Do ball pythons bite?
The short answer is yes, they can and do occasionally bite. However, dogs, cats, parakeets, and hamsters, etc, etc ALL bite! So this answer comes with lots of caveats.
We’ve all seen horror movies with giant serpents and venomous killers. Everyone knows that snake fangs are an impressive sight!. It only makes sense then that most prospective snake owners or those just getting interested in owning a pet ball python will ask the question.
Even though reality is far from what’s portrayed in movies, this is a completely normal and realistic question.
5 Ways to Avoid a Ball Python Bite
- Do not grab your snake’s head
- Wash hands after handling prey items (mice, rats, etc)
- Do not reach your hand from above (mimics a snake’s predator; hawk, etc)
- Approach with confidence and pick up from behind or the bottom
- Leave it alone if it’s being defensive (coiled ready to strike, hissing etc)
Are Ball Pythons Aggressive?
There is one important thing to remember when talking about ball pythons biting and that is that; while ball pythons are snakes, all snakes are not ball pythons. What do I mean by that exactly?
First of all, even ball pythons that live in the wild, seldom bite. (other than “biting” their food)
So, ball pythons that have been captive bred (nearly every ball python pet is captive bred) are even less inclined to bite. Exposure to humans and handling from a young age (even from birth) decreases the tendency for all snakes to bite “for no reason.”
5 Reasons Why Ball Pythons Bite
- Fear (maybe caused by excessive handling or mishandling)
- Stress (poor environment, care. grabbing/holding snake’s head)
- They may be in shed (poor visibility when shedding makes them fearful)
- Unwanted attention (sometimes they just want to be left alone)
- Mistaken Identity (they think you are a prey item)
Before we talk about how to decrease the probability of getting bitten (or eliminating it) let’s talk about what happens if you do actually get bit.
Does a Ball Python Bite Hurt?
The age and therefore the size of your snake will also factor into the perceived pain. A very young snake may not break the skin and you might not feel anything at all. Most of the issue with ball python bites is the initial “shock” or being startled by the fast movement.
A larger or an adult ball python can break the skin and cause a small amount of bleeding. Getting scratched by your cat is more painful than a ball python’s bite.
Again, the shock of being bitten by a ball python or how fast they are is the most “painful” or “scary” part of being bit.
Most bites will be out of fear or as a warning to “leave me alone.” They are short and quick. Your snake will strike and immediately return back to where it was / its original position. However, being bitten because your ball python thought that you were food, sometimes requires attention.
My Ball Python Won’t Let Go!
Ball pythons are constrictors, they bite (to hold onto their prey) and then constrict them until they stop the flow of blood which results in the prey’s death. If you are bitten because your ball python thought you were food, it is more likely to hold on and even try to constrict your hand, arm, etc.
This type of bite is different than the “leave me alone waring bite.” You may need to force your snake to let go.
DO NOT grab your snake’s head or body and attempt to “pull” them off of you. Ball python’s teeth curve slightly backwards (helping them swallow their food) so any pulling or tugging at the snake will cause you to tear and pull their teeth through your skin. Not fun.
The most efficient way to make a snake “let go” if it’s biting you is to pour some mouthwash or hand sanitizer into its mouth. Vinegar, alcohol such as vodka, or perhaps running the snake’s head under warm or cold water will cause it to let go.
By far the most effective thing to use is either mouthwash or hand sanitizer.
Cleaning a Ball Python Bite
Nearly 100% of ball python bites will require little more than to wash the area with warm soapy water. Very few bites will even need a band-aid.
Most bites from a ball python can be avoided altogether. Learning the reasons that your pet snake might bite and understanding how to avoid them, will make you a better snake-keeper and make the hobby even more fun and enjoyable!