Ball pythons (Python regius) are one of the most popular pet snakes, with >1 million animals currently kept in captivity and zoos. Designer ball pythons with unique “morphs” are highly desirable, leading to a niche market for privately owned captive-bred animals. A survey of ball python breeders across the United States was conducted to quantitatively assess ball python ownership, including husbandry and breeding practices. Survey distribution occurred through a breeder conference and over hobbyist and online marketplaces. Results indicate that, despite this growing market, most snake breeders make no substantial income from the snakes they breed and instead rear snakes as a hobby. Respondents manage a median of 45 animals (range: 7–700), buy and sell 4 and 20 animals per year, respectively, and generate a median of 0% in personal income. The majority use commercial rack systems (62%) with enclosure temperature gradients (83.7%) and humidity management (50%). Females and males are first bred at mean weights of 1,500 and 600 g, respectively, and they are paired for an average of 3.3 days (range: 2–7 days). Eggs are primarily managed in custom incubators (70%), most commonly on vermiculite (42.9%), and at a temperature of 31.7°C (89°F) and humidity of 95%. Assistance during hatching is provided in a majority (55.1%) of cases, and sex determination is primarily (74%) done by hemipenal eversion. Notably, 62% of responding breeders will feed live prey, 59.2% do not regularly screen their collections for parasites, and 71.4% have visited a veterinarian for a snake.

You do not currently have access to this content.