If you are contemplating the Ball Python snake species, you will want to learn more about their temperament. Are they considered aggressive and vicious, and is there anything you need to know to keep yourself safe when owning them? Let’s find out
So, are ball pythons aggressive? Ball pythons are not generally aggressive. One of the reasons ball pythons are excellent pets is their docile and easy-to-handle nature. With that said, specific triggers can cause aggression in ball pythons. This is mainly when eating, shedding or when protecting their eggs.
The ball python is an ideal beginner snake for any novice snake owner.
These serpents are constrictor snakes; however, they are not the largest of their kind, growing only 3 to 5 feet at most.
Ball pythons earned their name because they roll themselves into a ball and tuck their heads into their coil.
They are mostly timid snakes and relatively easy to own.
Ball Python Temperament
Ball Pythons are known to possess good temperaments.
They are gentle-natured snakes that rarely attack. Ball pythons prefer to avoid confrontation, even rolling themselves into a ball to hide their heads, which is how they come to acquire their name.
Some have even gone as far as to call them “friendly“.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, but they are not common. For the most part, captive-bred ball pythons are docile snakes that are easy to handle.
Ball Pythons do not possess fangs, nor are they poisonous or venomous.
In the unlikely event that they bite, you would not be susceptible to any severe toxic reaction.
Ball Python bites are rare. If this was to occur, they are not considered to hurt much at all.
Mentally the shock from a bite is usually more concerning than the pain or the damage caused by the small teeth.
In the event of a bite, you need to remain calm. You’ll feel some localized pressure in the area, and you may need to prize your snake off if they grip tightly.
This all being said, biting and other forms of ‘attack’ are rare and not likely to occur with appropriate care and careful handling.
Like any reptile, these snakes have different personalities, and some ball pythons may be more aggressive than what is considered normal for them.
Males are usually not aggressive, and neither are the females except when they are protecting their eggs.
If you would like a ball python as a pet but are concerned about their aggression, it is a good idea to visit the breeder/pet store and physically handle each ball python you are considering purchasing.
This will give you a good idea of each snake’s temperament.
Certain stages in a snake’s life would cause them to behave with more hostility than others.
Every snake owner must become aware of these stages and treat their snake with the sensitivity they deserve to get through these more challenging times.
Let us now take a look at the most common ones.
Causes Of Aggression In Ball Pythons
For the majority of the time that a ball python is kept as a pet, they will be calm and gentle.
However, on specific occasions or during certain events, they may exhibit signs of aggression. This is not personal; there is usually a reason.
Educating yourself upfront will help you prepare in advance and know when and when not to confront your snake.
Here are the most common causes of aggression in a ball python:
When Ball Pythons Are About To Eat
Occasionally, ball pythons will become aggressive when they are about to eat. This is usually because they regard anyone coming close to them as competition attempting to steal their food.
When Ball Pythons ‘attack’ in the instance, they may lunge at you. Backing off and giving them the space they need is enough to calm them.
They will then continue to consume their prey.
If They Smell Something Edible On You
Other times ball pythons might bite if they smell something edible on you.
For example, if you played with a mouse, hamster, or any other type of rodent, or even if you handled meat while cooking.
For this reason, it is imperative that if you are looking to handle your snake, you should wash your hands thoroughly beforehand.
Also, be careful of your clothes and sleeves; sometimes, even the smell in the air can absorb into your clothes and be enough.
Consider purchasing some snake handling gloves that will prevent any scents and keep you safe if your ball python did attempt to nip.
When They Are Protecting Their Eggs
Female ball pythons, like their male counterparts, are usually non-aggressive. When they can and often do show signs of aggression is when they are protecting their eggs.
It would be best if you tried to stay away from females when they have laid eggs, mainly when they are still close to the area in which they were laid. Otherwise, they are likely to attack.
If you did need to get something out of their enclosure, then using a good pair of protective gloves is a good idea.
That being said, putting your hands near your snake during this time is still not a good idea; it will cause them stress which is not suitable for their health.
When They Shed Their Skin
When snakes shed their skin, it causes them to be more irritable than usual. They are sore and uncomfortable and incur pain each time their body comes into contact with something.
This is why when a snake sheds, you are unlikely to see them move much.
Depending on your ball python’s age, they will shed their skin on average every 4 – 6 weeks.
Ball pythons typically do not have any problems when it comes to shedding, as their humidity requirements are easier to manage than some other exotic species.
