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Ball Pythons as Pets

Updated on January 25, 2011

Out of all the boas and pythons, ball pythons make the best pets for the average keeper. They stay relatively small and are not prone to aggression. Their care is relatively undemanding; most keepers will have little difficulty providing one with a proper captive environment. While wild-caught adults have a reputation for refusing food, captive-bred hatchlings feed reliably and become interesting and docile pets.

Prior to the 1990s, ball pythons were considered prob­lematic and extremely difficult to keep alive. During this time, many ball pythons died as a result of failure to feed. The only snakes available then were imported ani­mals, usually adults. Adults rarely accli­mated and many perished.

It was difficult for most of these adults to acclimate due to lack of general knowledge of parasite loads and proper ways to set them up to decrease their stress from being imported. Many wild-caught adults would not eat for up to a year! Only those hobbyists with lots of patience were able to work successfully with these adults. When the techniques used by these few people were shared with others, more and more people began to understand how to properly take care of imported adults. Many adults are still brought into the country today, and these adults can be a problem for those who do not know how to care for them.

As hobbyists increased their knowledge about the care requirements of ball pythons, dili­gent and passionate individuals began to successfully breed them in captivity. The first color mutations (called morphs) also encouraged more individuals to devote time to the care and reproduction of the ball python. Today, over 100 different colors and patterns are available to choose from, and ball pythons are one of the five most popular reptiles to keep.

Due to their small size and relatively docile nature, ball pythons are one of the best snakes to keep as a pet. It is important to know that ball pythons have a long potential life span. Forty-seven years is the official record for the oldest ball python in captivity; it lived at the Philadelphia Zoo. Since they do have the potential to live such a long time, you must make sure that (to the best of your knowledge) you will be able to provide for the needs of your ball python throughout its life.

If for some reason your circumstances change and you are no longer able to care for your pet and are not able to find a suitable home for it, other resources are avail­able to help you. Many herpetological societies across the United States have adoption pro­grams, and many pet shops may be willing to purchase your snake from you. Your local animal shelter may also be able to take your snake if you are no longer able to provide for it. Reptile-related forums on the Internet can also be helpful in trying to find a home for an unwanted ball python. Under no circumstances should you ever release your pet into the wild. Ball pythons do not belong out in the local environment, and it causes tremendous problems when a released snake shows up in an area where it does not belong.

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