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April 2, 2016

Growth in the retailer and breeder sales of ball pythons has been among the fastest of all reptiles. Once an expensive reptile found only amongst serious collectors, advances in breeding processes coupled with a massive variety in morphs and colorations have made the ball python a species that every serious reptile retailer should consider moving forward.

The ball python has been a massive beneficiary of captive breeding practices, which have produced upwards of 2,500 distinct morphs and colorations, ranging from the exorbitantly expensive black-eyed leucistic and albino piebald to the much more common and affordable spider and pinstripe morphs. Whether new to reptiles or a seasoned veteran, ball pythons have a wide appeal that can bring sales to your store and happiness to your customers.

Like all reptiles, ball pythons have specific care requirements that go into their daily keeping. While ball pythons do not require overly large tanks, they do tend to do best with a deep substrate that can hold moisture well. Ball pythons tend to prefer relative humidity between 60 and 80 percent, with warm temperatures provided by both an under-cage heating pad and basking spots.

Ball pythons also appreciate having hides and foliage, as they tend toward shyness. Because of this, consider housing your ball pythons in a place in the store that is not in a particularly high traffic area. As always, your customers should be made aware of ball pythons’ idiosyncrasies; responsible handling and customer education will ensure repeat business and turn occasional customers into lifelong patrons.

One of the ball python’s greatest evangelists has been Kevin McCurley, the owner of New England Reptile Distribution, one of the nation’s leading breeders of ball pythons. McCurley’s continued work is compiled in his recent book, “The Ultimate Ball Python: Morph Maker Guide.” His fourth book, it is a 700-page behemoth detailing the intricate genetics leading to unique ball python morphs.

McCurley spoke with us regarding the ball pythons’ ever-increasing popularity and his thoughts echoed our own. McCurley calls these snakes “an ideal species, due to their tractable nature, limited adult size and ease of care.” One of our own employees tends to refer to these snakes as “the golden retrievers of the reptile world,” citing their docility and gentle nature.

McCurley especially notes the python’s ease of care, particularly in feeding.

“As young snakes, they are easier to feed than smaller species,” McCurley said. “As babies, they can be fed a recently weaned mouse…as adults, they can be maintained on mid-sized rats.”
In a past article, we noted the use of ball pythons as an ideal classroom animal, as their docility and ease of handling can provide a perfect opportunity for students to experience their first reptile.

We asked Kevin about what he might foresee in the future for ball pythons. He noted that breeders “have an incredible selection available at this point, far beyond our expectations and what we can actually count. To continue the excitement, breeders must refine their combinations and choose combos that are the most extreme.”

As breeders continue to find base genes to mix with already existing breeding stock, the permutations of possible ball pythons are staggering.

However, the greatest benefit gained by a reptile retailer is not the sale of the original reptile, but rather the subsidiary sales that stem from that initial sale. By providing a quality customer experience and a unique variety of reptiles, you ensure repeat business when that customer comes back to purchase heat lamp bulbs, substrate and reptile food, none of which is typically available at a local big box store.

Ball pythons are constrictor snakes, meaning that their choice of food, rodents, will not be found at the corner grocery. And, with most ball pythons living for 20 or more years, your customer service and stock of reptile accessories will make all the difference in turning a ball python owner into a decades-long customer.

Kevin was quick to echo many of our sentiments in regards to repeat business. He encouraged reptile retailers to “price their reptiles to sell and get [the customer] coming back,” even encouraging more experienced reptile owners to consider breeding their pets.

“When you can learn about basic combination morphs, you can share in your customer’s excitement for ball pythons,” McCurley said.

Thanks again to Kevin McCurley for all of his insight and wisdom on these phenomenal snakes. If you’re interested in more information about ball pythons, we encourage you to check out his website at www.newenglandreptile.com or to take a look at his book, “The Ultimate Ball Python: Morph Maker Guide.”

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