If you’re a snake lover there is nothing, well almost nothing, cuter than a little baby snake. Yes, God has even made baby snakes cute. In fact many people are so enamored with a little baby snake that they throw down some money to buy it and everything it could possibly need. Then they get home set everything up and begin to enjoy their new found friend.
That is until they realize the thing is growing, and fast. It’s getting longer, stronger, and heavier. It eats like a machine and week by week they can literally see it growing “before their very eyes”. The cage they had bought for the snake is no longer adequate so they go out and buy another larger one. Family and friends who thought the little version of the snake was interesting if not cute aren’t so enamored by it now. In fact they often refuse to be in the same house with it. Other household pets are in mortal danger of their lives if left unattended with the snake.
The above, while just a contrived scenario is one that is too often played out in the reptile world, especially when it comes to how large a snake is going to get. Since snakes can live 20, 30, 40+ years and they never stop growing there is a potential to have some very large snakes. Many snakes are genetically wired not to grow beyond a certain point, but others can easily reach over 15 or 20 feet and hundreds of pounds. Sadly that’s not something the pet store on the corner is usually going to tell you because it would probably cost them a sale. So like everything else you are your own last line of defense. You’re the one who needs to be educated about what you are getting yourself into when you get a pet snake.
How big your snake can get is a product mainly of genetics. Some people claim that by feeding a snake more or less it will get larger or stay smaller. This is simply not true. What will happen is that it will either be emaciated or obese. It will still grow as God has created it to grow. It is also not true that keeping it in a smaller cage will cause it to grown more slowly. It will however cause it to be a big, cramped, grumpy snake that will not be a pleasure to handle.
Before you go out and beg, borrow, or steal a snake keep the following in mind.
- It’s fine to buy a baby snake but make sure you get up close and personal with a fully grown adult version of that snake BEFORE you buy one. There’s something humbling about having a 18 foot python crawling across the shoulders of 4 grown men
- Make sure you can afford to feed it. A mouse or two a week for a dollar or so is nothing, but a pig a week at a few dollars a pound adds up quickly
- Make sure you have a place for it to live both as a baby and as an adult. Don’t wait until it grows that large have a setup all prepared
- Study up on the snake you are getting so you aren’t surprised by whatever size it reaches
- Expect the snake to grow big fast. It might take less than a year to reach 8 to 12 feet
By no means is this an exhaustive list it is just meant to encourage you to consider a few things beyond the “Oh I gotta have that snake response!” so many of us often have.
Some snakes can actually get so large that they need to have a spare bedroom turned into their permanent enclosure. Think about how big something would need to be to have their very own dedicated room. The state of Florida is having a huge problem with people releasing large snakes such as Burmese and Reticulated pythons into the Everglades because they have gotten to large for the owners to handle. This has huge repercussions for everyone.
The point of this article isn’t to strike fear into you about getting a snake that will grow large. It is just to encourage you to educate yourself and take a deep breath before you go out and do something you wind up regretting. I’m writing this from experience once having picked up a Burmese python without thinking about it first. Fortunately the place I got it from was willing to take it back the next day and let me get something else.
- Commonly sold large snakes and how big they will get
- Reticulated python: commonly 19-22 feet – about 250-350 pounds
- Anaconda: around 20 to 25 feet – about 350 to 500 pounds
- Burmese python: 15 to 23 feet – about 175 to 250 pounds
- Red-tail boa constrictor: 8 to 12 feet – about 60 pounds
There are several other snakes that are commonly sold which grow to be a decent size, but these are the most popular of the large snakes. Also please note that the above mentioned numbers are what the snakes can grow to be, but not necessarily what they will grow to be.