Fred, one of a pair of snakes I have, the other being Bob, a Rat Snake. Fred was a replacement for Flash (such an original name!), a red-sided garter snake [Thamnophis Sirtalis Parietalis] which I had looked after since getting him on 26/01/1998 (aged about 1 year) and his death on 14/03/2005 after wasting away for nearly a fortnight, which was hard to watch.
Fred was purchased from King's Reptiles in north London on 20/04/2005 along with Bob, a Rat Snake, and has been as well-behaved as could be expected from what was probably a wild-caught animal, as he's never liked being handled, unlike Flash who would wrap himself around my fingers and slither up my arm.
On Saturday 10/06/2006 I got the shock of my life when I went down for breakfast, as Fred was frantically trying to get out of his vivarium, and there was an odd smell as I approached. Hoping he hadn't somehow injured himself, I approached cautiously due to his panicked behaviour, to find the reason was more than apparent as there was a lot of congealed yellowish gunk all over the place, and many piles of wood-chippings were glued together… except one of them was moving. Oh my god, 'he' was actually a 'she', and she'd just given birth!
I had owned her for almost 14 months and she'd been in the shop at least 3-4 months prior to that, so what on earth was going on? I knew that garter snakes could give birth in summer based on the previous year's mating, but this length of time was extremely unusual, and why was there only a single baby when there should have been about half a dozen?
Rather then just clean up the remains of the sac (garter's don't lay eggs but give birth to live young), it was easiest and probably safest just to completely replace everything in the vivarium (it's cleaned regularly anyway, of course), then after waiting anxiously for King's to open I phoned and explained the situation. Given the length of time and the fact there was only a single baby, Simon's opinion (later supported by a colleague) was that this was the result of a rare but not unknown phenomenon that existed amongst certain reptiles and classes of snakes, including garter's, that of parthenogenesis. In effect, Fred had given birth to a clone of herself, and because there was no male sperm (and hence DNA) involved, the baby too would be female; neither should I be too surprised if the same thing occurred in another 2-3 years.
I cleaned baby as best I could, but even after soaking some of the newly-shed skin remained and it was best to leave it to fully dry out and fall or be teased off later. There was also the umbilical cord to be cut from the congealed fluid, as close to the body as I could. The actual process of looking after a new-born is very simple : a medium-sized food storage box was purchased and small holes drilled in the lid for ventilation, with a kitchen paper towel for bedding and a standard-sized jam-jar lid for a water bowl. Food was collected from King's on the Monday afternoon, consisting of very small frozen fish, to be fed in small slivers with a multi-vitamin supplement for the first few months, also to be given to mum, who would soon shed her own skin.
16 weeks and one day later, on 01/10/2006, the baby died, having refused all attempts at feeding (even when trying to provoke her to strike), and having tried absolutely everything that King's and the more reliable websites recommended.