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here are some care sheets on a few reptiles

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Argentine Boa Care Sheet

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BOA'S AND PYTHONS

The species, Boa Constrictor Constrictor is one of the more commonly kept of the larger snakes, these are sometimes sold as "Red Tailed Boas" and come in a large number of regional variations as well as a number of distinct subspecies B.C. Imperator (Mexican Boa) B.C. Occidentalis (Argentine Boa). There are other, distinct subspecies, but by and large, their care is similar to the basic B.C.C.
Before buying ANY of the subspecies of the Boa family, a prospective buyer should consider the eventual size of the snake. A normal "Red Tail" will grow to the region of 8-10 foot and as thick as a mans mid thigh, when ANY snake reaches these proportions it is capable of killing an adult human and younger specimens will be capable of killing children. The distinction should be made here that the snake is capable of killing, though is in most cases not disposed towards it. This leads nicely to the first section of the care sheet.

Temperament.

By and large, the Boa Constrictor family have a placid temperament and are not renowned for aggressive behavior. Young snakes may be a little snappy, but quickly grow out of this when handled on a regular basis. Once removed from the tank a neonate Boa will be able to be handled easily and although some of the subspecies have a reputation for being biters (the Argentines come to mind) this will probably be the result of wild caught specimens which are understandably rather more aggressive. ANY snake that is nervous, or has been badly treated will bite if it feels threatened, and Boas are no exception, when faced with a Boa you don't know, and who doesn't know you, treat it with circumspection until you are familiar with it. It is a generally agreed principal that the handling any snake over 6 foot should not be undertaken alone for safety reasons, Boas fall into this category. Although Boas have reasonable eyesight, and it is believed they have some colour vision, they principally hunt by smell. For this reason it is imperative that after handling snake food you thoroughly wash your hands before handling your Boa. More people are bitten as a result of SFE's (Stupid feeding errors) than any other reason, and they hurt just as much as if the snake was attacking you!

Housing Requirements

Boas come from a tropical to subtropical climate and need constant heat or they will die. For a normal maintenance program (as opposed to a breeding program) the temperature in a Boas enclosure should have a day time high (DTH) of the high 80's F and a night time low (NTL) of mid to high 70's.F. This will equate to a DTH of 29C and a NTL of 24C. These temperatures should be considered to be ambient air temperatures, and a warm spot should also be available for the snake to bask on. One of the important requirements for keeping Boas is a temperature gradient within the tank, this means having a warmer end and a cooler end. This allows the snake to regulate its own body temperature by moving within the gradient. To achieve this gradient, either an under floor heat mat or a heat lamp at one end of the tank can be used. Thermostatic controls in conjunction with an accurate thermometer are essential to achieve the correct climate for your snake. Many of the cheap thermometers sold in pet shops for reptile enclosures are of little use, and an accurate digital gauge should be purchased from the likes of Radio Shack or Tandy. It is important that the snake has a broadly correct photo period during the day, that is to say, that the light(s) in the tank is not left on 24 hours a day. Use a timer to give a day/night period roughly corresponding to the season outside. A snake left in constant bright light will become stressed which can manifest itself in many ways from aggression, to not eating, to health problems. Closely associated with temperatures, is humidity. Boa Constrictors do not require the level of humidity of, say, Epicrates, but if shedding problems are encountered, raising the background humidity may be beneficial. A large water bowl left in a warm tank usually generates enough evaporation to fulfill the requirements of these animals. Boas left in too humid conditions have been known to develop scale rot on their belly scales, though this is usually associated with lack of cleanliness in the substrate as well. All snakes NEED hides where they can feel secure, Boas are no exception. These can be as simple as cardboard boxes with small entrance holes cut in them which can be discarded when soiled to attractive hollow logs specially made for reptile tanks. The important criteria are that they must be clean, and a fairly close fit for the snake. A small snake in a large hide feels nearly as vulnerable as it would without any hide at all. Have several hides in your tank, at least have one warmer hide and a cooler hide, the snake will spend much of its time in these hides, so keep them clean. A box with only one small entrance isn't the best idea, getting the snake out may prove a problem, cut the base out so the box can be removed easily. Young Boas seem to enjoy climbing, and a suitably cleaned and sterilised branch or tree stem will be used by the snake. As the Boa gets bigger, finding a suitably strong branch will prove more difficult, but with sufficient space in the tank this will prove an attractive and useful item. One of the main problems associated with owning large snakes such as Boas is the size of the housing needed when the snake has reached its full size at about 5 years old. A single Boa that has reached its adult size will require about 10 square feet of floor space within its tank as a minimum. This equates to a bare minimum of a 5x2 tank, about 2-3 foot high for a single specimen. A pair of Boas kept together may require a 6x3 tank when full size, this is a substantial piece of furniture. Boas can easily live 25-30 years and this tank will need to be in use for the majority of that time, in a small flat or apartment this would take up a considerable amount of the available floor space.
Large tanks are usually constructed from plywood or chipboard with sliding glass doors at the front. In a large (6 foot) tank, the glass should be either toughened or armoured similar to the type of glass used in shop fronts. An all glass tank is much easier to clean and sterilise, but is very difficult to keep warm in temperate countries. Consider lining the floor of a wooden tank with glass to aid cleaning.
The type of substrate used with Boas is largely a matter of individual choice. With young snakes, it is often best to keep them on newspaper or kitchen towel for the first few months as they tend to defecate regularly and it is easier to keep clean. Personally I use wood shavings (pine) on a newspaper base which I find attractive and cheap. Beech chips and Orchid bark are attractive, but expensive options, many professional breeders use newspaper all the time for it's ease of cleaning, but it is not the most aesthetically pleasing choice. DO NOT use Ceder bark, which is commonly sold for rats, hamsters, mice, etc. It contains oils that are very toxic to snakes and can lead to fatality. I spot clean any urates or feces daily and change the entire substrate every 3 weeks or so, depending on how often it has been soiled. IT IS IMPORTANT NOT TO FEED ON A SUBSTRATE OF WOOD SHAVINGS OR WOOD CHIPS. The snake may ingest some of the wood with the food and the cellulose based wood cannot be digested by the snake and results in an impacted blockage which initially causes constipation, and can eventually kill the snake.

