The Ball Python
The ball python, sometimes called the royal python, is a small species of nocturnal python that is native to western Africa. The n ame "ball python" comes from the snake's tendency to curl up into a ball, and the ball python is typically very placid and calm in nature, being more likely to use this curling up in defense as opposed to striking.
Ball pythons make fantastic pets because they stay smaller and are rather slow-moving when compared to other popular pet snakes, such as corn snakes. Ball pythons are non-venomous and kill their prey by constricting it, but are not large enough to cause harm to humans or pets.
Ball pythons can be well-suited to both experienced keepers and beginners.
Life Span and Size
The record age of a ball python in captivity is reported to be 47 years, but between 20 and 30 years is much more common. In the wild, ball pythons live for an average of about 10 years.
Ball pythons normally average between 3 to 3.5 feet in length for males and 4 feet in length for females. Larger females can sometimes reach between 5 and 6 feet in length, but this is extremely rare.
Native Habitat and Diet
Ball pythons are found in wooded areas as well as the savannah and grasslands in their native Africa. They are also commonly found living in termite mounds, where they tend to hide during the day.
Ball pythons eat smaller-sized prey items in the wild, including African soft-furred rats, other small rodents or birds. Ball pythons use their tongue to "smell" as well as heat-sensitive scales called heat pits to find their prey.
It's not uncommon to see an albino snake in captivity. These snakes, like many other albino animals, are lacking certain pigments in their skin. Many snake breeders have selectively bred snakes in captivity that have missing, increased, or altered pigments such black, red and yellow, as well as other genetic anomalies. These colour variations are called "morphs" and can range in price from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars. The possibilities for these morphs are essentially endless, and ball pythons offer the most versatility and variety in creating morphs.
Some examples of ball python morphs are albino (lacking black pigment), striped, piebald (normal colouration with patches of solid white), axanthic (lacking yellow pigment), ghost (hypomelanistic, meaning lacking in overall pigment) leucistic (solid white with no pattern and blue eyes) and pastel (lighter in overall colour with more vivid yellow colouration).
In the wild, some people find ball pythons to be a good luck charm and if a ball python ventures into a populated area, it is respectfully removed and placed back where it belongs.
In other areas, habitat destruction and hunting ball pythons for their meat or skins can harm populations. The ball python's status in the wild is stable, but is thought to be declining. Many ball pythons are exported for the pet trade, which is why a captive-bred ball python is the best choice.
Pythons versus Boas
The two largest species of snakes are boas and pythons, which belong to the family Boidae. While ball pythons are small in comparison to their relatives, some pythons can get very large. The primary difference between boas and pythons is that pythons lay eggs while boa constrictors give live births after the eggs hatch within them. Also, all pythons reside in the eastern hemisphere while most boas, save for a few species, reside in the western hemisphere.