Aging in snakes: Results of long-term captivity on rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis oreganus) predatory behavior



Conservation, scientific study, rehabilitation, and public education concerning animals often require or take advantage of captive individuals. The long-term effects of captivity may affect the success and strategies used in such programs. For reptiles in particular, little is known about the effects of long-term captivity. We compared the predatory behavior of the same eight Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes before and after 7 years in captivity. We found few changes in predatory behavior. Most changes were in the rate of tongue flicks before the strike and during recovery of prey; these changes seemed related to accommodation of the snakes to conditions of captivity. However, most aspects of rattlesnake predatory behavior remained unchanged, including the normal ability to target the prey accurately and kill it quickly. Although the snakes had spent over half their lives in captivity and reached a relatively old age, their ability to strike, dispatch, and relocate prey normally was relatively unaffected by captivity or by aging. © 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.