Many people are very concerned when dealing with snakes due to the fact that so many species are venomous. However, there are many types of snakes, so it can become confusing to keep track of which are harmful or not. Pythons are very popular pet snakes, especially the ball python. But are ball pythons venomous or poisonous?
Ball Pythons specifically are neither venomous nor poisonous. Like all python species, ball pythons kill their prey using constriction instead of venom. So thankfully venom should not be a concern if you are interested in a ball python.
Because of this and their more manageable size, Ball Pythons are usually considered a good snake to have as a pet. As we mentioned earlier, there are many different types of Pythons, so if you’re considering getting one, you need to do some research for the specific type, which we will further discuss in the rest of this article.
Are All Python Species Non-Venomous?
To answer the question quickly, all python species are non-venomous. Ball pythons and all other pythons do not pose a threat when it comes to venom. This does not mean, however, that all pythons, in general, do not pose a threat to humans.
Some pythons such as the reticulated pythons can grow to over 20 feet long. There have even been reticulated pythons recorded at lengths over 30 feet. So if a snake this size wanted to do some damage to a human they certainly can. However, pythons typically kill their prey through constriction, not venom.
Luckily, however, ball pythons typically only grow to about 3-5 feet in length so they do not pose much of a threat in that regard.
The Difference Between Venomous & Poisonous
These two terms may now be more confusing to understand because they’re both composed of harmful toxins, but the key difference is in the way that the toxins are applied to cause harm.
Before we talk about this fact further, we should make the distinction between poison and venom: when we say an animal is venomous, it means that the animal can/will harm you when it bites or stings you.
Examples of animals that are venomous include:
Now, let’s move on to poisonous animals.
When we say that something is poisonous, it means that there is a substance that will harm or kill you through some sort of ingestion, usually through consumption or breathing it in.
Breaking It Down
To help understand this concept, you can think of an example of a poisonous frog; a poisonous animal will transmit the toxin passively and harm will be caused to the organism that comes in contact with that poison.
A poisonous frog will secret its poison passively through its skin, and when that poison is exposed to another organism either through direct contact or ingestion, it can cause harm.
For extra reference, ball pythons are also non-poisonous. The ball python and all pythons, in general, don’t have any kind of poison or venom that will harm animals. Because ball pythons are none venomous and one of the smaller python species they are popular pets.
This is because the Ball python is generally safer than the other types of pythons, and that reason will be talked about in a later section.
Do Ball Pythons Have Fangs?
In short, Ball Pythons do not have fangs, but we should talk about what fangs actually are. As you might guess, and as they are traditionally known, fangs are a group of teeth that are long-pointed and sharp. Their evolutionary purpose is to help bite and tear into flesh, and they are commonly found in carnivore/omnivore predators.
Mammals technically have fangs, and in humans, these are the canines. For snakes, their fangs are specially modified to help take down their prey; most commonly, their fangs are connected to a venom gland. This is how venomous types of snakes are able to harm their prey. Since Ball Pythons are non-venomous, they don’t have fangs.
Even though Ball Pythons may not have fangs, their existing set of teeth can still cause some damage. But it just won’t be through poison or venom.
Fangs For Other Types of Snakes
As you might infer, most non-venomous snakes don’t have fangs. The main role of fangs in most snakes is to inject venom. This fact might be a little jarring because many people associate snakes, especially Pythons, with fangs in its mouth that are used to strike and subdue their prey. But in reality, many Pythons actually don’t have fangs at all.
It should be noted however that there are species of snakes out there that are not venomous, but they do still have fangs. In this case, the fangs are not attached to a venom gland, but because they have the actual fangs, their bites can be much more harmful.
Identifying and becoming aware of these types of snakes and their own specific threats will come from your own effort and research. But as a starting point, you should know that there are many types of snakes and pythons that may or may not have fangs.
Are Ball Python Bites Dangerous?
Instead of traditional fangs, Ball Pythons have a set of about 100 inward curved teeth so their bites can definitely still cause damage, but your injuries will generally be of the type that’s traditional by animal bites such as punctures and wounds.
Obviously, you can have worse injuries depending on the force of the bite, but it won’t be poisonous or venomous so it will not likely be a big concern. That said, if not properly cleaned there is always a risk of infection.
On top of that, bites from Ball Pythons are generally rare to happen even in the first place, so you shouldn’t really be worried about suffering injuries from their bites as long as you handle them properly.
A few reasons why a Ball Python may bite are:
- It’s young
- It’s shedding
- You’ve provoked it by mishandling it or replicating that you’re prey
If you do find yourself in the unfortunate situation that you’ve been bitten, if it’s a small bite you can usually clean and treat it yourself. The biggest threat you’ll likely face is just an infection from exposure to bacteria. However, there may be times where it would require immediate medical attention so you really need to be cautious and aware.
In fact, many recommend that you call a doctor right away no matter how severe the bite may appear. From there, the doctor can help diagnose the severity of the bite and help provide you with treatment.
So to summarize, Ball Python bites are rare, and they usually don’t pose any major harm since they’re non-poisonous and non-venomous. That said, even then you should get medical consultation as soon as possible if you ever find yourself bitten.
Avoiding Ball Python Bites
So now that you know how severe a Ball Python bite can be, it makes sense to now talk about how to avoid them.
The general sign that the Ball Python is planning to bite you is if it moves its head and neck to form an S shape, so you should definitely lookout for that. We’ve already listed some general reasons why a Ball Python may bite, but let’s talk about the explanation behind those reasons.
It’s all about recognizing when Python can be highly irritable, and that comes with research and time. The foundation is to make sure that you put the Ball Python in the appropriate environment.
