Are Ball Pythons Dangerous?

Best Pet Snakes
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Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Updated: October 31, 2023

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Ball pythons get their name from observed behavior, “balling”- they roll into a tight ball when disturbed or scared. They are also commonly known as royal pythons, the smallest species of African pythons. Most of them don’t grow beyond 3-6 feet, and they take quite well to the grasslands and open forests of West and Central Africa.

Despite their small size compared to other pythons, it’s normal to get scared when you see one because they are, after all, snakes. Moreover, ball pythons are known to swallow their prey alive or immobilize them by constriction. Perhaps, you are wondering: Are ball pythons dangerous to humans? How fast should you run when you see one? Find out in this post!

Are Ball Pythons Dangerous?

isolated scaleless ball python

Ball pythons are harmless to humans.

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Ball pythons are not dangerous; in fact, they are quite the opposite. They are pythons, but they are scared of humans and employ several tactics to avoid detection. Other defenses apart from “balling” include camouflage, attempts to escape, bluffing displays, and biting. However, these snakes are non-venomous, and they don’t have long, sharp fangs or venom glands. All they have for teeth are numerous, small, needle-like teeth that help them clamp their prey as they squeeze. Hence, their bites are not life-threatening. 

All these, coupled with the fact that they’re small pythons, make them a popular choice for pet snakes, recommended even for kids. Ball pythons are carnivores and feed almost exclusively on rodents. Although they are not very long, they have heavy bodies and prefer to ambush prey. They have mobile jaws, so they quickly retract their head and strike prey rapidly before swallowing or constricting them. They love to prey on African giant rats, grass mice, black rats, shaggy rats, and rufous-nosed rats.

As pets, ball pythons grow tamer as they get used to human touch. People love them because it takes very little to care for them, unlike dogs and cats. They eat only once a week and defecate once a week too. As you can imagine, cleaning their cage is quite easy. Moreover, they are considered safe around kids, although you should monitor handling when they are out of their cages. Ball pythons also have an amazing lifespan- they can live up to 50 years in captivity if properly cared for. So be ready to have them around for long.

Can Ball Pythons Attack Humans?

Though ball pythons can bite, they are non-venomous and don’t attack humans.

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No, ball pythons don’t attack humans. As with all snakes, there’s a possibility to get bitten by them, but they are non-venomous with short, needle-like teeth.

Has a Ball Python Ever Killed a Human?

There is no recorded incident of a ball python ever killing a human. That is not surprising because they are not large enough to wrap around adult humans and constrict them. Although it has never happened before, they can wrap around a baby’s neck and constrict it. That’s why children need monitoring around them. 

Will a Ball Python Eat a Human?

Ball python in the grass

Even if a ball python wanted to, it would not be able to eat a human.

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Unlike other large pythons, a ball python cannot eat or swallow a human even if it wants to. They are not big enough to constrict a human, and they don’t have a lethal or venomous bite. They only feed on rodents and have no interest in eating humans or other animals. 

Ball pythons only pose some risk when threatened, stressed, or hungry. When threatened, they go defensive and bite within the twinkle of an eye. The speed at which they can do this is scary, but they’ll only leave you with a sensation similar to a needle prick.

When they are hungry, the bite is different. They bite and attach to the arm and try to coil around it. If you try to struggle, it only worsens as they tighten their grip. If you remain calm, they will let go after realizing that you are not prey. It’s best to prevent this; hence you should wash your hands after handling their food because they operate with their sense of smell. Use a pair of tongs to handle their food and stay as far as possible.

Ball pythons can get stressed with excessive handling, uncomfortable enclosures (too large or too small), shedding, and illness. Do not handle them in these situations.

Are Ball Pythons Intelligent?

When compared to several other animal species, ball pythons aren’t that smart. One of the best ways to test intelligence in animals is their ability to learn new things. Ball pythons are mainly concerned with eating, drinking, mating, and staying alive. Although experts may argue that this shows some form of intelligence, it’s easier to attribute these characteristics to pure instincts. They don’t move often and are quite content with staying in a cool place. That makes it more difficult to assess their intelligence. Lastly, they eat once a week, so food and positive reinforcement are impossible.

Are Ball Pythons Friendly?

Although they’d rather be left alone at all times, ball pythons tend to be friendly when relaxed. You can handle them once daily and ensure to do this gently. They will wrap around your arm or body, but you can unwrap them anytime you want. There are certain things you want to ensure when playing with them.

  • Please don’t pick them up until they adjust to their new environment.
  • Do not make sudden movements when interacting with them.
  • When picking them up, hold them from the mid-body. Ensure they see you coming and do not handle them at their head or tail.
  • Don’t overhandle them as this can stress them, and they will bite. However, it would help if you handled them regularly so that they get used to it.
  • Avoid handling them when they are shedding, hungry, or feeding. These are potentially stressful situations.
  • If you want one as a pet, you can handle it at the pet shop to see how aggressive it is.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after handling them.

Ball pythons are friendly when handled with care. Hence, they are great as pets, even for children. If you ever get bitten by one, wash the wound with soap and water and see a doctor as soon as possible.

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