Can I take my Ball Python outside? That depends: there’s a big difference between taking a Ball Python outside and taking it out in public.
Ball Pythons and other medium-to-large pet snakes can be taken outside, but only when it is warm enough and safe to do so. Though many of them aren’t interested in outdoor time, some do seem to genuinely enjoy it. Nonetheless, you should never take a pet snake out in public.
Do Snakes enjoy being outside?
This should obviously be your first question when considering whether or not to give your Ball Python some outdoor time. After all, if we do take our pets outside, it should be for their enjoyment – not just ours. Right?
Funnily enough some snake species seem to enjoy being outside more than others. King Cobras, for example, are incredibly intelligent, inquisitive animals that will happily explore and sunbathe. I’ve even seen a few that have learnt to come to the entrance of their enclosure when they hear (sense) footsteps or tapping on the glass.
In retrospect, it is true that a wild King Cobra would occupy a fairly large home range by snake standards. A little wandering and exploring is pretty natural for them.
Conversely, most Ball Pythons tend to err slightly more on the shy side. They are sluggish ambush hunters. Some of them even get too fat, or perhaps lazy, to do any climbing after reaching a certain age.
Others are genuinely curious, however. Spirit, pictured below, is one such example. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t see her scaling the face of an oak tree or moving at more than a snail’s pace any time soon. Nonetheless, she does seem to enjoy slowly and methodically exploring new areas. At the same time, you can see her smelling everything and watching things for minutes at a time.
“You can’t exactly walk a Ball Python on a leash”
All in all, taking your Ball Python outside is never going to be liking walking or playing with your dog. You can’t exactly walk a Ball Python on a leash. And before you ask, yes people have tried. And no, it doesn’t work out well.
In my opinion, just a few minutes outdoors (somewhere private) in good weather can be nice for them. It’s simply a question of understanding their temperament. If they are inquisitive, like Spirit, they may enjoy it. If, on other hand, they are shy and completely stop moving when outdoors, they most likely don’t.
What temperature can I bring my Ball Python outside?
As I mention earlier, there’s nothing wrong with letting your Ball Python explore in the grass for a few minutes. Another thing you need to consider though is that your snake may not be unable to thermoregulate when doing so.
Being poikilotherms, Ball Pythons are used to moving to a warm or cool spot to keep their internal temperature at a comfortable level. Taking them out of their warm tub, then into your air-conditioned house is already enough of a shock. Subsequently taking them outside when the air is too cool would be yet another.
Personally, I would only take a Ball Python outdoors if the ambient temperature was 80 – 85f (27 – 29c). At this temperature range, getting dramatically cool or warm is unlikely over the course of a 10-minute exploring session.
What happens if snakes get too cold?
Usually if a snake gets slightly too cold for a short amount of time it results in nothing more than sluggishness. If the change in temperature is sudden, however, this can lead to thermic shock, which can kill small reptiles.
Whilst adult Ball Pythons and many other popular pet snakes are too large to get thermic shock easily, they can still suffer severe consequences from getting too cold. From the years of stories and anecdotes I’ve been told, the most common result of a snake getting too cold is a Respiratory Infection (RI).
RIs are opportunistic, and often set in when a snake’s immune system is overwhelmed. This can happen even if said snake was 100% healthy beforehand. Getting too cold temporarily shuts down the immune system and can quickly lead to such a scenario.
Can I take my pet snake out in public?
We’ve all seen it. Someone walking around at the fair or a public park with a large constrictor around their neck and a smug “aren’t I a bad*ss?” look on their face.
At the same time, the occasional on-looker can be spotted doing a prompt U-turn and retreating, or even gasping in fear.
Asides from the point that holding a reptile that is incredibly docile 99.9% of time is far from bad*ss, it’s important to remember that this behaviour doesn’t do our hobby any favours at all.
In fact, these public displays of squamate-enhanced short man syndrome are something most experienced herpetoculturists really hate to witness. We’ve seen it all before, and we know that in general it only serves to frighten members of the public.
Frightened members of the public = members of the public that will be more likely to support the powerful lobbying groups who push reptile bans. It really is that simple!
As reptile keepers, we need to keep this kind of thing in mind. No one should feel frightened or in any way threatened in a public place. Ophidiophobia (the fear of snakes) is incredibly common, and we shouldn’t pretend this isn’t the case.
We might know our pets are harmless, but other people don’t. Forcing them to come face to face with them is not the way to change things.
Snakes and the law
Another point to take into consideration is that laws on public behaviour vary considerably across different states, provinces, and even counties. If you bump into the police, and they deem your snake threatening to other people, then there are jurisdictions where they can confiscate it and hand you a fine.
Needless to say, when this kind of thing happens, a video is sure to crop up on social media and then the local news. It all adds to the perception that snakes are dangerous, and their keepers are cruel weirdos: exactly the kind of thing we responsible keepers want to avoid!
Risk of disease and parasitic infection
With any domestic animal, you need to evaluate the possibility of parasitic or other infections when outdoors. Ball Pythons are no exception to this, given that snake parasites are present in many of the countries where Ball Pythons are popular pets.
The most common snake mite species, Ophionyssus natricis, is now present all over Europe, in parts of Australia, and possibly all over the USA. Though it was first described in Europe, it’s hard to know where it might crop up these days.
So, if your garden or yard is regularly visited by wild snakes it probably is best not to let your Ball Python explore it. Though unlikely, there is most certainly a risk of picking up snake mites.
To a lesser extent, there is also a possibility of your pet picking up roundworms or a viral respiratory infection.
Overall, I would say that these risks are low, I’m just doing my best to make you aware of the risks involved.
When it comes to pesticides and herbicides, however, these need to be taken seriously. Never let your snake explore in a space where chemicals have been used.
Taking a snake out in public is always a bad idea. It scares people and inevitably leads to a more negative view of our hobby. In an ideal world, it would be great to walk around with your pet reptile and have people react like they would to a puppy. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet (and may never be!).
That said, taking a ball python or other snake outside can be enriching for it if on private property. Just make sure the temperature is comfortable for them and they are constantly supervised.
Also on this topic:
- How often should I clean my Ball Python’s enclosure?
- Ball Python Scale Rot: How to understand and treat it
- Ball Python noises *Includes information on diagnosing Respiratory infections
- Can I leave my Ball Python alone for a week?
- How long do Ball Pythons live?
- Do Ball Pythons sleep?
For more on Ball Python health:
Back to the Ball Python health and illness page