Feeding

Boa Constrictors will normally feed well on mice and rats, when fully grown, rabbit may be an option if available. Young Boas are usually voracious eaters and can take fuzzy mice straight from birth. As with all snakes, feed prey items (preferably dead, defrosted) that are the same diameter as the largest point of the snakes body. Be sure the food is correctly thawed all the way through, warming the food to body temperature is a good idea if possible. The use of microwaves for this is NOT recommended. Depending on the individual snake, Boas are usually private eaters and prefer to be placed in a dark or opaque container with the food item and left to get on with it, if disturbed they will regularly regurgitate a half eaten meal and subsequently ignore it. Place the snake in a separate, clean container with the food already there and close the lid. Leave the snake in there for 20 minutes or so for an adult, 5-10 minutes for a juvenile. These times are what I have found from personal experience with my own Boas, your individual snakes may vary considerably. Keeping the container reasonably warm is beneficial.
As with all snakes, keep the handling of a Boa after eating to the absolute minimum for 24 hours, apart from the possibility of regurgitation, rough handling after a large meal can damage the snakes digestive tract and may prove fatal.
Force feeding Boas with larger specimens will be all but impossible because of their great strength.

Breeding

In their book "The Reproductive Husbandry of Pythons & Boas", Ross & Marzec state that "Captive breeding of Red Tailed Boas is generally accomplished by advanced rather than amateur herpetoculturists". (p210) The aforementioned book is certainly one of the best volumes on the breeding of Boas, and should be purchased and read if at all possible. However, there is no reason why a patient, dedicated amateur cannot breed the Red Tailed Boa in the correct conditions. Being tropical snakes IT IS VITAL THAT THEY ARE NOT HIBERNATED OR BRUMATED. When a female Boa is put into a breeding schedule, as opposed to a maintenance schedule, the food intake should increased where possible to the point of being slightly overweight. A gravid Boa may not eat for up to 9 months so adequate reserves of body fat are essential. This should take place over a period of about 6 months, during this period, the temperatures in the tank should be progressively changed to a cycle that has a DTH of 90F (30C) and a NTL of 68F (20C). The start of this temperature cycling should be mid October and reach the full NTL and DTH by early December, the male (whose should be kept separately in similar temperature conditions) should be introduced to the female about the 3rd week in December. Mating should begin and continue through until February, by the 1st week in February the temperature cycling should be reversed progressively so that by the 3rd week in March the DTH is at high 80's F and the NTL back to low 80's (25C). If the female is gravid, she will normally refuse food for the period of the pregnancy. It is EXTREMELY important to keep the temperature in the females tank within the correct range during the period of pregnancy, fluctuations above or below usually result in either severe birth defects, or loss of the young altogether.
The gestation period of the Boa Constrictor is 4-8 months. As mating occurs over a period of time it can be difficult to state precisely when the fertilization took place. Temperature of the gravid female also seems to play some part in the equation so putting exact times on is difficult. Boas give birth to live young, and litter sizes vary from 6-65, the young are independent from birth and should be separated from the mother as soon as possible, Boas are not usually cannibalistic, but the young can be crushed by the bulk of the female. The young have been known to fight as well. Keep the young in small, separate containers, on paper towels with a supply of water. Change the paper whenever it gets soiled and keep a record of the birth date, sex if known, shed details and feeding record on a piece of paper taped to the top of each container. The young will shed, usually within 10 days or so of birth and will normally eat without any problem after the 1st shed.

Subspecies

Although the care of the family Boa Constrictor is broadly the same, there are several significant differences in the appearance and characteristics in the subspecies. Ross & Marzec argue that ALL the Boas from the Amazon and Orinoco basin are the same subspecies and have regional variations in their markings, calling them after the supposed country of origin is ineffectual as snakes are no respecters of national boundaries, and they may have been collected in a country where it was illegal to do so, and shipped over the border to another where it was. This would render irrelevant any regional naming. It is reasonable to assume that snakes have been carried downstream on floating trees etc. and become interbred with the local specimens.
The Hogg Island Boa, was originally native to an island in the Amazon delta, and is now reputed to be extinct in the wild due to the predation of dogs on Hogg island. This is a smaller breed of Boa, and will only reach 4-6 foot in length. Their colouring is noticeably lighter than a normal B.C.C. and the tail is a peach colour, with a high degree of pink colouring along the flanks and belly. The Argentine Boa (B.C.Occidentalis) is regarded as an endangered species and is on the C.I.T.E.S. appendix 1 list. These snakes should be unavailable as wild caught and in European countries are required to be micro-chipped after they are 1 year old. These snakes have a much darker grey background colouring with black saddles. The tail is a dark mahogany brown.
The Peruvian Boa is also regarded as endangered, and it is illegal to export them from Peru, so should be unobtainable as wild caught. It too has darker colouration than the "normal" Boa with a tail that can be a dark purple on occasions.
The Mexican Boa (B.C.Imperator) has markings similar to the Common Boa but is sometimes reckoned to grow bigger than the standard B.C.C. species. Whilst there is no ban on export of these snakes, they can be regarded as a threatened species if not an endangered one.

Buying your Boa

When buying your first Boa, unless you actually SEE an adult, it is difficult to imagine how BIG they grow. The idea of an eight foot snake doesn't sound too bad until you encounter the sheer bulk of such an animal. For preference, always buy from a breeder, ask to see the parents and get some idea of what you'll end up with. The local herp rescue society may have an adult in that they are trying to find a home for, assuming it doesn't have any other problems with its health or attitude, this may be a viable alternative to getting a juvenile.
All Boas have a slight iridescence on their scales, check for this, loss of scale tone is an early indication of health problems. A well fed Boa is a bulky creature, and is very muscular, loose folds of skin are a sign of either none feeding or that the snake is severely undernourished.
When choosing a Boa, look for an animal that that appears alert, the tongue should be flicking regularly and the snake should have a firm, muscular feel to it. The eyes should be bright and clear, check for signs of incompletely shed skin, checking the eye caps and the tip of the tail in particular. Look for signs of scarring from both rodent attack or thermal scarring from contact with unshielded heat lamps. Both will fade with time, but never seem to totally vanish. As with all snakes, check for mites, tiny blood sucking parasites the size of a pin head. These are not difficult to get rid of, but may indicate a less than scrupulously clean previous housing. The vent should be clean without any apparent soreness and the belly scales should not have brown edges as this MAY be an early indication of scale rot. When picked up a Boa should get a fairly firm grip upon your hand or arm with its tail to steady itself, this is normal and although the snake may relax a little when it becomes used to you, is characteristic of most constrictors. Run your hand firmly down the length of the snakes body, making an "O" with your thumb and index finger feeling for lumps in the body of the Boa, especially towards the tail, this MAY be a sign of constipation. Kinks in the spine can be felt in this manner as well, these are usually a birth defect and are permanent, avoid such animals where possible. A well fed Boa should be strongly muscled along the flanks, but light pressure along the center of the back should be able to feel the spinal chord. A snake that has an area of skin visible between each of the scales over the length of the body is obese, this creates similar problems for snakes as in humans, a stricter feeding regime will be called for if bought.
A healthy Boa Constrictor can easily live 25-30 years and should be considered a long term commitment and bought with this in mind. In return it will gives hours of relaxation and pleasure as well as being a fascinating and exotic creature in your home.

