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Ball Python Care

By: Dr. Steve Divers

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Suitability

Ball pythons have enjoyed popularity largely because of their relatively small size and placid demeanor. In fact, many specimens, especially wild caught animals, are timid and will often become anorectic for prolonged periods if subjected to the stresses of poor husbandry and frequent handling. In many cases, these snakes prefer to be undisturbed and handled infrequently but, unlike some other boid snakes, seldom resort to striking an owner with whom they have not had recent interaction.

As a pet, the ball python is undemanding and if adaptive to captivity, will do well with basic care. Long periods of anorexia can be a cause for concern and are usually stress or seasonal in origin. All snakes can excrete Salmonella and, therefore, routine personal hygiene and the supervision of all child-snake interactions are important.

Behavior

This species is a crepuscular, timid animal that prefers the quiet privacy of a hideout and hunts for small mammals at night. They do not appreciate human interaction, and although many will tolerate handling, some will become stressed, maladapted to the captive environment, and anorectic to the point of starvation. They are strong, able climbers and accomplished escape artists, so vivaria must be secure.

Dietary Needs

Pythons can eat freshly killed or frozen-defrosted rodents, no larger than the snake's girth. Adult mice are suitable, but for those that dislike the artificial diet, an adult gerbil is more akin to their natural prey and often accepted. Supplementation is not routinely required and food should be offered late in the evening to coincide with the snake's natural hunting instincts.

Well-adjusted captive adults that do not exercise or breed can become obese so feeding intervals of 5 to 7 days for neonates, 7 to 10 days for juveniles and 10 to 21 days for non-breeding adults are recommended. Breeding adults, especially females, may need to be fed every 7 to 10 days to reclaim lost body condition after egg production, laying and, if permitted, natural brooding.

Fresh water should always be available in a large, heavy bowl that is sufficient for bathing and yet cannot be overturned.

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