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Blood Pythons

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Blood Python
Gary Ruplinger

The blood python is a stocky snake that usually grows to a maximum length of about 4 to 6 feet, but a few large ones make it to 8 feet. Like most species of snakes, the females are larger than the males. A distinguishing mark of the blood python is a head that changes colors. It is also unusual in that it is so thick for its length. The coloration is in blotches of various red tinged patterns. They have a long lifespan of 25 years or so in captivity. Because of the responsibility and long time span involved in owning a snake, it is not a decision to be made lightly.

It is important to get a captive born snake because the wild born snakes are often nervous and aggressive. Well cared for captive bred blood pythons are often placid and docile. Still, they are not beginner snakes. Think of this Southeast Asia native as an "intermediate" snake in difficulty of care.

An adult blood python needs an enclosure that is at least four feet long, but a young snake will feel more secure in a smaller enclosure. Snakes are cold blooded animals, which makes it necessary to have heat added to the cage. This warmth should vary from one end to the other so the snake can choose the temperature that makes it feel the best. Warming can be accomplished by the use of an undertank heater, a special heating pad sold in the pet store. It should be placed under only half of the tank.

The temperature in both ends should be monitored by the use of thermometers. The blood python needs a basking area of 88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (about 31-32.5 degrees Celsius) and the cooler end of the cage maintained at about 78 to 80 degrees (about 22.5-27 degrees Celsius). It should not be allowed to fall below 75 degrees (about 24 degrees Celsius). The humidity needs to be kept at 50 to 60 percent. A substrate (cage floor material) like cypress mulch can help maintain humidity. It can be misted when it dries out. You need to be careful not to keep it too wet or it will be too humid and be unhealthy for the snake. Newspaper is also fine to use as a substrate, but you'll have to pay attention to the humidity.

If your enclosure is an aquarium with a screen top, you might need to place something over part of the top to help maintain humidity. Relative humidity can be monitored with the use of a hygrometer, a device to measure humidity. This can be purchased in the garden section of a store like Wal-Mart or K-Mart. A blood python needs fresh water supplied at all times, and this can contribute to the humidity level. The water bowl will ideally be large enough for the snake to have a soak once in a while, but the water should be shallow enough that there is no danger of drowning.

An important aspect of any snake enclosure is for it to be escape-proof. Be sure any doors or lids close tightly. If a snake senses it can push a door or lid open, it will do all it can to get out. The top can be strapped on with strips of belting material if escape is a problem. Ventilation is important to the health of a blood python. Some people keep their snakes in plastic totes like the ones made by Rubbermaid. These need to have ventilation holes made around the sides and in the lid.

Blood pythons are sensitive and private so a hiding box or two is an absolute necessity. If it has a hiding place on each end, it can choose the temperature it likes. Hiding places, or hides, can be made from plastic butter tubs, clay flower pots with a hole broken in the side, and other containers. Many snakes have enjoyed a simple cereal box as a hide.

The food of the blood python is generally rats. These are thick snakes and can handle thicker food than thinner snakes of the same length. Small rats can be fed to young blood pythons, with larger ones for larger snakes. The diameter of the prey food should not be larger than the diameter of the snake. One rat per week is plenty for a young blood python, while adults will do fine on one every 10 to 14 days. They have a slow metabolism and will get obese if they eat more than this.

Captive snakes should be fed pre-killed food. You can raise and kill your own rats or you can buy them pre-killed and frozen. The rat should be thawed either under a heat lamp or in warm water. The safest way to feed a snake is with long handled tongs so that the snake can't accidentally mistake your hand for food. The snake should not be handled for a day or so after feeding. If you do, it is likely to throw up its meal.

If the snake seems to be a picky eater, a good idea is to feed it at night. They are used to hunting in the dark and sometimes need the experience of hunting. While live rats are more attractive to the instincts of a blood python, a live animal can inflict a great deal of injury to a snake.

An adult blood python needs an enclosure with a floor space of 6 to 12 square feet. The enclosure needs to be kept clean. Uneaten food and wastes should be removed quickly. The substrate should be replaced and the cage disinfected with bleach water about every month. The bowl should be washed more often, especially if the snake defecates into its water, which is a common occurrence.

Blood pythons are a good choice for someone with some experience with easier snakes. There are more captive born (or CB) bloods available all the time and they are becoming more popular. The temperaments of blood pythons vary from individual to individual, with the CB snakes being far more docile and calm. For best results, get a captive born baby and the two of you can get to know each other together. Be aware, though, that some are quick to bite.


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