Snakes are so tied up with cultural symbolism, much of it not complimentary, that it's easy to forget they're just reptiles minding their business and trying to survive in an often-harsh world. These slithery creatures inspire fear, but only seven percent of snake species can harm humans. So, whether you're a Slytherin fan or keen on a clean animal that won't introduce noise pollution to your neighborhood, several species make ssspectacular pets.
Corns snakes are native to the United States. They don't mind being handled, so they're often trotted out at school animal experiences. These popular nocturnal serpents are hardy and available in numerous colors or morphs, including red, pink, orange, blue, black, and white. They live for two decades, grow to four feet long, and require a 20-gallon vivarium. Snakes have to eat prey whole, so be prepared to dole out thawed frozen mice. Corn snakes enjoy climbing, so you'll have to provide a vertically roomy space and sturdy tree branches to accommodate the instinct. A new rock or natural object in your tank keeps things interesting.
Ball pythons curl up into balls when they feel threatened, and they like to have hiding places for alone time. Hailing from central Africa, ball pythons grow up to five feet long and can live for half a century, although 30 years is more common. These constricting snakes are relatively meek, easy to source, and active at night. When they're captive-bred, they're also available in multiple colors. You'll need a 30-gallon tank with a reliable top to prevent escape. Manage tank temperatures with suitable heating and no possibility of burns. Provide a soaking dish or humidity retreat, and try to arrange a separate and distinct enclosure for feeding, which they need every week or two.
Another American serpent, the California kingsnake, is a blackish snake with yellow bands, although there are variations. Bites don't hurt and are rare, and this constricting serpent will rattle its tail when it's afraid. If it wraps around your arm, loosen its grip from the tail. House these snakes solo in enclosures with securely latched roofs without gaps of any kind. King snakes eat less in the cooler months, so don't worry if you notice a drop in appetite during fall.
Western hognose snakes are native to the American West, Canada, and Mexico. They have unusual upturned snouts and live for up to 20 years. These snakes are fans of other reptiles and amphibians, such as toads, but mice are passable substitutes. As a beginner pet, the western hognose is pretty expensive, but it has a docile temperament and exhibits burrowing behavior. Aim for horizontal space rather than height, and use sand and snake-safe soil as a substrate. If your hognose is scared, it will play dead.
Gopher snakes can, surprise, surprise, be found in the American West. These fangless constrictors are also known as pine snakes or bull snakes. They're super active no matter the time of day, so try and provide plenty of enrichment and decor. Spot clean your vivarium every day because this species tends to poop more than corn or kingsnakes.
Rosy boas are subtly beautiful and grow to about four feet long. They live for approximately 25 years and like to burrow. Avoid screened tops because these snakes can hurt their noses. Use aspen bedding and an under-tank heat pad, so your rosy boa can regulate its temperature. You'll have a more challenging time finding a rosy boa, but it's worth the search and takes to captivity well.
Stateside, garter snakes abound in the wild. They eat little fish and worms and are comparatively diminutive, with an average length of two feet and a unique stripe on their backs. They're right at home in meadows and near bodies of water and require basking lamps. Be aware—it's illegal to capture one of these in its natural habitat and take it home.
Right when you thought every snake at the pet store originated from the Wild Wild West, here's the Kenyan sand boa, another fantastic beginner snake from Africa. These burrowing snakes use sand to snuff the life out of pinky mice. They're small, coming in at about two feet and live up to 20 years. The females are bigger, but a 10-gallon tank will suffice.
The children's python is fairly small and comes all the way from Australia. It's one of the species Australians can keep as pets, and its name has nothing to do with it being kid-friendly. John George Children, a zoologist, discovered this nocturnal species in the 19th century. Children's pythons are placid but should be housed alone.
Have you progressed and feel like you can handle a more challenging species after years of caring for beginner snakes? Do your research thoroughly and see if you have what it takes to own a boa constrictor. You'll need to be strong to handle this 16-foot snake and have enough space to accommodate such a large reptile. The boa constrictor's diet includes rabbits and chickens, so you'll have to procure more substantial chow than a teeny mouse. Boa constrictors are tame but can coil tightly around you, so learning how to handle them optimally is essential for your safety.
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