Please note, this is not a tutorial on how to sex snakes. This is not a skill you can learn from reading it, it really should be shown to you in person so you can get the feel of it. Reading does not give you the feel for it, nor describe exactly how much pressure to use. This is simply an explanation of the various methods we use to sex snakes here at Mason Exotics.
Male snakes have what it called a Hemipenes. So called because they have two! They run down each side of the tail, and are inverted – turned inside out for storage and protection. When they are mating, their tail wraps round the female’s tail, and the closest of the pair comes out of he opening, which is called the Cloaca. Females do not have this organ, so what you can feel inside her is the scent glands. These are relatively short, so you can tell what sex the snake is by the length of whatever you can feel inside.
This is the first method we try with any snake. It involves feeling the tail for the hemipenes in the male, or scent glands in the female. When you run your finger down the snakes tail at the right pressure, you can feel what is inside. With a female, you will be able to feel the scent glands, of around a centimetre long. With the male you can feel his hemipenes, a bit longer, maybe 2-3 centimetres long (dependent on the size of the snake!). This is much easier to do in younger snakes, as older snakes build up muscle, even in the tail, so they can be harder to sex. This method also does not cause damage to the snake, and can be used to sex hatchlings straight from the egg, or neonates (baby snakes from a live bearing species such as boas) at birth.
This is the next method to try, if pinging does not work. It involves popping out the organs that are just inside the tail. This should not be attempted withough an experienced snake person there to guide you, as you can cause damage if done incorrectly. When it pops out, if it is female, you will be seeing the scent glands. These are pale pink, and usually around a centimetre or so long in older snakes, smaller in hatchlings. Males hemipenes will be longer, and usually bright red. the whole thing does not come out, but you do not need to see if all. Males also have scent glands, so watching for two sets of something coming out us is usually a good indication. This method is only good for smaller snakes, as older snakes have more developed muscles, so can resist popping.
This is the last method we try, as it can cause the most damage. It involves using a metal tool, called a probe, to gently probe inside the snake. the distance it goes inside is measured against the scales. Two to three subcaudal scales deep (the scales on the underside of the tail) and it is normally female, as you are feeling the scent glands. Five or more and it is usually a male. If done incorrectly, the probe can cause damage inside the snake, including going through the end of the scent gland. As well as mis-sexing, this can cause permanent damage to the snake. This is why probing should only be done by someone with experience, and should noly be taught in person so that you can get a feel for the pressures needed.
As said before, this is not a guide on how to sex snakes, it is merely an explanation of the different methods used. Snakes bred here are sexed multiple times before being offered for sale, normally using the pinging method on small snakes, with them being popped to double check when they are a bit bigger, just before sale.