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Burmese Python

Python molurus bivittatus

1996 Melissa Kaplan

 

THINK!!!
Do you really want a snake that may grow more than 20 feet long or weigh 200 pounds, urinate and defecate like a horse, will live more than 25 years and for whom you will have to kill mice, rats and, eventually, rabbits (no chickens any more due to the ever increasing rate of Salmonella in the food industry)?

Many people think that when they decide they don't want their Burmese any more--when it gets to be 8 or 10 or 15 feet long--it will be easy to find someone who does. Take a look at the animal classifieds - they always have sale ads for big pythons. The zoo doesn't want any more - they already have one or more giant snakes from other people. The local herpetology societies and reptile veterinarians always have big pythons for whom they are trying to find homes. Burms are increasingly being abandoned at vets and animal shelters and are being euthanized for lack of proper homes for them. Breeders keep breeding them, however, because so many people are willing to buy these 'cool' giants...knowing full well that they will be dumped when 'too' big. At 10 feet and 40+ pounds, a 3-year old Burmese is already eating rabbits a couple of times a month and is very difficult to handle alone. You have to interact with them constantly to keep them tame - do you want a hungry, cranky 100 pound, 12 foot snake mistaking your face for prey? Who is going to help you clean its enclosure? take it to the vet when it's sick? take care of it when you go away to school or on vacation? No matter how much they love you, there are some things a mother, and your friends, will not do!

Owning a giant snake is not cool - it is a major, long-term, frequently very expensive responsibility. Not only that, but even the nicest, gentlest of burms can become killers, even when not very large...as one Colorado family found out when they came home and found their 14-year old son dead after being constricted by their 8 ft free-roaming Burmese....

Natural History
The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is native throughout Southeast Asia including Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, southern China, and Indonesia. While Burmese are being captive bred in the U.S. and Europe, native populations are considered to be "threatened" and are listed on Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). All the giant pythons (including the Indian, African Rock and Reticulated pythons) have historically been slaughtered to supply the international fashion industry with exotic skins. The exportation of young snakes for the pet trade and for their blood and gall as used in folk medicine has put additional pressures on the wild populations that cannot be sustained. If you must buy a Burmese, buy a captive-born animal.

These diurnal rainforest dwellers range from areas of lush vegetation lining the river banks up to the montane forests. Equally at home on the ground and in trees, they are also excellent swimmers, and always enjoy a nice, long soak in warm water, especially just before they are ready to shed.

Like all diurnal snakes, Burmese spend the morning hours soaking up the sun's warmth to enable them to begin moving around to look for food. In the wild, snakes do not eat every day, and are not always successful in capturing every prey animal at whom they strike. (Captive snake owners generally do not understand this and so it is all too common to see obese snakes in captivity.) If they are lucky enough to eat, they spend the rest of the afternoon, and the next several days or weeks, keeping warm enough to digest their meal.

Burmese breed in the early spring. Females lay their eggs in March or April; their clutches range from 12-36 eggs. Females encircle their eggs, remaining with then from the time they are laid until they hatch; during this time, they will not leave the eggs and will not eat. While incubating, the females muscles twitch; these tremors apparently enable the female to raise the ambient temperature around the eggs several degrees. Once the hatchlings cut their way out of their eggs, they are on their own.

Burmese pythons, like all pythons and boas, devour a variety of prey in the wild - amphibians, lizards, other snakes, birds and mammals. In captivity, they should be fed pre-killed mice, rats, and rabbits. You can buy the prey at pet stores and from private breeders and suppliers to the herp trade; these animals have been specially raised and are clean, healthy and well-nourished, and you can always find a source who uses humane methods of euthanasia. If you live in a more rural area, you may be able to find free-range chickens; store- and hatchery-bought chicks should be avoided due to the problem with Salmonella. Under no circumstances should you feed your snakes wild-caught prey items. Wild rodents and other animals carry a variety of parasites and bacteria for which your snakes have no immunity. If you cannot afford to buy the proper food, you should not buy the snake.

Selecting Your Burmese Python
Choose an animal that has clear firm skin, a rounded body shape, clean vent, clear eyes and that actively flicks its tongue around when handled. When held, the snake should grip you gently but firmly when moving around. It should be alert to its surroundings. All young snakes are food for other, larger snakes, birds, lizards and mammalian predators so your hatchling may be a bit nervous at first but should settle down quickly. Like all pythons and boas, Burmese have anal spurs. These single claws appearing on either side of the vent are the vestigial remains of the hind legs snakes lost during their evolution from lizard to snake millions of years ago. Males have longer spurs than do the females, and have tails that are wider at the base (tail-end of the vent); otherwise, there is little difference in temperament between the two sexes.

Inclusion Body Disease / Quarantine
Inclusion body disease (IBD) is a virus that affects boas and pythons (boids). It is always fatal in pythons. Unfortunately, the lust to sell has overcome common sense in private breeders as well as pet stores and wholesalers, and an increasing number of boas and pythons are being sold who are infected with this virus.

ALWAYS spend a considerable amount of time observing boids before you buy them, especially at pet stores. Even reptile specialty stores have been selling infected stock so buying from such stores is no guarantee that you are buying an uninfected/unexposed snake. Don't buy a boid because you feel sorry for it, because it looks sick and the store isn't providing proper care for it - you may lose every boid you own.

ALWAYS observe strict quarantine procedures when bringing in a new boid into your house if you already have other boids. IBD may take several months to manifest itself. Owners have reported their new snakes showing signs as little as one month after acquiring hatchlings to well over one year after acquiring a new boid.

