Is aspen safe for baby sandboas?

Dear VPI,

I have a question about Kenyan sandboas. I just had a litter while I was away on vacation, 7 alive and fine, 7 dead, and 6 slugs. I was expecting this, so I had a friend watching out for the litter while I was away. I use aspen shavings and for the first time this year of breeding them I didn't put the female on newspaper or paper towel. The babies that were dead seemed fine size wise, they seemed well-formed. Is it possible that they dried out and died due to the aspen shavings?  

My friend didn't get to the babies till about 4 pm Friday and I was thinking they were probably born that morning because he checked every morning.

 I would love to know your views on this situation, Should I have stayed with the newspaper and paper towel verse keeping her in aspen for birth purposes?? Thanks so much, Sebastian


Dear Sebastian,

I don’t think that aspen is the problem. We’ve always kept gravid females in aspen and we’ve never seen problems. I am a big fan of the stuff and have used it since 1977. Every litter I’ve had since 1984 has been born in the aspen and some of the babies were not found for days.  

In my own experience with Kenyan sandboas, it's amazing to me that I’ve never had a dead or deformed baby—not one! I wish I could say that about some of the other species we’ve worked with. All of those babies have been born in aspen.

Of course, female sandboas are reported to eat infertile egg masses, and it’s possible that they might eat dead babies too; maybe I have had some dead young born and they were consumed before I found them. However, our sandboa litters are usually so big (20+ live healthy babies) that there couldn’t have been many slugs or dead babies.  

So far as I’ve seen, little sandboas seem to do just fine in aspen. We even set up all the babies in a shallow layer of aspen as soon as we take them from their mother's cage.  DGB