Blood "Types"

News and musings from TBC...

Taking Stock

TBC KO TBC KO on her 2023 Clutch

Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. - Truman Capote

This is a 100% het-T+ female that I hatched in 2013 and sold as a well-started juvenile. She exchanged hands at least twice before making her way back home. After a substantial QT period I decided to include her in this season’s lineup. Since she ovulated in mid-March, her behavior hasn’t been what I would expect to see from a gravid female, and today she confirmed my suspicions with 5 good eggs and 16 slugs.  While it’s disappointing to look at those slugs and consider what might have been, it’s a big reality of breeding snakes. Unfortunate outcomes like this reiterate why a clutch of eggs is only ever the gravy on top of good snake keeping - an event hoped and planned for, but never something to which we’re entitled.

Now the key is to dig into my data throughout the season, and understand what activities and environmental conditions contributed to her premature ovulation. This is a female that had been out of my collection for nearly a decade. Thankfully, she came away from this clutch with a minimal loss of condition. I now have a chance to unravel her individual quirks and rhythms over the next several seasons, and look forward to impressive clutches from her in the future. 
When I look at a situation like this I feel bad for all the effort the female went through for a failed outcome, but it's also one of those moments that prompts reflection on the "why" from season to season.  Do my choices for these animals continue to align with my vision, and even more so, my values? 

Thankfully, the answer is a resounding "Yes."  The collection is bursting at the seams with quality and every animal is in superb condition.  They're housed appropriately and comfortably, and our rodent colony is booming to ensure they're well fed.  I continue to cultivate relationships with other keepers and seek advice from mentors and trusted advisors who can actively discuss my values and goals, and aren't afraid to ask me tough questions.  I carefully screen potential homes to ensure the best outcome for the snakes hatched here, and educate keepers accordingly.  The ability and resources to keep these snakes at all are gifts, and not something I take lightly. 

It's been a phenomenal year so far with many first-time pairings and more on the way.  Every single pairing this year should produce offspring exponentially better than the parents.  It's just a few short weeks out from the first hatchlings, and days away from the last clutch of the season. In the grandest scheme of things, there's so much for which to be grateful.

Every single failure we face in life is an opportunity to learn, and it is only when we refuse to seize such opportunities that we have failed at all.  Here’s to next time.

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"Speak, friend, and enter..."

Photo-Jun-03-9-55-41-PM Our beautiful new Pollen male from CBE

So much of the enjoyment we draw from nearly any hobby is born of friendships formed along the way.  Geeking out over newly-hatched snakes is fun; the fun is redoubled when we text a pic to a beloved friend and receive an elated phone call in return. The best of these friends bolster our spirits when we're faced with life's inevitable valleys, and help hone our vision and drive as they push us to take our projects to even greater heights. To this point, they also help bust us out of our comfort zones and challenge us to level up as keepers and as people.  Even better is when these friendships are rooted in similar interests, but diverge into niche focuses that allow each of us to live vicariously through one another, all the while strategizing, sharing best practices, and cheering each other on along the way.

Nick Bottini of Cold-Blooded Earth (CBE) is one such friend of mine.  I've known Nick for more years than I'd almost care to admit at this point; I've watched him grow up in the hobby, work as a zookeeper where he met his amazing wife Kendra, and finally strike out on his own to work with blood & short-tailed pythons full time.  Over the years he has assembled an immaculate collection of animals with a focus on brongersmai color mutations as well as select breitensteini and curtus.  It's been a pleasure to see his collection level up year after year as he branches out into new color morphs and achieves fantastic combinations with his blood pythons.  His work with Golden Eyes and combos, Electrostatics, T+ albinos, Stripes, and now the Pied blood python project, has allowed me to live vicariously through his adventures with morphs and he never fails to impress from one season to the next. 

