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  1. #1
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    Preparing for my First Snake

    Hi there! I still don't own any snake, but I'm doing my research in preparation for it. I have the species I'm considering narrowed down to a Ball Python or a Sonoran Gopher Snake. Part of the reason I decided to stop lurking and post is to write down my pros/cons of each for myself to mull over. Also hoping someone's experienced input might help me break the deadlock.

    I find snakes fascinating and would love to keep one. I don't care to display it. I know I have friends and family that hate snakes and seeing people and dogs pass by all the time probably isn't something any snake wants. I would keep it for my own interest in watching it, feeding it, and handling it. I love wild type camouflage, so morphs aren't a consideration. I've already done a bunch of research, bought some of the things I'll need like a heat mat, thermostat, hygrometer/thermometer, and temp gun. I can use one of my dogs' old water bowls and I have a 48x20x18 plastic bin I can put it in. I measured the ambient temperatures and humidities in the candidate rooms where I would keep it. I've talked to several breeders and keepers, visited a couple, and handled multiple of both species as well as milk snakes, corn snakes, and a hognosed snake.

    Ball Pythons
    Pros:
    - Amazingly fun to handle. It's been a great experience with each one, whether a male or female, baby, juvenile, or adult. They move and observe enough to be interesting while being slow and deliberate enough that you can also do other things while handling them.
    - I love the looks with the size, head shape, and heat pits better than any other snake I could legally or reasonably keep.
    Cons:
    - I worry about providing an appropriate climate for it. It should be ok in the summer even if it means moving its bin from one room to another every day, but in the winter, maintaining an appropriate humidity will be difficult. Just as an example, today my basement was around 70 degrees all day with 66% humidity, while my office was a high of 88 and floated around 50% humidity with no air conditioning or fan. Humidity drops like a rock from November to February, but the air would be around 75-80° near a radiator since we keep the thermostat around 72°.
    - The idea that an animal I'm keeping may not eat for months worries me.

    Gopher Snakes
    Pros:
    - Maintaining an appropriate ambient temp/humidity for one in my house will take no effort.
    - Reliable eaters.
    - Looks, size, and behavior-wise, they're easily my favorite Colubrid that I've seen in person.
    Cons:
    - They're fun to handle and calm, but handling them is its own thing. I can't see myself sitting at my desk doing work while it hangs out on me.
    - One of the things I like best about the Pituophis genus is the warning pose, hiss, and tail rattling, but since a snake that's doing that is trying to scare away a threat, that's not a display I'd like to induce or see in mine.
    - I'm told they're notorious escape artists.

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  3. #2
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    This is a decision that ONLY you can make, because you'll be living with this snake (hopefully) for many years to come. I have neither species at the moment, but years back I've lived with a number of BPs & a number of gopher & bull snakes (-which I bred). These days I'm mostly a colubrid person, with a penchant for rat snakes, but I have other kinds & always have. Between these two, they both have pro's & con's, as you've noticed, but I just want to point out a few more things, & maybe offer a suggestion.

    The part about BPs being potentially fussy eaters & going off eating for periods of time is a genuine pain. As you've noticed, they're often more challenging to keep healthy if you live in a cold climate, because they need a warmer home with more humidity. And I'm not saying it can't be done, only that YOU have to work more at achieving their needs. Pro's include mostly docile, pretty & mellow. BTW, they're more nocturnal too, & by nature, they're ambush-hunters- so they're not active snakes- in the wild, they literally wait to ambush their prey at night.

    Gopher snakes are active daytime snakes- they're active hunters, & they tend to be restless even in a large enclosure- a plastic bin probably won't cut it for long, and yes, they'll push MUCH harder to test it & escape. They NEED larger enclosures, but at least they don't need fussy temperatures or humidity- our normal room temperature is fine for them, with just one corner offering heat for their digestion, & they do better with good air-flow (as w/ a big glass tank & screen top). They have very good appetites also. They're fun snakes, fairly intelligent- not biters when they get to know you, but not so likely to sit still. A hatchling will be self-defensive & may hiss & shake their tails, maybe even nip- but they learn fast to accept handling. Sitting still...eh, not so much, lol.

