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Ball Python Care

By: Dr. Steve Divers

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The ball or royal python is a small, stout constrictor with a short tail. The natural coloration is dark brown to almost black, with large irregular tan patches that often have a lighter, more yellow edge. A tan line runs from the snout to the angle of the jaw, through the eye. Recently, selective breeding has produced various color morphs including albino and pie-bald.

Ball pythons are found throughout the scrublands and forests of central and western Africa. This species is crepuscular in nature and often resides within tree stumps or in burrows, close to fresh water. Largely active during the darker hours, this python feeds on small birds and rodents, especially the agouti Nile rat, which more closely resembles a brown-grey gerbil than an albino lab mouse.

This snake rarely exceeds 5 feet (1.5m) and is typically 3 feet to 4 feet (1.0 to 1.2m) in length. It is heavily built and often weighs 2 to 4.5 pounds (1 to 2kg). These snakes can be long lived and easily reach teenage years. Some specimens have survived for more than 20 years in captivity, and their choice as a pet is a serious and responsible undertaking.

Although commonly kept in captivity, until recently breeding success has been very poor. In many cases this was due to the lack of interest in a species that was imported in large numbers and had little monetary value. Fortunately, with the advent of some highly prized color phases, prices are higher, and breeding efforts have been intensified. Breeding is possible from 2 years of age, but it is advisable to allow snakes to mature more slowly and attempt breeding from 4 to 5 years.

Common Diseases

  • Anorexia (often stress related)
  • Dysecdysis and retained spectacles (poor skin shedding)
  • Stomatitis (bacterial mouth rot)
  • Bacterial or fungal skin disease, including abscesses
  • Respiratory disease (pneumonia)
  • Snake mites and, in wild caught animals, ticks
  • Obesity in well adapted non-breeding adults
  • Neurological diseases (IBD)
  • Internal parasites (especially wild caught animals)
  • Subspectacular abscess
  • Trauma (e.g. dropped, skin laceration)
  • Constipation

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