ALWAYS have boids who are not acting well (loss of appetite, regurgitating meals, mouthrot, respiratory infection, contorted body positions, stargazing) seen by a reptile vet as soon as possibly after symptoms are noticed. Warn the vet before coming in that it may be IBD so they may take precautions to reduce exposure to other boids who may be in their office at that time.

REMEMBER that it doesn't require snake-to-snake contact to spread the disease. You may unwittingly spread it by handling other snakes without first thoroughly washing your hands. Viruses are airborne - think twice about taking your snakes to places where they will encounter snakes belonging to people who may not be taking proper precautions.

Getting Started
Build or purchase a strong snake-proof enclosure. Select an enclosure especially designed for housing snakes, such as the Critter Cottages(TM) with the combination fixed screen/hinged glass top. All snakes are escape artists; Burmese are especially powerful when it comes to breaking out. A good starter tank for a hatchling is a 55 gallon tank. After the first couple of years (and some bigger commercially available enclosures), you will have to build your own enclosure out of wood and glass or Plexiglas. Some people partition off a large part of a room or convert a walk-in closet into a suitable Burmese "tank". Be prepared - giant snakes need lots of room, not the least of which is room enough for you to get in there and clean it out! Remember that your snake will grow rapidly, even when fed conservatively, so you must always buy or build an enclosure much bigger than the present size of your Burmese.

Suitable substrate
Use paper towels, butcher paper or unprinted newsprint at first. These are easily and quickly removed and replaced when soiled and will allow you to better monitor for the presence of mites and the condition of the feces. Once the animal is established, you can use decorative ground cover such as commercially prepared shredded cypress or fir bark; do not use orchid bark. Pine, cedar and redwood shavings should not be used as they can become lodged in the mouth while eating, and due to the oils (most especially in any cedar product), may cause respiratory infections and other problems. The shavings must be monitored closely and all soiled and wet shavings pulled out immediately to prevent bacteria and fungus growths. The utilitarian approach is to use inexpensive Astroturf(TM) and linoleum. Extra pieces of Astroturf(TM) can be kept in reserve and used when the soiled piece is removed for cleaning and drying (soak in one part bleach to 30 parts water; rinse thoroughly, and dry completely before reuse). Remember: the easier it is to clean, the faster you'll do it! Linoleum is easy to clean and disinfect and, when used on the floor and a couple of inches up the walls of wooden enclosures, will help preserve the wood from the acidic urates.

Hiding Place
A hiding place should be provided for Burmese pythons. A half-log (available at pet stores), an empty cardboard box or upside-down opaque plastic container, the latter two with an access doorway cut into one end, can also be used. The plastic is easily cleaned when necessary; the box can be tossed out when soiled and replaced with a new one. Once your snake outgrows these easily replaced hide boxes, you will need to use your imagination. Eventually, you can use a large kitty-litter pan or suitably modified garbage can. Once the snake reaches ten feet, you will have to put your imagination (or hammer and nails and wood) to work to devise increasingly larger enclosures.

Temperature Gradient
Proper temperature range is essential to keeping your snake healthy. The ambient air temperature throughout the enclosure must be maintained between 85-88F during the day, with a basking area kept at 90F. At night, the ambient air temperature may be allowed to drop down no lower than 78-80F. Special reptile heating pads that are manufactured to maintain a temperature about 20F higher than the air temperature may be used inside the enclosure. There are adhesive pads that can be stuck to the underside of a glass enclosure (unfortunately, when the time comes to move your snake to a larger tank, the heating pad cannot easily be removed from the old tank and reused). Heating pads made for people, found at all drug stores and supermarkets, are also available; these have built-in high-medium-low switches and can be used under or inside a glass or wood enclosure. You can also use incandescent light bulbs in porcelain and metal reflector hoods to provide the additional heat required for the basking area. All lights must be screened off to prevent the snake from burning itself, and bright lights must be turned off at least 12-14 hours a day to mimic a proper photoperiod; if kept under lights all the time, the snakes will stress and may become ill. If the proper temperatures cannot be maintained without the incandescent light, then you must use another source of non-light emitting or dim light emitting heat. All pythons are very susceptible to thermal burns and for this reason a hot rock must not be used. Buy at least two thermometers: one to use 1" above the enclosure floor in the cooler side, and the other 1" above the floor in the basking area. Don't try to guess the temperature. You will end up with a snake who will be too cold to eat and digest its food. Once your snake is bigger, invest in a pig blanket, a large rigid pad for which you can buy a thermostat to better control the temperature.

Special Lighting
No special lighting is needed. You may use any incandescent bulb in the enclosure during the day, and a suitable red, blue or nocturnal reptile light at night. Snakes do not require ultraviolet B wavelengths. Make sure the snake cannot get into direct contact with the light bulbs. If they climb into the fluorescent tube fixture, they may pop out and break the bulb--an expensive and potentially lethal accident.

Feeding
Allow your snake to acclimate for a week or two to its new home. Start your hatchling (about 22" in length) off with a single pre-killed week to 10-day old "fuzzy" rat. A smaller sized hatchling may require a small mouse. Older Burmese may be fed larger pre-killed rats. The rule of thumb is that you can feed prey items that are no wider than the widest part of the snake's body. While Burmese (most of whom are bottomless pits when it comes to putting down food) will often gladly eat prey that is too large for their size, they will generally regurgitate the prey item one or more days later--not a pretty sight. If you have not had any experience force feeding a snake, you may not want to try it yourself until you have seen someone do it. It is very easy to overfeed Burmese as most of them are always eager for food, whether they need it or not. Be judicious--you will end up with a giant snake soon enough. Just feed enough to keep it healthy, not obese.

Water
Provide a bowl of fresh water at all times; your snake will both drink, soak and may defecate in it. Check it and replace with fresh water as necessary. Bowls should be big enough for the snake to get into and soak before its sheds. As the snake gets too big for suitably sized tubs in its enclosure, it will have to be taken out and bathed in a secured and safe bathroom.

Veterinary Care
Routine veterinary screening for newly acquired snakes is essential. Many of the parasites infesting Burmese and other reptiles can be transmitted to humans and other reptiles. Left untreated, such infestations can ultimately kill your snake. When your snake first defecates, collect the feces in a clean plastic bag, seal it, label it with the date, your name and phone number and the snake's name, and take it and your snake to a vet who is experienced with reptiles. There it will be tested for parasites (which the majority of pet trade reptiles have) and the proper medication given.

