How long do Ball Pythons live?

How long do Ball Pythons live?

How long do Ball Pythons live? Well, in captivity they certainly live a lot longer than most mammals of a similar size, but it depends on a few easy to manage factors. In the wild, it’s a different story…

How long do Ball Pythons live? Well, in captivity they certainly live a lot longer than most mammals of a similar size, but it depends on a few easy to manage factors. In the wild, it’s a different story…

Ball Pythons live longer in captivity than in the wild and generally attain a longevity of 20 to 30 years. Some individuals even live into their 40s and early 50s, with one exceptional snake being 62 years old. That one even laid a healthy clutch of eggs at this age.

How long do Ball Pythons live in the wild?

Wild longevity is hard to predict due to predation. Healthy animals can be picked off by raptors, other reptiles, and predatory mammals at any age. This is probably why ball pythons are so shy – they aren’t particularly scary and make for easy targets.

In addition to predators, wild Ball Pythons are also affected by seasonal hardships such as drought and variable parasite loads.

In general, how long a python lives in the wild will depend on prey abundance and population density. If they must travel for miles to look for food or mates, they are evidently more at risk of predation.

If they live in a good location, however, with a good hiding place, abundant food, and low predation it is probably possibly for them to live more than 20 years in the wild.

It is no coincidence that Ball Pythons are often found in agricultural land in Ghana, Togo, and Benin. This type of habitat provides plentiful food and hiding places, hence its favour with shy snake species around the world, including some of our favourite pet species such as Milk Snakes.

How long do female Ball Pythons live?

Do Ball Pythons like to be held?

Good question! In many species of reptile – Ball Pythons included – males will go a long way to search for females. Generally, this wandering around puts them more at risk of predation and gives them a shorter life span.

What we know from studies like this one is that male Ball Pythons have a higher parasite load in the wild, probably (though not definitely) due to searching for females. Yet there is no conclusive evidence I’m aware of that proves a difference in longevity between sexes.

This may be because female Ball Pythons go through the hardship of maternal incubation. During this process they coil around their eggs to protect them from desiccation. Unfortunately, they don’t have the body mass required to shiver and warm their eggs like other species of python.

Instead, if the eggs get too cool, a female Ball Python must go out into the sun to heat up, then return to transfer this heat to the eggs. This can occur if a female lays her eggs in a very deep rodent burrow, for example. A behaviour such as this is highly risky, and directly exposes the nocturnal snake to diurnal predators. 

We may not know for certain for years, but it is likely both sexes have a similar lifespan in the wild due to this equal share of risk-taking during reproduction. In captivity, neither of the factors mentioned above are a problem. You can expect both female and male ball pythons to live at least 20 to 30 years with proper care.

From my discussions with fellow keepers and breeders, a difference in longevity between captive males and females is not apparent.

How long do Ball Pythons live in captivity?

As I mention earlier, ball pythons can easily live to 30 years old in captivity, and even into their 40s. We’ve also just discussed the fact that males and females probably live to a similar age.

These numbers should come as no surprise, given that most reptiles have a slow metabolism and excellent longevity when compared to us mammals. In fact, you don’t have to be a Zoologist to keep a ball python alive into its late 30s, anyone can do it.

Nonetheless, captive longevity isn’t a given: it depends on four main factors that we as keepers need to get right. Let’s go through them so that we know how to give our pets a long, healthy life. If there’s anything else you need to know, just check out my Ball Python Care Sheet.

1. Temperature

Infrared thermometer gun for double checking enclosure temperatures

As you probably know, reptiles as often referred to as “cold-blooded”, or ectothermic. Whilst this isn’t strictly true, it is close…

Reptiles are in fact poikilothermic, meaning that they are unable to generate consistent body heat like mammals. Instead, they use naturally occurring warmth to regulate their metabolism. This warmth can be found in objects heated by the sun, or in burrows that retain the day’s warmth at night, for example.

Being poikilotherms, reptiles can withstand some variation in their internal temperature, but are dependent on external heat to maintain their metabolism and immune system at optimum levels.

In essence, this means that Ball Pythons kept at the wrong temperature – especially if it is too cool – are much less able to fight off infection.

If you want a Ball Python to live a long time in captivity, you need to provide consistent temperatures and measure them correctly. I recommend consulting the heating section of my care sheet for more on this.

Don’t forget that infrared thermometer guns, like the one in the photo, are much cheaper than they used to be. These can be used to double check the temperatures in your Ball Python’s enclosure without disturbing it.

Personally, I use a digital thermometer with its probe placed under the warm spot to get a constant reading of each snake’s temperature. I then use a thermometer gun to check the cool end of the enclosure and occasionally double check the reading from the digital thermometer.