    One you might want to look into is an Australian spotted python- their natural coloration is very cool, they stay a smaller size (adults are 3.5-4' long but far more slender than a BP) & while they need a warm home like a BP, with humidity (can be just a humid hide), they're more into climbing branches (esp. at night, but you'll see more of them- they're not shy, actually rather nosy!) and they have GOOD appetites on small mice (nothing larger, for life); they also PREFER dead prey- either fresh-killed or f/t (frozen-thawed) & will eat from tongs. They tend to hug you & sit still for a while- so that might be a plus for you? I only have one- & she's much easier than a BP, IMO. Of course any new snake will be defensive until they learn you're not a predator, but if you search, there's a few threads on this forum about these- several of us keep them, or the very similar "Children's python" (also an Aussie, slightly smaller). BTW, these are captive bred- you don't have to get them from Australia either- that would be impossible. A little harder to find though- not "everywhere" like BPs are. (adults need roughly 40 gal. size home)

    Take your time deciding- research is ALWAYS a good thing- & keep asking. There's many other kinds of snakes too- & they all have pro's & con's- but pick what appeals to you & fits your life best.

    Oh, &
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 05-29-2022 at 10:17 PM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  5. #3
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    BTW, I was thanking you for "doing your homework" on snakes- not just jumping in. It just makes for a better experience, knowing what to expect.

    Here's some recent threads on Spotted or Children's pythons (they're very similar)- that should keep you busy for a while.

    https://ball-pythons.net/forums/show...ldren-s-Python


    https://ball-pythons.net/forums/show...t-Time-Outside



    https://ball-pythons.net/forums/show...ldren-s-Python



    https://ball-pythons.net/forums/show...dren-s-Pythons



    https://ball-pythons.net/forums/show...Spotted-Python
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

  6. #4
    Registered User plateOfFlan's Avatar
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    Re: Preparing for my First Snake

    I think you have a really good list of points there - some places will push a generic "pro and con" list without realizing one person's "pro" is another person's "con" and stuff like that. I think the enclosure temps and humidity are definitely an important thing to think about, struggling to maintain those levels can cause a huge amount of stress and worry. When I was looking for my first snake, I was initially looking at rosy boas but eventually decided I wouldn't be able to maintain low enough humidity for them since they're desert dwelling and it's very humid here - *but* it's perfect for ball pythons, so my sheds with mine are very stress-free. You also have consider the probability of power outages (we have a ton here) and what you'll have to do to care for them if that happens. If you're in a very cold place it's going to be a bigger deal than here in California, where herps will be annoyed and chilly but otherwise fine for awhile.

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  8. #5
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    Re: Preparing for my First Snake

    Quote Originally Posted by plateOfFlan View Post
    ...When I was looking for my first snake, I was initially looking at rosy boas but eventually decided I wouldn't be able to maintain low enough humidity for them since they're desert dwelling and it's very humid here...
    Just so you know, it's humid where I am too, but that doesn't seem to be an issue for my rosy boas, nor for my other desert snakes (TX longnose & Trans Pecos rat snakes). For one thing, the heat & A/C takes a lot of humidity out of our houses, as does heating part of a snake's enclosure with good air-flow (ie. screen tops). Also, I use Carefresh (mixed 50:50 along with paper shreds) for their substrate, & Carefresh is known to be hygroscopic (-it sucks some moisture out of the air). So if you ever still want a desert species, it's probably do-able, fyi.
    Last edited by Bogertophis; 05-31-2022 at 12:01 PM.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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  10. #6
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    Re: Preparing for my First Snake

    Thanks for your input guys, it's been really helpful.

    Bogertophis, I seriously considered the Antaresia genus and Rosy Boas as well. My issue with them that dropped them out of my consideration is that between MorphMarket and calling reptile stores, I haven't been able to find one within 100 miles. Since it's my first snake, it's important to me at a minimum to see and handle at least one member of the species before I buy it. Ideally, I want to see where it's being kept and meet the individual animal first.