Handling your new snake
After giving your Burmese a couple of days to settle in, begin picking it up and handling it gently. It may try to move away from you and may threaten you by twitching its tail and hissing. Be gentle but persistent. Daily contact will begin to establish a level of trust and confidence between you and your snake. When it is comfortable with you, you can begin taking it around the house. Don't get over-confident! Given a chance and close proximity to seat cushions, your Burm will make a run (well, a slither) for it, easing down between the cushions and from there, to points possibly unknown. Always be gentle and try to avoid sudden movements. If the snake wraps around your arm or neck, you can unwind it by gently unwrapping it starting at the tail end, not the head.

Necessities
Some things you should have on hand for general maintenance and first aid include: Nolvasan(R) (chlorhexidine diacetate) for cleaning enclosures and disinfecting food and water bowls, litter boxes, tubs and sinks etc. Betadine(R) (povidone/iodine) for cleansing scratches and wounds. Set aside feeding and water bowls, and a soaking bowl or tub for the sole use of your snake.

Bad Press - And Often Deservedly So
Giant pythons have been in the press quite a bit lately, all due to the fact that their owners died as a result of improper handling of their snakes. While admittedly the press sensationalizes in order to better sell papers, the fact of the matter is that not only is there still a great deal of morbid fear on the part of the general public as regards snakes in general, and giant pythons in particular, but there is also a great deal of stupidity being displayed by many giant python owners (such as by those owners who are surprised to find that their ten foot snake left their backyard to go exploring the neighborhood when left outside for a bit of sun). And for every story that the press "neglects" to correct, such as the man who actually suffered a fatal heart attack while watching TV with his python, rather than being killed by it, the press also fails to point out what was being done improperly by the snake owner at the time of the "attack." If you smell like food to a snake, especially some of the giant pythons who seemingly contain a bottomless pit instead of a finite stomach, you will be grabbed. And since most people's reaction when being grabbed by a mouth full of fangs in a head the size of a cantaloupe is to flinch and draw away, the snake, sensing live "prey," does what a snake ought to do--bite harder to retain a good grip on the "prey" (hopefully your arm and NOT your face) and coil and constrict around it to begin the process of suffocation. In the case of the unfortunate Canadian snake owner who was killed, his python was not very big, but a) the owner was highly intoxicated at the time, b) the snake was in shed and its eyes were fully opaque and c) the snake was known to be temperamental in general. So not only was the snake feeling particularly cranky and intolerable of human interaction, its human was too intoxicated to act, and react, appropriately.

According to one hospital emergency room physician who has made a study of snake bites, he found that the majority of bites happen to young adult males (late teens through mid-twenties) who are intoxicated at the time of the "attack." On the flip side, though, is the unfortunate Colorado family whose young teenage son was napping when he was attacked and killed by the family's eight foot pet Burmese, a snake who had been free-roaming in the house ever since it was brought home as a hatchling.

While it is true that you are more likely to die in an automobile accident, it is also true that in the past year alone, the number of deaths attributed to and actually caused by pet pythons has more than tripled. As a direct result of the irresponsible actions of these python owners, cities and states are enacting ordinances and legislation banning or severely restricting the private ownership of large pythons - in many cases any snake of any species which reaches 6 or more feet in length.

Before You Buy...
Go to a zoo that has an adult specimen. Check out your local herpetological societies to find other giant python owners and ask if you can be allowed to visit their snake, and, if possible, handle it. Few pet stores actually have full-grown adult specimens.

Check out your city, county and state laws to see if there are any restrictions on owning a giant python or boa. Cities who have experienced terror because someone let their Burmese get out of the house have been passing increasingly stringent regulations prohibiting, or severely governing, the ownership or possession of large snakes.

If you have small children, or children will have access to the room in which the snake will be kept, ask yourself whether you can properly secure the snake so that, not only is there no chance for it to escape, but there is no way for young fingers to undo the cage.

Remember that regardless of how tame your Burmese becomes, and no matter how long you have had it, it is still a wild animal and as such is to be considered unpredictable and potentially dangerous. (A tame 8', 56 lb one, free roaming since the family bought it as a hatchling, killed the family's 14 year old, 5 ft. tall, 99 LB son who was apparently napping at the time of the attack...the autopsy evidence showed that the boy tried to get the snake's mouth and body off of him - his hands were perforated with teeth marks, his torso bearing bruise marks from the constriction...[Colorado, 1994]. In this particular case, there was no apparent reason for the attack. See the article about this incident.

Name: Ball python
Scientific name: Python regius
AKA: "Royal python"

General Information

Distribution    
Central & Western Africa
 
Wild Status    
Large populations exist but are being reduced due to excessive habitat destruction, skin trade and the pet trade. In some collected areas the populations remain stable due to agricultural activities and the created artificial rat populations. In Ghana, Africa the ball python trade is regulated by the government and attention is put into keeping a viable population of adults in the wild to create the next generations for future collection. Gravid females are collected and then returned to the wild by government officials; a percentage of the babies hatched are also being released back into the wild. Treating these animals as a sustainable resource has possibly increased the local population range, and may help to secure the future of these animals in the wild. In other countries, however, ball pythons are collected with absolute disregard for the "overall picture" and impact on wild populations, and are sold as meat or living animals. Adults are now being exported in huge numbers to the Asian markets where they are being used for their meat and blood, Recently there has been interest in butchering & canning the ball pythons in Africa for export as a meat product for the Asian markets. This single activity could bring the demise of large populations, as they can not sustain such losses without wiping out entire areas. Until the government takes notice Benin and Togo are draining themselves dry of their ball python populations. .
 
Description    

Ball pythons are robust serpents with a distinctive head & slender neck. Normal body coloration is black with yellow, gold, or brown markings. Pattern may be "broken," banded or reduced in some specimens, and many exhibit varying degrees of broken dorsal striping.


Wild-caught ball pythons are notorious for being difficult to acclimate: these are the animals that give balls their reputation for being terrible feeders. Going with a captive born, well established ball python is a must for making your first ball python experience a good one. These are somewhat shy snakes that fare much better in captivity when acquired from a reliable CB source.

 
Size    
Hatchlings approximately 10"+/-. Females average 3'- 5', males average 2' - 3' adult size. This is a species in which mature females are typically distinctly larger than the males. A 5+ foot ball python is considered large, although lengths of 6+ feet have been reported.
 
