I hope you and your family had a wonderful and safe Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/etc. celebration. New Years 2009 is only a few days away so have a STUPENDOUS new years as well but - and I can't stress this enough - if you go out for new years, please be SAFE and have a designated driver if you're an adult who will partake in adult beverages.
We're entering a new year so it was time to give the blog an overhaul to usher in the new year. I hope everyone is pleased with the new look. Thanks for reading my ball python blog when I add new entries and thanks again for your comments, questions and suggestions.
I’m pleased to announce the grand opening of “Pet Products Delivered” at http://www.PetProductsDelivered.com. You didn’t get your beloved pet a gift for Christmas? Don’t worry; with more than 14,000 different products in stock, I’m certain you’ll be able to find your pet something wonderful at our online pet store. We have everything from aquariums, bird, cat, dog and small animal items in stock so tell your friends and family about the online superstore and come check it out yourself.
It’s too cold out doors for most of us right now but that’s not a problem because you can simply order from the comfort of your warm home and have your items delivered to you front door. Have a happy and safe 2008 holiday season as well!
Growing up as a child, we kept everything from dogs to ferrets as household pets. I can recall caring for our beloved pets and the occasional trip to the vet if warranted. When I first acquired a ball python many years back, I simply cared for it in the same manner as our previous pets, never keeping any detailed records of its activities. A trip to the vet’s office first revealed to me the importance of keeping records, a log, a journal, and etc. when the vet asked me when it last defecated. My mind drew a blank when the question was asked of me and from that point on, I decided to start keeping records of important events pertaining to ball pythons.
There really isn’t any set of “rules” when it comes to record keeping, it’s completely up to you what you’d like to record and keep track of but there are certain activities that you should record about your ball python when they take place. Such activities include when it last defecated, if the fecal was normal or abnormal (if abnormal, record the details), when it last fed or refused to feed along with the type of prey item that was offered, its last shed date and if it was a complete or incomplete shed, etc. and of course, the date.
You can keep records in a notebook if you’d like or 3x5 cards if you have more than one ball python. 3x5 cards placed near the cage of your ball python makes record keeping and review quick and easy. If you’re more of a technology type of person, you can use several software products created specifically for the reptile community such as Degei husbandry database, Metzcal and others. These products make it easy for you to record husbandry information directly on your computer and manage the data effectively. There are also Microsoft Excel spreadsheets available for download on the Internet that you can simply print out on paper to record husbandry information as well.
Regardless of whether you choose to use a pen and paper or keyboard and mouse to record husbandry information about your ball python, it’s a habit that I suggest developing if you’re not doing it already. They say that if you do anything for 30-days it will become a habit so just keep recording those important events and before you know it, it will become second nature for you. You’ll probably record more events than necessary when you first start out but it’s okay since you’ll more than likely optimize what you record and what you don’t record over time once you get in the swing of things.
Take your log, journal, 3x5 card or computer printout with you if you ever take your ball python to the vet. He or she will be very grateful as well because you'll have important information recorded that may assist the vet. Your vet may also be able to point out any concerns or suggestions when it comes to the husbandry and care of your ball python based on the records you’ve kept and provided. Record keeping is invaluable and your ball python will appreciate that you care enough for it to keep records of what it does.
Python regius is the scientific name for Royal or Ball Pythons. The term “Ball Python” was derived from the fact that they will oftentimes fashion their bodies into a “ball” shape when threatened. The main predator of the ball python in Africa is the “Black Cobra”. Black Cobras are unable to swallow extremely large prey items so ball pythons have evolved to adapt into a “ball” formation in an effort to prevent from being swallowed by black cobras. I’ve provided this bit of brief background to explain why they form into the shape of a ball when they feel threatened.
Ball pythons are docile snakes that usually do not strike at their keepers when they feel threatened but there are some that do and they are the exception, not the rule. As many of you have learned in school, there is a “fight/flight” response mechanism inherit in animals. Most ball pythons take the “flight” response by either crawling away very fast (and they can move very fast!) or contouring their body into a ball shape. Others take the “fight” response and strike at the threat. I’m going to discuss the “fight” response or “striking” in this blog and ways to have them stop this undesired behavior.
