Now, a normal snake bite is no big deal but I have a weird problem. 1- a BP with a voracious appetite, and 2- a body that is easily bruised or damaged badly. I am chronically ill and easily bruised. Normally that’s not even a problem but this… is a Situation.
With a BP I never anticipated this. He was such a gentle baby. But as a juvenile maturing into his second year, my Ball Python has decided anything near him that is warm must be a meal. He lets go instantly when he finds I am not a rat, but both times he’s bitten me on the back of the hand, it’s been a really nasty injury due to blowing out veins under the skin. This causes pretty ugly injuries that spread through three fingers and all over my hand, stopping me from being able to use the hand for a while and taking ten days or more to heal. It’s… extremely upsetting to say the least.
What do I do? I’m trying to spend more time around his cage to teach him that not every approach involves a meal, but I admit- I’m scared. He could do real damage to my hands if he hits me wrong. I have been target training him, and he seems to understand that the target means food, but he also thinks anything hot is food… So other than hanging out around his enclosure I haven’t tried to handle him for fear he’ll wreck my hand again.
How do you psych yourself up to keep trying when a reptile is capable of unwittingly really injuring you? I never thought I’d have this problem- I picked the most docile animals I could find. My other snake is a TINY House Snake.
Wow @athleticshoelace! Sounds like you certainly have a problem! I am not skilled at tap training a snake but it sounds like it might not be working for you? Hopefully others will help with some enlightened advice for you.
I have never had a BP so food motivated before so I have no experience in dealing with this issue to share with you. Do bps grow out of this? And if not, your BP will continue to grow and the bites could get worse.
With the fragility of your skin/condition you might be better off with another little house snake, or something comparable, in-lieu of a BP. Of course that decision should only be made after all other avenues have been exhausted and all methods of taming him down have been tried.
You certainly are in a very “delicate” position in more ways than one.
I wish you all the best @athleticshoelace!
Is biting only an issue when you first reach in to get him? Could you just wear a pair of leather gloves and then take them off once he’s out and realizes you’re not food?
I can’t speak to how to get comfortable again – I expect that would come alongside figuring out a way to get him to stop tagging you, and then doing some slow exposure therapy for yourself.
Disclaimer being I’m pretty new to this and this may be stuff you’ve already tried, but: maybe washing your hands with very cold water every time before you handle, and/or washing with a soap that has a distinctive smell? I’ve heard about people doing this with hand sanitizer, too; basically making your hand smell very much not like food. (I usually do both of these things and did neither before last night when my girl chomped me – go figure.)
People seem to speak of snake hooks fondly for bitey snakes, too. Does he bite when you’re handling him generally, or just on taking him out or on feeding nights? I also think the leather glove thing might be helpful.
Sometimes chronic illness requires a few extra steps to make things safe for ourselves. Sending you goodwill and fortitude and a lot of hope.
It’s hard to say without seeing your interactions with him what exactly you could do to improve your interactions, hopefully towards not being tagged constantly. I would definitely use a hook. When he locks onto you with his eyes you tap his nose with the hook. You could also just push his head aside with the hook or immediately start rubbing his chin or upper body with the hook. Honestly anything like that, that might be the last thing he expects you to do in that moment to throw him off. If you perturb him enough, eventually he’ll turn around and try to get away. Then you can either let him go or pick him up as he’s focused on flight and not fight.
Honestly, without knowing your routine, seeing how you feed and handle, it is hard to give advice.
Seeing your setup and knowing more about your process will help.
Also frequency of feeding, what you feed, how, size of food (compare to snake size). Any additional info would help.
I’d recommend using a hook to get him out of the enclosure. Is he still prone to tagging you once he’s out of the enclosure, or have you not gotten that far since this behaviour started?
I’m sorry this is happening! When I’ve been bitten, I’ve noticed that the part that’s the most sore the next day is not the minor flesh wound, but the underlying bruise from the impact of the strike. I can definitely see how that would be an issue if you bruise easily.
I would also consider making sure your feeding routine is consistent and predictable to allow him to reliably determine whether he’s being fed or handled. For example, I only feed after dark exclusively in the evening. If I am opening an enclosure at 9PM or 10PM, it’s for feeding only. Ever.
