Ball pythons (Python regius) are one of the most popular pet snakes, with over one 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 throughout 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 utilize commercial rack systems (62%) with enclosure temperature gradients (83.7%) and humidity management (50%). Females and males are first bred at mean weights of 1500g and 600g, respectively, and they are paired for an average of 3.3 days (range 2-7). Eggs are primarily managed in custom incubators (70%), most commonly on vermiculite (42.9%), and at a temperature of 89°F (31.7°C) 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.
A Survey of Husbandry and Breeding Techniques in the Ball Python (Python regius) Pet Trade
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Joseph A. Cacioppo, Sean M. Perry, Kelly Rockwell, MArk Mitchell; A Survey of Husbandry and Breeding Techniques in the Ball Python (Python regius) Pet Trade. Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.1111/JHMS 05-2020
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