Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Have you been thinking about getting a snake for a pet?

If so you may want to read the following article by Naturalist Sara Oliver to decide if you are really committed to fulfilling all of the requirements necessary to maintaining a healthy and happy reptile.
Monty, our Ball Python
Ball Pythons, also called Royal Pythons, are considered one of the best snakes to have for a pet, especially if your son or daughter has been begging you for a pet snake. In the wild, they are found in Central and Western Africa and will frequent both the ground and trees, and are most active around dusk and dawn. They usually live between 20 and 30 years.
Ball Pythons make a good choice particularly because of their docile nature and small size. They generally do not grow longer than 3 or 4 feet. When choosing a Ball Python, find one bred in captivity as these are much easier to tame and handle.
Remember that the cute little snake in the five-gallon tank at the pet store may get quite large. Research the species you are cnsidering.
Annually, thousands of Ball Pythons are caught in the wild and imported to the U.S. to be sold in pet stores. These are usually more difficult to tame, may have parasites and be stressed from capture and transport. Also, it is best for any pet to not be taken from the wild, since sooner or later the wild population will suffer because too many are taken.

Before purchasing, check the snake’s body and make sure it has clean, smooth skin. Check the vent (or anus), nostrils and eyes for any discharge. Arrange for the breeder to show a feeding demonstration as well, to make sure the snake is eating well.

Ball Pythons are not as active as other snakes, so a 10 gallon tank is usually sufficient for juveniles and a minimum of 20 gallons for adults. Make sure you have the lid securely fitted because all snakes are great escape artists. For the tank’s substrate, newspaper or astro-turf are fine, as well as aspen, pine or cypress mulch. Add a few branches for them to climb on at night, and a dark hiding place for them to sleep during the day.

Provide a water bowl large enough for the snake to soak in, which is important in helping a snake shed its old skin. Since ball pythons are native to very warm temperate to dry areas in Africa, they may be comfortable with the current humidity of your household. However, if it is too dry and your snake is having difficulty shedding (it takes more than 24 hours or the shed comes off in many pieces), or its feces are dry when excreted or there is straining to defecate, it is a good idea to mist inside the tank twice a day with a spray bottle filled with room temperature water. Then natural evaporation of the water by a heat source (discussed below) raises humidity in the tank.

Daytime temperatures in the tank should be between 80 and 90 F. Nighttime temperatures can be between 70 and 80 F. A heat lamp with a ceramic heat bulb can be placed on top of the tank off to one side to act as a basking area. A low wattage incandescent light with a metal reflector (found at any hardware store) can be placed on top of the tank, at about the midpoint. It’s best to turn off the light at night.

Ball pythons will be happy with a diet of mice or small rats. Adults can be fed 4 or 5 mice every other week and juveniles can be fed a few pinkie mice every 5-7 days. Using pre-killed food is safest for your snake. Using a pair of forceps to dangle the mouse in front of the snake will trigger interest and keep your hands safe from their bite. Their teeth are quite small, needle thin and needle sharp, so be careful when feeding. When handling any snake make sure there’s no scent of the snake’s food on your clothes or hands. It is a good idea to move the python into a separate area for feeding so it won’t associate anything that enters its tank (your hands, for example) as food. These snakes are known for fasting for long periods. As long as body weight is sustained and the Python's condition looks good overall, there is no need to panic.

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