Lifespan    
Ball pythons may live 40 years or more in captivity.
 
Color Mutations    
Thus far, there have been more color mutations discovered & created in ball pythons than in any other boid species. These include: T- Albino, T+ Albino, Lavender Albino, Albino Spider, Arctic, Axanthic, Burgundy Hypo, Bumble Bee Spider, Caramel Glow, Cinnamon Pastel, Coffee, Classic Jungle, Clown, Coral Glow, Desert Ghost, Ghost Hypos, Hypermelanistic, Killer Bee Spider, Lemon Pastel, Leucistic, Mojave, Melanistic, Patternless, Pearl, Piebald, Platinum, Snow, Spider, Striped (genetic), Super Pastel, Woma Ball & many more!

Captive Maintenance Guidelines

Difficulty Level    
Beginner. Easy, but keeper must have a general knowledge of snake husbandry. Captive bred, well started ball pythons make an excellent first snake for the beginning herpetoculturist.
 
Enclosure    
Enclosures can be as simple or elaborate as one is capable of caring for. Remember that the more "stuff" you put in a cage, the more "stuff" you have to clean & disinfect on a regular basis. That said, there are many different enclosures that work extremely well for ball pythons, including, but not limited to: plastic sweater boxes (i.e. Rubbermaid), melamine racks, Freedom Breeder cages, and any of the commercially available plastic-type reptile cages, (i.e. those from Vision Herp & other similar manufacturers). Glass aquariums & tanks are adequate; keep in mind that the screen tops on such enclosures can make it very difficult to maintain humidity levels. Also refer to our Snake Caging care sheet for more information. Juvenile ball pythons seem to do well in smaller enclosures that make them feel more secure; a small snake in a big cage can become overwhelmed & stressed. Fortunately adult ball pythons do not require exceptionally large or elaborate enclosures. A 36" x 18" x 12" enclosure will more than comfortably house an adult ball python. Remember that ALL enclosures must allow for a proper thermal gradient that the snake can utilize, with a hot spot on one end and a cooler spot on the other.
 
Substrate    
There are a few substrates that work well. Newspaper is the cheapest & easiest with regards to cleaning & disinfecting: out with the old, in with the new. Cypress mulch is great for controlling humidity, but remember that too much humidity can be as detrimental (if not more) as too little. Never use any substrate containing cedar, as this is deadly to reptiles!
 
Temperatures & Heating    
Provide your ball python with a basking spot of 88-92 F and an ambient (background) temperature of 78-80 F. The ambient temperature should not fall below 75 F. It is vitally important to KNOW the temperatures at which you are keeping your snake(s). DO NOT GUESS!! A great way to monitor temps is to use a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer with a probe. Stick the thermometer to the inside of the cage on the cool end and place the probe on the warm end, and you'll have both sides covered at once.
There are several ways to go about heating the enclosure: undercage heating pads, ceramic heat emitters, basking bulbs (both regular daytime & red "night" bulbs) are just a few. With heat emitters & bulbs it is necessary to really keep an eye on the humidity within the enclosure, especially if combined with a screen top, as both will dry the air quickly. Use thermostats, rheostats and/or timers to control your heat source. Do not use hot rocks with snakes as they often heat unevenly over too small of a surface area & can cause serious burns.
 
Humidity    

Providing proper humidity for ball pythons is important, but as stated previously too much humidity can be as problematic as too little. First off, let's establish "humidity" as the amount of moisture in the air. To provide your snake with a humidity level of 50% - 60%, you have a couple of options.

1. Use cypress mulch or a similar substrate that can be misted & is mold-resistant. Cypress is good for this as it turns a tan color when dry & a rich brown when wet, giving a visual cue as to when it needs to be dampened again.

2. Make a "humidity box" for your snake. This consists of packing a plastic container with damp sphagnum moss (think well-wrung-out wash cloth to gauge moisture), cutting a hole in the top or side & placing it in your python's enclosure so that it can access the box as it pleases.

 

One of the biggest problems we observe in captive ball pythons is respiratory distress caused by the combination of low ambient humidity, improper ambient temperatures, and a screen-top enclosure which basically allows the environment within the snake's cage to be affected by any external influences in the room in which the snake is kept. Keep in mind that if you have a screen top on the enclosure you will probably want to cover it most or all of the way with plastic, a towel or some other means of keeping moisture from escaping. This is also where having proper, reliable ambient temperatures (back to that thermometer!) is important, as warm air holds more moisture than cool air. You want the enclosure to be humid, not WET. A soggy cage can eventually lead to bacterial & fungal infections and consequently, death.

 
Lighting    
Supplemental lighting is not necessary for this species, but if used should run on a 12/12 cycle, meaning 12 hours on & 12 hours off. Continuous bright, overhead lighting is stressful to snakes, especially a nocturnal serpent such as this one.
 
Water    
Always make fresh, clean water available to your ball python. The size of the water dish is up to you. If it is large enough for the python to crawl into and soak, sooner or later your snake will make the most of the opportunity, and most seem to enjoy a nice soak from time to time. Ensure that the bowl is not too deep for juvenile animals - 1" or so will suffice. Snakes of many species will defecate in their water bowls from time to time, so be prepared for cleaning, disinfecting & a water change when necessary. It is often beneficial to have a spare water bowl for such occasions, so that one may be used while the other is being cleaned.
 
Accessories    
The one cage accessory that is beneficial to a happy ball python is a good hide box...maybe even a couple of them. These are secretive snakes that appreciate & utilize a hide spot. Provide one on each end of your python's enclosure so that it doesn't have to choose between temperature & security. Clay flowerpots, plastic flowerpot trays, and commercially available hide boxes all work quite well.
 
Feeding    

Feed your ball python an appropriately sized rodent weekly. By "appropriately sized" we mean prey items that are no bigger around than the python at its largest point. Ball pythons can eat rats from the time they are young - starting off with rat pups or "crawlers" for younger snakes & moving up in size as the animal grows. Do not handle your snake for at least a day after feeding, as this can lead to regurgitation. Ball pythons can be converted to feeding on frozen/thawed or pre-killed rodents (see Snake Feeding caresheet). Never leave a live rodent unattended with ANY snake. Ball pythons are well-known for going on hunger strikes at certain times throughout the year, particularly in the winter months. Be prepared for the possibility of your snake going off feed, and keep an observant eye on the snake's overall condition and body weight. This is typically nothing to worry about with healthy, well established pythons, although it can be extremely frustrating to the keeper. If your snake is healthy continue your husbandry routine as usual, yet reduce the amount of handling the snake receives to a minimum. Offer your ball python food every 10-14 days until interested in eating again, as the snake will eventually "turn back on" and resume feeding normally.

