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, 9 (2), 85-109

Environmental Enrichment Alters the Behavioral Profile of Ratsnakes (Elaphe)

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Environmental Enrichment Alters the Behavioral Profile of Ratsnakes (Elaphe)

Lynn M Almli et al. J Appl Anim Welf Sci.

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of environmentally enriched and standard laboratory housing conditions on behavioral performance in 16 subadult ratsnakes (Elaphe obsoleta) using a split-clutch design. In a problem-solving task, snakes housed in enriched environments (EC) exhibited shorter latencies to the goal hole as compared to snakes housed in standard conditions (SC). In an open field task, EC snakes tended to habituate more quickly than SC snakes with repeated testing. A feeding task did not reveal any significant differences between EC and SC snakes. A discriminant function analysis correctly assigned all snakes to their appropriate housing treatment groups, based on the responses in each of the behavioral tasks. This suggests that each group had a distinct behavioral profile; that is, EC snakes were more behaviorally adaptive than SC snakes. This study demonstrated that housing conditions can affect the behavior of captive snakes and produce improvements in behavior similar to those seen in mammalian enrichment studies.

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