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Daily Classroom Special
Critter Corner: The Buzz: Past Issues: Volume 2, Issue 9  

About this Daily Classroom Special
Critter Corner allows teachers and students to learn and share experiences about organisms that can be kept in the classroom. Critter Corner is maintained by Judith Jones, teacher at East Chapel Hill High School (NC) and Teachers Network web mentor. E-mail Judith. Make sure to visit Judy's other Daily Classroom Special, The Time Travel Interviews with Famous Scientists

The Buzz  


Past Issues

Questions, Comments, Suggestions

The Buzzzzzzzzzzz
Catch the Buzz
You have questions

Judy has answers

Ball Python

Subject: Python
From: Judy S.
Organization: Bering Straits School District


Glad to see the info on the python. Our school just got one and I argue with the science teacher on how often to feed it. If you put a mouse in the tank and the python doesn't eat it within five minutes, it's not hungry, right? He is also wanting to feed the python three mice a week (this python is less than three feet long and not fully grown). What do you think?

Thank you for your input,
Judy S.

Dear Judy,

I am so glad that you e-mailed me with your dilemma. There are python collectors that "power feed" their pythons in order to get them up to 10+ feet in a few years. These are breeders who are anxious to begin producing baby snakes quickly or owners who are intrigued by the giant size of pythons and are eager to show off their big snakes. I am assuming that your school has one of the large breeds (reticulated or burmese/indian). If you have a ball python, I would have a slightly different answer.

When I realized how big my burmese python could get, I was alarmed and called the North Carolina Zoo. The reptile curator there suggested that I feed my python minimally so that I could slow down the growth; he assured me that the snake would remain perfectly healthy. This has worked well; my Felix is now 16 years old and quite healthy. He is only about 11-12 feet long and can still be handled by two or more people.

I would recommend that the science teacher feed the python one mouse every 5-10 days initially. As the snake grows, the diet can increase to two mice each feeding and the distance between feedings can increase to two weeks. The size of the rodent can increase over time, also. I now feed Felix two large rats every two weeks - a little less frequently in winter when he becomes less eager to eat.

Please feel free to ask more questions!

Judy Jones

A few days later, the Judy's corresponded again.

Subject: Re: python From: Judy S.

Thanks Judith for answering back.

How long should we wait with a mouse in the tank? If the python doesn't get the mouse within five minutes, he isn't hungry is he? Would it affect the snake in eating if people were around watching? Either people staring or making noise?

Just in case you're interested, here's a little bit about my town, school and class. I don't know if you realize that I am in Alaska. We are the furthest point west on the continental US. We point out to Russia at the area just north and west of Nome. I appreciate your time and really enjoyed the web site. I copied a few pages off to show students. We also have a tarantula, hissing cockroaches, and a chameleon.

Thanks sooooo much for your time, answers, and input.


Dear Judy,

I thought you might be in Alaska. What a beautiful part of the world; I would love to visit sometime.

I have several thoughts on this ball python. They can be reluctant eaters. This is one of the most difficult parts of raising a ball python. However, it sounds as if this one is eating well - too well! I do leave the rodent in the cage for longer than five minutes sometimes, but I certainly take it out after an hour. The snake and rodent can get used to each other and that somehow disrupts the eating process.

Sometimes the presence of noisy students can be disruptive to eating also. I have a couple of snakes that I feed when students are not around. But if the students are quiet, the snake will usually eat.

If the snake does not eat one time, it is usually wise to wait a week and then try again. My two ball pythons are extremely healthy and I feed them each one small rat every two to three weeks. As adults, they do not need to eat more often. If you have a young snake, you can feed it one mouse every seven to ten days and that would be a more than adequate diet! As the snake grows, you can increase to two mice per feeding and you can stretch the feeding out to every 10-14 days. Eventually the snake will be large enough for three mice or one small rat every feeding. However, the snake should NOT be eating every day nor even a few times a week.

Good luck to you and your students.

Judy Jones

Subject: Unusual behavior of ball python
From: Brenda L.

Dear Judith,

Thank you for replying to my request for information regarding Ball Pythons. Since that time the snakes have been doing fine. We never did put the two snakes together. We did give each a larger tank but kept them separate.

Now, the smaller python is exhibiting a different behavior than any I have seen before. He is holding his head straight up in the air (six to eight inches high) with his mouth slightly open for several seconds. No flicking tongue, just an open, slack mouth. He has done this for two or three days, now. He refused a gerbil yesterday. He has been eating one or two a month. His belly is showing pink tinge.

Any suggestions? Should I be alarmed?

I would appreciate any insight you can give me as to what is going on with the snake. Many thanks.

Brenda L.

Dear Brenda,

You should definitely be concerned about your ball python's behavior. Raising the head in the air and exhibiting a "gaping" mouth is indicative of a respiratory infection. You can try putting the snake in a warm, dry and well-ventilated enclosure; they can get well by themselves. However, in a serious case, a veterinarian would probably give antibiotics.

Of course, I am responding to your description and there might be another problem. I would recommend taking the snake to a veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis.

Good luck! I have had snakes with respiratory infections who have recovered!

Judy Jones

A week later, Brenda L. had some sad news

Dear Judy,

I am sorry to report the death of our python. He was gone by the time I got to school the next day. Thanks for your information. I had waited too long before seeking help.

Thanks again,
Brenda L.

Dear Brenda,

I am so sorry about your python. I just lost an iguana suddenly and it is so disappointing. Before you use the enclosure again, be sure to clean it out with clorox or something else to make sure that any of the germ organisms don't infect another animal.

Thanks for letting me know and good luck with your other organisms.

Judy Jones


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