Image: Doug Mong
Pueblan Milk Snake
Snakes are among the most fascinating animals to keep as pets, and with a wide variety of species to choose from, snake lovers may have a tough time time keeping just one type. Though ferocious predators, most snakes can become docile and even friendly with enough handling and good care. Check out these top five favorite serpents, and learn what makes each one so fascinating.
1. Corn Snake
By far the most popular snake in the American exotic pet industry, the corn snake is actually a commonly seen snake in the eastern states, from New Jersey to the Florida Keys. So what makes this species so popular? It is a docile and hardy animal that is easily cared for, yes, but its true appeal lies in its genetic variety. Many corns that carry genetic mutations such as albinoism and hypomelanism exhibit some of the most spectacular colors seen in any snake on earth. The Bloodred morph, for instance, lives up to its name with scales that rival ruby gems in color and intensity. Charcoal corn snakes, on the other hand, lack the red pigments all together and are gorgeous black and ashy colored snakes with pitch black eyes. The Tessera morph, a newly discovered mutation, alters the snakes’s pattern rather than its colors, changing its normally banded saddles to one single stripe down its back. All these genetic mutations may be combined with one another to create new and entirely different colors and patterns, making it the most popular snake for hobbyists and breeders alike.
Image: Joe Novak
2. Ball Python
Ball Pythons are popular for similar reasons, with some of the rarer and more strikingly colored and patterned morphs selling for $50,000 or even more. This West African species is named for its defense strategy, in which it curls itself into a tight ball with its head protected by its muscular body. When feeding, it uses those massive muscles to constrict its prey, squeezing so hard that the blood flow ceases completely, and the animal dies in less than a minute. Despite its brutal power, the ball python is a very docile animal in captivity, and with a length of no more than 5 feet, makes a great pet for the first time snake owner.
Image: Chris Morrison
3. California King Snake
These impressive predators regularly devour rattlesnakes in the wild. With a strong, muscular body reaching 5 feet, and a fearless disposition, king snakes live up to their name and reputation as the most formidable serpent in the United States. Ironically, they also happen to be among the most popular snakes in captivity. If handled regularly, a king can become as sweet as a lamb. If you’re thinking about getting your little brother a cali king for Christmas, don’t worry, you wont have to buy rattlesnakes as feeders. A mouse a week will do.
Image: Nanci LeVake
4. Milk Snake
The milk snake is closely related to the king snake, and hybrids between the two are common in the pet trade. A pure milk snake, however, is superior in beauty to any fancy hybrid out there. Known for its tricolor bands, the red, black and white coat is a form of Batesian mimicry, in which a defenseless animal mimics another, more dangerous one, in this case the highly venomous coral snake. Milk snakes lack venom and are completely harmless to humans. However, to the untrained eye, a milk snake and a coral snake appear identical. If you ever encounter a tricolor snake in the wild, remember the saying, “Red on black, friend of Jack. Red on yellow, kill a fellow.”
Image: Barbara Draakje
5. Boa Constrictor
Known to take down large prey such as ocelots, this South and Central American native is a highly effective predator. Like the ball python, the boa constrictor squeezes the life out of its prey before consuming it, and with razor sharp teeth and powerful jaw muscles, it slides its dinner down the hatch in no time. At lengths of up to 10 feet, the boa constrictor is not a snake for the beginner hobbyist, or for those with limited space. A large enclosure is required, and many hobbyists build there own, custom made display cages for their boas to climb around in. If you’re looking for a relatively challenging reptile to add to your collection, and are prepared to make its enclosure the centerpiece of your living room, then the boa constrictor may be right for you. Imagine what mom and dad will say when you invite them over for Sunday dinner and show them your 6 foot tall jungle terrarium next to the dinner table!