Stimson’s Pythons are also known as the large blotched python

Housing     Furnishings    Acquiring   Feeding   Handling   Medical   Shedding  Breeding

Sleeping Stimson's Python

Sleeping Stimson’s Python. Image by J DAndrea

A. stimsoni was described by Smith in 1985 : prior to this, they had been considered to be A. childreni. These pythons have a wide distribution, ranging from Western Australia, across South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, and Northern inland New South Wales.

A. stimsoni rarely grow longer than one metre, and the males are, unusually in Australian pythons, often larger than the females. These pythons have up to 150 very sharp little teeth. They range in colour from a quite drab dark tan background, with dull maroon or brown smooth edged blotches, to a very light background, with dark reddish blotches.

They are generally a good natured snake, although they can, like all snakes, be a little nippy on occasion.

Stimson’s pythons are egg layers, and the females brood their eggs, which are laid approximately 115 days after mating. The eggs are incubated for about 50 days, although this can vary, depending on the temperature.

Hatchlings may slit the egg, and remain inside it for another 24 hours. During this time, they are absorbing the remainder of the yolk-sak, and this is perfectly natural.

Housing

If you’re going to get a Stimson’s python, first of all, do some research on their requirements. When you have done this, you’ll be ready to set up the cage for your reptile. Correct living conditions are important to the health of your snake. You can either build or purchase your snake’s cage.
Temperature

Test the heating and lighting; Is the thermostat accurate? Are the heating bulbs out of reach of the reptile, or are there mesh covers on them? Some snakes hang on the lights, and may burn themselves.

My three stimsoni have a range of about 23C to 34C in their cage, and seem perfectly happy, moving from place to place as they please. It is important that the animals be able to thermo-regulate, and they do this by changing position.

Furnishings

Is the cage big enough for the snake, and will it remain large enough as the reptile grows? A plastic plant, or a log or rock will add interest, and will also give the snake something to rub against when it is shedding (sloughing).

You’ll need a water bowl large enough to fit the animal and an equivalent amound of water. Have the bowl half full, so that if the snake gets into it, water will not be spilt. Make sure the bowl is untippable. Use rainwater or springwater rather than chemically treated tapwater.

A snake needs a hiding place where it can feel secure. Try to have two such hides in the cage, so that it has a choice. One should be in the warm area, and the other in the cooler area of the cage.

The substrata can be newspaper, butcher’s paper, “Breeder’s Choice” kitty litter, or whatever else is suitable. I’ve used newspaper covered with whitepaper, and also kitty litter. The recycled paper pellet variety is best, and is biodegradable.

Acquiring

Now you’re all set up, and ready to acquire your snake! Have you got your licence if one is required where you live?

You may already have chosen your reptile at a dealer’s and it’s being held for you, or you are only now going to start searching for that special snake. If you are going to have just the one snake, as a pet, then it doesn’t matter if it is male or female – there is no difference in appearance or temperament.

When you find an animal you like the look of, handle it, and see how it reacts.

Does it move around, flicking its tongue, or is it hanging limply in your hands? Does it look clean, healthy, and bright-eyed? What are the cage conditions like? Are there any signs of mites?

If you are not completely happy with the way a snake looks and acts, then don’t buy it, especially if you feel sorry for it, hard though it may seem. You want a healthy snake, from a reputable source.

Perhaps your local Herp. Society can help you find one, or you can talk to a friend who keeps reptiles.

Once you’ve found your snake, and have taken it home, put into its pre-heated cage, ensuring it has a hide and fresh water, and leave it alone for a few days, to settle in to its new home. I know you want to handle your new pet, but it’s for the good of the snake! Once it has settle in, and feels secure in its new surroundings, it will be time enough to handle it.

Feeding

The supplier will probably have told you when the animal last ate, and what its diet has been. Usually, this will be defrosted mice or rats of the relevant size for your snake. ie: pinky mice for hatchlings. It’s a good idea to vary the diet of snakes, and mine sometimes get rats, sometimes mice, and when available, rabbits of a suitable size. Not all pythons will accept all of these, however. My stimsoni generally take whatever is offered, unless a shed is imminent.

It is best not to handle your python for at least 24 hours after a meal, or it may regurgitate. Keep the cage warm after a feed also. If your python does regurgitate, don’t offer it food for about two weeks. It’s easy to overfeed small pythons, as they tend to be opportunistic feeders, and will usually take anything offered to them.

Python Feeding

Python Feeding

An adult stimsoni will take a couple of adult mice or a small rat every couple of weeks. A month is long enough between feeds. Hatchlings will eat a pinkie mouse every week for a couple of months, then perhaps two pinkies every eight to ten days for a few more months, until they reach adult size, then they may eat a little less frequently.

In the wild, snakes may go several months without food, so if they refuse a meal or two, don’t worry too much. If the snake becomes emaciated, or is obviously in distress, then of course you will need to visit a good herp vet.

Handling

Most stimsoni can be handled easily, as they are quite a placid little snake, although a few individuals may be somewhat nippy.

Once you’ve let your snake settle into its new home, you can take it out of its cage for a short time. It will need time to get used to you and your scent.

When getting it out of its cage, don’t grab it suddenly from above, but don’t hesitate too long either. Pick it up gently, supporting its weight with your other hand. The snake shouldmove around your hands freely, flicking its tongue, and showing interest in its new surroundings.

It is best not to handle a snake more than once a day, as they can become stressed by too much handling. Don’t keep it out too long, if you can feel it’s body temperature dropping.

If you’re sitting quietly reading a book, or watching TV, your python may like to rest on your shoulders, or lap, and it’s a good way to let it learn that you are safe to be with. One of mine likes to burrow inside my t-shirt, while another prefers to sit on my shoulders. They each have their preferences.

Medical

Since I’m not a vet, all I can say here is that if your snake becomes unwell, it’s a good idea to turn up the heating in its cage a little, which sometimes helps. Take it to a vet as soon as you can. Respiratory infections are common with pythons. At the very least, if your pet becomes ill, consult with a more experienced herp keeper – you definitely don’t want to lose your reptilian friend.

Shedding

Python shedding old skin

Python shedding old skin. Image by J DAndrea.

Shedding is also known as sloughing, and a snake will do this several times a year. It is important to ensure that the old skin is completely gone, as if any remains, it can cause problems, particularly over the eyes. If your snake has problems, consult your herp vet.

Breeding

Breeding is another subject with which I’m no expert. There is an excellent article by Brian Barnett, on breeding small pythons, which I recommend you read. Also on the site is information about egg incubation.

Pythons may refuse food for the entire breeding season. Females will not eat until the hatchlings appear, if they are allowed to incubate their eggs.

Mating pythons

Mating A. stimsoni. Image by J DAndrea.

If you are lucky enough to hatch your snakes, any hatchlings are best kept in individual accommodation, in a warm, escapeproof environment. Remember, pythons are escape fiends, and a hatchling can fit through a very tiny space.

Enjoy your Stimson’s pythons.