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Q: My BP is striking at me!
Posted By:

The Egal

Two days ago i picked up my healthy young female ball python from BHB Reptiles, i understand that you should leave them be for a few days but it seems whenever i reach in the tank she strikes at me. Comment me if anyone knows why.

Points: 50
Topics: General Health
Tags: Ball, Python, Striking
Administrative: Show/Hide

Accepted Answer 6/29/2008 8:03:46 PM

She's stressed out. Make sure her temps and humidity are spot on (80F cool side, 92-94F hot side, 50-60% humidity), she has nice tight hides on each side and is in a quiet place in the house.

Leave her completely alone for at least a week. No touching, no handling, no checking other than to make sure she has water and isn't too hot (a good digital indoor/outdoor thermometer/hydrometer is your friend!) or cold.

Right now, you're a big bad monster that can eat her. Until she figures out that you're not going to hurt her she is going to strike to keep you away. Let her settle and then worry about handling. You're going to have her for a long time. :)
Member Comment 6/29/2008 9:41:53 PM

Ive had issues with snakes in general, not just BPs, strinking out of fear of predation. Its also possible that she could be cage aggressive. Thats also something ive run into. My last ATB was a devil in the cage and an angel outside. Does she strike out once you get her out?
Assisted Answer 6/29/2008 10:14:15 PM

Your Ball Python is probably striking out of a feeding response. Large scale breeders just don't have the time to handle each of the offspring they produce on a regular basis. They generally open the animal's enclosures for maintenance or FEEDING. Many animals begin to associate the opening of the enclosure with being fed. It's like ringing the dinner bell. In addition he is probably keying in on warmth of your hand. Try to distract the snake and pick it up from it's rear portion, once you pick it up you should be fine. If it continues to strike after being picked up, you may just be one of the unfortunate few that has a Ball Python with a nasty disposition as rare as that may be. Hope this helps you out. Good luck!
Member Comment 6/30/2008 1:18:38 AM


Simply leave it be for a week w/ out any intereference. Then, when you do go to take it out/ move/push it first ( make sure you werent just playing with any mice rats  or anything else that will leave a feeder sent on you). I always wash my hands so they smell the clean'/soap smell if you will and know its not food. When you do go to take the ball out do so differently than you would when you feed it. Ie" slowly open the cage, use a snake hook (I use a cheapo piece of pvc, slowly push the snake, to make sure its awake, watch the snake it will go from its "s" shaped position/attack mode to slowly straightening out and exploring. Once the snake is moving and is aware there is no food and no real threat slowly calmly and delibrately reach in and grab the snake. Once its out do the same thing slow deliberate motions, and avoid contact with its head.

Assisted Answer 6/30/2008 1:49:19 AM

Dont leave it alone but rather be persistent. If the snake figures out that by striking at you it immediately gets thrown back in its enclosure or not removed at all it will figure it has "won" and be left alone. Throw some gloves on and get in there while they are young. Another good trick I have heard is to throw in an old tee-shirt that has been worn just to let them get used to your smell. I also have a good video on handling Defensive Snakes http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=TxGVkDVEFPM
Assisted Answer 6/30/2008 4:07:15 AM

I agree with mack1time. It's all well and good leaving the snake alone to let her calm down... but this kind of behaviour suggests fear when it comes to being taken out of her cage which, to me, leaves little option but to persevere until she realises you're not a threat. A few things that you might want to try/consider. Firstly, if it's a top opening tank you've got to put yourself in the snakes position and wonder what that must be like from her point of view. At her current size, in the wild she'd still be pretty low on the food chain in comparison to larger, older specimens. A human hand coming at her from above will trigger the same instinctive defense responses as a set of incoming bird talons, you know? The best way I found to tackle this while a front opening cage is not really an option (while she's still so small) is to present her with the flattened palm of your hand straight away. Open the tank and right away hold your flattened hand out so she a) has less time to respond, b) realises you're not a bird of prey and c) has less chance of catching stray fingers and stuff if she does strike. Then, while your hand is over her like that you can just pick her up and handle her. Secondly, think about it... she's small and striking now. This is a behaviour you want her to drop as soon as possible ideally cuz it's going to be no fun at all if she's still doing this when she's 4 feet long and her teeth are considerable bigger and stronger ;) You really need to persevere and get her out of it now while she's still young and less stubborn. I used to have a similar problem with a young (around 4 foot) boa that lived in a top opening tank while I was looking after her. The only way I could get her out of her tank was with a snake hook to lift her out. Once she was out she was fine. Obviously that's not something you wanna be doing in the long term though so just keep at it, be gentle and sensible (take the advice about scents on your hands etc, they smell food and immediately they're reactions to you are going to be different. You want to ensure that she knows you're neither predator nor prey) and a snake of her age should come round in no time at all. I'm gonna get back to my stubborn little male now...! Good luck!
Member Comment 6/30/2008 9:24:34 AM

What everyone else says IS valid, however you have a brand new snake, in a brand new environment. Until she settles in and feels comfortable ANY handling is only going to increase her stress.