On the flip side, Nick has been wonderfully supportive of my obsession with breeding insanely red blood pythons.  Over the past two decades of keeping and breeding blood and short-tailed pythons my goals have been focused on: make the healthiest, most intensely pigmented, even-tempered animals possible. In doing so, the "normal" animals have been the basis of my program, and I haven't ventured much into color mutations outside of the T+ albinos and PE Stripes that have long been part of TBC's collection. Nick and I have batted ideas around over the years, with thoughts of, "Wouldn't XYZ bloodline look cool as a Golden Eye, or T+ stripe," or myriad other morphs. 

Infusing crazy color into various morph projects has always been a back-burner goal, with the primary focus on building consistency of color and type within a line while maintaining genetic diversity. Every season I think I should pick up a key morph or two, but haven't quite been ready to pull that trigger.  Part of the reason for this is that there are several great blood python breeders working with these morphs, and I enjoy seeing their successes without feeling a need to compete with them. I want to be able to cheer them on without encroaching upon their customer base by producing similar animals that aren't my primary interest...I'd rather refer potential customers to Nick & a handful of others than sell them that same color morph myself. There has been a reciprocal approach as well - I receive referrals each year from my "morph brethren" who send customers this direction looking for intensely colored red blood pythons. It's been a beneficial relationship for all involved, and we're able to help new keepers get started on the right foot to best enjoy their animals - a satisfying part of the journey.

Now along this journey of blood python-dom, new mutations have been established and introduced and collectively drooled over by breeders and hobbyists alike.  One such mutation is the Flower morph, first proven and established by Dave and Tracy Barker at Vida Preciosa International (VPI).  Flower blood pythons are intensely colored, with exquisite lace-like, filigree patterns.  They are incredibly beautiful, captivating creatures and still in the early stages of morph combinations; much remains to be discovered about their genetic potential, both in the homozygous Flower morph and its heterozygous form known as the Pollen trait. 

Nick has been working with Pollens in recent seasons and is well on his way toward various Pollen and Flower combos.  As such, they've been a frequent topic of conversation in our ongoing snake discussions, and Nick has done his best to gently nudge me in that direction as I've dreamed out loud about breeding them into my Raspberry and redheaded T+ albino lines. This week, Nick did more than nudge - he pushed me to level up with the addition of a handsome, richly colored yearling Pollen, also 66% possible-het for T+ albino. Nick recognized that I was hanging out in my comfort zone and gave me a hearty shove back out as he opened the doors to this project.  This is a dream realized after several years of refining bloodlines for the next chapter, and as such this lovely new snake needed a unique name befitting his stature here.  With a nod to J.R.R. Tolkien, it's my pleasure to introduce "Mellon," the Sindarin word for "friend." 


There's so much more to look forward to, and I'm grateful to Nick for giving me the push needed to take this next step!


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JoanCover An elemental moment.

"Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive."
-- Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

It's that time of year when social media becomes inundated with hatchling/neonate photos.  Reptile keepers of every ilk and species post pictures of beautiful babies and share their excitement over the next steps in their journey. I love seeing this enthusiasm and enjoyment of new life, of drawing closer to an end goal or future vision.  I commend these keepers who geek out over the newness of freshly-born reptiles, no matter what kind, and pray this enthusiasm always remains present in our hobby. So many keepers extoll this moment as "their favorite part" of breeding reptiles, and with the yearly onslaught of photos, it got this ol' gal a-thinking...

You can't scroll through the Internet these days without being exhorted to acknowledge "the journey" that is life.  We're advised to enjoy it, and recognize that "...a thousand miles begins with a single step."  As an online meme and cliche, the sentiment is almost mind-numbingly trite, but boiled down to its essence it means one thing: be present.  Without the awareness that presence requires, it's easy to become so focused on intended outcomes that we lose sight of the plans and processes that lead to them.  With presence and awareness (and introspection, and humility), the plans, processes, and moments are savored, appreciated, understood, and tucked away as lessons and fuel for future journeys.

