Ball pythons are nocturnal animals, meaning they sleep during the day and awaken at night. Burrowing is a common behavior among ball pythons that’s often seen when they’re trying to hide from predators or just get comfortable in their environment. If you notice your snake has been burrowing, it is important to find out the problem.
A ball python burrowing is a sign something is wrong in their enclosure. Stress factors that make these snakes bury themselves in their bedding or substrate include high temperatures, low humidity, illness, or a small enclosure.
Is it normal for ball pythons to burrow?
It is normal for ball pythons to burrow in their substrate especially if their enclosure is small. If you do not have enough hides in their enclosures, ball pythons will bury themselves in their substrate in order to gain some privacy and comfort.
Several factors can influence a snake’s decision to dig including stress or boredom caused by lack of stimulation inside its enclosure. This is quite common with new acquisitions who will often stop once they become accustomed to their surroundings but it can also happen when an animal is experiencing physical discomfort such as pain or illness without any other visible signs.
Why is my ball python burrowing?
While burrowing may be fairly normal in ball pythons, it can be a sign of discomfort in ball pythons. These snakes, like many others, are private creatures. When they start to bury themselves in their enclosure’s substrate, it could be a sign that you need to diagnose the problem.
Here are the reasons why your ball python is burying himself:
1. The enclosure is too small
If your ball python is unable to find a small crevice in the enclosure, it will try to create one by burrowing. The ball python needs an area that’s at least two feet long and three inches deep for adequate hiding spots. If you don’t have this type of space available, consider purchasing an appropriately sized vivarium or terrarium with more floor space.
Alternatively, if there is plenty of room but the snake still seems uncomfortable without finding small spaces to hide in – then make sure they are adequately provided with other types of cover objects such as plants or climbing structures.
This may be especially important if you plan on housing multiple snakes together because some males can actually display aggressive behavior towards each other when housed too closely.
2. Improper humidity levels
The low humidity could also be a problem. Ball pythons can’t handle low levels of humidity, so they’ll burrow in their substrate to keep their bodies moist and comfortable.
Burrowing will be very common especially if the snake is living in an outdoor enclosure with the heat and sun beating down on them constantly. If you live in a humid area, then this probably won’t be much of a concern – but if it’s dry where you are, make sure that your ball python has fresh water to soak up moisture from as often as possible.
You may want to consider investing in one or more automatic misting systems for their vivariums or terrariums too. Many people have had success using Repti-Mist® sprayers which can help maintain the proper level of humidity without being too expensive.
3. High temperatures
Different ball pythons may be more or less sensitive to high temperatures. If your snake is too hot, then it will try to find a cooler space by burying itself in the dirt substrate of its enclosure.
Burrowing and burying commonly start when the temperature of your ball python exceeds 90°F, which makes the snakes feel dehydrated and uncomfortable. The snake will start to bury itself in its bedding or substrate, usually in areas that are cooler in the enclosure.
You can address this problem by placing an appropriate heat mat under half of the vivarium or terrarium floor’s surface area – and make sure that there are plenty of cool hiding spots too.
This might mean investing in rocks with dark surfaces, large pieces of cork bark, logs, faux leaves, and other items made for reptile homes which provide great cover areas where your ball python can escape from too-hot conditions as needed.
4. Normal daytime hiding
Ball pythons need to burrow or bury themselves in their substrate because they are nocturnal creatures. When it’s light, ball pythons will want to stay hidden away in these safe spots until nighttime comes again.
If your snake is constantly trying to settle into a new hiding spot every night and can’t find one – then you may have the wrong type of bedding material for them. Try switching out some of the dirt from underneath with shredded paper towels, aspen shavings, sphagnum moss, cypress mulch or another similar product that provides secure cover areas but doesn’t absorb all of its moisture when wetted down like other types often do.
5. Lack of hiding places
A lack of hiding places may be the problem. Ball pythons really need a variety of cover objects in order to feel secure, and they will burrow or bury themselves when these types of items are not available.