Once you give her a week or so to settle in and get eating well, you will probably find that she's not striking anymore and is a much happier snake. After she's acclimated, if she's still a bit aggressive then definitely do handle her whether she's striking or not. She can't hurt you and she'll soon figure out that nothing bad happens when you handle her.  This will only happen once she's safe in her environment though.
Member Comment 6/30/2008 9:32:27 AM

What dalvers63 says is indeed a good point. Whereas what I advised before is defintely still worth thinking about, I kind of overlooked the bit where you said you picked her up 2 days ago, my bad ;) She does indeed need time to settle in and really, at such an early stage, it's not really surprising behaviour. I'm not contradicting what I said earlier by any means as I would still recommend exactly as I did before but perhaps after a few days to a week by way of an acclimatization period to see how she settles in by herself. Once she feels more confident in her new environment it may well be that my previous advice is obsolete anyway as the rest period you give her to settle in might, hopefully, be all it takes to chill her out.
Member Comment 6/30/2008 12:36:31 PM

If she's still striking after she acclimates, I'd suggest starting to "hook train" her. Start using a hook to take her out when it's playtime. She might try and bite the hook a couple of times at first, but I've found that cuddling my snakes tends to help them get used to me and my scent.
Member Comment 6/30/2008 7:30:37 PM

I've just thought. What kinda size enclosure is she in? BP's, like quite a few other species of snake, tend to be rather agoraphobic, that is, afraid of open spaces (understandable so when they're young and potential food for something bigger)... if she's in a tank that's too big that may be contributing to her defensive behaviour.
Member Comment 7/1/2008 6:53:09 AM

Just wanted to chime in with a thought in the event your animal is striking because she associates an open cage with feeding.

I have taken to feeding after lights out on all my animals. All my animals have all gotten to the point where they only associate an open cage at night as feeding time. The cage opening during the day means something else and they will not show any aggressive behavior.
Member Comment 7/1/2008 11:59:54 AM

Let's simplify this:

(1)  You need to leave the animal alone for a minimum of a week.  Put it in a low traffic area of you home and resist the urge to peek in.  Keep vibrations to a minimum.  As Dalvers has pointed out, make sure all of your husbandry requirements are spot on.

(2)  After a week, you can attempt handling.  If she is still striking - use the hook.  Most animals will calm right down after they are picked up and out of the enclosure.
Assisted Answer 7/1/2008 3:59:59 PM

Reptile Mania
All very valid points thus far:

You have a new snake, (especially BPs being such shy snakes already) which must be allowed time to adjust to new setting.  They like small, tight places to hide in, not huge wide open spaces.  Husbandry must be right on for these guys or you do see issues, such as striking, refusal of food, etc.

Give the snake 1 week to be left alone, ensuring your tank is not too big for her.  After 1 week, take her out and place in a feeding tub of sorts and offer her a meal.  If she eats, great....leave her be another 3-4 days.  On day 5 offer another meal, again giving her a few days after eating to digest and settle some more.  I find with my new BP babies, if I follow this process they eat sooner and show less signs of stress.

A friend once told me this and after following it, it sure makes the world of difference.  1 week to settle in (whether potentially hungry or not) and always remember "A NON Feeding Snake is a NON HANDLED snake until you see a minimum of 3 consecuative feeds without issue".

Good luck with her and keep us posted :)

Down the road, should she strike each time you take her out, definately don't allow her to see this scares you, continue to take her out...use hook if need be.  I have seen people nervous about taking a striking snake out of enclosure actually 'teach' per say the snake this behaviour will make the 'big hand' go away.  Honestly, let her settle in, offer her some meals and you should have no issues with her.  BPs are great snakes as long as we are aware of their needs & keep in mind providing them lots of security they are awesome additions to a collection :)  (I am a little bias as I do have many.)
Member Comment 7/8/2008 11:48:33 PM

I'm with RB3067. Your BP is used to feeding from its enclosure. I think we've all seen the BHB videos on youtube. Great videos BTW! They have a super collection! I had the same problem with one of my pastels. He actually got me pretty good once but it felt kind of cool. Like most members said, let her be for a good 7-10 days. Even if she's do to feed, skip it this one time. Also as mentiones above, make sure your snake has what she nees [right substrate, temps, humidity (and the right equipment to measure and crontrol them), hides, water] After the 7-10 days handle her only to feed her and when you do handle her approuch her from the sides or back. It will also help if you start feeding her in a seperate tub so she doesn't associate the opening of her tank with feeding day (unless u have many snakes is much easier to feed them in their enclosure)

Oh yeah I almost forgot make sure your hands never smell like her food :D
Member Comment 7/18/2008 7:56:22 AM

Not to sound evil here.....but maybe she just doesn't like you?
I had a Biak GTP who absolutely hated everything about me - cleaning, handling, feeding, the hook, etc.  
She unfortunately passed away fro a parasitic infection.
But God - she was pure evil!
Author Comment 7/18/2008 6:49:35 PM

The Egal

This question has been closed. Accepted and split points.

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