Do you have a pet ball python?
Or maybe you’re considering one as a pet and want to know how long does a ball python live?
Today we’re talking about the ball python’s lifespan, while also giving you some helpful information on where ball pythons originate in the wild, what their characteristics and behaviors are, and what makes them such great reptile pets.
So let’s get into it!
Ball pythons have a relatively long lifespan for a snake, usually living to be around 20 years old in captivity, although some have even lived to be over 40 years old. In the wild, however, ball pythons only live to be ten years old on average.
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About Ball Pythons
Ball pythons are one of the most popular pet pythons in the world (and quite possibly the most popular pet snake in the world), so before we dive deeper into their lifespan, let’s get to know these remarkable reptiles a little better.
Ball Python Characteristics
Ball pythons are the smallest of the African python species, growing to a maximum length of 6′ feet, but typically staying somewhere around 3′ to 4′ feet in length, with adult females averaging 3 to 5 ft long and adult males averaging 2′ to 3′ feet long.
Unlike many animal species, female ball pythons grow much larger than their male counterparts.
The ball python has a thick, stocky body and a small head. In captivity, ball pythons have been selectively bred to produce a wide variety of colors.
Still, in the wild, ball pythons typically have a dark brown base color with light brown or golden blotches on the top side of their body and ivory-colored bellies.
In the wild, their subtle brown colors help them camouflage both for protection and hunting.
Their nickname, “ball python,” comes from their propensity to curl up into a small ball when threatened.
Check out our ball python growth guide for some great visual data and tables to learn how quickly these snakes grow.
Where Do Ball Pythons Live
Ball pythons are native to both central and western Africa.
They are found living in the wild in countries like Uganda, Mali, Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and many more.
Although native to Africa, ball pythons are extremely popular as pets around the world, so they are found captive in many countries.
There is also a small feral population of ball pythons living in the Florida Everglades due to being released as pets.
Although ball pythons are natural adaptive creatures, they prefer to live in savannas, grasslands, and sparsely wooded areas.
In the wild, female ball pythons (larger and heavier than males) prefer to live a more terrestrial (on the ground) lifestyle.
In contrast, male ball pythons have a semi-arboreal (up in the trees) lifestyle, meaning they split their time between being up in the trees and on the ground.
Ball Python Behavior
Ball pythons are not known as being aggressive snakes (in fact, when threatened both in the wild and in captivity, they curl up into a small ball), so if handled frequently, they can make for very docile pets.
Ball pythons are nocturnal creatures, meaning they prefer to hide in a dark place during the day, emerging only at night to hunt for prey.
As non-venomous snakes, ball pythons kill their prey by squeezing them to death, thus suffocating them. In the wild, ball pythons are solitary animals, and as such, do not associate with other snakes, so even in captivity, it’s best to house them in separate cages away from other snakes (unless of course, you are actively trying to breed them).
During the cold season, ball pythons typically fast and become inactive (the cool temperatures don’t allow their cold-blooded bodies to digest food properly), often retreating into underground burrows until the warmer temperatures return.
Why Ball Pythons Make Great Pets
Ball pythons are excellent pets for both a first-time reptile keeper and an experienced herpetoculturist.
Why do they make such great pets?
First, their shy and docile temperament makes them ideal for captivity, and human handling and their strong and robust natures mean they thrive in captivity and rarely get sick.
They’re also popular as pets for their bright colors and patterns.
Though in the wild, ball pythons are usually brown with some gold or light brown specks, breeders continue to experiment to create ball pythons with innovative patterns and colors.
Further, the ball python’s relatively small size (typically around 2′ to 5′ feet in length), makes it much easier for pet owners to provide an adequate enclosure for them.
How Long Does a Ball Python Live
Whether or not they live in the wild or captivity determines a ball python’s lifespan.
In the wild, ball pythons typically only live to be ten years old.
In captivity, however, they usually live 20-30 years.
The oldest ball python recorded lived to be 48 years old and was at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Why do captive-kept ball pythons live so much longer than those living in the wild?
Just like all other snakes, the lifespan of the ball python falls by 40-50% when living in the wild due to multiple factors.
The ball python’s smaller size, plus its non-venomous nature, makes it an easy target for predators like large birds of prey, other snakes, wild pigs, leopards, and warthogs.
Predators in the wild especially threaten juvenile ball pythons.
But animals are not the only predator threatening ball pythons in the wild.
Humans also hunt ball pythons in their natural habitat.
Some tribal groups within the ball python’s range consider the snake as a favored food, while others hunt the ball python for their skins.
If you’ve been wondering how long does a ball python live, we hope the information in this article answered all of your questions (and then some!).
Ball pythons live to be around 20-30 years old in captivity (so plan on your pet ball python sticking around for a good long while!), are generally docile and friendly creatures, are relatively easy to care for, and can make great pets.