Does a Ball Python Bite Hurt (and Why Would Your Pet Bite)?

Receiving a bite is a rite of passage for snake keepers. A very small number of keepers may get lucky and avoid bites forever, but most will probably suffer a bite at some point in time.

Ball python on hand

A lot of owners are nervous that their pet snake may eventually bite them. But don’t worry, it is usually not a big deal – especially for those who keep ball pythons. Ball pythons are relatively small snakes, and the wounds their bites cause are usually very minor.

I still remember my very first bite. Even though my first nip came courtesy of a species with slightly longer teeth (a carpet python), I still remember being shocked at how insignificant it was. In subsequent years, I’d go on to receive literally thousands of bites. A few, which came at the hands of much larger species, were definitely not fun, but those from ball pythons were never very troubling.

Read on and we’ll explain what to expect from a ball python bite, why your pet may bite in the first place, and what to do afterward.

What Does a Ball Python Bite Feel Like? Is It Dangerous?

Simply put, ball python bites are not very painful. While their teeth are quite sharp, ball pythons don’t have strong jaws. Accordingly, bites typically feel like a series of tiny pinpricks.

In fact, a variety of common injuries typically hurt much worse than a ball python bite. Some of the best examples would include:

  • Stubbing your toe
  • Getting tangled in a rose bush
  • A paper cut
  • Hitting your funny bone

All of these things hurt much worse than a typical ball python bite.

Also, because these snakes don’t reach very large sizes, their bites rarely cause a lot of damage. The only caveat to this would be that a bite to the face, throat or some other delicate area may be more serious. In such cases, it is conceivable, but not terribly likely, that the bite may cause more severe damage – particularly if your eyes suffered the brunt of things.

One thing that is important to understand is that your reaction will determine how severe the bite is. If you remain motionless, chances are, the snake will bite and release you very quickly. This will only cause a series of tiny puncture wounds.

But, if you jerk away, these puncture wounds may become lacerations (they may also rip out some of your snake’s teeth, which may lead to problems for your pet). So, do your best to remain calm in the event of a bite. Admittedly, this isn’t easy to do, but it will help mitigate the severity of the resulting wound.

> Further Reading: The Ball Python Behavior (Common & Unusual) and Health

ball python ready to bite

Why Did My Ball Python Bite Me?

Whether your ball python just bit you, or you are trying to learn about bites before you experience one firsthand, you’re probably wondering why your snake would bite you in the first place.

Fortunately, this is a relatively easy question to answer, as ball pythons (as well as most other snakes) only bite for one of two reasons:

  1. Your snake may mistake your hand or fingers for prey.
  2. Your snake may feel threatened, causing him to bite in self-defense.

Bites that result from mistaken identities are quite easy to avoid. Start by ensuring that your hands never smell like potential prey when reaching into his enclosure. This not only means washing your hands after handling rodents, but also anytime you touch your dog, cat, bird or other family pet.

Additionally, learn to recognize your ball python’s body language. When hungry, ball pythons will often wait inside their hiding spot, with their neck withdrawn in an “S” coil. Try not to handle your snake during these times, or at least use extra care if you must. It is also wise to avoid handling your pet ball python at night when they’re typically most active and alert.

Defensive bites can be less predictable, but a snake’s body language will usually provide several warnings that a bite may be imminent. Things like hissing and maintaining a tense body posture are two of the best signs that indicate your snake may be feeling frightened. If you notice these signs, simply return your snake to his enclosure so he can feel secure again.

Ball Python Bite Care: How to Treat It?

Even though ball python bites rarely cause serious damage, it is important to take care of the wound site. This will help prevent it from becoming infected and allow you to heal as quickly as possible.

The first thing to do after receiving a bite is to put your ball python back in his enclosure. Then, wash the wound gently with soap and warm water. Look at the wound carefully and try to determine if any teeth remain in your skin. You may also want to gently run your fingers across the site to ensure you can’t feel any teeth present.

Pull any stuck teeth out with a pair of tweezers and wash the wound one more time for good measure. Pour a mild first-aid disinfectant over the wound, allow it to dry, and then add a triple-antibiotic ointment. Finish up by covering the wound with a bandage.

ball python head

In most cases, the wound should heal up in a matter of days. However, if it fails to do so, or you notice any significant redness, swelling, streak-like marks, or discharge, see your doctor and have him or her evaluate the wound. It is also wise to visit the doctor if you haven’t had a recent tetanus booster.