Handling, photographs, water and bedding changes, deep and spot cleans are always during daylight hours. They know it, and I know it.
I’ve never had any issues with even my most hungry and food motivated snakes figuring this out
THanks everybody. The support means a lot!
I am working on it from a mental standpoint with slow exposure. Proving to myself that he does telegraph his intent and I can learn to see it properly so I’ll know when he’s thinking to bite food and when he’s exploring.
Today I used the hook to pull him out during daylight for a handling session, just a very short one so we both have a nice experience and it sticks. He didn’t bite me or act Hungry, and I am thinking that him NOT being in his enclosure helps him realize this is explore time, not food time. I will keep using the hook to bring him out of his enclosure. I NEVER try to handle him at night, since night is when he gets fed and I wanted that to feel clear to him. Food= night time.
I do only feed him after dark, and I think he could be ready to go up a size in food so he’s not so Hungry. His body condition is good- I’ve been watching to be sure I don’t make him overweight. He gets a weaned rat about once every seven to ten days, fed at 9 or 10 at night, presented his target and then once he gives it a good hard look he gets the warmed rat, which he slams every time except when he’s gotten In Blue.
I’m sorry you’re going through this, @athleticshoelace . I’ve got health issues too, including bruising issues, so I am very sympathetic to that aspect of what you’re dealing with. You’ve gotten some sound tips, it seems. I would just add that wearing sturdy leather gloves for a while until you and your BP are both secure in the routine isn’t a bad idea at all. Ensuring that you are able to handle the snake without being damaged is sensible. A simple bang from his head on the glove may still break blood vessels and cause a bruise, but it it should be way less damaging. It’s important that you can care for yourself as well as for your animals.
I’m glad to hear that he knows he’s not being fed once he’s out of the enclosure. I suspected that would be the case.
The suggestion about using gloves to get him out is also another good option to consider. I have a friend who has a very food-happy kingsnake (shocking, I know😂) who used to tag her every time she reached into the enclosure. She doesn’t have your health issues, but she started having a lot of anxiety about reaching into his cage and/or picking him up, because she didn’t like getting bitten constantly. She ended up resorting to using thick leather gardening gloves any time she had to stick her hands in his cage. This protected her hands, but it also made her way less anxious, which in turn made the snake less likely to strike at her, since she was able to be much less nervous and jerky with her movements.
I know you said you’d worked with your boy on target training, but have you tried tap training? Any time you reach in to pick him up, first use a snake hook to gently touch his head and/or upper body, especially if you notice him looking way too interested in your hands. I’ve used this to great effect with my food-loving blood python. You do have to give them a few seconds after touching them with the hook for them to sort of mentally process what’s going on, but once you’ve done it a few times, you should be able to see when they sort of “switch” out of food mode and become more relaxed. I’ve learned that being able to read your animal’s moods and behaviours is really helpful in avoiding bites (go figure).
Bumping up his meal size, if appropriate, might also be helpful in making him a little less likely to be constantly ready to eat all the time.
For what it’s worth, I believe in you. I know how much you care for your animals, and I know you’re willing and able to put in the time and research to figure things out, so I’m confident you’ll be able to figure out the methods and solutions that work best for you and your bitey boy.
So @athleticshoelace, I completely understand we’re you are coming from. I bleed and bruise easily as well (hemophilia B, but mild ). And as you know, I like big snakes. Honestly, I think this catered to my development of developing really good handling techniques. Due to my obsession with Reticulated Pythons I watched so many videos on hook training and reading snake body language that literally I probably watched more YouTube then for months worth of time lol . And honestly, I use those techniques when even getting out Leaky, my corn snake. I’ve only ever been bitten twice and that was both by Kai, and they were completely my fault, like sticking my hand in the tank to fill up water bowl without tapping him with my tongs/hook. And trust me, getting bit is always a possibility but, having good handling, and entry techniques is also vital. @athleticshoelace I really really feel for you about this, getting a hook might be your best solution. Remember, you also always have a bunch of bleeders here cheering and willing to check in on you too .