 
Maintenance    
Spot-clean your snake's enclosure as necessary. When feces/urates/uneaten prey items are present, remove them as soon as possible. Clean & disinfect the water bowl on a weekly basis. Depending on cage conditions, remove all substrate & cage furniture and completely disinfect using a 5% bleach solution approximately every 30 days. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow to dry before replacing cage furniture & your snake.

Basic Reproductive Info

Ball pythons reach sexual maturity anywhere from 18 months to 4 years of age. Breeding season in captivity typically ranges from November to March. Stop all feeding at this time. Animals should be well established and in excellent condition before any breeding is attempted. Breeding may be induced by reducing daytime photoperiod to 8 - 10 hours and dropping nighttime temperatures into the mid 70's. Introduce the female into the male's cage. Misting the animals with water may induce breeding activity. Females shed 14-20+ days after ovulation; eggs are usually laid within 30 days of post-ovulation shed. Clutch size for balls typically ranges from 4 - 12 eggs. At an Incubation temperature of 88 - 90F (optimal), these eggs take an average of 60 days to hatch


Notes/Comments
Ball pythons are often regarded as the most popular pet python in herpetoculture, and with their docile nature & low maintenance requirements it is easy to see why. Acquiring captive bred specimens will help ensure a successful snakekeeping experience. The myriad color morphs that are now available, combined with the fact that normal ball pythons are quite attractive in their own right, truly make this species a snake for both novice and advanced herpetoculturist alike.

 

 

Name: Reticulated python
Scientific name: Python reticulatus
AKA: "Retic"

General Information

Distribution    
Southeast Asia, Philippines & Indonesia. Reticulated pythons have the largest range of any python species.
 
Wild Status    
Widespread throughout their range but diminishing in numbers, reticulated pythons are extensively exploited in the skin trade, and large numbers are slaughtered for their meat & hides. The CITES export quota for reticulated python skins in 2002 was 437,500. This grim & sickening fact goes to show that it is much easier to legally remove dead snakes from their native habitat than live ones.
 
Description    

Reticulated pythons are somewhat slender for their length & develop a very muscular girth that tends to stay round, instead of flattening out as in other large constrictors. These giant pythons are extremely variable, with net-like or rope-like patterning on a silver or tan-silver background. The dorsal pattern is typically the base color of the snake and bordered in black and yellow, orange or brown. The lateral blotches are light in color. The entire body radiates an iridescent sheen.


Wild-caught Retics tend to be extremely nervous and defensive animals that will bite to escape handling. On the other hand, captive-bred specimens often mature into docile, intelligent animals that are a pleasure to interact with if the keeper is properly set up to do so. his is a species where choosing a good, CB animal can make a huge difference in your snake-keeping experience.

 
Size    
Hatchlings approximately 24"+/-. Females average 17+', males average 12' - 14' adult size. Record size is around 33 feet & 300+ pounds.
 
Lifespan    
Reticulated pythons may live 30 years or more in captivity.
 
Color Mutations    
Color & pattern mutations of Python reticulatus include T- albino, T+ albino, Tiger, Super Tiger, Albino Tiger, Calico, Calico Tiger, Striped, Patternless, Axanthic/Anerythristic, Hypomelanistic, Granite-back, and more!

Captive Maintenance Guidelines

Difficulty Level    
Advanced - keeper should have previous experience with larger boids and be comfortable with their care and handling. Not a suitable beginners snake. Reticulated pythons are usually what their keeper has made them. If properly kept by a knowledgeable owner they behave well and are a spectacular sight as a large, tame python.
 
Enclosure    

Enclosures can be as simple or elaborate as one is capable of caring for. Remember that the more "stuff" you put in a cage, the more "stuff" you have to clean & disinfect on a regular basis. That said, there are many different enclosures that work well for smaller reticulated pythons, including, but not limited to: plastic sweater boxes (i.e. Rubbermaid), melamine racks, Freedom Breeder cages, and any of the commercially available plastic-type reptile cages, (i.e. those from Vision Herp & other similar manufacturers). Glass aquariums & tanks are adequate for smaller specimens; keep in mind that the screen tops on such enclosures can make it difficult to maintain humidity levels. Also refer to our Snake Caging care sheet for more information.

Juvenile reticulated pythons seem to do well in smaller enclosures that make them feel more secure; a small snake in a big cage can become overwhelmed & stressed. For large retics, a minimum cage size should allow the snake to stretch out at least half its own length, and longer is always better. Also, if you must choose between the width of the enclosure & the height, always choose the extra width, as your retic will appreciate the extra floor space. Remember that ALL enclosures must allow for a proper thermal gradient that the snake can utilize, with a hot spot on one end and a cooler spot on the other. No matter the age of the snake, reticulated pythons are extremely strong and should have a secure cage with a strong lock. Accommodating the enclosure requirements for adult reticulated pythons is something that MUST be considered prior to acquiring one of these giant constrictors.

 
Substrate    
There are a few substrates that work well. Newspaper is the cheapest & easiest with regards to cleaning & disinfecting: out with the old, in with the new. Cypress mulch is great for controlling humidity, but remember that too much humidity can be as detrimental (if not more) as too little. Never use any substrate containing cedar, as this is deadly to reptiles!
 
Temperatures & Heating    
Provide your retic with a basking spot of 88-92 F and an ambient (background) temperature of 78-80 F. The ambient temperature should not fall below 75 F. It is vitally important to KNOW the temperatures at which you are keeping your snake(s). DO NOT GUESS!! A great way to monitor temps is to use a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer with a probe. Stick the thermometer to the inside of the cage on the cool end and place the probe on the warm end, and you'll have both sides covered at once.
There are several ways to go about heating the enclosure: undercage heating pads, ceramic heat emitters, basking bulbs (both regular daytime & red "night" bulbs) are just a few. With heat emitters & bulbs it is necessary to really keep an eye on the humidity within the enclosure, especially if combined with a screen top, as both will dry the air quickly. Use thermostats, rheostats and/or timers to control your heat source. Do not use hot rocks with snakes as they often heat unevenly over too small of a surface area & can cause serious burns.
 
