Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Ball Python!
Are you a fan of snakes? Or do you think of scary slithering creatures that you would jump up screaming at the sight of? Well, whether they fascinate you or terrify you, they actually dominate a large part of the reptile pet industry! One of the most popular pet constrictor snakes is the Ball Python Python regius. They are popular due to their passive nature, relatively small size, and their beautiful patterning.
The Ball Python may actually be the most popular pet snake. It received its name from the fact that it curls up in a ball when feeling defensive. In Europe they are generally called Royal Pythons. They very rarely display aggression and have a quite docile nature, which makes them an ideal pet. They are good for beginners and children. They move slowly and can live 20 to 30 years. These pythons are mostly shy and they are small for constrictors, only reaching 3-5 feet in adulthood. They are less expensive than other constrictors as well. In the wild they can naturally occur as albinos. This is rare but many breeders are now trying to reproduce the Albino Ball Python in captivity. They are slowly succeeding but this variation is much more expensive and harder to come by than the typically colored ball python.
In 1802 the Ball Python was first described by Shaw. They originate from almost all areas of Africa. Their habitats include dry areas of open forests, agricultural areas and grasslands. Although captive breeding of these snakes in the United States has increased in popularity, a large portion of them are still imported from Africa. Wild specimens are imported most commonly from Tongo, Ghana, and Benin. These snakes are also on the IUCN Red List for Endangered Species and are listed as Least Concern (LC). They are listed as only least concern because they are suspected to have a declining population due to human involvement but it is not quite large enough that they are threatened as a species yet.
When first picking out your new Ball Python you will want to thoroughly inspect it for possible health problems. This is because they are notorious for having problems while they are young, especially imported wild specimens. Sometimes young ball pythons will refuse to eat for long time periods or have respiratory problems. Check your new snake for a high level of alertness, clean eyes and clean vent, and a rounded body. Also make sure they are not wheezing and that there are no signs of bubbles in the nostrils. Other general problems to look out for are mites and ticks, blisters and mouth rot. If a snake has any of these things, do not purchase it. Read Animal-World’s Ball Python Ailments for more information.
Ball Pythons are constrictors, meaning their primary means of feeding are to bite and strangle to death their food by constricting around it. Their diet should consist of small rodents such as mice and small rats. They only need to be fed once a week. When you first obtain a young ball python, provide them with baby “fuzzy” or “pinky” mice. As they grow they will gradually eat larger mice and then rats. Young snakes may not eat right away when first put in a new environment so you will want to give them time to adjust to their new home. Many snakes also do not like to eat after being handled so you will want to wait to handle them until a while after they have eaten. Also, provide them with a fairly large clean water dish for drinking and soaking in.
Obviously, with these guys reaching up to 5 feet in length you will want to prepare their enclosure and make sure it is large enough for their full-grown size. This should be at least 36” long by 18” wide. The bottom can be covered with mulch or aspen bedding or just simply paper towels. They like places to hide and sleep, such as a box or flowerpot. Their home should include both a warm side and a cool side. The cooler side should be 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and the warmer side closer to 88 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep it warmer just put in a heating pad made for snakes. Keep their cage clean of feces.
If you are looking for a snake which is docile and good-tempered, a Ball Python is definitely a good snake to think about!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.