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Author: Tim Zedi

Garter Snake Care And Feeding

North American Garter Snakes
The Fish- Eating Alternative to Corn Snakes

By Timothy Zedi


One of the biggest reasons parents of potential young snake keepers do not allow snakes in the home is because most common pet snake species need to be fed on a diet of rodents. Many reptile enthusiasts don’t have the space for larger snake species and most available snake species are over 1m in length. North American Garter snakes solve both these problems. These snakes will feed on a varied diet of fish, fish fillets, earthworms and even tinned cat food. Female Garter Snakes will reach an adult size of between 60cm-90cm and adult males will reach between 45cm-60cm and can be kept in much smaller cages than most other pet snakes. Garter Snakes tolerate handling fairly well and are great display snakes due to their active nature. Garter Snakes make perfect pets for beginners and more experienced snake keepers alike.


Garter Snake Species

North American Garter Snakes belong to the genus Thamnophis and comprise of 14 separate species and several subspecies. Garter Snakes of one species or another can be found all over North America from Canada to Mexico. These snakes are nearly always found near water sources although they are not aquatic. Garter Snakes are found in many climate types from the arctic circle to the deserts of the Southern USA and Mexico. Commonly kept as pets in the USA, Garter snakes are very rare in South Africa with only one or two species available ( Type in Garter Snakes for Sale in South Africa into a search engine and if your lucky you may get one or two hits and I have only seen them a handful of times at pet shops and expos). The most commonly seen species in South Africa is the Chequered Garter Snake ( Thamnophis marcianus marcianus) which grows to 50cm-90cm in length and has an attractive black chequered pattern on an olive green background with a pale yellow stripe running down the back. Albino Chequered Garter Snakes are available for sale in South Africa and are pink and pale yellow in colour. If you are lucky you may pick another Garter Snake species. I own a red sided Garter Snake which I purchased at a local pet shop, it was the only one I have ever seen for sale and it most likely set the pet shop record for the snake that sold the fastest.

Captive Environment

I keep all my Garter Snakes in plastic terrariums. I keep babies up to a 6 months in terrariums measuring 20cm x 20cmx 15cm, my yearlings are kept in terrariums measuring 30cm x 20cm x 15cm and my large adult female is kept in a terrarium measuring 45cm x 30cm x 20cm. Adult Garter Snakes would do equally well in wooden cages with glass fronts or glass terrariums. Babies would easily escape from these types of cages and should be kept in the plastic terrariums until about a year old. I do not recommend rack systems unless clear tubs are used as Garter Snakes are very visual and enjoy watching what is going on outside their cages. I use a substrate of coconut husk as it looks natural and stays dry. It is very important that the substrate remains dry as damp substrate will cause blister disease. A hide box is essential and drift wood or fake plants can be added to provide visual barriers and extra hiding spots. Although found near water in the wild Garter Snakes only need a medium sized water bowl in captivity. Garter Snakes do well at temperatures of 25-30 degrees Celsius, mine are kept at room temperature in summer. I heat my garter snake in winter using low wattage heat pads placed under half the terrarium.


Garter Snakes are generalist feeders and eat a wide variety of food including earthworms, fish, frogs and nestling rodents. In captivity they will eat live guppies, frozen fish fillets, earthworms, tinned fish, tinned cat food and small mice. I feed mine on a diet of frozen/thawed lance fish ( sold in the aquarium section of pet shops) tinned salmon, tinned cat food, earthworms and suitably sized frozen thawed mice. Feeding frogs should be avoided as they are a parasite risk. Do not feed your Garter Snake red wriggler earthworms as these are the type used to make compost, they secrete toxins which can harm your snake. Feed your garter snake using feeding tongs or offer food in a shallow bowl. Earthworms and live fish can be placed in the water bowl for the snakes to hunt. Garter Snakes are not constrictors but simply grab their prey and swallow it. They are back fanged, but have a extremely mild venom which has no effect on humans. One of my Garter Snakes regurgitated a live earthworm, if their venom doesn’t kill earthworms it not going to effect a human trillions of times bigger than a worm. Garter Snakes have a high metabolism and require feeding two-three times per week as adults or juveniles. Babies can be fed as often as every second day to ensure proper growth. Certain fish both live and frozen contain an enzyme called thiaminase which destroys vitamin B1 and overfeeding of these types of fish can result in a fatal vitamin B1 deficiency. Fish to avoid include: White Bait and oily fish such as Mackerel. Live Goldfish also contain this enzyme so feed these sparingly. Safe fish include: Lance Fish, Salmon, Trout, live Guppies and frozen or live Tilapia. It is a good idea to occasionally supplement your Garter Snakes diet with a calcium and vitamin supplement. To ensure a good diet more than one food item should be fed to give your Garter Snake as varied a diet as possible.