Humidity    
Providing proper humidity for reticulated pythons is important to ensure a healthy environment and aid in shedding, but as stated previously too much humidity can be as problematic as too little. First off, let's establish "humidity" as the amount of moisture in the air. To provide your snake with a humidity level of 50% - 60%, you have a couple of options.
1. Use cypress mulch or a similar substrate that can be misted & is mold-resistant. Cypress is good for this as it turns a tan color when dry & a rich brown when wet, giving a visual cue as to when it needs to be dampened again.
2. Make a "humidity box" for your snake. This consists of packing a plastic container with damp sphagnum moss (think well-wrung-out wash cloth to gauge moisture), cutting a hole in the top or side & placing it in your python's enclosure so that it can access the box as it pleases.

Keep in mind that if you have a screen top on the enclosure you will probably want to cover it most or all of the way with plastic, a towel or some other means of keeping moisture from escaping. This is also where having proper, reliable ambient temperatures (back to that thermometer!) is important, as warm air holds more moisture than cool air. You want the enclosure to be humid, not WET. A soggy cage can eventually lead to bacterial & fungal infections and consequently, death.

 
Lighting    
Supplemental lighting is not necessary for this species, but if used should run on a 12/12 cycle, meaning 12 hours on & 12 hours off. Continuous bright, overhead lighting is stressful to snakes, especially a nocturnal serpent such as this one.
 
Water    
Always make fresh, clean water available to your reticulated python, as they have a tendency to drink copiously. The size of the water dish is up to you. If it is large enough for the python to crawl into and soak, sooner or later your snake will make the most of the opportunity, and most seem to enjoy a nice soak from time to time. Ensure that the bowl is not too deep for juvenile animals - 1" or so will suffice. Snakes of many species will defecate in their water bowls from time to time, so be prepared for cleaning, disinfecting & a water change when necessary. It is often beneficial to have a spare water bowl for such occasions, so that one may be used while the other is being cleaned.
 
Accessories    
One cage accessory that is beneficial to keeping a happy reticulated python is a good hide box...maybe even a couple of them. These are sensitive, intelligent snakes that appreciate & utilize a hide spot. Provide one on each end of your python's enclosure so that it doesn't have to choose between temperature & security. Clay flowerpots, plastic flowerpot trays, and commercially available hide boxes all work quite well. For larger retics, taping dark paper over part of the enclosure is a simple way to help your snake feel more secure. As with any cage accessory, ensure that your method of providing a hide spot does not interfere with safely working the animal in its enclosure.
 
Feeding    

Feed your snake an appropriately sized rodent weekly. A baby retic should begin feeding on small adult mice or rat crawlers. They can eat rats from the time they are young - starting off with rat pups or "crawlers" for younger snakes & moving up in size as the animal grows. At 3', the snake is large enough for weanling rats. At 4', it is typically capable of consuming adult rats. Do not handle your snake for at least a day after feeding, as this can lead to regurgitation.

Most reticulated pythons have a terrific feeding response and are generally pretty easy to convert to frozen/thawed or pre-killed rodents (see Snake Feeding caresheet). Never leave a live rodent unattended with ANY snake. Feed at least once every 10 days, especially with younger retics. While it is somewhat possible to control a snake's growth rate through maintenance feeding, remember that feeding too infrequently will leave you with a hungry snake that is constantly searching for food, resulting in stronger feeding responses during interaction with handlers. On the other hand, frequent feedings of 1 - 2 times weekly will result in quick growth, so It may be wise to consider how large you wish the snake to get over a certain period of time.

This is a species where developing proper feeding habits is crucial to safe handling, as reticulated rock pythons are incredibly strong constrictors & a force to be reckoned with when hungry. Never handle rodents and then handle a snake; you may be mistaken as food. As the snake grows to lengths exceeding 6' it may be wise to feed the snake only dead rodents by placing prey items in the enclosure for the snake to discover, as this may encourage more gentle food acquisition.

As your reticulated python grows you will need to located progressively larger prey items - i.e. large rabbits, etc. Finding a source for appropriate prey items prior to needing them will prove extremely beneficial in keeping your retic, especially with regards to budget and feeding schedule. Contact other retic keepers or members of a local herp society to help point you in the right direction. Feeding large adult retics is not always cheap, and this cost should be taken into consideration prior to acquiring this species.

 
Maintenance    
Spot-clean your snake's enclosure as necessary. When feces/urates/uneaten prey items are present, remove them as soon as possible. Clean & disinfect the water bowl on a weekly basis. Depending on cage conditions, remove all substrate & cage furniture and completely disinfect using a 5% bleach solution approximately every 30 days. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow to dry before replacing cage furniture & your snake.

Basic Reproductive Info

NOTE: Prior to attempting any breeding with your reticulated pythons, make sure you are 100% certain of the gender of each snake! NEVER introduce two mature male retics into the same enclosure, as they are highly combative to the point of severely injuring or killing one another!

Reticulated pythons reach sexual maturity anywhere from 18 months to 4 years of age. Breeding size occurs at lengths of 7 - 9' (males) & 11'+ (females). Breeding season in captivity typically ranges from November to March. Stop all feeding at this time. Animals should be well established and in excellent condition before any breeding is attempted. Breeding may be induced by reducing daytime photoperiod to 8 - 10 hours and dropping nighttime temperatures into the mid 70's. Introduce the female into the male's cage. Misting the animals with water may induce breeding activity. Females typically shed 14+ days after ovulation; eggs are typically laid within 34 - 49 (average 38) days of post-ovulation shed. Clutch size for retics ranges from 10 - 80 + eggs. At an Incubation temperature of 88 - 90F (optimal), these eggs take an average of 88 days to hatch.


Notes/Comments
The reticulated python is the king of constrictors. Their size and strength is second to none in the snake world, and their beauty is unmatched among the giant boids. While certainly not "a snake for everyone," reticulated pythons have a very dedicated following of skilled keepers that grows as more and more herpers gain the experience necessary to properly care for these colossal animals. Safely watching a retic's instinctive hunting behavior leaves one with a sense of respect and awe that few other snakes inspire to this level. Previous experience in dealing with large powerful constrictors is a MUST before acquiring one of these snakes, as even the most docile CB specimens may possess extreme feeding responses. Reticulated pythons make an excellent challenge for the experienced keeper ready for the "biggest of them all."