Overview: Choosing a healthy blood or short-tailed python; establishing informational resources, and avoiding potential problems.
Blood and short-tailed pythons are rising in popularity, and their availability and selection have grown steadily within recent years. It's an exciting time to be a snake fancier looking for the perfect python: with the variety of animals and husbandry tools available in herpetoculture now, there really is something for everyone. Even so, finding just the right "something" - in this case your perfect blood python - can take some research, knowledge and careful choices. Throughout this section we'll cover important factors to think about, both in choosing your ideal short-tailed python, as well as selecting the source of that snake.
The majority of young blood and short-tailed pythons offered at shows and in online reptile classified ads are captive-hatched. These juveniles come from gravid female pythons collected from the wild, most often for the skin trade, and it's debatable as to whether the females are returned to the wild or eventually skinned. Prior to meeting their fate, these pregnant pythons are allowed to lay and incubate their eggs in captivity. Their resulting babies are then exported from Indonesia and shipped to reptile importers around the world.
There are also growing numbers of dedicated herp enthusiasts currently working with blood and short-tailed pythons. They maintain immaculate collections of pythons and may offer their snakes’ offspring on private websites, social media sites, and at weekend reptile expos. The pythons produced by these enthusiasts are bred, hatched and raised in a purely captive environment, and are often available with thorough background information, such as hatching, feeding and shedding records, and even pedigrees. These animals are usually an excellent choice for the herpetoculturist seeking a quality, captive-bred snake.
The Great Debate: Captive-Hatched vs. Captive-Bred
Something else to contemplate is the availability of your prospective blood python’s husbandry records. Are you the sort of keeper who maintains meticulous notes on every prey item, feeding interval, shed, and other info? Do you appreciate knowing your snake’s exact hatch date, weight, and a timeline of its growth, feeding and shedding? If so, be aware that this information is scarcely available on CH snakes. Even if records are offered, they’ll only date back to the point where the vendor of that snake took possession of the animal.
Selecting Borneo & Sumatran short-tails as youngsters is a simpler task, but it is still impossible to know how those snakes will mature when working with unknown bloodlines. Some Borneos take on a muddy look as they grow and pattern elements blur together, and Sumatran short-tails may brown out instead of turning jet black.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Picking A Perfect Python
So you've established contact with a breeder, or you're perusing tables at a reptile expo...what's the next step in selecting the right blood python for you? First, spend some time getting to know your potential source. Do they make you - and your questions - feel welcome? Is it someone you "click" with right off the bat? There are a lot of quirky personalities in the reptile industry, and while you may not mesh right away, any worthwhile vendor is going to take the time to chat a bit and directly answer the questions you ask. Don't hesitate to ask the seller plenty of questions when making your choices. Ask what size and type of cage the snake has been housed in, on what substrate and at what temperatures. Ask if the python is eating mice or rats, and whether those rodents are live, fresh-killed or frozen-thawed. Ask how often and how consistently the snake has been feeding. Questions like this not only tell you about the snake, they demonstrate how well the seller knows his or her animals.
Just as a reputable seller shouldn't be put off by your questions (unless you're just being really obnoxious), you shouldn't feel offended or slighted by theirs. Serious breeders, whether they're professionals or extremely dedicated hobbyists, usually want to ensure that their snakes end up in the best possible situation. Help them help you by encouraging and participating in a thorough exchange of information prior to your purchase.
When picking a blood or short-tailed python, look for a plump, solid, alert animal. A healthy young blood python should be robust and muscular for its size. It should feel supple and strong when you handle it, not bloated, flaccid or limp. Avoid those with extremely prominent backbones or slack skin. The snake's scales should be smooth and free of wrinkles, bumps, blisters, and pronounced dimpling. Young blood pythons that appear shiny and "crinkly" have been kept too wet, while those with retained sheds or excessively dimpled skin are too dry. Both conditions should be avoided in favor of better-kept specimens when possible.
Short-tailed pythons are vocal snakes, so while some huffing and puffing is expected watch for any open-mouthed breathing or gurgling that may indicate a respiratory infection. Pay attention to how the snake breathes while you're handling it. If you feel a deep rattle, pronounced wheeze or vibration when the snake inhales, this can also point to respiratory problems.
Like any young snake, a juvenile blood python may be shy or nervous - it's simply part of survival when you're a few links down on the food chain. They may tense up when being handled, or flatten out like a pancake. They may be very wiggly and insist on crawling through your fingers. Some may even try to nip at first. All of this is normal behavior for baby bloods & STPs. With this in mind, we suggest skipping those that are especially defensive, i.e. biting excessively or thrashing and flailing about uncontrollably.
Definitely ask the seller your prospective blood python's age, as freshly hatched babies tend to be less forgiving of husbandry mistakes. While tiny short-tails are absolutely adorable, they aren't a good choice if this is your first experience with these species. Instead, choose a nice, established juvenile that is at least a few months old and has a history of feeding consistently. Ask the seller to provide you with their terms and health guarantee, and also ensure that you have his or her contact information available in the event of future questions or concerns.
Your venture into bloods and short-tails should be an exciting one. These are fun, rewarding snakes to keep. They have gobs of personality and require just enough finesse to hone your herpetocultural skills, without being overly challenging. Starting off with the right blood python is a huge step towards continued success and enjoyment with these animals, and there are more quality, well-bred pythons available in herpetoculture now than ever before. Hopefully the information and guidelines we've provided here will assist you on your way to a long and fruitful experience with the short-tailed python trifecta. As always, if you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions based on this information, please don't hesitate to contact us.