Snakes can evoke strong feelings – people can be enthralled or believe they indicate something sinister or sneaky.
They’ve been equated with everything from bad omens to evil beings, even harbingers of fertility and rebirth. They can be powerful – muscles line the entirety of their bodies – and either dangerous or completely taciturn. Whichever camp you fall into if you’ve been thinking about adding a pet snake to your household, here are some tips for how to choose the right breed. But consider their lifespan – smaller snakes live shorter lives, typically from five to ten years, while the largest breeds can live between 20 and 30 years. Here are four of the top breeds recommended for first-time snake owners, but do your research and ensure yours will adapt well to your lifestyle and environment.
Corn Snake. A very popular first-time snake owner breed, these are gentle in nature and flexible in their food. Some breeds require live mice; corn snakes will likely accept those that were frozen. Excellent at pest control, these can be used by gardeners and farmers. However, be aware it grows to six feet in length and can live between 15 and 25 years.
Gopher Snake. These adaptable snakes have nine subspecies and can be subject to city ordinances. A foot-long at birth, they will grow to between four and six feet, but the attraction comes from the entertainment they provide. These resemble rattler snakes and will warn people by rearing back and shaking their tails. Once accustomed to being handled, they rarely bite.
California King Snake. Generally, between three and four feet, these are very hardy, thriving in the southwest states and northern Mexico. However, be careful as these slender snakes are well-known as escape artists. Also, they must live on their own, else they will eat each other. They will prefer to have one side of the terrarium warmer and one cooler – this allows them to self-regulate their body temperatures. Have patience, but these can become used to being handled.
Ball Python. The attraction of owning this breed comes from their perceived power, though they are not threatening. Males grow to two or three feet; females extend about a foot longer. These will live to about 30 years old, so be prepared for a long-term commitment! Ball pythons need a hiding spot because they are shy and will need quiet time. Building trust with these takes time, but they will learn to enjoy being handled by their person. Whatever breed you choose, all snakes need an artificial heat supply as they are cold-blooded. All breeds are also
carnivorous, meaning they will need mice or another small rodent for their meals once or twice weekly.