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    Carpet Python (Morelia spilota sp.)

    Care sheet from NERD
     

    Name: Carpet Python
    Scientific name: Morelia spilota sp.
    AKA: New Guinea Carpet Python/Irian Jayan Carpet Python (Morelia spilota variegata),
    Jungle Carpet Python (Morelia spilota cheynei), Coastal/Queensland Carpet Python (Morelia spilota mcdowelli)

    General Information

    Distribution    
    The Irian Jayan carpet python is found in woodland areas in New Guniea. The Jungle carpet python is found in rainforests in the northeastern corner; Atherton tableton, Cairns and Mission Beach portions of Australia for example. The coastal carpet python is found along the entire eastern coast of Australia.
     
    Wild Status    
    None of these species are known to be in jeopardy in the wild.
     
    Description    
    All of these pythons are slender, semi-arboreal species that tend to be nippy when they are young. Once they outgrow this nippy stage they have wonderful curious dispositions. Jungles and coastals are only available as captive born specimens as Australia does not allow exportation. With regards to the Irian Jayans. captive born specimens are preferred as imported individuals have shown to make poor captives.
     
    Size    
    Hatchlings approximately 12”+/-.
    Irian Jayan: 4-6’, although larger specimens (8’) are known.
    Jungle Carpet: 4 -6’, although larger specimens (8’) are known.
    Coastal Carpet: 6-9’, although may reach 12’.
     
    Lifespan    
    Carpet pythons may live 25 years or more in captivity.
     
    Color Mutations    
    There are no known pattern mutations in the Irian Jayan and Jungle carpets, aside from specimens that have dorsal striping. With regards to the Coastal carpet the only known variation is the Jaguar (regular, hypomelanistic, red hypomelanistic, and banana) all of which derivate from a single pairing of animals. These mutations are quite rare and not commonly found in the marketplace.

    Captive Maintenance Guidelines

    Difficulty Level    
    Beginner. Definitely a choice for a beginner, assuming a healthy specimen is chosen. Keeper must have a general knowledge of snake husbandry.
     
    Enclosure    
    Enclosures can be as simple or elaborate as one is capable of caring for. Remember that the more “stuff” you put in a cage, the more “stuff” you have to clean & disinfect on a regular basis. That said, there are many different enclosures that work well for carpet pythons, including, but not limited to: plastic sweater boxes (i.e. Rubbermaid or Sterilite), melamine racks, Freedom Breeder cages, and any of the commercially available plastic-type reptile cages, (i.e. those from Vision Herp & other similar manufacturers). Glass aquariums & tanks are adequate; keep in mind that the screen tops on such enclosures can make it difficult to maintain humidity levels. Also refer to our Snake Caging care sheet for more information. Juvenile carpet pythons seem to do well in smaller enclosures that make them feel more secure; a small snake in a big cage can become overwhelmed & stressed (i.e. not eat). Provide your carpet with an enclosure that allows for some climbing along with branches or perches and your carpet with readily demonstrate their arboreal tendencies. Not all carpets are inclined to perch but a majority of individuals will use perches if provided. Enclosure sizes of 36"x18"x24" can make extremely attractive displays for adult carpet pythons, and work very well for mature snakes. Remember that ALL enclosures must allow for a proper thermal gradient that the snake can utilize, with a hot spot on one end and a cooler spot on the other.
     
    Substrate    
    There are a few substrates that work well. Newspaper is the cheapest & easiest with regards to cleaning & disinfecting: out with the old, in with the new. Cypress mulch is great for controlling humidity, but remember that too much humidity can be as detrimental (if not more) as too little. Never use any substrate containing cedar, as this is deadly to reptiles!
     
    Temperatures & Heating    
    Provide your carpet with a basking spot of 86-88 F and an ambient (background) temperature of 75-78 F. The ambient temperature should not fall below 75 F. It is vitally important to KNOW the temperatures at which you are keeping your snake(s). DO NOT GUESS!! A great way to monitor temps is to use a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer with a probe. Stick the thermometer to the inside of the cage on the cool end and place the probe on the warm end, and you’ll have both sides covered at once.
    There are several ways to go about heating the enclosure: undercage heating pads, ceramic heat emitters, basking bulbs (both regular daytime & red “night” bulbs) are just a few. With heat emitters & bulbs it is necessary to really keep an eye on the humidity within the enclosure, especially if combined with a screen top, as both will dry the air quickly. Use thermostats, rheostats and/or timers to control your heat source. Do not use hot rocks with snakes as they often heat unevenly over too small of a surface area & can cause serious burns.
     
    Humidity    
    Providing proper humidity for carpet is important, but as stated previously too much humidity can be as problematic as too little. First off, let’s establish “humidity” as the amount of moisture in the air. To provide your snake with a humidity level of 40% - 60%, you have a couple of options.
    1. Use cypress mulch or a similar substrate that can be misted & is mold-resistant. Cypress is good for this as it turns a tan color when dry & a rich brown when wet, giving a visual cue as to when it needs to be dampened again.
    2. Make a “humidity box” for your snake. This consists of packing a plastic container with damp sphagnum moss (think well-wrung-out wash cloth to gauge moisture), cutting a hole in the top or side & placing it in your python’s enclosure so that it can access the box as it pleases.
    Keep in mind that if you have a screen top on the enclosure you will probably want to cover it most or all of the way with plastic, a towel or some other means of keeping moisture from escaping. This is also where having proper, reliable ambient temperatures (back to that thermometer!) is important, as warm air holds more moisture than cool air. You want the enclosure to be humid, not WET. A soggy cage can eventually lead to bacterial & fungal infections and consequently, death.
     
