Diet options for captive snakes are limited at the commercial level. Sausage diets can be developed that allow for the use of alternative protein sources (e.g., insect based) and address issues related to the feeder mice industry (e.g., expense, calorie dense, injuries from live prey, and zoonoses). In this 4-month-long cross-over feeding trial, juvenile male corn snakes (n = 9; Pantherophis guttatus) were fed either an experimental insect-based sausage diet or a frozen-thawed mouse. Each diet was fed for 2 months during the cross-over study. Snakes were fed twice weekly at 15% of their body weight. If snakes refused to eat, force feeding was instituted. Physical examinations and morphometrics, including weight, snout–vent length, tail length, and girth, were measured at the beginning and end of each 2 month period. Feces were collected to assess apparent digestibility of both diets, and palatability was determined by consistent voluntary ingestion. There were no significant changes between diet groups regarding health or growth parameters of snakes. Changes in weight were significant, but only as a factor of time (F = 14.083, P = 0.003). Sodium (–54.15%) and iron (10.4%) for the sausage diet and copper (20.15%) and manganese (–10.1%) from the frozen mouse diet were poorly digested. In regard to palatability, willingness to eat the offered diet on a consistent basis was significantly lower for the snakes receiving the sausage diet (P = 0.028). The results of this study suggest that insect-based sausages can be used to diversify captive snake diets as long as palatability is addressed.
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