I’ve noticed that hatchlings are more prone to strike or fashion themselves into a ball than their adult counterparts. I’ve also noticed that the hatchlings that do strike when they’re young tend to outgrow this un-welcomed behavior over time once they feel safe, secure and confident that you don’t plan to eat or harm them whenever you approach their tank. We have no adult ball pythons that attempt to strike at us but I have noticed adult “wild caught” (harvested directly from the bush of Africa) ball pythons strike out of defense when confronted by humans. Captive born and bred adult ball pythons usually do not show signs of striking at their keepers as adults, especially those accustomed to being handled. A ball python can also strike at you if it’s hungry and smells a rodent on you or your hand so change your clothing or wash your hands if you’ve been handling any rodents before you attempt to handle your ball python.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the term, “The bark is worse than the bite” when speaking about certain dogs. The same applies to being tagged or bitten by a hatchling ball python. Ball pythons will usually just “tag and release” opposed to biting and holding on. I’ve only been tagged a total of three times to date so I know first hand how it feels and what can be expected. It feels like nothing more than a light pinprick and produces minutely small droplets of blood. Simply washing the area and applying Neosporin, peroxide, etc. to the area is all that’s needed. They’re non-venomous snakes so there’s nothing to worry about if you’re ever tagged.
One way to help calm your ball python down is to give it time to properly acclimate to its new environment, assuming you received it pretty recently. Placing the cage in a low-traffic area or covering a portion of the tank visible to a high-traffic area will help your ball python settle in. Make sure the cage conditions are optimal as well (temperatures, humidity, hide-box, etc).
There are a few techniques for dealing with ball python hatchlings that strike at you. One technique is to place a garment that you’ve worn inside the tank with your ball python. The theory behind this technique is that your scent is on the worm garment so it will become aware of your scent and will not be frightened when you attempt to handle it. Another technique that I advise if your ball python strikes at you is to handle it for 15-minutes each and every day. You may feel a bit safer wearing a glove on your hand in the event that it attempts to bite your hand. Keep it away from your face and hold it daily for 15-minutes. Do not put it down or back in its cage if it strikes at you or hisses. You want to condition or “teach” your pet ball python that it will not get its way by striking at you. It will learn over time that striking is ineffective so it will ultimately stop this undesired behavior.
Ball pythons make exceptionally wonderful pets and they are not “mean” snakes, even if it appears that way if they should ever strike or hiss at you. Simply take a look in the mirror at yourself and then look at the little ball python hatchling. Now compare the size difference between you and your ball python hatchling and then try to mentally swap places with your ball python and you’ll get a better idea of why it might be afraid of you and strike at you “out of fear”. Make deliberate movements and show confidence when handling your ball python and it will learn over time that you’re a friend and not a predator that’s out to harm or eat it.
They can live for a very long time so rest assured that this striking behavior will go away over time and that you’ll have a long and happy relationship with your loving pet ball python.
Believe it or not, you have “Spidey Senses”. This blog is about showing you how to tune into and utilize these senses. Before you start poking your chest out and attempt to shoot some webs from your wrist, know that I don’t mean actual “Spidey Senses” in the same manner as the infamous “web-slinger”. The senses that I’m talking about are the sense of smell, sight and sound. I know there may be some of us that are unable to use all three of these senses but you can still use the senses that you’re able to or possibly ask someone for their assistance. Lets look at how we can use our “Spidey Senses” when it comes to observing potential problems with ball pythons.
Smell??? What does smell have to do with anything? Smell is very important and is an often-overlooked sense for gathering data from the air. The very first thing I do when I enter one of the ball python rooms at our facility is to take in a very deep breath of air - “through my nose”. I do this to see, or should I say smell, if there are any immediate issues in the room. I look out and pay attention to the possible smell of “death” first and foremost. A ball python may have regurgitated a rodent or could have unfortunately passed away the night before, a smell that you can pick up on immediately. Another smell to be aware of, which is nearly impossible to describe in words, is the smell of a super strong pungent odor in the cage.
Ball pythons defecate and urinate, which has a bad smell to it that’s tolerable but it’s not the same as a wretched smelling foul odor that you can smell from a distance. I hope you never have the misfortune to smell this but if you should smell this one-day (trust me, you’ll know it when you do), it’s a very good indicator that there’s something wrong with your ball python and that you should schedule a visit with your vet ASAP! The fecal or urine in the cage will also have a custard type of slimy look to it – very runny as well - and will reek of a horrificly strong odor.
This is obvious but is still worth mentioning. When you look at your ball python, take a minute or two to observe it and the condition of the cage before immediately reaching in to remove it from the cage. Monitor any unusual behavior and get a good overall feel for how your ball python acts during the day and evening. Any odd behavior or practices might require closer observation and inspection.
There are no radios in any of our snake rooms and the rooms remain quiet for a good reason. Ball pythons oftentimes make a clicking sound or a strong wheezing sound if they have or are developing respiratory infections. It’s very possible to know if a ball python is having respiratory problems by simply “listening” to the environment closely to see if you hear any sounds that are out of the ordinary.
The more you fine tune your “Spidey Senses”, the more you’ll learn and become more aware of potential problems way before you even approach the tank of your ball python. Don’t be so envious of the “web-slinger” for having “Spidey Senses” because you have them too!