Blood Python

                       Python curtus

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Suborder: Serpentes

Family: Pythonidae

Genus: Python

Species: P. curtus

Conservation Status: While Blood pythons are classified as ‘Least Concern’, they do receive some protection from local governments and are classified as a CITES appendix II species. Most blood pythons collected in the wild are done so to satisfy demand for the exotic leather trade.

Natural History: The blood python belongs to a family of ‘short tailed pythons’ from southeast Asia and Indonesian islands. Depending on the author there are three recognized species or sub-species within the Python curtus complex. All of these snakes are large, heavy bodied animals with a short and stocky build. All three species display varying degrees of brick red, bright red, cream, black and pale yellows, though in the wild these snakes are often covered in a layer of mud and other forest floor debris that conceal much of these colors and patterns. The species we work with here at Asheville Wildside is the Sumatran Blood Python (Sumatran Short-tailed Python). Whose population is concentrated in the southern and western region of the Indonesian island of Sumatra. These snakes are ambush predators and spend much of their time resting and waiting on the forest floor of tropical forests, in drier areas of swamps and marshes and along river banks concealed under vegetation, fallen trees, leaf litter and even hidden under man made debris. The blood python is an opportunistic predator and will prey on almost anything they can subdue. Mammals and birds make up most of the snakes diet, but lizards & amphibians are eagerly hunted by smaller specimens as well. Blood pythons are deceptively large snakes, most adults top out around 4-5.5 feet but make up for their short stature with impressive weight and girth. They strike with incredible speed and precision and can be very defensive, especially while hiding in their enclosures.

Care in Captivity: Captive breeding efforts over the past several years has virtually eliminated the need for wild collection of these beautiful animals to supply the pet trade. These are long lived and easy to care for animals that are growing in popularity, especially with the introduction of many recessive and co-dominant mutations. I house babies and juveniles in spacious tubs on a rack system, but the adults attain such large and heavy sizes that I find tubs to constrictive. Many companies manufacture spacious specialized snake habitats from materials such as expanded PVC. I prefer the 48”x24” footprints for adult bloods; these enclosures usually come pre-wired for heat, and are light and make humidity regulation very straightforward. I provide all my bloods with access to a heated area of the enclosure, using thermostatically controlled flexwatt providing a hot spot of around 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient temperature within the enclosure is maintained around 76-78 degrees with a nighttime drop of 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity is a bit of a balancing act, kept too dry these animals may soak for long periods of time and have difficulty shedding properly, if kept too humid they may show signs of respiratory distress and develop skin issues. I usually aim for the 60-70% humidity range and try to keep the substrate from being ‘wet’. Blood pythons can thrive on a variety of substrates, some hobbyists and breeders prefer craft paper or layers of newspaper, allowing the snakes to ‘burrow’ in between sheets. Others use aspen chips, shavings, cypress mulch, or other more naturalistic substrates. Whatever you use, spot clean regularly, remove overly wet or damp portions, watch for fungus or mold development (the enclosure is a warm humid environment, it’s going to happen) and change the water bowls regularly. Blood pythons readily accept size appropriate f/t rodents as a staple diet, these animals have a slow metabolism and live as ambush predators so they should be fed accordingly, a single size appropriate prey item weekly is perfectly sufficient and adults will maintain excellent body weight if offered a medium rat one every seven days or so.

Some keepers find blood pythons to be defensive or even aggressive snakes, other bloods can be calm and confident. In my experience it’s not uncommon to see bloods that react to invasions into their personal space (enclosures) with defensive behavior, hissing open or closed mouth striking, throwing coils etc. These are all behaviors meant to startle and scare off potential predators. Most of my animals calm readily with age and handling experience as they become more accustomed to interaction and confident with their surroundings.

 

Captive Breeding: Blood pythons are not difficult snakes to reproduce, but they do have a few characteristics that differentiate them from other species. Hailing from tropical regions, these snakes don’t require nor experience much of a seasonal difference. That being said many breeders still pair their snakes in the autumn and early winter months. Slight variables in day/night temperature and photoperiod may play a role in stimulating breeding behavior. Usually these animals are paired in November, copulation may take place immediately or after several hours or even after several unsuccessful pairings.  Female blood pythons will begin to swell and show signs of ovulation throughout the winter months after pairings. I don’t alter feeding regimens at all during the development of ova, some females may go off feed before laying, others may continue to feed normally all the way through egg production. Like in Ball pythons, an ovulating female is hard to miss, the mass gain is very noticeable and around three weeks post ovulation the female will shed. Approximately 30 days after this shed most females begin laying, 12-20 large heavy eggs are laid and typically wrapped in protective coils by the female python. Like other species of pythons, bloods will protect and even self-incubate eggs, even ‘shivering’ to increase local heat around the clutch. But for ideal hatch rates and assisting the female in returning to pre-lay weight, artificial incubation is the best method. The clutch can be incubated in a size appropriate plastic container with a 1:1 ratio of coarse vermiculite and water. Kept at 88 degrees Fahrenheit most ova begin hatching after 55-60 days. Some breeders will cut the eggs after the first hatchling, in all but the rarest cases this is not necessary and I refrain from cutting unless an egg has incubated past 65 days and its siblings are emerging. Neonates will often undergo their first shed 3-4 weeks after emerging but prey can be offered after 7-10 days. Many young blood pythons will accept f/t prey for their first meal, but occasionally they can be stubborn and require live prey for the first meal or two.

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