Native to Southeast Asia, the reticulated python is a massive snake with a notorious reputation for asphyxiating and swallowing entire pigs, deer, and even human beings. It’s the longest snake species in the world and one of the heaviest reptiles in modern existence—the “king of serpents,” if you will.
What is a Reticulated Python? Reticulated pythons are actually quite docile animals. Their bites aren’t even venomous. They are predators, as are all snakes, but they’ve been wrongly labeled throughout history as suddenly aggressive. Some people even call them “psycho snakes.” After thirty plus years of study and captive breeding efforts in the United States, however, reticulated pythons have been proven to be smart, non-social, solitary animals that only attack when threatened.
When I was about eight years old, I saw one of these snakes at a zoo in upstate New York. It was more than twice my size with beady eyes, eerie yellow scales, and piercing fangs that shot out from its gums every now and then, making me jump back in fear. I thought it was the most daunting and evil creature I’d ever seen, but a little research cleared that notion right up.
Reticulated Pythons: The Basics
Reticulated pythons can be found in many Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They usually live near water, as they are avid swimmers, and they are sometimes drawn to human activity (which is why they are often spotted in residential areas).
Unlike other members of the python and boa families, reticulated pythons hatch from eggs.
A female reticulated python can lay anywhere from twenty-five to one hundred eggs at a time. These snakes typically prey on birds and small mammals, but they can feed on much larger animals when necessary. They were once considered some of the most dangerous predators in all of Asia. Today, they are less feared and far better understood.
Random Reticulated Python Facts
- The name “reticulated” (meaning constructed, arranged, or marked like a net or network) derives from these snakes’ intricate pattern and coloration.
- The average reticulated python is between ten and twenty feet long, though the largest-ever recorded reticulated python was twenty-five feet and two inches long and weighs 350 pounds. She once ate a forty-pound deer in a single sitting.
- Young reticulated pythons are naturally independent. They leave the nest and begin searching for food almost immediately after birth.
- Newly-hatched reticulated pythons are twenty-six to thirty-five inches in length.
- Reticulated pythons are heavy enough that they usually live on the ground (some have adapted to scale trees or survive in caves). Most of these snakes are fantastic swimmers, which is how they’ve migrated to certain Southeastern Asian islands.
- Reticulated pythons prefer to flee from humans, rather than attack. However, violence against humans is not unheard of, and certain Indonesian islands are infamous for their population casualties to reticulated pythons. Just recently, a woman was swallowed whole while tending to her vegetable garden. You can read about the attack on LiveScience.com.
- A reticulated python can live up to twenty years in the wild, and far longer in captivity.
- Female reticulated pythons are generally longer and heavier than males.
- There are three types of albino reticulated pythons: White, lavender, and purple.
- Reticulated pythons are nearly deaf and blind. They rely on smell, touch, and heat and vibration sensors to assess their environment and locate food.
- Reticulated pythons are not yet considered endangered, but their large size makes them an attractive capture. They can be sold for their skin, as meat, or as an exotic pet. Thankfully, they are a protected species, and reticulated python-hunting is highly regulated.
- For years, snake breeders have been slowly refining these snakes toward total domestication. They’ve discovered that reticulated python behavior is largely hereditary: If a snake’s progenitors are non-violent, the snake itself should be, too.
Reticulated Pythons vs. Ball Pythons
The reticulated python is often confused with its close relative, the ball python. Some people even mistakenly purchase the former with the intent of buying the latter. The differences quickly become clear.
Ball pythons, for instance, only grow to lengths of about five to seven feet. As we know, this is nowhere near the length of a reticulated python. Additionally, ball pythons are even less confrontational than reticulated pythons. They tend to curl into a ball when frightened, hence the name “ball python.”
Though they enjoy being in the water, Ball pythons are not terribly skilled swimmers. They live in grasslands, rather than the wetlands favored by reticulated pythons. They are also much less food-oriented than their reticulated counterparts, sometimes going as long as a year without eating.
These two reptiles require very different living accommodations, and mistaking the two could be fatal for your new pet.
There are some similarities between the two species: Both lay eggs and leave
However, despite these similarities, if you’re planning to buy either species of snake, make sure you’re certain of exactly which snake you’re purchasing.
Can I keep a reticulated python as a pet? With a license, probably. The reticulated python ownership ban was lifted in the United States in 2017 due to some errors and loopholes in the ban’s text. Some countries are very strict in regards to wild animal ownership, so be sure to brush up on your local laws and obtain the proper permits before heading out to buy your new pet.
Can I approach a wild reticulated python? While domesticated reticulated pythons can be touched and interacted with, it is wise to avoid them in nature. Wild pythons have some violent tendencies. If at all threatened, they might attack. However, I wouldn’t be too concerned if you happen upon one on your trip to Vietnam: Reticulated pythons are very slow-moving and easy to escape. Be respectful, don’t agitate the snake, and you should be just fine.
Is a reticulated python bite dangerous? Even though reticulated pythons’ teeth hold no venom, they can still cause some damage. If a python bites and chooses to detach itself, the sharp and slender fangs should hardly leave a scar. However, due to the curved shape of its teeth, if the snake is forcefully removed, the wounds may be more serious.