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Ball Python

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4.3/5

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Is the Ball Python right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Royal Python; Imperial Ball Python

Scientific name: Python regius

The basics:
The exceedingly popular Ball Python is a great choice for those who want a “big snake in a medium package”. Although this stoutly-built and powerful constrictor displays all of its larger relatives’ behaviors, at an average length of 3-4 feet is much easier to accommodate. Generally calm and easy to handle, Ball Pythons breed readily, and wild caught individuals are no longer a major factor in the US pet trade.

The Ball Python inhabits much of Sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal east through Mali to Sudan and southeast to the Gulf of Guinea and the Central African Republic; there are possible records from Zaire and Uganda.

Ball Pythons are found in open, often arid habitats such as savannahs, woodlands, overgrown fields, farm borders and village outskirts. They typically shelter in mammal burrows, termite mounds or hollow logs, but will also climb and occupy tree hollows if available.

Appearance / health:
Although small by python standards, this species is stoutly-built. Most average 3-5 feet in length, with rare specimens reaching 6 to nearly 7 feet. Ball pythons are dark brown to nearly black in color and marked with numerous blotches of tan, reddish-brown or yellow-orange. The color of wild specimens varies tremendously among different populations, with the savannahs of Ghana are known for their predominance of beautiful yellow-orange individuals. A mind-boggling array of color morphs have been produced by breeders.

The Ball Python is, when given proper care, a very hardy snake. Pets aged 20-30 are common, and one individual at the Philadelphia Zoo has the distinction of being the longest-lived of any captive snake. Acquired at an undetermined age, it lived in the collection for 48 years! New owners are often dismayed by the Ball Python’s habit of fasting for long periods of time, but this seems related to circadian rhythms (an “internal clock” of sorts), and is rarely a serious concern.

Behavior / temperament:
Ball Pythons are often calm in disposition, and usually tolerate gentle handling. They should not be induced to tuck the head within body coils, as this defensive posture indicates a high degree of stress. Like all snakes, they can and will bite, and must be handled with care.

Housing:
Hatchlings may be housed in 10 gallon aquariums, while adults (depending upon their size) do well in 20-55 gallon tanks or custom built enclosures. The screen top should be secured with clips or locks as this species is amazingly strong, even by snake standards.

Stout, well-anchored branches work well as basking sites, and a hide box should always be available. Newspapers, terrarium liners, or aspen bedding may be used as substrates. Ambient temperature: 80-85 F, with a reduction 77-80 F at night if possible. Basking site: 92 F.

Diet:
The natural diet is comprised mainly of grassland rodents such as cane and Nile rats, gerbils, jerboas, and zebra mice. Shrews, ground-nesting birds, and lizards are also taken on occasion.

Ball Pythons can be picky feeders at times, but most accept mice or rats. Particularly stubborn individuals may be tempted by gerbils or rat pups.

Breeding:
A wide array of conditions is used to induce breeding, and in some cases Ball Pythons will reproduce without any temperature manipulations at all. Many breeders reduce the ambient temperature to 78 F and the basking temperature to 82 F as autumn arrives. Day length need not be reduced. Males are introduced to females’ enclosures at this time. Temperatures are returned to normal in the spring, although in many cases a much shorter cool period will also be effective. When incubated at 86-90 F, the eggs hatch in 50-60 days.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

wonderful

beautiful morphs, amazing temperaments, friendly snakes, new snake owners, beginner herp owner

challenging

feeding difficulties, wild caught imports, finicky eaters, ticks, usual hunger strike

interesting

reasonable handling sessions, African SoftFurred rat, handleable length, hidey holes, scented mouse

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