    I do appreciate your opening the door to a massive rabbit hole I went down. I re-researched the Antaresians, Rosy Boas, Hognoses, and Blood Pythons. After looking back on my notes and giving it some thought, I think a Ball Python would be the best bet. I like the Pituophis a lot, but I like the looks and personality of a Ball Python better. Even within Pituophis, a Gopher Snake was my second choice behind a Bull Snake (but again, none available locally).

    The environmentals might be harder to dial in at certain times of the year, but it's definitely doable with some observation, adjustments, and all the Ball Python info available out there.

    And PlateofFlan, we pretty much never lose power here. Any time I can think of, it's been in the summer. But you do raise a great point in that snakes do seem to require some emergency preparation in case of something like a power or gas outage. I'm going to keep a log book for the snake, and a couple of emergency action plans to deal with excessively cold or hot weather contingencies would be good material to write down in the back of the book.
    Last edited by Kryptic; 05-31-2022 at 12:36 AM.

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  12. #7
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    Re: Preparing for my First Snake

    My vote would be for a Royal ( Ball ) Python for all the reasons you mentioned in your opening post .. or a Corn snake ( so many positives and so many colours lol) .


    To my mind the only negative for Royals / Balls is the feeding aspect as already mentioned BUT if you ensure you buy a good eater then there’s really no issue .

    ( Also if you use the hairdryer method of feeding - where you give the thawed mouse/rat a good hot blast with a hairdryer seconds before offering to your snake - it will eat virtually 100% of the time)

    Here’s a couple of my Royals and my Blizzard Corn snake to show some colour options






    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro




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  14. #8
    BPnet Lifer dakski's Avatar
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    Re: Preparing for my First Snake

    Kryptic,

    Congrats on your decision to get a BP. Finding one locally makes sense for a first snake so you can meet them first. Additionally, kudos to you for doing research first and taking your time to make sure you are doing your best for both you and your BP.

    I agree with much of what's been said regarding BP's and fasting, etc. However, we will be here to help and as long as you've researched and understand some of the potential issues, and that they can happen, you won't be caught by surprise.

    I wanted to add one thing that I do not think has been said yet. Get a proper enclosure for your BP. If you are worried about temps and humidity and consistency, plan on a PVC cage with good heating element(s) and thermostat(s). In my experience, and I keep 7 snakes and 4 species, and two lizards and 2 species, those three things (proper tank - PVC for a BP IMO, good and correct amount/wattage, etc. heating elements, and a good thermostat) make a world of difference. I've been there with trying to care for a BP with a glass tank and skimping on the thermostat etc. It's not worth it for you or the snake.

    A PVC tank with proper heating elements and thermostat will keep temps consistent and safe and humidity should be much easier to control. The one caveat to that is if it's too hot. Remember, reptiles prefer a temp gradient and more heat doesn't equal better. 88F for a hot spot is perfect, but not ideal for a whole tank temp, certainly for any length of time. PVC tanks are cheaper to heat because they are better insulated, but no tank will cool itself. I would ensure you can keep temps below 80-82F in the room the snake will be in for a proper gradient. Having said that, I've heard of people keeping their snake room a constant temp, but not as much with BP's.

    I have all PVC tanks (two stacks), although my corn snakes (2) probably don't care that much. My BP, Carpet Python, and Boas (3), really appreciate the space (size/strength/weight/cost are all advantages of PVC), temp, and humidity control.

    You WILL spend quite a bit to get a proper setup. However, you should have a healthy snake for years to come (husbandry is a major factor in health) and should not have to constantly adjust things. I find when there are big temperature swings or humidity swings in my finished basement where I keep my tanks, which happens about 2-3X a year, I have to make small adjustments. Otherwise, I am spending time cleaning, checking temps briefly, feeding, and hanging with my reptiles, not worrying and adjusting things.

    People can give you advice on PVC tanks and what to get. Many people here like Animal Plastics (AP), and I use Boaphile Plastics tanks. That's for another thread.

    Finally, I suggest getting a yearling, or at least a fairly established animal as your first BP. This way you know a little better what you are getting, health, and whether or not they are established on Frozen/Thawed (F/T) prey items if that's the route you want to go. As new owner, the last is important. Some BP's can be picky, and most switch to F/T, but if that's what you want to feed, easier to get one that's already happy with that then try to switch one, especially a young one that needs food.