Garter Snakes are fast moving, active diurnal hunters. Garter Snakes are always on the go and are often seen crawling around their cages during the day, unlike Corn Snakes or Ball Pythons which remain in their hide boxes most of the time. My Chequered Garter Snakes have a habit of sticking their heads out of their hide boxes all day, either because they want to see whats going on in the snake room or more likely waiting to be fed. Baby Garter Snakes are very highly strung and bounce around the cage like a spring when you try to pick them up, if you’re not careful they will shoot out the cage in an attempt to escape. As they get older these snakes get easier to handle and with regular patient handling they will calm down. Garter Snakes will not wrap round your wrist or hand like a Ball Python so support their body and allow them crawl through your hands.


Garter Snakes reach sexual maturity at between 1 year-2 years of age. Female Garter Snakes are much bigger and chunkier than males and adult females can be up to 20cm longer than males. Garter Snakes will mate after a winter cool down period of up to 3 months. In the wild male Garter Snakes emerge from hibernation before the females, once the females emerge the males form mating balls with up to 30 males trying to mate with a single female. Garter Snakes give birth to live young and have litters of between 10-20 babies, sometimes more. The gestation period for a Garter Snake is between 2-3 months depending on temperature. Baby Garter Snakes measure 15cm-18cm long and are very slender. The babies can be kept in small groups in plastic terrariums. The babies shed almost immediately after being born, unlike most snakes which shed a week after being born. Baby Garter Snakes will eat earthworms, live guppies or fish pieces every two days.


If you want a small snake with lots of personality and don’t like the idea of feeding rodents or are tired of keeping the more common pet shop snakes then go grab a Garter Snake the next time you see one for sale.

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Ball Python Care Sheet

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Ball Python Care Sheet

House your Ball Python in a wooden cage with sliding glass doors. The cage should measure 90cm in length and 45cm in width and 45cm in height or the closest size you can get to these measurements.

Use newspaper, coconut husk or sphagnum moss as a bedding.

Lightly mist the bedding with water using a spray bottle once a week.

Provide fresh water in a water bowl.

Provide a hide box and a water bowl and cage decorations such as driftwood or plastic/silk plants ( the decoration is optional and is used to make the cage look nice)

Your Ball Python will be eating frozen hopper mice or rat fuzzies that you defrost in warm water. Feed 1 hopper mouse or 1 rat fuzzy once a week. After you have fed your snake don’t handle your snake for 3 days to allow your snake to digest it’s food.

Keep the temperature in the cage at between 25-30 degrees Celsius. Use a heat pad to heat the cage. Place the heat pad underneath the bedding on one side of the cage. Put the hide box on the side of the cage that has the heat pad on it. Do not allow the snake to get in direct contact with the heat pad to avoid the snake getting burnt.

Ball Pythons are very calm snakes and are great pet snakes if you want a snake you can hold and interact with

Do not hold or feed your Ball Python for 1 week after you get it, so it can get used to it’s new home.


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Care Of Baby Corn Snakes

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Corn Snakes are one of the most commonly bred snakes in captivity. There are over 60 different colour and pattern morphs available. Corn Snakes are often a snake lovers first pet snake and are usually purchased as babies. This article discusses the care of baby corn snakes.

Find a Healthy Hatchling

Hatchling Corn Snakes are 23-25cm in length and are quite slender. Purchase the biggest hatchling the pet shop or breeder has for sale. You should not be able to feel the snakes spine or ribs. The hatchling should not have loose skin and the belly should be firm. The snake should be active and alert when you handle it. The snout and mouth should be clean and free of discharge. The vent area should not have any fecal matter caked around it. Make sure the snake is feeding on pinkies before you consider buying it.


