Snakes can make excellent pets! Even though these pet reptiles can be intimidating for some, they usually end up being important family members! Snakes are easy to care for and don’t require much space. However, pet snakes are still snakes, and sometimes, they might strike at you. Even ball pythons, who are notoriously reluctant to strike might accidentally bite an owner. If this has happened more than once, you might start to wonder;
Why is my ball python striking at me?
Ball pythons are not a species of snake that will strike unprovoked. If your ball python is striking at you, something is probably bothering them. They might be stressed, sick, or hungry. It could also be improper handling techniques that are causing them to strike.
In this article, we’ll talk about why your ball python might be striking, and how to fix it!
Do Ball Pythons Strike At Humans?
Ball Pythons are snakes that are usually reluctant to strike at humans.
Different species of snakes have different defense mechanisms. Some snakes are going to be more naturally inclined to bite and strike. Luckily, ball pythons don’t fit into this category!
Ball pythons are very defensive snakes. When faced with an issue, ball pythons will choose to protect themselves rather than attack. It’s one of the reasons why these snakes curl up, and how they got their name! When threatened, ball pythons will curl up into a tight ball, protecting their internal organs and even their heads from danger.
Even though these pets aren’t inclined to bite, they will still strike in certain situations. Ball pythons still strike when eating and as a last resort in a difficult situation. So, yes, ball pythons do strike at humans. And, if they are striking, you know that something is wrong!
How Do I Know If My Ball Python Is About To Strike?
Before we talk about what might be causing your snake to strike, let’s make sure you know the warning signs of an incoming strike. If you know what to look out for, you can at least avoid a bite or pushing your snake over the edge!
The best way you can tell if your pet snake is going to strike is by watching their body language. Watch how your snake looks when they’re eating. You can observe how they start to prepare their body to strike at their food. Snakes can strike from any position, but they are most likely to strike from a coiled position. From a coiled position, snakes can strike further and more accurately than from an uncoiled position. So, if your snake is coiled up, tense, and alert, you might want to proceed with caution.
Another big tip-off of a snake that’s about to strike is a snake’s tail position. When a snake strikes, they dart the top half of its body quickly out and upwards. This movement is usually grounded and directed by the lower half of the snake’s body. And the snake’s tail plays an important part. Your snake’s tail might become tense or might even act as a kickstand when they’re about to strike.
Some, but certainly not all, ball pythons may hiss before they strike.
If you do notice these changes in your snake, it’s probably a good idea to stop doing what you’re doing. Pushing a ball python to strike is not a desirable thing. It will cause you and your pet unnecessary stress. So what are some things that could be causing your pet ball python to strike out at you?
Reasons Why Your Ball Python Might Be Striking.
Okay, now that you have some background information on striking, you’re still wondering, why does my ball python keep trying to bite me?
There are four main reasons why your ball python is trying to strike at you or bite you. Here are some things that could explain why your snake is striking.
1. It’s Feeding Time
One of the main reasons your ball python might be striking at you is that it is around their feeding time.
Think about it, a snake usually associates food with striking. They become more tense and ready to strike at anything that moves when they’re hungry. If you put your hand in front of your snake when you are offering them food, they might accidentally strike at you. It’s not a bad thing, but it could be a reason to keep your hands away when your snake is eating.
Another reason your snake might strike around feeding time is that they’re digesting its food. A ball python with a full belly will not want to be handled. It can be uncomfortable for them and they might even regurgitate their meal. If you go to pick up your pet when they have a full stomach, they might try to bite you, just to keep you away. Once they’ve digested their meal (1 – 2 days) you should be able to handle them normally again.
2. Improper Handling
Bad handling practices can cause snakes to strike.
Remember, ball pythons only strike as a last resort, so if they’re striking at you, it means they don’t want to be approached. If your snake is striking when you go to pick them up, it could be due to improper handling techniques.
Ball pythons that feel afraid or unsupported during handling might bite. As we mentioned above, ball pythons that are handled directly before, after, or during feeding time are also likely to strike. If your ball python starts to dislike handling, it might start to strike just to avoid it.
We’ll talk more below about how to correct improper handling techniques and how to make your ball python comfortable while being held.
