Why Is My Ball Python Trying to Escape?

If you are a new snake owner or have recently brought home a ball python, you may sometimes find your ball python stretching up towards the top of the tank, seemingly trying to escape. While this behavior can be worrisome at first, it is not always something that you need to be concerned about. 

So, why is my ball python trying to escape? If you see your ball python stretching up towards the top of their enclosure, they may not be trying to escape, just exercising or exploring their habitat. If you think it might be something more serious, though, your snake could be stressed, upset, or just hungry and looking for more food.

In this article, we will discuss some of the harmless behaviors ball pythons exhibit that might make it seem like they are trying to escape, a few of the reasons why they might genuinely try to escape, and some tips and tricks on how to keep your ball python healthy and happy so that they do not feel the need to try and escape their habitat.

Crepuscular Companions

Ball pythons, like other reptiles as well as various other species of animals, are crepuscular. This means that they are active at night, but then sleep during the day while humans and other animals are up and about.

When ball pythons become more active later in the evening or during the night time, sometimes they will try to climb the side of their tank or terrarium, stretching out their bodies parallel to the glass and poking their nose into any corners and crevices that they might find.

On some occasions, they will even bring their head all the way up to the top of the enclosure and appear as though they are trying to escape — this behavior may worry new ball python owners, but more than likely your snake is not trying to escape, but simply exploring and stretching themselves out as they become more active for the night. 

Often, when your snake stretches up as far as they can go (whether this is all the way to the top of their enclosure or only part way up the side), they will just fold over themselves and make their way back down to the ground.

Other times, however, they will try and stretch up even farther, sometimes even pushing the lower end of their body up towards the top until they cannot stretch anymore and have to drop back down to the floor rather ungracefully.

This can be concerning, especially if your snake makes a hard thump or other loud noise when dropping back down to the floor of their tank, but don’t worry! This behavior does not actually hurt your snake, as snakes in the wild often become accustomed to dropping their bodies off of tree branches or other high places in order to get down to the ground level.

Even if your snake sounds like they may have gotten hurt from the fall, it is highly unlikely that their terrarium is high enough to actually hurt them, since tree branches in the wild are often much higher than any habitat you might put in your home.

Hungry Snakes

If you see your ball python trying to climb up to the top of the tank more often than usual, especially if they act differently than they normally would when exercising or exploring, your snake may be hungry.

That said, always make sure that you are feeding your ball python on a regular schedule, as well as giving them the right amount and type of food to keep them happy and healthy. You should be giving your snake prey that is the right size for them, meaning that it should be about the same thickness around as their body, or slightly larger.

Feeding your snake prey that is too small may mean that they will become hungry before their next scheduled feeding. If this happens, your ball python’s instinct will likely be to stretch up and try to escape the tank or terrarium to look for more food. 

You should feed your snake once per week when they are young, then stretch that out to every one to two weeks when they are fully grown adults. Ball pythons are carnivores and should only eat meat, but the way this meat is given can differ depending on your personal preferences.

You can buy frozen rodents from pet stores that offer snake care items, which can be stored in your freezer then thawed and warmed up above room temperature when you are ready to feed your snake.

If you are doing this, make sure not to microwave the frozen rodents or prepare them in the same place you prepare your own food, as this can contaminate surfaces that come in contact with human food.

Another option is to feed your snake live rodents such as feeder mice and rats; however, you should never leave your snake unattended when feeding them live animals. Also, make sure to always feed your snake in a separate tank from its usual habitat, so that it does not associate your hands or an open tank with feeding.

Following these steps should ensure that your snake is happy and full, and does not attempt to escape their tank in search of more food. However, if your ball python begins to act strange and seems as though they are hungry even with their normal diet, you may want to feed them just a little bit more often than you normally would.

Very active snakes burn off a lot of calories, which means they will need just a bit more food than other snakes, or need to be fed more often than other snakes, in order to keep them satisfied between feedings.

If Your Snake Is Stressed

Similar to hungry snakes, ball pythons that are stressed out, upset, or confused may attempt to escape their tank or terrarium as well. Although ball pythons are generally very forgiving when it comes to changes in temperature or humidity in their tanks, this does not mean that you should be lax about making sure your snake has the right conditions in their habitat.

Always make sure that your ball python has plenty of room to move around so that they do not feel too crowded or cramped in their tank, as well as plenty of places to hide or climb over to keep them stimulated.

Also, make sure that the temperature and humidity in your snake’s tank is consistent and does not fall too far out of balance, even if your snake seems like they don’t mind slight changes in their environment.

When handling a snake, opening your snake’s tank for feeding, or any other time that you open your snake’s tank, make sure that you do not leave the top open for too long as this may throw the internal temperature and humidity of the habitat out of balance.

Always make sure that your snake’s habitat is kept at a temperature gradient of 78 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity of about 55-60% (although this should be higher during your ball python’s shedding periods).

Your snake’s tank should be between 30 and 40 gallons for an adult snake, and it wouldn’t hurt to house a baby snake in an adult-sized habitat, as the snake will grow to fit its enclosure and keeping them in the same tank into adulthood will negate some of the stress of switching habitats as they grow up.

Also be sure to keep your snake’s tank and habitat clean, as a dirty environment can cause your snake stress, leading to them attempting to escape in search of a healthier place to live.

Conclusion

If you check on your ball python in the middle of the night to find them stretching up and seemingly trying to escape, this is not necessarily a cause for panic.

Most of the time, this behavior can be explained by the fact that your snake is crepuscular and naturally becomes more active at night — they are not waiting until the lights are out to make a grand escape, just waking up at a normal time of day for their species and trying to get some exercise in.

If it seems to be more of a problem, however, consider the fact that your snake may be hungry, stressed, or unhappy. Always make sure that you are feeding your snake a proper diet at least once every one or two weeks (for adult snakes), and if your snake is more active and seems to still be hungry, it is okay to feed your snake just a bit more often.

Also, ensure that your snake does not have any cause for stress or discomfort in their habitat, such as temperature or humidity being off balance or their tank being dirty. As always, if you suspect your snake may be sick or have a more severe underlying reason for their behavior, do not hesitate to take them to a vet or snake expert for a professional opinion.

Sources:

https://www.quora.com/Why-does-my-ball-Python-move-a-lot

https://mypetpython.com/bump-in-the-night/

https://www.petco.com/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/resource-center/caresheets/ball-python.html