Your new Corn Snake will need to spend at least a week in its new home before getting fed. Give your hatchling Corn Snake two weeks to get used to its environment before handling it.


Once your baby Corn Snake has acclimatized to its new home and is eating on a weekly basis, you can start handling it. At first handle your new Corn Snake twice a week for 15-20 minutes to prevent stress. You can handle your Corn Snake more often as it gets older.


The best cage for a hatchling Corn Snake is a plastic terrarium measuring 45cm x 25cm x 25cm. These terrariums are secure, easy to clean and look nice. Your Corn Snake can live in this cage for about six months.

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Heat your hatchling Corn Snake using a low wattage heat pad that is placed directly underneath the cage. The heat pad should cover no more than half the cage, in order to provide a thermal gradient. The temperature of the spot above the heat pad should measure 30 degrees Celsius. Heat pads are perfect for providing the belly heat needed for your baby Corn Snake to digest its food.


Corn cob makes a good substrate as it is absorbent, remains dry, retains heat and is easy to clean. Hatchling Corn Snakes also enjoy burrowing under the corn cob.

Hide Box

A hide box will make your tiny baby Corn Snake feel safe. Without a hide box your baby Corn Snake will become stressed and will refuse to eat. The hide box can be a resin cave, coconut half cave or a small margarine tub with an entrance hole cut out. Your baby Corn Snake will spend most of it’s time in the hide box, this is completely normal behavior. Place the hide box on the warm side as baby snakes will sometimes prefer to hide than bask in the open.

Cage Decorations

Plastic plants and logs not only make the cage look attractive but provide extra hiding places and stimulation for the snake.


Provide fresh water in a small water bowl. Do not allow the substrate to get wet, as this can cause scale rot. Lightly mist the cage with water just before your snake sheds.


Feed your baby Corn Snake one pinky once a a week. Feed frozen rodents which you buy prepacked and defrost it in warm water not boiling water.

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Blue Colouration In Green Tree Pythons

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Green Tree Python on a branch showing blue colour head picture

Genetic Blue Coloured Green Tree Pythons

Green Tree Pythons can be blue in colouration for two reasons. Number one is that certain captive bred lines of Green Tree Pythons have been selectively bred to display blue colouration. This is an inheritable trait that can be passed down from the parents to the offspring. These blue coloured Green Tree Pythons are highly sought after and fetch a very high price. All baby Green Tree Pythons start out as yellow or red in colour and at around a year old they change into the colour they will be as adults. In the case of a Blue morph Green Tree Python you would have to wait for this colour change to know for certain that the snake you are buying or selling is going to be blue in colouration. A baby Green Tree Python cannot be marketed as a blue phase as a hatchling and it is unethical for a breeder to sell babies as a blue phase. Breeding two blue phase Green Tree Pythons does not always result in completely blue offspring and some of these babies can grow into snakes that are green with varying amounts of blue colouration. Normal wild type Green Tree Pythons can also have speckles of blue on their scales. You can start a blue line of Green Tree Pythons by breeding these normal coloured Green Tree Pythons with blue speckling together. Over many generations the amount of blue colour in the adults will increase until you get a pure blue coloured Green Tree Pythons. This type of selectively breeding takes a very long time to achieve the desired results.

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Hormonal Blue Green Tree Pythons

Green Tree Python on a branch showing blue colour

The second reason Green Tree Pythons can be blue in colouration is that when females are ready to breed and are producing egg follicles they turn a blue colouration. This is caused by a hormonal change set off by the hormones involved in reproduction. This happens to normal Green Tree Python females during breeding season and the females go back to their green colouration after the breeding season is over. This blue colouration cannot be passed on genetically and if a female Green Tree Python turns blue during breeding season this does not mean her offspring will be blue.

The Below Pictures Are Of A Female Green Tree Python In A Hormonal Blue Colour Change. These Pictures Where Taken By Neil Barker Who Is One Of Our Members

Green Tree Python on a branch showing blue colour

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Invasive Reptiles Facts


There has been much discussion about invasive species in the herpetological world. This article will not discuss the legislation but will rather explain what an invasive species actually is and mention cases of were reptiles have caused damage to the environment.

