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Burmese Python

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Is the Burmese Python right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Asian Rock Python

Scientific name: Python molurus bivittatus

The basics:
One of the world’s largest and heaviest snakes, the Burmese Python can be 13 feet long within 3 years of hatching, and reach an eventual length of 18-24 feet and weight of 300-400 pounds. Although very impressive and interesting, snakes of this size are dangerous predators, and not suitable pets for most people.

The Burmese Python ranges widely throughout South and Southeast Asia, being found in northeastern India, Myanmar, southern Nepal, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, southern China and Hong Kong. Introduced populations are established in Florida, USA and Puerto Rico. Quite adaptable as long as a permanent water source is available, they may be found in wooded grasslands, swamps, open forests, river valleys and rocky foothills. Farms, suburbs and the fringes of urban areas are frequently colonized.

Appearance / health:
The Burmese Python is a heavy-bodied snake that measures 18-24 inches upon hatching and may exceed 20 feet when full-grown. The ground color is yellowish-white or tan fading to cream along the flanks, and the body is marked with large chestnut to brown blotches throughout. There is an arrow-shaped mark on top of the head. A wide variety of color morphs are available in the pet trade.

With proper care, captive longevity for this hardy species may exceed 30 years. Dry sheds are common in terrariums where the average humidity is consistently below 30%, but skin infections will take hold in overly-damp environments. As with most snakes, Burmese Pythons may be subject to mites, inclusion body disease, and other ailments.

Behavior / temperament:
Often mistakenly described by as “calm” or “tame”, Burmese Pythons are not domesticated animals and must never be handled carelessly. Two strong, well-experienced adults should always be on hand when specimens over 5 feet in length are fed, cleaned or moved. Even small individuals are unsuitable pets for children. Long term pets have killed adult owners as well as children. The head must never be allowed near one’s face, as even well-habituated individuals may react to scents or vibrations that people cannot sense.

Housing:
Hatchlings can be accommodated in a 55 gallon aquarium. After 2-3 years, a homemade cage or re-designed room will be necessary. Security is a major concern, as large pythons are immensely powerful. The huge volume of waste produced necessitates a floor drain in most cases. Stout, well-anchored branches or basking shelves and a hide box should be provided. Newspapers, butcher paper, terrarium liners and Astroturf can serve as substrates for young snakes, but large individuals are best kept in enclosures that can be scrubbed and hosed-out.

Burmese Python enclosures should be maintained at a temperature range of 77-86 F, and provided with a basking site of 90 F. A thermal gradient allows snakes to regulate their body temperature by moving from hot to cooler areas, and is critical to good health. Heat pads and pig blankets located beneath the cage floor should be provided for larger individuals.

Diet:
The range of animals recorded as Burmese Python prey is vast, and includes monkeys, chital and hog deer, wild pigs, peafowl, small leopards, civets, rodents (including porcupines!), toads, fish, pangolins, lizards and domestic species such as chickens, goats, sheep, cats, and dogs. Feral Burmese Pythons in Florida, USA feed upon endangered species such as the Key Largo Wood Rat. Escaped pets have, in several instances, killed and attempted to consume children.

Hatchlings can handle adult mice, and soon move on to rats. Rabbits are usually the least expensive option for moderately-sized to large specimens. A 10-foot-long python will consume 100-150 pounds of food yearly.

A second experienced person should always be present when snakes over 6 feet in length are fed. Food should be offered with a long handled snake tongs. Pythons, no matter how long in captivity, will not distinguish between food and owner at feeding time - anything moving within range will be bitten!

Breeding:
A cooling-off period of 1-4 weeks at a temperature of 80 F by day and 68-72 at night, with an 8 hour day length, will often stimulate reproduction. Heavy misting is employed by some breeders as temperatures are allowed to rise back to normal. In many cases, however, breeding will occur without temperature manipulation. Gravid females produce 15-80+ eggs, which they incubate by coiling about the clutch. Eggs incubated at 88-91 F hatch in 50-70 days.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

wonderful

friendly dispositions, expert snake keeper, eager feeders, beautiful pythons, color morphs, Gentle Giants

challenging

secure caging, aggressive feeding response, large enclosures, 14ft monster, powerful snakes, immense size

interesting

invasive species, temperment variety, prekilled feeders, expensive food preferences.

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