Constricting Snake Ownership

  • Large constricting snakes may make dangerous pets. There have been at least 12 cases since 1980 in which large constricting snakes have killed their owners. Children are most vulnerable to death by constriction.
  • Constricting snakes are adept escape artists and can squeeze through small gaps. Escape-proof tanks are essential for owning them. Many attacks on humans occur because the snake is able to escape.
  • Constricting snakes grow very rapidly, so owners often release them when they become too large. Many released snakes die, and the snakes that survive may compete with native wildlife for food and habitat. Zoos rarely accept pet snakes, and finding someone to buy or accept a snake as gift can be difficult.
  • Some members of the constrictor family maintain a smaller size throughout their lifespan. These more docile varieties are less dangerous.
  • Snake-owners incorrectly view snakes as requiring minimal care. Moreover, owners often provide inadequate care, causing the reptile to die or experience ongoing suffering.
  • Constricting snakes are often bred in captivity, but many are also taken from the wild which may deplete the species’ native populations. It is estimated that 90% of wild-caught reptiles die in their first year of captivity.

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Sources: Brown Tree Snake <http://www.fort.usgs.gov/Resources/Education/BTS/>.The Humane Society of the United States <http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/exotic_pets/facts/reptile_trade.html>.; U.S. Geological Survey; American Federation of Herpetoculturalists; Ernst CH, Zug GR Snakes in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book pp. 149-151

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