Are you ready for a big snake?
This could have gone in the snake forums but it could have gone in a bunch of them so I will just post it here......
Are you ready for a “big snake”?
That is the question that you will need to ask yourself before you go and purchase many of the boids, pythons and boas, that are readily available in pet shops. Many of the snakes are sold to people that don’t know what they are getting themselves into and the snake ends up being neglected or dead because the buyer isn’t into snakes anymore or never researched to find out how to take care of the snake. If the snake is lucky, the owner may have taken it into a rescue facility where the snake may end up being euthanized or, hopefully, put up for adoption.
Here are a few questions that might change your mind about making the “big” purchase:
Q: Do you know what it takes to handle a snake that is 10’ or longer?
Before a large boid is purchased, handle one that is of at least adult size and get a feel for what you are getting your self into. A common boa can get to be anywhere from 7’ to 12’ as an adult. Reticulated Pythons, Burmese Pythons, and Anacondas have the potential of getting much bigger than that! Even a “little” snake like a 6’ Boa has more strength than a lot of people realize. Large snake should only be handled by two or more people, as they can very quickly over power even an adult.
Q: Are you ready to make a commitment of 20-30 years to an animal that is not going to meet you at your door when you get home or play fetch?
Most boids will live 20 years or longer if they are cared for properly.
Q: Do you have enough room in your home to house a cage that is 5’ wide x 2’ deep or larger?
Using the minimum requirements for a snake of 1 square foot of cage space per foot of snake an adult boa at 8’ is going to need 8 square feet of cage space. A cage for that cute little Burmese as an adult is going to take a minimum of 6’ x 3’, 18 square feet, of your precious floor or storage space.
Q: Are you ready to make the monetary investment required to feed and maintain the snake for it’s entire life?
Properly caring for any reptile can get expensive, but large boids are going to have special needs. Feeding alone can get very expensive, a 6’ Boa Constrictor is going to eat, at a minimum, a jumbo adult rat that will cost approximately $5.00 for a frozen one at the local pet store. That $5.00 every 10 to 14 days can start to add up. Caging is going to be another concern, when that cute little Burmese Python hits 16’ it is going to need a minimum of 16 SF of floor space. Add to the feeding and caging the costs of: veterinary care (minimum $30 to $35 for a quick check up), medications if needed, thermometers, hygrometers, heat lamps ($5.00 to $8.00 each), special bulbs ($5.00-$8.00), substrate, mite treatment, water bowls, cage decorations, the additional electric bill for cage heating, the list goes on and on. Reptiles in general are not as cheap to keep as many would think!
Q: Can you handle looking at, handling, or even killing, mice, rats, guinea pigs, or even small pigs?
Some of the items that you are going to have to feed your snake were once those cute little fuzzy things that people kept as pets. Now they are probably dead and frozen, or you may have to do the killing yourself. For the benefit of your snake you need to feed it frozen/thawed food or at least freshly killed prey items. (Frozen/Thawed is a prey item that has been “put to sleep” most commonly by CO2 gas then packaged and frozen.) Frozen/Thawed is by far the safest way to feed the snake as a live prey item can kill the snake in no time at all. In the rare event that the snake will not eat frozen/thawed putting a cute, fuzzy mouse or rat in a pillow case and whacking it on the wall to stun it is not exactly a pleasant thing to do.
Q: Have you researched and do you understand the husbandry requirements for the snake?
Every type of snake is going to have specific care requirements. You will need to know what your snake needs to thrive. Temperatures and humidity levels are different for different snakes, some types of substrate are good for one snake and not others, some cages are easier to maintain the husbandry requirements than others. DO YOUR RESEARCH and know what your snakes needs are BEFORE you buy the snake! The information is readily available on the internet, the forum in which you are reading this, books, magazines, ask questions, and talk to friends. There is no excuse not to know the needs of your snake.
The above questions and comments may sound like I am trying to dissuade you from buying a snake. I am not, but I do want you as a potential snake owner to understand that there is a lot more to owning a large snake than just tossing it in a cage and letting it be! Something to consider before buying from a pet store or breeder is adoption. There are many snakes that are available for adoption at little or no cost from rescue facilities. These facilities do not have an endless supply of funds or unlimited space so please consider it as an option to buying. Snakes and reptiles can and do make great pets but be responsible, do your research, and think long and hard about the commitment that you are making!