Definition of an invasive species

A non native species which causes harm to the ecosystem that has the capacity to thrive and BREED!!! In its new environment
To further explain this definition an invasive species must be able to breed in its new habitat, it will be useless to classify a species as invasive if it cannot breed in its alien habitat. For example should a snake species become introduced into a habit but cannot breed it will die out before it can cause any harm. Even if a gravid female is released and it lays eggs these babies will not be able to breed and the species will not be able to establish itself as an invasive species as specimens will simply die of old age. Also an invasive species must cause harm to its new home. Species which do no harm to the environment can be classified as introduced species, see definition below.
Introduced Species: A species which lives and breeds in a non native habitat but causes no harm ( Tropical House Geckos, Flower Pot Snakes)
To further explain what an introduced species is I will discuss the above mentioned species. Tropical House Geckos have been introduced into almost all tropical or sub tropical places in the world. They thrive in human dwellings and perform a beneficial function of eating cockroaches and other insect pests. You will see these geckos on almost any wall in Durban in South Africa or in Florida USA where they eat Insects and get eaten by lizard eating snakes and other predators, thus this species is not invasive as it does not harm the environment.

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Red Sided Garter Snake Care Sheet


Red Sided Garter Snakes are a small snake from the Northern States of the USA and Canada. These snakes stay small with females averaging 60-75cm in length with males averaging 50-60cm in length. They are very pretty snakes with a black background with light brown stripes and red on the sides. Red Sided Garter Snakes are active snakes which spend a lot of time outside their hide boxes and are great display snakes unlike many other pet snakes such as Ball Pythons which spend most of the day in their hide boxes. Red Sided Garter Snakes are easy to care for and make great pets for those who want a smaller sized snake that doesn’t eat mice.


I keep my Red Sided Garter Snakes in Exo Terra Plastic Terrariums. You can also keep them in clear plastic tubs, wooden cages with sliding glass doors or glass terrariums. Red Sided Garter Snakes need small cages due to their small size and a single adult female can be kept in a cage measuring 60cm x 30cm x 30cm, adult males can be kept in slightly smaller cages. The cage must be secure and escape proof. Use coconut husk as a substrate and provide a hide box and a water bowl. Keep the substrate dry at all times to avoid your Red Sided Garter Snake getting scale rot. Garter Snakes of any species do not do well in a rack system with opaque tubs as they are curious snakes which like to see what’s going on around them.


Red Sided Garter Snakes do well at a temperature of 25-28 degrees ( summer room temperature in most South African homes) and only need extra heat in winter. You can heat your cages using a heat pad placed under half of the cage to provide a hot spot. These snake are not fussy when it comes to heating and are very temperature tolerant. Remember that smaller snakes overheat quicker than larger snakes so you do not want to overheat them. Monitor your cage temperatures using a dial thermometer.


Red Sided Garter Snakes feed on fish, earthworms, frogs, tadpoles and nestling rodents in the wild. In captivity you can feed them on a diet of small fish such as guppies, fish fillets, earthworms ( worms from your garden not red wrigglers from the bait shop) and even tinned cat food they will also sometimes eat mice scented with fish. I feed mine on a diet of frozen/thawed lance fish and frozen/thawed pinky or fuzzy mice. These snakes have a high metabolism and need to be fed at least 2-3 times per week even more if you are only feeding earthworms. You can add calcium and vitamin supplements to your Red Sided Garter Snakes diet but this is not necessary if you are offering them a varied diet of more than one prey species.


Red Sided Garter Snakes must be cooled down to 5- 10 degrees Celsius for a period of up 3 months in order to breed. Place the male in the females cage after you have warmed them up and if they mate successfully your female will give birth to 20 or more live babies 3 months later. Babies are very small and can be housed individually or in small groups under the same conditions as the adults. Feed the babies on earthworms, small live fish or tiny pieces of frozen/thawed lance fish. Baby Red Sided Garter Snakes should be fed every two days in order to stay healthy and grow properly.

Red Sided Garter Snakes make fascinating pets that stay small, don’t need to eat mice and are much more active than other more commonly available pet snakes.

