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Old 10-19-15, 09:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

A few months ago my girlfriend and I adopted an adult female ball python (about 4 feet) from the Colorado Reptile Humane Society. I was interning there over the summer and handled this snake several times before we adopted her. She was always extremely friendly and calm even when she hadn't been handled often (they have so many animals they can't handle them all regularly).

Well a few days ago she started getting aggressive out of the blue. I opened her cage to get her out and she came out fast like she does when she's looking for food. I tried to push her head away to let her know it was handling time not feeding time. I reached around to grab the lower half of her body and she turned and bit me. She immediately let go and I was able to handle her totally normally after I washed off my wound (she acted like her normal self).

I assumed that was a fluke and my hands must have smelled like food or something. However the next time I tried to take her out she acted similarly, striking several times and nicking my finger again. It was a day before she normally gets fed so I assumed maybe we weren't feeding her enough and she was just super hungry.

We had been feeding her 3 adult mice once a week. Yesterday we fed her 4 adult mice, hoping that more feed would make her calm down. Well today my girlfriend says that every time she walks by the snake's tank she is striking at the glass.

Nothing has really changed except it's starting to get cooler here (but it's about the same temperature inside the apartment).

Any ideas what could be causing this sudden change in behavior? Do you think she will be handleable once I can get her out of the cage and she realizes it's not feeding time, or will she still be bitey even out of the cage? Is there anything we can do to get her back to the sweet, calm snake she was before?

Thanks in advance!

Edit: SHE IS DEFINITELY NOT IN SHED; SHE SHED A WEEK AGO
Edit 2: I've heard sometimes they get super hungry in late summer/early fall because they are fattening up to fast for the winter? Any chance that is why?
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Old 10-20-15, 06:31 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

She's starving on mice. Sounds like the snake is really hungry.

My adult females, breeding or not, get a medium rat (150 - 175 grams) once per week. 3 or 4 adult mice do not equal an adult rat.
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Old 10-20-15, 10:18 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

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She's starving on mice. Sounds like the snake is really hungry.

My adult females, breeding or not, get a medium rat (150 - 175 grams) once per week. 3 or 4 adult mice do not equal an adult rat.
That would make sense if we had just now switched her to mice, but she was being fed 3 adult mice at the shelter for months to years before we had her. In fact at the time that we adopted her they were feeding her 3 adult mice at a time even less frequently than once a week. She is a thick, active, healthy snake so clearly not "starving".

If anything the amount of food we give her has increased quite a lot since we have had her. Until the last two weeks she was always satiated after her 3 mice; after being fed she didn't look around for more mice and didn't show evidence of being hungry (looking around the cage for food) until the next feeding day.

Last edited by lupegirl8; 10-20-15 at 10:47 AM..
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Old 10-20-15, 10:29 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

I'm Sorry I'm not sure why your feeding her mice. Try feeding an appropriate sized Rat. Just one. not a few small ones.
Also My rule is I dont handle 24 hours before feeding, and don't handle until 48 hours after feeding. Reaching in the day before she's expecting food is almost asking for it.

How long have you had her? If You just got her she may need time to settle into her new home. She may have been fine at the centre because she was used to it. You've changed her entire surroundings she is going to be nervous.
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Old 10-20-15, 01:00 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

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Originally Posted by lupegirl8 View Post
That would make sense if we had just now switched her to mice, but she was being fed 3 adult mice at the shelter for months to years before we had her. In fact at the time that we adopted her they were feeding her 3 adult mice at a time even less frequently than once a week. She is a thick, active, healthy snake so clearly not "starving".

If anything the amount of food we give her has increased quite a lot since we have had her. Until the last two weeks she was always satiated after her 3 mice; after being fed she didn't look around for more mice and didn't show evidence of being hungry (looking around the cage for food) until the next feeding day.
Alright let me try this again a different way. You asked for help, you went on to suggest that maybe she's hungry because it's time to "fatten up" for the fall weather. Partially right, however ball pythons don't fast for winter, boas and pythons don't brumate.

However, it IS pushing into breeding season. All of my animals are voracious right now.

