About Ball Pythons
Ball pythons are so named because when threatened they roll themselves into a tight ball, tucking their head inside their coils. Young ball pythons grow about a foot a year for three years. They can live for a long time with proper care - up to about 50 years, although 20-30 appears to be more typical.
Captive Bred is Best
Ball pythons are somewhat notorious for refusing to feed, but many believe that is a much larger problem with wild caught specimens. In addition, wild caught snakes tend to be very stressed from capture and transport and often harbor a large parasite load. Captive bred snakes tend to be more expensive and sometimes harder to find, but they are well worth the extra cost.
Choosing a Snake
Look for a young, captive bred snake - you may have to find a breeder for this. Choose a snake that has a well rounded body, clean eyes and vent, and that shows no signs of respiratory problems (wheezing, bubbles around nostrils). Look for one that is alert and curious and gently grips your hand/arms when handled (they may be skittish but should calm after handling for a bit). It is not a bad idea to ask for a feeding demonstration to be sure the snake readily takes a meal.
New Snake Health
If you already have a constricting snake at home, any new python (or boa) should be quarantined due to the risk of inclusion body disease. Experts vary on the length of quarantine, but 3-6 months is not extreme. In addition, a vet check is in order, especially for internal (take a recent stool sample) and external parasites.
Next: Ball Python Care