2. Hygiene

In addition to correct temperatures, you also need to provide appropriate hygiene for your snake. Ball Pythons can suffer from a range of infectious diseases, from Respiratory Infections to Scale Rot (Necrotizing Dermatitis).

Though their symptoms differ, what the above diseases have in common is that they are mostly opportunistic. They set in when a Ball Python’s immune system has become dysfunctional or been overwhelmed.

The best way to avoid this situation is to think of your Ball Python’s enclosure as a container for germs. In this container, your pet can’t escape the germs that are present – its immune system has no choice but to deal with them.

By thinking in this simplified manner, we quickly come to a logical conclusion: the less germs in the enclosure, the less work there is for your snake’s immune system.

Keep a regular cleaning schedule where the substrate is completely changed and the whole enclosure cleaned with disinfectant. Doing this will keep the bacterial and fungal load in the enclosure at safe levels and make infections of any kind much less likely.

I recommend removing any messes immediately and doing the kind of cleaning I mention above once every two months. Water bowls should be cleaned and disinfected every 3 to 4 days.

How long do Ball Pythons live?

3. Safety

This factor is talked about surprisingly little. It should go without saying though that an enclosure should be a space where the animal is safe from injury.

In my experience, the two most common injuries to Ball Pythons are nose rubs from rough objects or screening and burns from heating elements. Both injuries can of course lead to infection, and sometimes even an early grave.

Many years ago, I made the foolish mistake of giving Bobby, in the photo below, an enclosure with a slight lip around the underside of the lid. Unbeknownst to me, this provided a space Bobby could cram his snout into. So, being a snake, he of course went and did it.

Generally, he is very much on the lazy side and has no interest in escaping. But this time I think the scent of the females in the room, some of which were breeding, put a little flame under old Bobby…

Sure enough, he developed a little bump on the underside of his jaw from trying to escape and get to the ladies. I put him through a course of antibiotics and replaced his enclosure with a new one.

In total I think it cost me over £300 ($400), all because I hadn’t inspected a new enclosure thoroughly enough! Bobby was totally fine in the end, but the whole episode certainly taught me a lesson.

Bobby the Ball Python

4. Food

If you’ve read my post on whether Ball Pythons need vitamin supplements, you’ll know how important it is to provide healthy, well-raised rodents for them to eat.

For full healthy and longevity, however, this isn’t the whole picture. Once Ball Pythons reach full size, you also need to monitor them for obesity. In general, they are fully grown by around 3 to 4 years old, and their metabolism starts to slow down.

In some animals, particularly males, obesity is never a problem. They simply get into a cycle of fasting during the latter part of the breeding season and stay trim all year round.

Prince, for example, my male Pewter Ball Python, fasts for around 6 to 8 months each year and maintains a healthy, streamlined body condition. I can literally offer Prince food each week or so and trust him not to over-eat.

Notwithstanding, many Ball Pythons seem to eat all year round, particularly if they don’t breed. Bobby, who we discussed earlier is one such animal. If I fed him as much as he’d like, he’d look like a sausage by now. To keep him trim, Bobby is on a diet of one large weaner rat a month and has regular weigh-ins.

Whilst it may sound cute, obese pythons are very prone to heart disease, which of course shortens their lifespan – sometimes drastically.

My advice is to weigh adult snakes at least once every three months. If their weight is creeping up (and they aren’t breeding), it generally means their metabolism is slowing down with age and they require less food.

Ball Python Humidity and Shedding

Conclusion

Ball Pythons live a long time in captivity, often more than 30 years. With a little luck and perfect conditions, you could even have one live to be 50 years old or more.

In the wild, predation and other hardships obviously limit their longevity. In captivity, on the other hand, it’s all down to us.

To give a Ball Python a long, healthy life you need to commit to its care daily. It isn’t hard, but the four factors of temperature, hygiene, safety, and food need to be correct. Pay attention to these day after day, month after month, and year after year if you want a long-lived pet.

This may sound like a big commitment, and it is. The truth is Ball Python care is very easy, but it’s a long-term thing. Nonetheless, it’s worth it. They’re great pets, and I’ve been living with them for over 20 years.

If you’re new to the hobby, however, this decades-long commitment is something to reflect on before buying your first ball python.

Other resources related to how long do Ball Pythons live:

Ball Python Lifespan: How Long Do Ball Pythons Live? – AZ …

Ball Python Lifespan: 4 Factors That Affect How Long They Live

Ball Python Lifespan. How long do ball pythons live as pets?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top