I haven’t had a pet herp in about three years (because of my mom), but I think I would like to keep this one. It will give me something to do during quarantine, and I think my mom may consent to keeping him/her. I’ve done a bunch of research but have a few questions:
So far, he/she has eaten really well. I put in three appropriately sized earthworms in with it, and it has already eaten two. Other than earthworms, what would you suggest as supplementary feeding?
From what I could read, this snake is not sexually dimorphic. Does anyone have any (even unreliable) ways to guess gender? (This is just for naming lol)
Lastly, does anyone have any tank ideas? I haven’t been able to find any good examples on Google!

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Before diving in please make sure to check the laws in your state, many native species are protected and illegal to own as pets with fines up to $1000, and as responsible owners our role here should be to promote and encourage LEGAL ownership.


I don’t recommend keeping wild caught animals native to your area. Most of the time you need a license/permit for it. On top of that, taking a wild animal out of their natural habitat that they are clearly thriving in just seems wrong. I say release the little one where you found it and get a captive bred snake that will be legal to own.


Definitely checked local laws! I am able to keep up to either 3 or 5 native reptiles, as long as they are not considered endangered. I also can’t keep any of the three venomous snakes we have. But I can keep other snakes, lizards, and even box turtles are allowed!

Unfortunately, his home was most definitely demolished after yard work. He was living in our massive yard waste pile which was brought to the dump, and the spot where he was found was used as compost for our new food garden. My state does not require a permit to own him, just to export. From what I’ve observed with these snakes (considering how many individuals I have found around my house and neighborhood), they keep to smaller, established territories, which unfortunately got destroyed.
Also, for some odd reason my mom is against me purchasing any herp, but is ok with me keeping wild caught ones. This little one is extremely friendly and eating very well, but I understand the aversion to keeping wild-caught herps.

Then release him close to where you found him, in a relatively safe area. You aren’t rescuing this animal or doing it any favors by keeping it from being able to live and reproduce some day in the wild. It will find another area to call “home” easily enough. We have a responsibility as herpers to keep the wild populations of animals stable and booming, and if people suddenly choose to start taking animals out of the wild without thinking of the long term consequences then we will eventually have a decline. Chances are there may already be a decline because of deforestation. Think of the conversation side of things, and always remember this phrase; just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. If your mom is against you buying one, then do the responsible thing and wait until you move out. Don’t potentially break the law (most states still require some sort of hunting license to collect them) and disturb wild populations just because it is the easiest and quickest way to get what you want. Also, they don’t keep territories, they stay where food is. They are also good at finding food when other sources run out, the snake will be fine even if you were to release it far away.


I’m gonna respectfully disagree.

As a kid something that helped me grow and learn was keeping little bugs and critters I found all over the place. If the animal is living comfortably I see no harm in keeping it not saying your point is completely invalid but people keeping one individual of a common species here and there is not a major problem. I get that we aren’t “kids,” but IF the animal is eating and seems to be getting along ok I really don’t see a huge issue


I get what you’re saying but if conservation is the reason we shouldn’t do it there’s about 1,000 things people should stop doing first. That’s kind of like the soft opening argument to the whole PETA thing and if you follow that logic you eventually get to the heart of their true beliefs which would be people should not own animals period. Anything you could say about taking that guy out of his environment etc you could say about ball pythons or anything else we keep, they’re just more generations removed from it.

I don’t think you should keep it long term the rest of its life or anything but if it is healthy and you want to hang on to it awhile and observe him…and it’s not endangered or illegal to keep…AND your parents are ok with it I would say enjoy your time with the little guy and try and learn something new.


Also if you do keep it for awhile and send it on it’s way in favor of a domestically produced species remember to disinfect the enclosure thoroughly

Thank you! I’ll be sure to. He just ate a snail today, and is the most friendly snake I’ve handled since the scarlet kingsnake I raised from a day-old hatchling. If I put my hand in the tank, he wraps around my finger and just hangs out, with no prompting from me.

I agree about what you said with the ball pythons. Especially as this is the most common snake in my area, it is completely legal for me to own him without any permit or license, and he is very healthy, I think that keeping him a bit won’t hurt. I share the same mentality: as a rule, captive-bred individuals are always better and more ethical, but wild-caught isn’t necessarily bad if it is one individual from a stable or over crowded (which is more likely in my situation. There are very many near me) population. How else would we have gotten captive bred individuals in the first place?

And thank you again for the advice! I can’t wait to see what he’ll teach me!