A Quick Guide To Asian Rat Snakes

Asian Rat Snakes


Asia has an abundance of rat snake species. Asia is a large continent which has multiple habitat types and climates, meaning that some rat snake species will require cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels, whilst others require higher temperatures and higher humidity. Asian Rat Snake species are not kept and bred in the same numbers as North American and European Rat Snake species and are generally more expensive and difficult to get hold of in the pet trade. The species mentioned in this article are the most commonly kept and bred Asian Rat Snake species. There are many other Asian Rat Snake species not mentioned in this article that can be kept and bred successfully in captivity. There is great untapped potential with regards to keeping and breeding Asian Rat Snakes and I expect these snakes to increase in popularity in the reptile hobby over the next few years. Read further to find out the interesting species of rat snakes that Asia has to offer.
Beauty Snakes

Beauty Snakes

are a group of rat snakes from Asia that are large in size and brightly coloured and patterened. Some of the species available in the reptile keeping hobby include: Chinese Beauty Snake, Taiwanese Rat Snake, Ridley’s Rat Snake and the Vietnamese Blue Beauty Snake. These snakes can grow to nearly 3m ( 10 feet) in length and are giants amongst colubrid snakes. The size of Asian Beauty Snakes is dependent on species and subspecies and not all of these rat snakes will reach this size and are most average around 2m ( 6 feet) in length. These snakes can be difficult to handle due to their tendency to want to explore areas outside the safety and comfort of your hands, basically they don’t stop moving while you are trying to handle them. Wild caught Beauty Snakes can be very aggressive and will need to be handled with a snake hook. Buy captive bred Beauty Snakes to avoid having to do this as captive bred Beauty Snakes are much calmer and less aggressive than their wild caught counterparts. Beauty Snake hatchlings dwarf their Western Hemisphere cousins in size and usually will feed on fuzzy mice as their first meal. Feed these active snakes on a weekly basis. Large cages will be required to keep Beauty Snakes and cage sizes of 1.5m ( 5 feet)long to 1.8m ( 6 feet) long will be required for adults. These rat snakes are very active and adults benefit from being kept in

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Breeding King Snakes


In order to successfully breed King Snakes you will have to put them through a cooling period. This cooling period is called brumation. Start by increasing feeding in late April to give your King Snake the extra fat reserves it will need during brumation. In May keep your heaters on but cease feeding the snakes for at least 2- 3 weeks before you cool them down in order for the snakes to empty their digestive tracts. Any left over food will rot in your King Snakes stomach during brumation which could lead to a deadly infection. In June drop your King Snakes cage temperatures to between 10-15 degrees celcius for 2-3 months. The brumation temperatures can be slightly lower or slightly higher than this. My snake room has an average winter temperature of 12-17 degrees celcius and the King Snakes brumated in this room breed successfully. In early September you can begin to slowly heat your King Snakes back to their summer temperatures. Do not heat your King Snakes up to quickly as this can affect your male King Snakes fertility.


Female King Snakes will shed two weeks after they come out of brumation. This is called the post brumation shed and indicates that your female King Snake is ready to mate. I introduce the male King Snake into the female King Snakes cage. Mating behaviour usually starts immediately and the male will mate with the female very soon after introducing them if the female is receptive. Mating can last for a few minutes to a few hours. Separate your King Snakes after they have finished mating as King Snakes can be cannibalistic. You can allow your King Snakes to mate more than once to increase the chance of fertile eggs.

Egg Laying

Female King Snakes will go through a pre laying shed 4-6 weeks after successful mating. The female King Snake will lay her eggs 10-14 days after the pre laying shed. Provide a laying box filled with moist sphagnum moss for your King Snake to lay its eggs in. The female King Snake will spend a lot of time in the egg laying box prior to laying eggs. Check the egg laying box daily for eggs. King Snakes can lay 6-20 eggs but clutches are usually smaller than 20. The number of eggs a King Snake will lay is dependent on the size of the female King Snake with larger females often laying more eggs. Once your King Snake has finished laying all its eggs you will need to move them into an incubator.

Egg Incubation

Snake eggs have a leathery shell which absorbs moisture throughout the incubation period therefore you need to incubate your King Snake eggs on a moist incubation medium. I place my King Snake eggs in a plastic container filled with a layer of perlite a few centimeters deep. The perlite is mixed with water at a ratio of 1 part perlite to 1 part water by weight. If your eggs start to dent during incubation you will need to add more water to the incubation medium. Vermiculite can also be used to incubate King Snake eggs. I do not put air holes in the incubation container but instead open the lid for a few minutes a few times a week to allow air in. It is very important not to turn snake eggs and you must keep them in the position that they were laid in otherwise the embryo will detach from the shell and die. Incubate your King Snake eggs at 27-28 degrees Celsius. At this temperature they will hatch in approximately 60 days.