To address this issue you can provide your ball python with more caves or small crevices by purchasing additional hides for them. I’ve had success stopping the burrowing problem by using fake plants because there’s plenty that come in different sizes and shapes.
If you don’t want to buy new hides, then just decorate the ball python’s current cage set up with large pieces of cork bark, logs, faux leaves, rocks etc. so they always have access to a cool place to relax and hide in.
Another cause of excessive burrowing could be illness. If your ball python has been lethargic and not eating for a week or more, then this might mean that they are sick.
Nocturnal animals such as the ball pythons will often become inactive during illness, which may lead to an increase in resting time near their hiding spots where dirt, paper towels can provide protection and cover.
Always check on your ball python at night to see if it is active. If the snake is still burrowing in the substrate, a vet visit would help determine what type of illness it is suffering from.
Do ball pythons go underground?
In the wild, ball pythons burrow underground because they are secretive animals, Since they like their privacy, it is normal for them to go underground in burrows, old termite mounds that have been abandoned, or even in rotting cambiums of old trees.
Ball pythons will burrow into the substrate such as leaves or mulch in order to hide from lurking predators. They also tend to find a spot that is comfortable with regards to heat so their environment suits them best of all.
If you see your ball python going underground frequently- especially if he seems agitated before doing so – then there may be an issue with his enclosure and/or temperature (either too hot or cold). Ball pythons should never feel the need to go down into hiding, so you might want to find out what’s making them go underground to hide.
How to Stop Burrowing in Ball Pythons
Sudden burrowing is a sign something is wrong with your pet snake. The best course of action is to find out the cause of the burrowing before beginning to mitigate the problem. In most cases, I’ve found that providing the proper enclosure conditions can reduce stress and stop the ball python from burrowing under its bedding or substrate.
Here’s how to help your ball python to stop burrowing:
1. Maintain proper temperatures
The first thing you want to do is determine if the enclosure of your ball python is too hot, which is very common if you keep your snake outside where the temperature is not easy to control. If this is the reason for their burrowing behavior, it is time to fix these conditions.
Maintain a temperature range of 75-80°F on the cooling side and 80-85°F on the warm side. For the basking spot in the enclosure, maintain a temperature range of 88-92°F.
These conditions will ensure that the snake is comfortable enough during the day and also during the night.
2. Increase humidity in the enclosure
If your snake is hiding and burying itself in the substrate due to dehydration and such discomfort, try fixing the humidity problem in its enclosure.
Keep the enclosure humid, with 50-60% humidity. You can achieve this by misting the habitat daily and providing a water bowl deep enough for your ball python to submerge themselves under the surface of the liquid on occasion.
You also want to provide some form of live plant life that will help boost the humidity levels in addition to creating natural hiding spots within their environment. This is especially important when it comes to outdoor enclosures where there are no plants nearby but still need additional moisture because they are outdoors.
3. Provide a bigger enclosure
Does your snake feel too caged? If you see signs of anxiety, it simply means the enclosure is too small for the snake. The right thing to do is to build a new, bigger enclosure that your snake will be comfortable in.
- Make sure the snake’s cage is has a big-enough space that will give them room enough to burrow, hide, eat and generally feel comfortable in their enclosure.
- Make the enclosure at least 50% bigger than what your snake is currently occupying
If you are building an enclosure for a juvenile ball python (under three years of age), make sure they have more room because juveniles grow much faster as compared to adults.
If these conditions are met, it should stop your pet from wanting to go under its bedding or substrate to hide.
4. Take the python to the veterinarian
In some instances, illness can be the cause of a ball python’s burrowing behavior. In these cases, it is best to take your pet snake out of its enclosure and get them checked by a veterinarian.
If they do have an illness or other problem that requires attention from a qualified professional, make sure you are able to provide this care before attempting any further solutions on how to stop their burrowing behavior.
The four steps given in this article should help with stopping your ball python from burying themselves under substrate or bedding materials. Remember: if none of these solutions work then consult with a trained herpetologist because there may be something else wrong.