Note that these instructions all assume that the bite was located on your hand or arm (the most common places bites occur). But if your snake bites your face or throat, it is likely a good idea to have your doctor inspect it right off the bat.

Take care!

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and, hopefully, feel a little braver about your pet. Remember that ball python bites are not only inconsequential in most cases, but they’re also relatively rare, as these are typically shy snakes who don’t bite often. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised if you never feel your pet’s teeth – even if he lives for decades.

If you’ve found this article helpful, please share it with your snake-keeping friends! Also, be sure to share any of your thoughts or experiences with ball python bites – as well as any questions you may have – in the comments below.

Picture of Ben Team

Ben Team

Ben is a life-long environmental educator who writes about the natural world. He’s kept and bred a diverse array of reptiles and amphibians over the last three decades, but he’s always been particularly fond of snakes in the genus Morelia and monitor lizards. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler.


  1. My corn snake has bit me only a few times, in all cases I suspect it was a case of mistaken identity because it’s never been when I’m trying to pick him up, just when my hand happens to go near his hide and he’s either right on schedule to be fed or recently fed. Plus he doesn’t do that other times I do the exact same thing. Tbh I don’t trust him to be too smart about knowing what’s food or not, considering the guy spent a good 10 minutes trying to swallow his feeding tongs once. The good thing is he always lets go immediately.

    1. Hi Rebecca,

      It sounds like your corn snake might be getting a bit overeager around feeding times! Snakes primarily rely on their sense of smell and heat detection to identify food, and sometimes they can be a bit hasty in their decisions, especially if they’re hungry or have just eaten. The incident with the feeding tongs is a humorous testament to that!

      To reduce the chances of accidental bites, you might consider using a specific scent (like a particular hand sanitizer or soap) before feeding him. Over time, he might associate that scent with feeding, helping him differentiate between feeding time and regular handling. Additionally, using feeding tongs that are distinctly different from your hand’s size and shape can also help.

      It’s great that he releases immediately, indicating he realizes the mistake. With time and consistent handling, these incidents should become less frequent.

      Thanks for sharing your experience, and here’s to more bite-free interactions with your curious corn snake! 🐍

  2. My male baby ball python had lunged at me from several feel away because I was approaching him to quickly but he was just scared and I had only had him for just over a month

  3. Wowzers! This page was so informational. My niece has had a ball python for the past three years, and she really needed to hear this. I sent her the link and she emailed me back almost immediately. She shows much gratitude for your tips and tricks. My sister, her mother, is now relieved that she doesn’t have to worry about her daughter anymore. Thank you, Ben Team! You’ve helped my family with their snake.

    Billy Bob III

  4. hey ,my name is Yasmine I have two python and their names are reb and nakie i love them so much. i only go bit 3 times because they where hungry and they bites felt like a high pinch i been bitten by different kinds of snake to

  5. My 8 month old boy Pluto only bit me once, and it felt like a very light pinch. After assessing the situation, I realized it was out of pure stress on his end and utter excitement to interact on my end. Pay attention to your snakes body language. The last thing they resort to is a bite. Ball Pythons would rather escape the interaction and go chill away from you that resort to a strike. My boy is now very willing to connect and welcome handling because I have learned to read his composure. Learn more about their individual personality. That will insure a real bond.

    1. Hi Jett,

      Nicely put, snakes will almost always try to escape first and resort to biting last. Surprising or scaring snakes can result in a bite, never come from above and it is always good to let the snake know you are there before picking them up.

  6. I have had a male BP for 8 years and he has never bitten me however I have been bitten buy a larger feamale and that definitely hurt she was hungry and it was due to misidentified hand as food learned that lesson. But I think another thing to add is if you have ever been hook buy a fish hook that’s what it felt like for me.

    1. Hey, Joseph.

      Bites are different for everyone. As someone who’s been bitten by thousands of snakes and also stuck myself with countless fishhooks, I’d usually take a bite from a medium-sized snake (say, less than 7 or 8 feet) to a serious accident with a fishhook. I’ve had fishhooks go through finger nails, but I’ve never had a snake bite do the same. Perhaps a truly large snake could manage that, but I doubt a ball python could.

      But all that matters is that you know your own comfort level.

      Best of luck!

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Picture of Ben Team
Ben Team
Ben is a life-long environmental educator who writes about the natural world. He’s kept and bred a diverse array of reptiles and amphibians over the last three decades, but he’s always been particularly fond of snakes in the genus Morelia and monitor lizards. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his beautiful wife and spoiled-rotten Rottweiler.