This small snake, the ball python, is considered the most docile to keep as a pet, and has therefore become the most commonly sold in pet stores. In the United Kingdom, they're called 'royal pythons'.
Native to Africa, the ball python is native to the forests, savannahs, and grasslands from Ghana to Cameroon. One of the reasons it is a popular species in the pet world, and usually recommended for insistent first-time snake owners, is that they grow to only four to six feet in length.
Ball pythons love to burrow, and are usually found curled up tight, hiding away. This behavior is what gave the snake it's common American name. Their burrowing also helps them to follow prey such as gerboas and other small rodents right into their own burrows. They kill by constricting, and do not offer a poisonous bite.
Ball pythons lay four to 10 eggs, with hatchlings emerging about 75-80 days later at nine to 17 inches in length. Life expectancy in captivity is 20 to 30 years, though in the wild, they often fall prey to leopards, birds of prey, and hedgehogs much sooner. Very adept hunters themselves, even a change of just 3/1000ths of a degree in temperature around a ball python is enough to alert them to a warm being nearby - possible dinner.
It is wise if interested in having a snake as a pet to first consider adopting one that is no longer wanted, since overpopulation is such a problem in captivity. There is also much published about the benefits of captive-bred vs. wild-caught snakes, both of which can be found on the open market. In order to save these animals in the wild, it makes sense not to support any efforts to remove them from their natural homes.
"Wilson" was adopted from a private home when no longer desired. Many of these kinds of pets need refuge when owners can't afford to keep them, aren't allowed to have them (in apartment, usually), or their roommates or family members are afraid of them. Reptiles are one of the most populated of exotic "pets" and Black Pine receives dozens of calls each year from owners looking for new homes for their animals. Unfortunately, the sanctuary can only help a limited number due to space and funding.
InfoBox - Ball Python
Status: Threatened due to habitat loss and pet trade.
Diet in wild: Small rodents.
Life span in captivity: 20 to 30 years. (Record in captivity is 48 years.)
Size: Four to six feet at adulthood. Females are usually larger and heavier than males.
Native habitat: Africa, from Ghana to Cameroon in forests, savannahs, and dry grasslands.