Hoehfurtner, T., Wilkinson, A., Nagabaskaran, G. et al. 2021. Does the provision of environmental enrichment affect the behaviour and welfare of captive snakes? Applied Animal Behaviour Science 239, 105324.
There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating the benefits of environmental enrichment across a range of different animal species. However, there is comparatively little such research into the effect of enrichment provision on captive reptiles. The aim of this study was therefore to ascertain if an increase in environmental complexity was beneficial to the behaviour and welfare of corn snakes (Pantherophis guttatus). The study used a combination of behavioural observations in the home enclosure, behavioural tests of anxiety, and a preference test. The snakes used the enrichment when it was available to them and enriched snakes showed changes in general behaviour reflective of improved welfare. However, the anxiety tests revealed few effects of enrichment provision on performance. In contrast, the snakes exhibited a strong preference for the enriched enclosure when given a choice. These findings suggest that the provision of environmental complexity to the enclosure was beneficial to the behaviour and welfare of captive corn snakes. We therefore recommend enrichment should be used when keeping captive snakes.