Young Ball Pythons
The first one we mentioned was the reason being the Python was young: when the snake is very young, it’s much more defensive and easier to provoke. Also, as a side note, this reason can be much more significant if the snake is venomous.
When snakes are young, they don’t have as much control over their venom-secretion amount because they’re not mature. This means that a young snake will usually inject you with as much venom as possible because they simply can’t control it. On the other hand, an older snake can actually regulate it and not use as much venom because they realize they don’t need that much.
Provoking Ball Pythons
The other significant reason we described is the fact that you’re generally provoking it by mishandling it or making it appear as though you’re prey. You can easily mishandle a Ball Python by holding or grabbing it improperly so it feels the need to retaliate. Another factor to consider is interacting with the Python after it’s been fed.
Hungry Ball Pythons
A Ball Python can take a few days to fully digest its meal, so if you try to handle it during that time, you can really upset it and cause the Ball Python to bite you. Also, a Ball Python might confuse your extremities as prey if you’ve recently handled prey and its scent still remains on you. This would also entice the Python to bite.
How Do Ball Pythons Kill Their Prey?
So up to this point, you now know that Ball Pythons are non-venomous and non-poisonous. However, they can still cause harm through their bites if not properly treated.But you might be wondering how they physically kill their prey without the use of poison or venom. It’s simple: instead of using toxins, Ball Pythons use physical force to squeeze their prey to death.
This is called constricting, and this method is very common for other types of snakes. The thing is that the different types of snakes and Pythons obviously come in different sizes, but they’ve historically been able to reliably subdue and kill their prey using this method. Even Ball Pythons, which are on the smaller side of the scale of Python size, are successfully able to use this method consistently.
The general procedure is as follows:
- Ball pythons strike their prey in order to initially hold them
- They establish a firm grip on the animal (often aided by their teeth)
- They continuously squeeze the animal in stages until they recognize it’s unconscious or dead
Now, let’s look at the constriction procedure.
Striking the prey initially is usually the easiest part, and what makes this method so reliable and successful for the Python is their strong relative strength. Once they’ve struck and are starting to establish a hold on their prey, their teeth actually play a vital role in holding its grip.
We had a whole section where we discussed the kind of damage that a Ball Python can do from its bite even if it doesn’t have poison or venom, but it turns out their bite is most valuable in helping to secure a kill.
Instead of fangs, ball pythons have a mouthful of inward facing teeth . This actually helps maintain a grip on the animal.
After the Python has established the initial grip, it wraps itself around the animal and starts to squeeze. At this stage, the Python actually uses a very intelligent strategy to help kill the prey relatively quickly. It continuously tightens its grip once it recognizes that the prey has breathed out and is now trying to inhale more air which will make it much harder on the prey.
The Python will further tighten its grip in stages every time the animal breathes out.
This method is really effective for Pythons because it senses the vibration and breathing motions produced by the animal, so it essentially just becomes a waiting game. The Python will stop squeezing once it feels that the heartbeat of the prey has stopped. So even without venom and fangs, a Ball Python can effectively subdue and kill prey.
Threat to Humans
So not only are Pythons a dangerous threat to prey because of this constriction method but they can pose a threat to humans if they are the right size. Ball Pythons are relatively smaller than the other kinds of Pythons, so you shouldn’t be too concerned about this method if you plan to have one as a pet.
However, you definitely need to be concerned if you’re dealing with a much larger Python. There have been recorded cases where a Python has squeezed and constricted a human to death. Unless you are an expert you should really consider avoiding these larger Pythons. The general rule of thumb is that the bigger they are, the more dangerous they are likely to be because of constriction.
The bigger Pythons include:
- African Rock
On the other end of the spectrum, ball pythons and Children Pythons are much safer types of Pythons to handle because they don’t grow big enough to become a legitimate threat to adult humans.
One last thing to note that’s sort of related to this topic but is the fact that Pythons can still harm humans who handle them even without biting or constricting. This can happen through the transmission of bacteria when handling them, and these bacteria can cause infections like salmonella. Just be sure to practice good sanitation when caring for and handling these Pythons.
What Kind Of Snakes Are Venomous?
So we know that Pythons are neither venomous nor poisonous, but obviously, there are many other types of snakes out there that are venomous and/or poisonous.
If you want to know what kind of snakes are venomous, there are four main popular types in the US. However, it’s probably more important that you know to identify if a snake is venomous individually.
However, it’s still important to recognize the popular types which are:
- The Rattlesnake
- The Copperhead
- The Cotton (Water Moccasin)
- The Coral snake
You can further look into these specific types of snakes in order to get familiar with them and be able to recognize them.
Features of Venomous Snakes
The idea is to just know how they look and behave so you can identify them out in the wild and avoid them or take the proper precautions. But again, it’s arguably more important that you know the distinguishing features that mark whether a snake is venomous or not.
The features that let you know a snake is venomous include having:
- Elliptical pupils
- A rattling tail
- A broad, triangular head
- A heat-sensing pit
These are the general features you definitely need to be aware of, but there are certainly more features that apply to more specific types. It’s all about learning about these snakes beforehand and being able to identify them in nature.
Distinguishing these snakes can be really important as it might save your life one day. That said, it is probably best to avoid contact with snakes in the wild either way. If you see a snake simply enjoy its beauty from afar.
Ball pythons are not venomous nor poisonous. In fact, pythons in general for that matter, are neither venomous nor poisonous. This also consequently means that they don’t have fangs either. That said, you definitely shouldn’t underestimate the kind of damage and threat large pythons can pose especially through constriction.
However, this does make it so that Ball Pythons are a relatively safe choice for keeping as a pet. Especially compared to other larger-sized pythons.