Being a conservationist is different than PETA by a long shot. Captive bred animals are available for a lot of animals, and most morphs of ball pythons wouldn’t do well in the wild due to their colors. On top of the fact that it is usually illegal to release animals that were born in captivity into the wild due to the chance of them not only dying, but potentially introducing new pathogens into wild populations. This is another reason why releasing a long term captive animal is also regulated in many states. Here in Indy releasing long term captives is illegal for a lot of animals. If they don’t release it now it might be bad to do it later. Captive bred animals aren’t touching wild populations which is why they are by far better than wild caught, no matter the conversation status. Things like ball pythons are rarely ever taken out of the wild now because we have so many captive bred animals. I am against wild caught unless you are an experienced breeder looking to start a breeding program so they stop getting taken out of the wild, or a Zoo that is also looking to get a breeding program started. Even as a kid I knew the importance of leaving wild animals alone, and even when I found a frog I would love to keep, I let it go. Catch and release was my way of learning about animals as a kid. Especially since you do need a hunting & fishing license to collect native animals here.

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The laws here state that a ‘long term captive’ is an animal kept for longer than six months. If I ever kept an animal even close to that long, it was a permanent pet. When I lived in Georgia, the neighborhood brought me the cat-attacked lizards, and I would fix them up and either release them, or keep them. I only had one long term ‘keep’ that was wild-caught, because she had spinal damage from a cat attack and couldn’t hunt without help. When I moved, I gave her to an experienced reptile owner friend of mine, where she still lives.
I understand what releasing long terms does to the wild populations, and what releasing pets does as well. I have found half-dead pet turtles and snakes before and had to bring them to rescues. However, this snake was not a bumblebee ball. Also, ball pythons were originally all wild-caught, for many years. I understand that captive is better, however 1) that isn’t an option for me right now and 2) the species is not threatened at all. There is an overabundance of these snakes. I catch and release often, but this particular animal I wanted to keep, even just for a few days.

No offence intended, I didn’t ask about the ethics of wild caught snakes. I have made my own ethical considerations on the matter, and I believe that this is an instance that does not cause harm to any party involved. The snake is very happy, is eating, shows no signs of nose rubbing or other signs of cage stress, and is very friendly, not to mention came from a large community. It is completely legal in my state, though even if it was not, I hold both a hunting and fishing license. Neither are required in my state, but I am, nonetheless, fully within my legal bounds.
I just really wanted advice on supplimentary feeding and sexing.

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The only way to sex a snake is to pop or probe them. Chances are you won’t be able to do either since it is small enough to need to eat earthworms. As for more food items, other bugs that offer more nutrition and vitamins. Anything with an exoskeleton would work. However, it may still lead to some sort of vitamin deficiency so I advise putting some vitamin powder that you would use for lizards either on the food or mixed in the water for him. If he is big enough and you think he will take a pinkie mouse then I recommend trying that. You could also try feeding him the head of a pinkie mouse. Sounds gross, but it would be a small but much more nutritious meal than bugs.

Sounds great! Thank you for the advice! I had a feeling it would be impractical to try to sex it, but I was just curious :grin:
I’ll definitely keep an eye on calcium. I have powder, so I can try coating the worms before feeding. He hasn’t eaten in front of me though, so we’ll see how that goes.
Ditto on the pinky head. If I can get him eating either in front of me or from tongs, that sounds like a great idea! He’s really tiny (the species is, as a whole, but I think I’ll stick with ‘he’, as they tend to be smaller??), but I have no reservations thawing a pinky and cutting it into bite-sized pieces.
As for insects, I was planning on putting a small colony of isopods in the terrarium in order to make it more naturalistic and easy to clean. Do you think the snake may eat these as well, in addition to things like mealworms, snails, and earthworms?
Thanks again!

Found one as well and let my son keep it for several weeks before letting it go. It was a very cool and gentle creature which was great exposure for my son and daughter. After letting it go, we wish we kept it but are now going to be purchasing a baby hognose :slight_smile:


I still have him! (I decided to label it a ‘him’, it just felt better than ‘it’ and I felt like he exuded masculine energy lol) His name is Basil, and he is the coolest little dude ever. He’s one of the easiest feeders of any reptile I’ve had, feasting on worms, grubs, and invertebrates. After a few days of acclimation, he pops his head out of his burrow every day for pets, and loves climbing the sticks and things in his enclosure. Even my mom loves him, and she hates snakes!! He really is the coolest little dude.

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Perhaps your mom seeing how this snake is will be a gateway for you to buy a snake that has been captive bred. I know done decisions are fear base which doing baby steps like this can help one get over their fears just like an arachniphobe watching spider videos might get over their own.
Either way glad the little guy is eating ^^

I don’t think she’ll let me get a captive bred while I live in her house lol. I plan on getting cresties when I move out soon tho!! Also, just a quick update: he has been eating consistently twice a week from tongs. He has gotten a little bigger! Also, he learned his name so when I come out to the garage and call out to him, he comes out to greet me. I was worried when last Sunday he didn’t come out for food, and when I did find him and offer it he didn’t want to take it, but this morning I went out and there was a perfect, intact shed! I was so excited because he had all the hallmarks of a well-adjusted animal- no nose rubbing, eating well, good-looking waste, no stress in his environment or around people or with handling, and now a healthy shed!