During shedding times, you must make your snake feel as comfortable as possible and avoid handling them. The new skin is very delicate and can tear easily too.
Be sure to give them plenty of time to recuperate and keep them well fed during this time.
How Do You Deal With An Aggressive Ball Python?
You may be surprised to learn that reptiles are among the most poorly treated pets due to many misunderstandings of their needs, requirements, and life stages.
Dealing with an aggressive ball python can become a real headache, especially knowing that they do not typically behave in this way.
As this is not their average temperament, it usually indicates that something is wrong.
If your ball python is misbehaving, it is likely due to the reasons mentioned in the section above.
However, it is essential to note that it could be that you happen to have an ill-tempered Ball Python, which does happen.
Some are just this way, regardless of what you do or how you like after them.
Nonetheless, a snake owner can do things to reduce stress and improve the snake’s quality of life.
Earning your snakes’ trust will go along way to eliminating aggression towards you and other family members and guests.
Let’s look at ideas, that you as an owner, can use to enrich your snake’s mood and wellbeing:
Learn How To Handle Your Ball Python Correctly
It would help if you allowed time for your ball python to become used to you.
It would help if you considered that when you get a new Ball Python, they need to acclimatize to an entirely new environment and habitat.
This is all assuming that you have set up and optimized the enclosure for their needs and requirements.
So that is the first thing you need to do. Purchase a suitable enclosure and then ensure it has all the various elements inside to keep your snake healthy and content.
Make sure humidity and temperature are optimized as these are crucial to the health of a snake.
It would be best if you also were sure to take them to a vet early on to have them checked and examined.
This will rule out the possibility of any health issues.
If your ball python is healthy, be intentional about learning to handle and tame your snake correctly. Your snake must familiarize himself with your scent using their vomeronasal organ.
Consider using tools like snake hooks and tongs to make it easier to handle your ball python.
Handle your snake frequently, repeating the process twice a week at the most in the early days, having adopted them. In time, you can handle them more regularly as they become more comfortable and confident in you.
Avoiding the following handling mistakes will help you develop a better connection with your snake with time and practice:
- Holding your snake for too long
- Squeezing your snake too tightly
- Making sudden movements
- Not supporting your snake correctly with your hands
- Reaching into the snake’s enclosure using your hands, instead of using hooks
- Handling your snake directly, once out of their cage
- Expecting your snake to bond with you, they are reptiles and learn to tolerate you at best
Make Their Enclosure More Interesting
Snakes, especially timid breeds, require hides and foliage in their enclosure.
Hides and foliage offer your pet a suitable place to hide as well as helping to regulate your pet’s body temperature.
Ensure that you change the enclosure’s water and substrate frequently to prevent scale rot and respiratory infections.
It is also recommended that you purchase a Coconut Fiber Bedding as this naturally retains humidity and absorbs and breaks down odor and snake poop.
Prepare The Room For Handling Your Ball Python
Scan the room you plan to put in your snake’s enclosure and try to detect if there is anything that your snake might perceive as threatening.
Will it just be you in the room with your snake?
Remember that snakes don’t like sudden movements or screaming kids; this could make your pet feel defensive.
Is the TV so loud that you can hear it in the room? Snakes don’t have a well-developed sense of hearing, but the TV being too loud might stress out your snake.
Ball pythons are not generally aggressive, but you must learn what possible triggers can turn your customarily contented snake into one that may attack.
Skin shedding is a very uncomfortable process for most snakes, and you must treat your ball python with sensitivity when dealing with this process.
Feeding, egg-laying, and certain smells are other factors to look out for.
Thankfully, ball pythons are ideal snakes as pets because of their gentle temperaments and their reasonable size at full adult maturity.
If you are considering getting a Ball Python, make sure that you have the means and know-how to care for these fantastic snakes properly.
Do your research, and invest in the best products available ahead of time.
Optimize their environment, and be patient when first bringing them home.
From there, you should find a healthy, content snake less likely to show signs of aggression.
Male ball pythons are equally as aggressive as female ball pythons. The only time a female ball python is likely to show signs of aggression that a male does not is protecting its eggs.
It is unlikely that a ball python has turned aggressive without a legitimate reason for doing so. It is likely something that you are now doing, or their environment is now not providing, which has caused this change. Therefore, you need to ensure that you do not start to do something incorrectly, inadvertently harming the snake or causing them any discomfort. Also, check their enclosure and environment and check that nothing has changed, such as the humidity and temperature.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.