Snake buying guide

Snakes are fascinating animals and with regular handling can be quite tame but snakes are obviously not for everyone. They have unique care and handling requirements and should only be kept by those with the commitment to understand and meet their needs.

The most common pet snakes are in the constrictor species like boas and pythons. For new owners that are inexperienced with snake, corn snakes, king snakes, or ball pythons are the best choice for pet snakes. These types of snakes tend to be gentle, and meeting their diet and environmental needs is not as difficult as for some other species. These are relatively small snakes, ranging from 4-5 feet adult length. All these snakes represent a commitment to long term care, though, with life spans of about 20 years for corn snakes and king snakes, and perhaps 40 or more years for a ball python (record is 48 years).

Beginners should avoid snakes such as Burmese pythons, red-tailed boas, any tree boa or python, water snakes, or any wild caught snakes. Burmese pythons have been involved in cases of human fatalities (mainly due to improper housing or handling) and need careful handling.

One of the better ways to select a snake for a pet is to visit someone who has one. Go to someone who has raised one or more snakes over a period of time so you know he has got experience. Pet stores are a good source for information but, as is the case with most pets, they are not the best place to purchase a snake.

Shop around and do some research. Locate a reputable local snake breeder. Ask questions like:

  • What types of snakes make good pets?
  • What length and weight will reach as the adult?
  • What are its’ habitat requirements, including climate control?
  • What are its’ eating requirements (as a baby and as an adult)?
  • What are its’ expected personality and temperament?

Sincerely ask yourself:

  • Why do I want a snake? “Because it’s cool!” is not the right answer.
  • Do I have the time to care for a snake?
  • Can I afford a snake (build a habitat, food, vet, medicine, etc.)?
  • Am I squeamish about feeding a snake (live food)?
  • Is there someone who will help me with the snake? (Especially important with larger snakes.)

If totally convinced then focus on the following:

  • Temperament. Boas are usually gentle and docile, but larger pythons can be a problem.
  • Learn about feeding. It needs to be consistent. A hungry snake is looking for a meal, so cuddling prior to dinner may not be a good idea.
  • Don’t buy or get a snake from “the wild“. Get one from a breeder (if you insist on a pet store, make sure you know the full background of the snake and breeder.)
  • Try to determine if the salesperson is knowledgeable. If they don’t “ring true” don’t buy.
  • Don’t buy a poisonous snake.
  • If you are at all hesitant, don’t buy a snake

Here is also a great video of an experienced buyer: