Thursday, April 25, 2013

Zea the Corn Snake

On April 22, the Animal Care department suffered an unexpected loss when staff found Zea, the well loved and colorful corn snake, dead in her enclosure.

Zea had been one of our most trouble free snakes, and in her last weeks appeared normal. She ate well, and was often seen in the same spots doing the same behaviors she had always done.

Zea came to Pacific Science Center in 2004, as a gift to the organization. We do not know her age upon arrival, but celebrated her “birthday” as the date we got her.

Zea took some time to learn the ways of Pacific Science Center. A corn snake who is not accustomed to being handled will often feel insecure while being held, and try to find her way back to the safety of her enclosure. Zea had a way of doing this, which she gradually overcame with scheduled socialization time from staff.

Finally we knew she felt confident in our routine when she developed a very odd and somewhat troublesome habit. You see, our Presentation staff transports snakes from their cages to the demonstration stage in a carrier. Zea soon developed a practice of using the carrier as a handy place to go to the "restroom" after the show. When she continued with the habit for several shows, we figured she had probably formed a connection with the carrier as a good place to do her business away from her cage. She was a smart snake!

When the handler she had been working with left the Science Center, the habit ended. Zea never did her little trick for anyone else.

One Presentation staff member describes Zea as a snake who was the model of a team player. She would snuggle into pockets or slide into the cuffs of sleeves, but always peeped her head out to watch the crowd who was watching her.

Without even trying, Zea taught many kids about genetics. Her colors were due to a form of albinism called an amelanistic mutation. Her body made red pigments but not black ones. This is why she lacked the dark markings seen on most corn snakes, and why her eyes were pink. Perhaps because their colors are so interesting, corn snakes are often less intimidating than other snake species.

Zea’s lovely markings and willingness to interact with her handlers endeared her to all who worked with her. We will miss her.

1 comment:

  1. So sad. Our jumpy little girl.... Another fun fact - Zea also ate a meal in front of Steven Hawking.