Kathy Brackett

JRNM 151

Ziv is a ball python.

Ziv is a ball python.

Life with a snake is typical for me.  We have a few exotic pets including an Amazon Milk frog, four leopard geckos and one gargoyle gecko.  My daughter, Michelle Brackett, a CCP student at LCCC, is the primary owner of our pets.  We have always encouraged her interests and from a young age she has drifted towards reptiles, with a focus on snakes and lizards.  Later this year she will start her college career as an environmental biologist at Malone University.

We bought the snake from a pet store in Sandusky in Aug. 2014.  She was half price at $75.  This price did not include her 40 gallon aquarium tank as her enclosure, nor the plants, hides, heat lamps and heat mat.  With all the extras the total cost would exceed $100.  When we purchased the spider morph ball python it was 12 inches long.  Ziv now exceeds 2 feet.  This particular snake will grow to be about 5 feet long and 5 inches thick at its thickest point.

We named the snake Ziv.  She sits with us as we watch television.  Holding a snake is a different experience than petting a dog.  The snake is dry and smooth, it moves a lot and you can feel it’s muscles rippling as it moves.  It’s different but extremely rewarding as you hold this animal and feel the bond begin to form.

I like to refer to it as a brain teaser that’s alive.  You have to try to keep the snake engaged as it turns and twists around.  You can feel the weight of it, the strength, but we are not afraid, as long as we treat it kindly, it will treat us kindly.  I have found that the snake actually knows us and recognizes us. When Michelle stands in front of the snakes’ habitat, Ziv actually slithers over to her.

One of the most common questions people ask is,”Does it bite?”  The answer is “Yes, yes it does, this snake is a wild creature and if harassed it will bite.”  Michelle made a rookie mistake early on when she was cleaning the enclosure and Ziv was hungry and in her hide.  She did bite her.  Ziv disengaged very quickly and she is not venomous so there was no poison, but Michelle did have to wear a band aid for a couple days.  We have to very careful when the snake is hungry and two days after it’s fed.  You cannot handle the snake right after it eats because she is digesting and will go into a survival mode that may trigger an unfavorable response such as biting or regurgitating her food.

Michelle handles the daily care and feeding of Ziv, the snake requires 2 mice every week, daytime and nighttime heat lamps and lights, a bowl of shallow water to soak in and 2 to 3 hides.  A hide is simply a small object that the snake can hide or lie in like a half log.  We also have a thick stick for her to climb around and a few plants to help the snake feel safe.  The temperature should be 75 degrees in most of the cage with a warm spot between 80-85 degrees.  We have a thermometer inside of the cage that we watch and adjust the heat lamps and heat mats temperature accordingly.  Ball Pythons need low humidity unless they are shedding, then they need a hide that is higher in humidity.  That can be achieved by placing a warm moist, paper towel in one of the hides on top of a heat mat.   She does a full cage clean once a month.  A full cage clean involves removing the newspaper lining of the cage and empting the water out of its bowl and refilling it, and cleaning the plants and walls inside the enclosure.

On a daily basis there are 5 to ten frozen mice in my freezer.  Every Saturday there are two mice thawing in my fridge.  We keep the dead rodents in plastic bags, and they don’t really bother us, but we have had some started comments by guests when they see the mice.

According to the Ohio revised code 935.01 section L describes the laws for keeping exotic animals and snakes.  All of the snakes that are banned or need a license are over 12 feet long and are constrictors.  The law was changed drastically after the incident in Zanesville in 2014.  A man had several large exotic pets and released them.  Among the released were 18 lions, 17 tigers and 8 bears.  After that one incident the law makers decided to look into the laws concerning pets and cracked down hard on several species.

Luckily, our snake is not among the snakes that are forbidden in our state.  We don’t need a license for her and we can breed her and sell her babies in Oho.  You must check every state law, though.  In New York Ball Pythons are illegal.  If you own one or sell one to a New York resident you are breaking the law.