So there's a good chance she's reached maturity and hasn't in previous years at the shelter, so she's looking for more food. In her mind, she's starving because she doesn't feel she has enough mass to produce offspring.

Now how "thick" is this snake? How large is she? Do you know her weight? I'm curious on what you're comparing her to to consider her healthy?

Further to ball python physiology two points to make....

1. Ball pythons are highly inactive snakes. They prefer to ambush their prey from hiding spots like rodent burrows or termite mounds (or hiding places in captivity). So your snake being active on a regular basis can be a sign she's hunting.

2. Ball pythons are nocturnal. So when you're sleeping she's most likely looking for food. So despite you considering her satiated, she very well may not be for long. Many ball pythons will only take one or a few items and then be content for a short period of time. Such as a few days.

Also, there's a good chance once your snake realizes no food is coming it will snap out of it's feeding mood and be calm enough to handle.

Lastly, you're welcome to ask for any advice, however, if you argue with the advice given it makes you look like you're only looking for someone to agree with your assessment and not for any actual advice. I will suggest that you may have a difficult time on any open forum if this is the case.
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Old 10-20-15, 01:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

My boa gets really active when he starts getting hungry. If he quickly comes out to see u when u open his door around that time u can notice he moves his head from side to side rapidly u better get your hands back . He's gonna strIke . Also just because u give them the proper weight of food doesn't mean it satisfies them . Recently no large rats were available locally , so I substituted 2 medium rats , gets about 200 grams every 10 days or when he let's me kw he's done waiting . Well he didn't like 2 smaller rats he wanted 1 big 1 I guess he stayed out of both of his hides displaying hunger by searching the whole enclosure for 3/4 days .after feeding he also displayed agression . Next feed he got the same weight of a meal but in one offering 1 large rat , Right back to his normal pattern eat look for more for a few hours go in hide . They do what comes naturally. Hunt if they are not satisfied with your offering and u will be made aware by 1 maybe several strikes coming your way . If u just watch them closely most of there tells will become apparent .But remember everything has a bad day once in awhile snakes do to .
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Old 10-20-15, 05:49 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

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Alright let me try this again a different way. You asked for help, you went on to suggest that maybe she's hungry because it's time to "fatten up" for the fall weather. Partially right, however ball pythons don't fast for winter, boas and pythons don't brumate.

However, it IS pushing into breeding season. All of my animals are voracious right now.

So there's a good chance she's reached maturity and hasn't in previous years at the shelter, so she's looking for more food. In her mind, she's starving because she doesn't feel she has enough mass to produce offspring.

Now how "thick" is this snake? How large is she? Do you know her weight? I'm curious on what you're comparing her to to consider her healthy?

Further to ball python physiology two points to make....

1. Ball pythons are highly inactive snakes. They prefer to ambush their prey from hiding spots like rodent burrows or termite mounds (or hiding places in captivity). So your snake being active on a regular basis can be a sign she's hunting.

2. Ball pythons are nocturnal. So when you're sleeping she's most likely looking for food. So despite you considering her satiated, she very well may not be for long. Many ball pythons will only take one or a few items and then be content for a short period of time. Such as a few days.

Also, there's a good chance once your snake realizes no food is coming it will snap out of it's feeding mood and be calm enough to handle.

Lastly, you're welcome to ask for any advice, however, if you argue with the advice given it makes you look like you're only looking for someone to agree with your assessment and not for any actual advice. I will suggest that you may have a difficult time on any open forum if this is the case.
I did not mean to give the impression that I was arguing with you. I simply did not understand your original logic. Simply saying that she is suddenly aggressive because she has been eating mice instead of rats doesn't really make sense since she has been eating mice for months to years (i.e. why did she suddenly become aggressive as a result of eating mice when it has been the norm for her for a long time?).

However your second explanation that she may have just reached sexual maturity and is trying to put on weight for the breeding season (and THAT is why the size of feeders matters now) makes much more sense. I wish you had said that first.

Can't tell you her exact weight because we don't have a scale large enough to weigh her yet, but she has good muscle mass, her spine is not pronounced, and she feels dense enough for her size. I may not be a snake expert but I have enough experience to tell whether one is underweight or "starving".

I am a long-term, well respected member on the Austin's Turtle Page forum (widely considered the best forum for keepers of turtles and tortoises) so I'm not sure I totally agree with your assessment that I wouldn't do well on an open forum like this. Just because I asked for advice doesn't mean I have to accept all of it without questioning if I don't understand the logic behind it (or if I think that whoever answered misunderstood the question).

Thank you for extrapolating on your original point, I really appreciate it (and all of your advice).
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Old 10-20-15, 05:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

Just a note: she is well established. We have had her for several months and she is all settled in. It's past the time period when she would be acting out of nervousness due to moving to a new environment.
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Old 10-20-15, 08:14 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

For the record, I still think you're under feeding the snake even with 4 mice. An adult female ball python is simply too large for mice, even 4 and even if she was fed them all her life. If she was fed even less frequently then she was really maintenance fed and that's a bit of a shame.

It sounds like she's healthy for her size, as a snake will only grow to the food source it's given, but she still may be small for an adult. A weight would be ideal to give a comparison.

My females average 2000 grams between 3 and 4 feet.
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Old 10-21-15, 10:39 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

All my adult females are also 2000+ grams aswell

I think even using a kitchen gram scale, and placing a box ontop with her in it, then subracting the weight of the box will give you a close enough estimate.

Also a snake could be kept a certain way for years and just because it seems healthy doesn't mean the original keeping was right.

Seriously just try feeding 1 appopriate sized rat once every 7-10 days for a while and see if there is improverment.
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Old 10-21-15, 01:03 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

You could choose to feed 8 - 12 mice.
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Old 10-21-15, 08:13 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

I have a super accurate scale that I use for my smaller snake and turtles, but am still working on getting a good accurate one for my blue tongue skink and this ball python. We haven't measured her end to end, but the people at the shelter (where they get A LOT of adult ball pythons) said she was on the larger end of the spectrum in terms of how large a ball python can get. So definitely not small for her age.

We will try a rat on her next feed day and see if that does anything. In the meantime do you think it's worth trying to take her out with my snake tongs/hook and see if she gets less aggressive once she's out of the tank and knows there isn't any food coming? That's the only way we will be able to change her water/bedding. Or would to recommend just waiting until we have given her the rat?
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Old 10-21-15, 10:53 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

Wait. Give her a jumbo rat and see where it goes. Don't stress her out in the mean time. Totally unnecessary.
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Old 10-21-15, 10:59 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

The other posters are right. What she was fed in the past doesn't mean a damn thing at this point. Snakes change just like people do. If she doesn't want mice, don't feed mice. Feed er 1 giant rat every feeding. She's not a baby anymore so don't feed her like she's a baby. Btw, mice are not near as nutritious as a rat. So REGARDLESS of how many mice you feed her it wont matter.

That's like comparing Ramen Noodles to a Turkey. Ramen may fill you up, but you'll be hungry shortly afterwards. Eat a Turkey and you'll be well fed and content for a long time.

Look at it this way. Mice have low bone density, low fat content and low muscle mass. A jumbo rat is the exact opposite.

It boils down to common sense. I'm not trying to be a hard *** but the answer to your question is so obvious that someone has to be blunt with you and tell it like it is.
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Old 10-22-15, 08:24 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Adult ball python suddenly aggressive out of the blue

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Originally Posted by lupegirl8 View Post
I have a super accurate scale that I use for my smaller snake and turtles, but am still working on getting a good accurate one for my blue tongue skink and this ball python. We haven't measured her end to end, but the people at the shelter (where they get A LOT of adult ball pythons) said she was on the larger end of the spectrum in terms of how large a ball python can get. So definitely not small for her age.

We will try a rat on her next feed day and see if that does anything. In the meantime do you think it's worth trying to take her out with my snake tongs/hook and see if she gets less aggressive once she's out of the tank and knows there isn't any food coming? That's the only way we will be able to change her water/bedding. Or would to recommend just waiting until we have given her the rat?

You can use a hook to "hook train" the snake. Gently tap the snake on the head or rub the body and it usually breaks the feeding zone they go into.
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