One of the biggest things that can cause a snake to strike is stress! And no, this isn’t stress from a job or school. The stress that our pets experience is different but just as legitimate as our stress. Stress and discomfort will make a snake irritable, and irritable snakes are way more likely to lash out!
So, what can cause a snake to become so stressed that it will strike at anything?
4. Temperature and Humidity Imbalances
Something you might not notice that is making your pet irritable is a temperature or humidity imbalance.
Reptiles are very special for many reasons. One of the ways these animals are different is that they are so sensitive to thier environments. Temperature and humidity need to be pretty exact for these animals to thrive. If you already own a ball python, you probably already know this. Ball pythons generally require an environment around 80F and 60% humidity.
When a reptile is too hot or too cold, it will suffer and become irritable. They will also not be happy and healthy if thier environment is too wet or too dry. Ball pythons might become itchy or lethargic in these situations and the last thing they will want is to be picked u by you. This of course could cause them to strike at you.
If you don’t know how to fix humidity imbalances in your ball python’s tank, you can click here to learn how to raise humidity. You can read this article if you think you need to lower humidity to make your ball python more comfortable.
5. Bad Enclosure Setup
A bad enclosure setup overall could also make your snake stressed.
Ball pythons are nocturnal snakes, that spend a lot of their days hiding away. In the wild, you can often find these animals tucked away inside of a burrow. These snakes spend their days hidden and sleeping, and their nights out and exploring. If your ball python doesn’t have a nice hiding place to sleep during the day, it might become stressed and even sick. Without a proper hiding place, they’ll start to lose sleep and will become irritable and quick to bite.
Beyond that, your ball python also needs to explore at night. If you have a red light as a source of heat for your snake, it actually could be causing them stress! Red light itself isn’t bad for ball pythons but having red light on all night could disrupt their sleeping patterns. Again, a stressed snake is more likely to strike.
If you think your enclosure setup isn’t perfect, you can try adding more hiding and sleeping places or adjusting your lighting. You can also do some research to make sure you have the ideal setup for your pet. Here is a video that can help you get started on the perfect ball python enclosure:
The last reason your ball python might strike at you is that it could be sick.
Don’t worry, just because your ball python is striking at you, doesn’t mean it’s sick. However, illness would make your snake short-tempered and more likely to bite.
But, how would you know if your snake was ill?
Since snakes can’t tell us that they’re not feeling well, you’ll need to do some detective work. Does your snake seem tired and lethargic? Are their eyes looking dull and sunken in? Are they making noises while breathing? Has their poop changed?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it could be time to take your snake in for a visit to the veterinarian. A veterinarian can help assess your snake and make sure that they aren’t sick. Then, if they are, a veterinarian can quickly treat and nurse your snake back to health! Hopefully, you’ll end up with a happy healthy snake that doesn’t want to bite you.
How Do You Calm An Aggressive Ball Python?
So, now that you know why your ball python might be acting aggressively, what can you do about it?
The first step you can take is to make sure that your ball python’s home is comfortable for them. Again, adjusting the humidity and temperature is very important for a reptile. Even though there are plenty of reptiles that love humidity more than a ball python, it’s still an important part of their setup.
They should also have a comfortable substrate and plenty of places to hide. Even though you don’t want your ball python to be hiding all the time, it’s still important to give them the option.
But, if your ball python is aggressive during handling, you will need to take steps to tame them.
Handling should be an enjoyable process for both you and your pet snake. Handling should never be forceful or aggressive. If your snake is a new addition to your home, it may have never been handled before and it could be scary for them.
Give your snake time to get used to your smell. This might mean just taking them out for a few minutes every day. You shouldn’t ever force them to uncurl or come out of their ball, hopefully, they will start to do that on their own eventually. If your snake strikes at your hand before you take them out, take some steps backward. Spend time in the same room as your pet, get them used to you and your voice. Handling is a long process. People who spend all day with their snakes have usually put a lot of time and energy into teaching them how to be okay with that.
Ball pythons aren’t naturally aggressive snakes but they will strike when stressed. If your ball python is stressed, you should be able to figure out why. Simple changes in their enclosure could make a huge difference for them. Improper handling can be fixed with a little time and practice. If you make these adjustments, we hope that your ball python will stop striking at you, so that you both can live a more relaxed life together.