The Responsibility of Owning a Large Snake
Every year, the reptile community suffers from amateur keepers not fully understanding what they are getting themselves into when purchasing a large species of snake. While actual attacks on humans are very rare, when they do occur, they make headlines.
Large species of snakes are quite capable of killing an adult, and unfortunately, many times these "attacks" occur because of a mistake the owner has made. Many people forget that snakes are still a wild animal. Though they have been kept in captivity successfully, and many people may never be bit or even struck at by their animal, the capacity for them causing a serious injury is still there.
A nip from a corn snake is much different than a nip from a 15ft 50lb Burmese python. An aggressive feeding response in a ball python is nothing compared to the feeding response in an adult Reticulated Python that an reach lengths of over 25ft and weigh over 200lbs. Becoming complacent with a large snake is a very common mistake, even with the most experienced snake breeders. It's a general rule that when you keep a number of snakes, getting bit is not a question of if but when.
Should You Own A Large Snake?
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are debating whether or not to take on the responsibility of owning a large species.
- Can you provide the proper housing for the snake species in question? Can you provide a cage that may be bigger than most of the pieces of furniture in your home?
- Are you going to be able to properly feed your snake? Are the proper food items for a large snake (rabbits, chickens, piglets, etc) available in your area? Will you be able to afford to feed this snake long term? Remember that large species can live 25-30 years.
- Are you ready to take on the liability of owning a potentially dangerous animal? Do you understand that your family and friends may not approve of you owning a large snake?
- Do you understand all of the time, care and money that goes into bringing a large snake into your home? In some areas, you may even need a permit.
- And lastly, why do you honestly want a large snake? If its only to boost your ego, or because you want to seem more experienced, then reality is going to hit you hard and fast.
The Responsibilities: Keeping You and Those Around You Safe, Keeping Your Snake Healthy, and Supporting The Reptile Community
- Large snakes require huge amounts of time, money and care. Keeping your snake in the proper environment with the correct diet is key and one of the most important responsibilities of being a large snake owner. Don't skimp on care and caging. Look at keeping your snake as a job. Keep him clean and free of disease. Put him in the correct caging, not squeezed into a large aquarium.
- While on the topic of caging, one very important thing you can include is a lock. Snakes by nature are escape artists. There are plenty of incidents of large snake getting out of their cages and causing havoc to neighbors. This not only is dangerous to your snake, and nearby people and pets, but put a bad name on big snake keepers.
- Never leave kids and pets unsupervised around your snake. If your snake is over 8ft in length, do not handle him/her without someone in ear shot of you in case something goes wrong. If your snake is over 10ft in length or if you aren't a big person, do not try to handle the snake by yourself without a helper.
- Always practice safe handling techniques. Always treat your snake with respect. Make sure you support his/her entire body and move slowly with them. With large snake I don't recommend holding them around your neck unless you are very well acquainted and he/she is calm. Never let them wrap completely around your neck like a tie. Even a relaxed snake can quickly tighten if he/she feels unstable.
- Keep your snake private. With large species, there is no need to parade them around and can cause panic if someone who is phobic of them sees it. Though you know your snake is a safe animal, others don't. Never force your snake upon other people, and always be respectful of those around you.
- The reptile community relies on every one of it members to be responsible and mature. Whether they realize it or not, they are ambassadors and their actions involving their snake give an impression on those around them. The reptile community in turn is a very supportive, friendly one with many of its members having a wealth of knowledge. I always recommend joining forums, going to reptile shows, and meeting others who share similar reptilian interests. You can never stop gaining more knowledge and helping the reptile community to become stronger.
- Finally, always treat your snake with respect. They are not a toy, or an accessory. They are a living, breathing animal that relies on you to care for them properly.
One of the best reptile organizations out there!
- United States Association of Reptile Keepers - USARK
An education, conservation, and advocacy organization for reptiles.