"So, Kara," you ask, "Why all this quasi-philosophical rambling, and what does it have to do with snakes?" Well, dear reader, I'll tell you.  As this ol' gal was a-thinking about hatchling seasons and excited keepers, I was once again compelled to confront the fact that the first moments of pipping and hatching and piles of gooey baby snakes are actually not my favorite parts of breeding reptiles.  They're very high on the list (we're talking Willie-Nelson-concert high), but they still fall behind the splendor of mature blood pythons in their prime, and ultimately, females on clutches. 

There is nothing in the rhythm and routine of captive propagation that tops the sight of a beautiful female python coiled around a clutch of perfect, pristine eggs.  It's an elemental, almost sacred moment: the elongate, chiseled head resting protectively atop the clutch with an air of maternal wisdom. The quiet puffing of breath and curious tongue flicks as she shifts her coils and pushes against my hand, protesting my intrusion.  My humble awareness that aside from providing the correct environmental conditions, she needs no assistance from me throughout this entire process and could quite capably hatch the eggs on her own. My whispered promise as the clutch is gathered and safely tucked into the most stable incubator I could provide, "You've done your part, now I'll do mine."

Yes, I'm waxing poetic and anthropomorphizing a bit, but this event deserves no less than the intensity of emotion it elicits. Perfect clutches aren't guaranteed, and that fact makes me tremendously appreciative when they do arrive.  These females put forth a fantastic reproductive effort and the results thereof will shape the future of generations to come at TBC. I know what's in these eggs will eventually be mindblowing...right now I'm thankful that they've gone from possible to probable. In these moments I am keenly present, acutely aware, and exceedingly grateful for this step along the way.

2021 Breeding Season Updates

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YOU are part of the problem...

sombrahea_20201021-152828_1 Sly giving the side-eye to keepers who insult rather than educate.

In recent conversations with other blood/STP keepers, a common theme hit my radar: "People just don't take the time to research these animals anymore."  This is sadly undeniable; in a day and age when more good, accurate, tested husbandry information is available than ever before, too many keepers take a bare minimum approach.  They glean care information that is "just good enough" from a smattering of social media posts, then almost inevitably run into husbandry issues in a few short weeks or months.  Whether the snake won't eat, or has the beginning of an RI, or skin issues from improper conditions, it becomes apparent that something must be done.

At this point, these same keepers often return to social media. Perhaps this time they put a bit more effort into their research and seek out species-specific groups.  They join the group, demand to be spoon-fed solutions for their husbandry problem, and give one-word answers while experienced and concerned keepers play 20 Questions to determine the actual issue in hopes of offering a solid solution.   Somewhere in this exchange, another recent common theme predictably occurs: the uneducated meet the uncontent. 

Armed with memes, gifs, and sarcastic comments, a bevy of more-experienced-yet-less-considerate keepers responds by cutting the inexperienced keeper down.  They scoff, they roll eyes, they snark, and they attack. They put energy into responding only to lift themselves up by putting others down.  They feign concern for the animal, yet wallow in their apathy and offer no true solution or education.  When called out for their apathy, they hide behind comments like "This group has gotten soft," and otherwise voice their disdain for less-experienced keepers, while making zero effort to bolster the very community they pretend to defend. 

This group of blood python keepers hasn't gotten soft. THIS GROUP HAS GOTTEN LAZY.   While many of you sit around, making your internet sales and rolling your eyes at the "influx of noobs," you do NOTHING to ensure the next generation of keepers knows where to find the resources they need to help their animals live healthy lives.  Nobody is asking you to write the content.  That's been done.  The information is out there.  What we are asking you to do - what I am challenging you to do - is to stop being assholes at the expense of other peoples' animals.

Take a moment to educate.  Get someone pointed in the right direction.  Take the time to have courageous conversations with new keepers.  Use logic instead of emotion, and help people understand why they need to do better.  BE THE REASON someone is inspired to do better!  Show them what BETTER looks like, and help them feel like they can be a part of it, too.

Once you've done that on a consistent basis and the noob keeper blows you off, THEN, it is open season.  Until then, STOP BEING PART OF THE PROBLEM. Make an effort before you make an ass of yourself. The information is out there.  Just show them where to go.  #theconsciouskeeper

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