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SNAKE SEX DETERMINATION
There are a few different ways to try to determine the sex of snakes; none of them are foolproof. Even experienced herpetologists and veterinarians are occasionally wrong.
The age at which a snake reaches sexual maturity is an important consideration. The closer the snake is to sexual maturity, the more likely the sex determination is to be accurate, and vice versa.
In boas and pythons the age of sexual maturity depends partly on weight. In boas, it is 1.5 years (with power feeding) to 4 years, and males reach it a year earlier than females. In pythons, it is 1.5 years (with power feeding) to 3 years.
In corn snakes, the age of sexual maturity is 1.5 to 2 years.
Sexual dimorphism (the males visibly different from the females) is not dramatic in snakes, but it does exist. In males, the base of the tail is wider, the tail is longer; boas and pythons have anal spurs and they are longer in males. Females usually have a large body size than males.
Probing is passing a lubricated probe into the vent and directing it back towards the tail. The probe will pass farther into the tail in males than females. In females the probe will pass 2 to 4 scales and in males 8 or more scales. As a rule, if the snake is probed as a male that result is more likely to be correct than if the snake is probed as a female.
It is possible to injure the snake with probing, so a careful, gentle touch is needed and experience is helpful.
For very young snakes, some herpetologists will do cloacal popping. They place pressure on the underside of the base of the tail in an attempt to have the hemipenes pop out. Care is needed; as with cloacal probing, it is possible to accidentally injure the pet.
Yarmouth Veterinary Center
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