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.

1 th"Mommy, where do blood pythons come from?"

     If only all questions in life could be so easily asked...and answered!  Blood pythons and their short-tailed cousins are found with increasing frequency at reptile expos, on reptile-oriented websites, and even social networking sites like Facebook. 
     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

     So ultimately, how important is the origin of your blood or short-tailed python?  That depends on several factors, such as the overall health and quality of the snake itself, availability of background information on that snake’s lineage and husbandry, and your expectations of that snake’s adult appearance.      
     Many captive-hatched bloods and STPs do well in captivity, and the guidelines for selecting a healthy animal are  similar whether picking a CH or CBB snake (we’ll cover those in a bit).  There are, however, a variety of unknowns that come into play when working with CH animals, and it’s an individual decision as to whether the perceived benefits in choosing a CH python outweigh the potential drawbacks. 
     Keep in mind that imported snakes of any kind are subjected to considerable amounts of stress – often packed in bags or containers with multiple other snakes, then flown halfway around the world.  It is impossible to know what treatment these animals receive before and during shipping, and how long the shipping process actually lasts.  Was a flight delayed somewhere en route? Did the snakes arrive on a weekend only to sit in customs for a couple of days, without water and 9th potentially exposed to fluctuating temperatures, while waiting for the shipment to be cleared before reaching its destination?  These are very real possibilities that ultimately may impact a snake’s overall well-being, and should be kept in mind when considering a captive-hatched blood or short-tailed python.     
     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.  
     On the other hand, blood python enthusiasts and breeders frequently keep precise records on their snakes.  Often you’ll receive record cards complete with hatch date, hatch weight, first feeding attempts and continued feeding dates, as well as transitions to new prey items, shedding records, and other husbandry events.  Some breeders even offer this information in digital form if you utilize some of the popular reptile husbandry software currently available, otherwise it is usually presented in hard copy. 

2 th     Another significant point in deciding between captive-hatched and captive-bred pythons is your expectation of the snake’s adult appearance. Many blood python enthusiasts are after that trophy animal, one that is knockout, mindboggling red, with blazing yellow, bright white, and rich black markings.  Or perhaps you have the mental image of an awesome Borneo short-tail, and envision a honey colored animal with cream and gold patterning.  Maybe your goal is the “blackest of the black” Sumatran short-tail, with minimal brown and gray markings.  Regardless of which species holds your fancy, you probably have a good idea of what you feel is the “perfect” python in terms of appearance.  
     Finding that perfect python can be an enjoyable challenge when selecting from CBB snakes; when trying to pick CH animals, it’s an absolute crapshoot.  While some snakes certainly stand out from the rest, there is no real way to pinpoint a guaranteed trophy.  This is especially true when picking out red blood pythons, because they change so much from juvenile to adulthood. We’ve seen fancy babies that were less than inspiring as adults, and ho-hum juveniles that blossomed into amazing specimens.
     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.  
     If appearance isn’t the highest priority on your list, this all becomes much easier. If you’re determined to find that once-in-a-lifetime critter, the availability of lineage info and photos of adult animals are factors to think about when making your choices, regardless of whether or not your prospective pythons are CH or CBB.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

     There’s a key aspect of selecting a blood python that goes hand-in-hand with the origin of the snake itself: WHO actually sells you that snake?  As we mentioned 5thearlier, blood and short-tailed pythons are available from a variety of sources, whether reptile dealers or wholesalers, pet stores, individual snake keepers, or dedicated hobbyists and professional breeders.   The person from whom you acquire your python can have as much impact on your snake keeping experience as the animal itself, and it pays to evaluate the pros and cons of your potential source.
     The extent and quality of post-sale support can vary significantly from one source to another, especially based on the seller’s involvement and experience with these species.    The person from whom you buy your blood python should be your first point of contact for questions and concerns about that snake.  Ideally, the seller will invite you to come to him or her with questions, and will encourage ongoing communication about your blood or short-tailed python.  This type of rapport is most typically built with serious blood python hobbyists, and full-time breeders who earn a living working with snakes.  Herpetoculturists with a long, proven track record of success with these species are your best sources, not only for the snakes themselves, but also for continued support and information developed from years of experience.
     When dealing with pet stores or wholesalers, try to establish a point of contact who is available for phone calls and questions.  Get a copy either via e-mail or in 3 thwriting of that vendor's health guarantees and policies, and find out what kind of support they offer both before and after the sale.  Many pet stores and dealers sell animals in "as is" condition, and/or with a limited health guarantee.  If you're able to establish an ongoing rapport with a specialty store or dealer who allows you to visit their facility, you can evaluate firsthand the condition in which the animals are kept, assess that seller's experience level with blood or short-tailed pythons, and make a firsthand determination as to whether or not this type of source is the right fit for you.
     Regardless of where you purchase your blood python, try to thoroughly research that vendor prior to the sale.  Ask for opinions from fellow reptile keepers, check internet forums, talk to customers of the vendor you have in mind, and don't hesitate to ask for references when necessary.  Decide ahead of time what kind of support and continued relationship you expect to have with the source of your short-tailed python, and find the one who best meets your needs and expectations.

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. 
     Most blood and short-tailed python enthusiasts will eagerly answer your questions, and will probably ask a few of their own.  Be up front with the breeder or vendor 6thabout your current experience level with reptiles in general, and with blood pythons in particular.  Answer questions regarding your own experience honestly, so that the source of your snake can help you start off on the right foot with that animal.  
    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.  

4 th     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.  

Closing Thoughts 

     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.

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