    Lighting    
    Supplemental lighting is not necessary for these species, but if used should run on a 12/12 cycle, meaning 12 hours on & 12 hours off. Continuous bright, overhead lighting is stressful to snakes, especially nocturnal animals.
     
    Water    
    Always make fresh, clean water available to your carpet python. The size of the water dish is up to you. If it is large enough for the python to crawl into and soak, sooner or later your snake will make the most of the opportunity, and most seem to enjoy a nice soak from time to time. Ensure that the bowl is not too deep for juvenile animals – 1” or so will suffice. Snakes of many species will defecate in their water bowls from time to time, so be prepared for cleaning, disinfecting & a water change when necessary. It is often beneficial to have a spare water bowl for such occasions, so that one may be used while the other is being cleaned.
     
    Accessories    
    The one cage accessory that is essential to a happy carpet python is a good hide box...maybe even a couple of them. These are sensitive snakes that appreciate & utilize a hide spot. Provide one on each end of your python’s enclosure so that it doesn’t have to choose between temperature & security. Clay flowerpots, plastic flowerpot trays, and commercially available hide boxes all work quite well. In addition branches or PVC perches can be added to the enclosure, while not necessary they do seem to contribute to overall well being of the snake.
     
    Feeding    
    Feed your carpet an appropriately sized rodent weekly. By “appropriately sized” we mean prey items that are no bigger around than the python at its largest point. Young animals typically prefer a rodent that is little larger you would think they could eat. Most hatchling carpets will easily consume a “hopper” mouse, a “hopper” is a mouse that has a full coat of hair and has begun to move around quite readily. Most baby carpets are not inclined to eat prey that has no hair. Once your carpet has grown to the size of being able to consume “peach fuzzy” rats attempt to convert them over. Carpets, for the most part, have a general adversion to rats, so this portion may be somewhat tricky. If you are able to convert them while they are still young you have better chances than down the road. Feeding mice to a full grown carpet can get quite costly! There are numerous methods which seem to work in the conversion process,
    1. First wash the rat thoroughly then rub a mouse (or dirty mouse bedding) all over the rat. If this works continue with this technique until the carpet will eat a rat that has not been scented.
    2. Don’t feed for a few weeks (~3), the hunger will sometimes trigger the carpet to eat any prey you present.
    3. Feed a mouse then offer a rat immediately afterwards, once the animal's feeding response is in full force occasionally they will take the next meal that comes along; remember you are dealing with an opportunistic feeder here, in the wild they don’t know when the next meal will wander past.
    4. Dip the rat (after washing) in warmed chicken broth, fowl seems to be well-liked and will sometimes trigger a feeding response.
    5. Tap the rat against the side of the snake, sometimes this alone gets them so excited that they attack and constrict.
    Please allow at least a week between feeding attempts (if one method proves ineffective try another but do not give up due to frustration. Occasionally a specimen will constrict a rat but decide it doesn’t want to eat it, keep trying. Once you have converted the animal to rats, feed a proper sized meal every 7-10 days. Do not handle your snake for at least a day after feeding, as this can lead to regurgitation. Carpets will readily take frozen thawed rodents, since frozen thawed animals are easier to keep on hand and typically less expensive ther
    e is no reason to offer live prey (see Snake Feeding caresheet). Should you feed live rodents, NEVER leave the rodent unattended with ANY snake.
     
    Maintenance    
    Spot-clean your snake's enclosure as necessary. When feces/urates/uneaten prey items are present, remove them as soon as possible. Clean & disinfect the water bowl on a weekly basis. Depending on cage conditions, remove all substrate & cage furniture and completely disinfect using a 5% bleach solution approximately every 30 days. Rinse the enclosure thoroughly and allow to dry before replacing cage furniture & your snake.

    Basic Reproductive Info
    Carpet pythons reach sexual maturity anywhere from 18 months to 4 years of age. Breeding size occurs at lengths of 4'+, depending on subspecies. Irian Jayans will breed as young as 18 months of age and a length of 4’, Jungles in the 4’- 6’ range and coastals in the 6’- 8’ range. Breeding season in captivity typically ranges from November to March. Stop all feeding at this time. Animals should be well established and in excellent condition before any breeding is attempted. Breeding may be induced by reducing daytime photoperiod to 8 - 10 hours and dropping nighttime temperatures into the mid 70's. Introduce the female into the male’s cage. Misting the animals with water may induce breeding activity. Clutch sizes range from 10 to 40 + eggs depending on the size/age of the female. Remember obese snakes don’t make good breeders. The eggs should be incubated at a temperature of 88 - 90F (optimal) and take roughly 60 days to hatch. All subspecies are being bred in captivity quite readily.

    Notes/Comments
    While sometimes overlooked in favor of other species, carpet pythons are regarded as a great pet python in herpetoculture, and with their docile nature & low maintenance requirements it is easy to see why. Acquiring captive bred specimens will help ensure a successful snakekeeping experience, and the lovely coloration and semi-arboreal nature of these animals can make for a beautiful herpetocultural display.

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