    Any other questions don't be afraid to ask and again, we are here to help. Additionally, any points of clarification, just ask.

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  16. #9
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    Re: Preparing for my First Snake

    Well crap... Long story short, today I went to a store with snake mites.

    Long story long:

    I went to a reptile shop I had been to a few weeks ago to check in since they said they had a clutch hatching soon. One of the owners was there and by chance, they had just brought the cut eggs to the store from the breeder's house. He showed me the eggs with the babies inside, supposedly ready to come out any time now. Very cool to see. They also had one 7-month old and a yearling I really liked. I was handling the little one and was considering leaving a deposit. So I start looking him over for any issues. After a couple minutes of looking him over, I spot a little black bump on my palm that looks like a tiny bug. I try to pin it with my finger, but I drop it. I tell the guy what I saw and ask if it was a mite. He knows I'm shopping for my first snake, so he says it's probably not, but he asks me for the snake and begins inspecting it. He takes his time checking it head to tail, lifting the scales, slowly wipes it down head-to-toe with a paper towel. Nothing. He hands the snake back to me to keep looking over.

    He says that either way, he'll do a week-long deep cleaning and mite treatment on all the snakes and enclosures just in case. If I want any of the snakes, to give him at least a week to make sure they're all pest-free. Also not to worry about a deposit for now because he won't sell any of them over the next week until he knows they're all treated, cleaned and good. I keep looking the little guy over closely and I don't see anything else on him. He pulls the paper towel tank bedding and inspects it closely before throwing it out. He gets a spray bottle and starts spraying out the tank and its contents while explaining how he's going to handle it – soak the critters in Dawn dish soap and warm water, spray down all the tanks, racks, and tubs inside and out with mite killer, etc. He puts the snake I was holding in a little bin he brought over.

    In the meantime, I'm apologetic. I'm not sure if I saw a mite or just any black speck and cried wolf. He says not to worry about it and that it's something all snake vendors need to be on their toes about and deal with proactively. Another customer comes in, so I offer to look over the yearling in the next tank over while he helps her. He's fine with that, goes and helps the other customer. I take the snake out and imitate his inspection of the first one. I slowly look over its eyes, cloaca, and light bottom side, but don't see any moving dots or red sores. I then pinch the paper towel around the snake's neck like I saw the owner do and let the snake push its body through. After he gets through, I unfold the towel and see a single tiny speck on the paper towel. He comes back, I show him, and he confirms that it's a mite. We talk for a bit as he continues to clean and I leave after a little while.



    Now I have to ask, how long should I wait before I can go look at snakes elsewhere? I definitely don't want to spread the suckers. To be safe, I took an especially thorough shower, gave my head a fresh shave, and shaved off my beard.

    As far as that particular store, should I go back? Are a couple of mites a big red flag or something that can happen to anyone who lets customers off the street handle their snakes? The snakes in the tanks all had paper towel bedding, and I didn't see any black specks moving on any of the towels despite looking closely at all of them. All of the snakes I saw were in their hides, and none of them were soaking in their bowls. The guy seemed genuinely concerned and I didn't get the impression he was putting on a show for my benefit because I "caught" him. That said, it's definitely concerning.

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  18. #10
    Bogertophis's Avatar
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    A thorough shower (& all that shaving!) plus a change of clothes (naturally) is likely enough to get rid of any hitchhikers (mites) on you. It "can" happen (human & merchandise transfer) but not too likely.

    Personally, I'd avoid buying from a store with mites- they don't always disappear with one treatment, & when you have a new snake, mite treatments will mess up your ability to feed your snake & also it's likelihood to eat for you. It's a very big set-back, having to treat for mites- & they're also blamed for potentially spreading some diseases among snakes- that too is a matter of "luck"- no way I can tell you for sure it's safe or not- only that it's a risk.

    It's up to you- if you have other options (local stores to buy from) & what your gut feeling tells you.
    Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength.
    Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

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