Mexican Burrowing Python

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Is the Mexican Burrowing Python right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: New World Python, Sharp-Headed Python

Scientific name: Loxocemus bicolor

The basics:
The Mexican Burrowing Python was once considered the only python native to the Western Hemisphere. However, further study revealed many unique characteristics, and herpetologists now place it within its own family, Loxocemidae. “Python”, however, remains in use as the common name. Although not commonly-kept, they make fine pets, with longevities of over 15 years being routine. The Mexican Burrowing Python ranges from southeastern Mexico through Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua to Costa Rica. Largely nocturnal and fossorial (dwelling below-ground), it frequents moist and dry forest edges and similar habitats with deep leaf litter and loose soil.

Appearance / health:
A cylindrical shape, smooth scales, tiny eyes and small, wedge-shaped head mark the Mexican Burrowing Python as a highly-skilled burrower. Adults average 3 feet in length, but may reach 5 feet in rare instances. The body is light to dark brown in color, and marked with irregular, highly-variable white spots.

Behavior / temperament:
Mexican Burrowing Pythons are not comfortable when unearthed from the substrate (although they will wander on the surface if left to their own devices) but usually tolerate gentle handling. They rarely attempt to bite…but there are exceptions to every rule!

A single adult may be housed in a 30 gallon aquarium stocked with 6-8 inches of cypress mulch and leaf litter, or similar substrates. Cork bark or slabs of tree bark should cover most of the surface. These secretive snakes will be stressed if denied a secure, underground retreat. The tank’s screen lid should be secured by cage clips. Red or black reptile night lights will assist in nighttime observations, when Mexican Burrowing Pythons leave their underground hiding places. The substrate should be misted daily, but should not remain damp. Ambient temperature: 72-78 F. Basking temperature: 82-85 F. A sub-surface heat pad may be used to create the basking site.

Droppings should be removed as they appear, and care must be taken to avoid damp conditions. Nearly all Mexican Burrowing Pythons offered for sale have been wild-caught, and therefore should be examined by a veterinarian.

Mexican Burrowing Pythons prey upon small mammals such as moles, shrews and mice, lizards and their eggs and, possibly, ground-nesting birds. Their jaws are not well-suited to swallowing large meals. Mice and rat pups serve well as a captive diet.

Virtually nothing is known of their breeding habits in the wild, and captive reproduction is quite rare. However, this situation is changing, as more hobbyists become aware of this interesting snake’s potential. Pairs must be monitored carefully, and separated after copulation, as males are known to inflict deep wounds with their cloacal spurs. Mating occurs in December and January. The eggs, 2-4 in number, should be incubated in moist vermiculite for 60-70 days at 85-85 F. Newly-hatched Mexican Burrowing Pythons are coppery-brown in color and lack the white spots of mature animals. They generally accept pink mice as their first meal.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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