What to Know About Ball Python Bites

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on July 17, 2023
3 min read

Ball pythons are non-venomous snakes. They are popular as pets because of their generally docile existence. However, it is possible for a ball python to bite you.

Ball pythons are considered medium-sized snakes. The average ball python is 4 to 5 feet long, although they can grow to be 6 feet. They usually weigh 3 to 5 pounds and have small heads and thick bodies.

Pythons have unique characteristics that help them survive in the wild:

  • Quadrate bone allows them to open their mouth extra wide
  • Heat-sensing pores allow them to “see” their surroundings using thermal imaging
  • Tongue provides their sense of smell 

What do ball pythons look like? Ball pythons usually have an ivory belly and patterned scales. Their markings include large brown spots mixed with smaller, lighter brown spots and darker spots. To identify a ball python, you can look for yellow stripes running from their nostrils to their eyes. Every four to six weeks, a ball python sheds its skin, a process that takes three or four days to complete.

Where do ball pythons live? In the wild, ball pythons are found in the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. They primarily live in large grasslands but can climb trees in the scattered forests nearby. Most ball pythons live in burrows in the ground. Ball pythons are nocturnal animals, patrolling at night for their next meal. During the day, ball pythons like to stay concealed by hiding under:

  • Leaf piles
  • Fallen logs
  • Rocks Underground burrows dug by mammals 

What do ball pythons eat? With the ability to expand their jaws, ball pythons eat rodents up to twice their head size. Their diet includes:

  • Rats
  • Shrews
  • Jerboas
  • Other small mammals
  • Birds

Ball pythons are not naturally aggressive animals, so they will not usually initiate a bite. In fact, when they are threatened, ball pythons retreat and hide, waiting to strike an aggressor at an impactful moment. After that, they ball up and hide their head to protect against a return attack.

It’s still possible for a ball python to bite you, and their bites are painful. Ball pythons have around 150 teeth that are 1 centimeter long. With a hooked shape, their teeth hold prey as they constrict and kill.

If a ball python does bite, you may have symptoms and side effects like:

  • Puncture marks at the site of the wound
  • Redness, swelling, and inflammation
  • Severe pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heavy breathing
  • Changes in vision
  • Sweating
  • Tingling feeling in your face, arms, and legs

If it is your pet or a friend’s pet that bites you, put the ball python back into his habitat. If you’re in the wild and get bitten, do not attempt to trap the snake. Here are some other “don’ts” when it comes to snake bites:

  • Don’t apply a tourniquet to the area
  • Don’t try to cut the wound open
  • Don’t apply ice or immerse the wound in water‌

Call your doctor right away or go to your local emergency room for immediate medical attention. Even without venom, a snake bit may cause severe damage to your body. You may need stitches and medication to treat your ball python bite.

Mild manner. Ball pythons aren’t aggressive, so as snakes go, they make good pets. Keep in mind that ball pythons love to coil up into a ball. They should never be forced out of their coil, or they may act out aggressively.

Long life span. Even in captivity, ball pythons live for twenty years. If you’re looking for a pet with longevity, the ball python has it.

They are wild animals. Even if they are bred in captivity, ball pythons are still wild by nature. Keep in mind that a ball python raised in captivity should not be released back into the wild because it may not be able to hunt, hide, and survive.

Specialized care. A ball python needs a large enough cage, so it has room to move around. It also needs a specialized diet, veterinary care, and socialization.