Baby King Snakes are equipped with an egg tooth which they use to slit open the egg shell. When you see several slits appearing on your eggs it means they are hatching. You will eventually see the baby King Snakes poking their heads out of the eggs. It can take several days for the entire clutch to hatch. Do not attempt to remove the baby King Snakes from the eggs allow them to hatch on their own. Once the King Snakes have hatched remove them from the incubation box and house them separately in individual plastic tubs.

How Reptiles Maintain Their Body Temperature

Before you get to the methods of heating your reptiles, you will need to know how a reptiles body works in regards to regulating temperature. You and I are endothermic ( warm blooded) this means that we can regulate our body temperature ourselves. We turn the food we eat into energy, we metabolize this energy and use it to increase our body temperatures.This is why people eat more in winter. Our body temperature is regulated by parts of our brain. Other means such as sweating are used to cool us down. Reptiles on the other hand are exothermic ( cold blooded) which means they cannot regulate their own body temperature. The body temperature of a reptile will be exactly the same as its surroundings. Reptiles regulate their body temperature through what is called thermoregulation. Simply put this means basking in a warm area to heat up and moving to a cool are to cool down. Reptiles are experts in thermoregulation and are able to maintain an ideal body temperature most of the time. Reptiles hibernate in winter if the weather is too cold for them to reach the required body temperature. Reptiles will also seek out cool areas and stay inactive should the temperature get too high. The closet a person can get to thermoregulation is to change your jersey for a T shirt or your jeans for a pair of shorts. In captivity we must give our reptiles a choice of temperatures so they may thermoregulate. The easiest way to do this is to put the basking lamp or heat pad on one side of the cage, this allows the reptile to move from the heated are to the cool area. The reptile can then maintain the correct body temperature. Use a thermometer to enable you to keep an eye on the temperature. A lot of people think reptiles need very warm temperatures, however reptiles can boil to death if kept too warm. In fact in some cases reptiles can tolerate cool temperatures better than very hot temperatures. As I was writing this article I had to turn my Bearded Dragons heat lamp off as he was gaping, this is a sign he is too hot. It may just be time to start turning off heaters in my reptile cages during the day. Most reptiles need a drop in temperature during the night. In general heating your reptile should not be a problem.

Large Python And Boa Ownership

Responsibilities of Keeping Large Constrictors

Danger to Keepers

There have been a few keepers of large Constrictors such as Reticulated Pythons that have died. However these deaths are very rare and hardly ever take place but there is still a risk of a large Reticulated or Burmese Python killing it’s keeper in the wrong situation. These deaths are inevitably the fault of the keeper not handling the python correctly or taking chances such as not feeding the snake with long enough feeding tongs. I cringe when I see well known YouTubers feed large adult Reticulated Pythons Rabbits by hand, this is a disaster waiting to happen and if a 17 foot Reticulated Python latches onto your arm instead of the rabbit you are in serious trouble as a snake of this size is not easy to remove from arm and could seriously injure you or even kill you in this situation. Certain precautions need to be in place when dealing with large pythons and even smaller species such as Common Boas. One of these precautions is never handle your snake without another person in the room with you. I do this with my 2.8m long Common Boa and this is a species much smaller than the giant snakes available in the reptile keeping hobby. There are other dangers such as strong feeding responses which you need to take into account. You cannot safely handle a very large python by yourself and will need more than one person helping you or at least another person or two in the same room. If a 100 pound 17 foot Reticulated Python decides it’s going to crawl to the left and you want it to crawl to the right you are not going to be able to do much about that if you are by yourself as that snake is vastly stronger than a human being . A large Python is a 17 foot tube of muscle that has evolved to kill and eat small deer and wild pigs so it is an apex predator not a cuddly pet so all keepers must keep this in the back of their minds everytime you open your large python’s enclosure, no matter how tame you think the snake is. I hate it when certain YouTubers use the term ” messing with large snakes” as large pythons and boas are spectacular wonders of nature not puppies so give them the respect they deserve or you will have an issue down the road.

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