Ball Python Bite: 2 Reasons Why It Happens PLUS How It Feels

In years of working in zoos and veterinary medicine, one bit of advice that I remember most strongly is this – “Everything with a mouth has the potential to bite … except for rivers, of course.” Which brings us to today’s topic at hand, ball python bites!

What You’ll Learn in This Article:

  • What a Ball Python bite feels like
  • If a Ball Python Bite is Venomous
  • What to Do if Bitten
  • Why Ball Pythons Bite
  • How to Prevent a Ball Python Bite

As one of the best pet snakes for beginners (opens in new tab) to own, it isn’t surprising that many people would be curious about a ball python bite. After all, they all have a mouth which means they can potentially bite!

However, this isn’t to say biting is something you need to be seriously concerned about…

The important thing is to understand what happens when there is a bite, what you can do to stop it, and how it can be prevented. Fortunately, this article will walk you through all 2. 

Now, let’s start with the first question almost anyone asks about ball python bites…

What Does a Bite From a Ball Python Feel Like? 

ball python teeth
Did you know? A Ball Python’s has around 30 sharp, needle-like teeth, with most of them being in the top of their mouth. In fact, the bottom teeth are in rows of two while the top are in rows of four. Because their primary means of hunting is constriction (Remember, they are pythons after all..), they lack the infamous sharp fangs of other species.

To be totally upfront and honest, ball python bites can hurt.

It is important to remember that every person has a different tolerance level when it comes to pain, and while some may say a bite is nothing more than a needle prick others will tell you it is far worse.

In the scheme of animal bites, captive snake bites are never the maiming and painful bites of mammals and parrots. Ball python bites in particular are extremely mild and very rarely painful.

Pointing backward in their mouth, those needle-sharp snake teeth are designed for one very important purpose – restraining and preventing the escape of their prey.

Typically, a ball python bite will often only scratch the skin and not even pierce flesh at all. The most intense part of a bite is actually the initial surprise and the body’s natural response to pull away!

Will I Get Sick From a Ball Python Bite?

Fun Fact! Did you know there is no such thing as a poisonous snake? A poisonous creature secretes toxin on its skin or in its body, requiring absorption (like poison dart frogs) or ingestion.

Some snakes, on the other hand, are venomous – meaning they inject their venom into their prey.

The good news is that almost all snakes routinely kept in captivity are nonvenomous! This means they lack toxin glands and the ability to inject a toxin into their prey.

Your beautiful ball python falls into this category and is known with the rest of their kin as “constrictors”.

You do NOT need antivenom for a ball python bite. However, after ending the bite situation you should always wash the site of the bite well and, if unsure, contact your doctor for additional recommendations.

Here’s What to Do If Bit

First and foremost remain calm! When a constrictor such as a ball python bites, their natural reaction is to wrap their bodies around the source.

Most commonly this is a hand or arm as bites often occur when an owner or another person is reaching for the snake. Do your best to relax and take deep breaths.

Ball pythons are normally calm snakes, and a snake that strikes is often agitated from stress or hunger (more on this below).

Oftentimes, when you relax the snake will too after a minute or so. Most bites from a ball python end this way – as you calm down, so does your snake.

If you try to pull away or pull the snake off you risk creating a far more painful injury or ripping out teeth on your snake.

This can lead to health problems over the course of a ball python’s life and affect how long they live.

🤓 Expert Tip: In the case of a python that won’t let go, pour a small amount of cold water or drinking alcohol (NEVER rubbing alcohol!) into their mouth to encourage release. Make sure your snake’s head is pointed downwards to prevent either liquid from trickling into the glottis, or airway. 

Once your snake has been detached, replace it in its enclosure. Take a deep breath (and maybe a few more).

As stated before – wash the site! Use antiseptic soap on the bite site and flush with copious amounts of water. If ever in doubt never hesitate to contact your doctor.

Why Would a Ball Python Bite You & Can You Prevent It From Happening? 

How to prevent ball python bite
When it comes to properly handling your ball python, there are definitely certain practices you’ll want to keep in mind to minimize the risk of being bitten. For starters, always wash your hands prior to handling your snake to ensure they don’t smell like food. Secondly, try to avoid grabbing your snake with your hands and use a hook instead. And lastly, never handle them if they have just eaten or appear agitated.

Snakes, especially naturally calm ball pythons, normally bite either out of hunger or defense.

So, let’s talk about how to remedy both…

Reason #1: Hunger

A hungry python is often an indiscriminate python, especially when everything smells like dinner.

Always wash your hands after handling the rodent and offer it with a special pair of feeding tongs to keep vulnerable fingers out of strike’s reach.

Also, you’ll want to avoid reaching into the tank to retrieve your snake even if you handle your snake often and feed in a separate container. Your hungry snake may still associate the warm object heading towards it as food.

Instead, use a snake hook to carefully remove your snake from its enclosure.

Not only will this allow you to gauge the mood of your scaly friend, but it will also achieve the ever so important task of keeping those fingers out of harm’s way.

When you’re done feeding, put your buddy back! No one, not even snakes, like to be bothered when they have a full stomach.

Reason #2: Grumpiness 

While every species has outliers, ball pythons are NOT known to be aggressive pets.

In fact, this trait makes caring for them relatively easy. However, this isn’t to say that they can’t sometimes be stressed and agitated, leading to defensive strikes.

Some things that can rattle a ball python and lead to a bite include (but are not limited to):

  • Excessive activity or handling
  • Constant changes to the environment
  • Nerve-wracking presence of something that seems predatory 

When those kinds of stressors enter the limited environment of a ball python they often have no escape and will strike back defensively.

Limiting the daytime handling of your naturally nocturnal snake will help remove that stress, as will preventing encounters with dogs and cats within the home.

Wrapping Up Ball Python Bites – Vigilance Is Key!

Preventing a bite starts with vigilance and knowledge. Be familiar and aware of your snake’s behavior. If they’re agitated, don’t pull them out to show them to friends!

If it’s feeding time, be aware of your hungry reptile and always offer food with something other than your fingers.

Your snake will give you hints with his body language long before the strike happens.

With this knowledge in your arsenal, you hopefully can prevent a ball python bite from happening, but if not – use it to prevent one in the future.

And remember – Everything with a mouth can have the potential to bite …. Except for rivers, of course.

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