Breeding Bush Vipers
August 15, 2000
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Breeding Two Bush Viper Species:
Atheris squamigera & A.chlorechis
Bush vipers have recently become quite popular in the pet trade and this is due, in part, to the numerous captive breedings done by their keepers. With more CB babies available more and more people are succumbing to the allure of these attractive snakes. While many breeders have had success with various (and contradicting) methods of breeding A. squamigera, I have heard that most people have not had luck captive breeding A. chlorechis. My brother, York, and I have witnessed several A. squamigera copulations and one of York's pairs produced a litter this year. Also, I bred a pair of A. chlorechis this year that produced a litter of babies. It is my hope to share my experiences with everyone who keeps either of these two species and is thinking of trying to breed them. A few general guidelines can be followed to better ensure successful breedings.
Obviously, the first thing that you need to do is make sure that you have a pair. Adult females of both species are quite a bit larger than males and may reach 24 inches in length, while the males may be only 16 inches in length. Babies and juveniles can be sexed by comparing their tails, though several snakes of the same size may be needed for comparison. The males' tails will generally be longer and taper slowly past the vent, while the females' will taper more dramatically. Probing does work (but may be dangerous to babies), while I have heard that "popping" of the tails does not work.
I believe that breeding these two species is dependent on three conditions: temperature, humidity, and pressure. In the wild these snakes do not experience seasonal changes as seen in the US, but instead experience wet and dry seasons. They would normally breed at the onset of the wet season (October) when pressure changes occur, temperatures drop, and the humidity rises. By manipulating these conditions you can get these two species to breed when you want them to.
I have had all copulations occur when the climate here in North Carolina is closest to mimicking a wet season: fall and spring. I keep the cages drier and warmer for our summer and wintertime, but open the windows in my snakeroom and mist the cages more often during the fall and spring. During these wetter, cooler periods is when breeding should occur.
Females will begin to feed ravenously in preparation of mating and when I am satisfied with a snake's health and size, I introduce a male into her cage. Introduction of the sexes usually takes place in May or in October. Temperatures should be in the mid 70's and I mist the cage once or twice daily. Courting pairs will spend considerable time together and may be witnessed sleeping on top of each other. Copulation with A. squamigera may occur more than once and may be witnessed by the observant keeper. Care must be taken, however, as the copulating pairs may be easily disturbed and upset. Although I had an A. chlorechis litter born this year and I believe that I have another gravid female, I have never witnessed any courting or copulation with this species. Even if copulation is not witnessed, pairs should be separated after a few weeks. I have witnessed a gravid A. squamigera kill her mate and have heard of other similar experiences by other keepers. I have not witnessed any aggressive behavior between the sexes of A. chlorechis, but I prefer to keep it that way and I separate them anyway.
Gravid females will continue to feed ravenously for several weeks after copulation, but then usually abruptly go off of food entirely. Meals should still be offered occasionally, but most will be refused. I offer heat with spotlights and gravid females may be observed basking regularly. Both species are viviparous and the live babies are born after six to seven months. Babies are tiny and will usually eat pinky parts (heads or hams) until they are large enough to eat whole pinks.
Hopefully, this article will help someone at some point in their experience with these two species. Only by sharing our experiences as a group will we learn more about our captive friends and their needs. Thank you for letting me share with you and I hope to hear from all you other SHHS members in the future. ~dm
Breeding Bush Vipers
by LEPIDUSMAN on November 12, 2000
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I have begun work with both subspecies of atheris, and they have proven to be very interesting. Thanks for the info, I'm sure those of us working with them will take into account the methods you are using, keep us informed also on how your pairs continue to breed. Could you also give us some insight on basking and temperatures during the cool period?
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