My son's pet California King snake is acting very odd. Does anybody have an experience with this behavior in snakes? The snake is about 6-7 years old, bred in captivity. We've had him since he was a little less than a year old. He is 4 feet long and eats 1 adult mouse (frozen) a week at this time of year. Google turns up a handful of snake forum posts describing this same behavior, but no real answers.
Sunday night we found him chewing on his own tail - a few inches up from the end. We had just fed him 3 days prior, but he had shed his skin the week before and he normally won't eat in the last week or two when he is shedding. So we thought he was just over excited in feeding mode after the break from eating and mistook his tail for another snake. We gave him another mouse and all seemed back to normal.
Last night he was latched on to his tail again, this time a little farther up. He is not swallowing his tail from the end like he would if he was ingesting something. He is biting himself from the side. Taking him out of the acquarium, holding him in front of a fan, and dunking him in his water bowl did not get him to release. There was blood on his tail too from where he was biting himself. We tried feeding again, and even that didn't get him to release. Thinking maybe his fangs got stuck, I used a plastic spoon and gently worked it under his upper jaw, which did finally get him to let go his tail. After zooming around the aquarium for a few minutes, agitated and striking at the sides, he noticed the mouse and ate. After that he seemed more or less back to normal and this morning he is quietly relaxing in his rock digesting the mouse.
I have found the local exotic vet but before racking up a vet bill I thought I'd ask here. We've looked the snake over closely and don't see any signs of mites. Physically, he seems fine - no obvious sign that he may be in distress - other than the biting himself thing. His home is a 20 gallon aquarium, with is 24 inches long. The snake is 48 inches long. By the book, that might be little small of an enclosure, but the snake has been 4 feet long for 3-4 years and has never shown any sign of not thriving in his current environment. He has hollow rock to hide in, plenty of clean substrate to burrow in, a water bowl that he can soak in, and a fake branch to climb on. In short - everything a captive king snake should need. Plus my son does take him out regularly. We don't see any sign of mites, and constipation is not the issue either. The next thing to try I think is a larger enclosure, but I'm not really convinced of that being the problem.
(Posted on COD's behalf.)