Today we welcome another member of the Carlton Carnivores family... meet Callie!
Yep, I've jumped into the deep end with her. Callie is a year-old wild type reticulated python (a little slow eating when she was younger apparently, which is why she's still so small), a member of the longest species of snake on the planet. So far it looks like she's got a pretty decent temperament too, which is good; until I find a permanent residence of my own, she'll be housed with a biology teacher friend of mine at a local high school, where hopefully she'll join the other animals there in providing an educational and entertaining environment to develop an appreciation for animals like these that so often get a bad rap.
The reticulated python is a native of southeast Asia, ranging from eastern India down through the Indochinese Peninsula, into the Philippines and as far south and east as Timor and Flores in the southeast end of the Indonesian Archipelago. Slender and built for climbing, this often highly arboreal species is by no means the heaviest snake on earth (burmese pythons beat them out, and the green anaconda reigns supreme in that category), but it is the longest. Adult snakes regularly push 18-20 feet, with captive records of more than 25 feet (a specimen named Medusa holding the captive record at 25 feet 2 inches) and wild-caught records pushing 33 feet (some reports suggest they may get even longer) and weighing in excess of 300 pounds.
Callie is the typical form of retic, so it's not out of the question that as she gets older she will almost certainly exceed 12 feet long, and may push upwards from 16-20 feet or more even with her slow start. Not all retics get so large though; some possibly valid subspecies found on diminutive island chains within Indonesia are considered dwarfs, regularly maturing at as little as 6-10 feet in length and not growing much larger.
All retics however do share some traits: their name is derived from the complex, net-like pattern they possess of browns, black, yellow, and white that allows them to blend with the dappled rainforest habitat they dwell in, both leaf litter of ground-dwellers as they get larger and the mottled lighting up in the canopy for younger snakes. The reticulated python is a highly food-motivated snake as well, an opportunistic top predator in its habitat taking down everything from rats and birds to monkeys, deer, even young wildcats and, on rare occasions, people. This is one of the only snakes wherein human predation has been verified, though these cases tend to be extremely unusual and involving animals hunting out of desperation outside their usual haunts or people who bothered an animal they shouldn't have.
This strong food response translates often into captivity, and gives the retic its "aggressive" reputation. When one opens their cage, nearly always their first thought is that it's feeding time; thus, when handling one, it's always best to remove them with a tool or distract them with an inedible object to let them know it's not feeding time, but exercise and handling time. When they realize this, the majority of retics become relatively placid, and are highly intelligent, curious animals that like to explore their envionments. A retic, however, is not the slow-moving caterpillar animal like burmese or ball pythons are. Slender-bodied and with a fairly high metabolism for a snake, they are highly active, fast, and with an adult they can be a hefty workout when they want to mosey around. One should never handle a snake over 6 feet without at least one other person present, and it's best to have at least people around just in case when they start to push 10 (one person for every 3 feet is often recommended; when putting the snake back this also helps to just keep track of the whole animal).
Retics are unquestionably not a beginner's animal. Though they are phenomenally beautiful, they can eat a lot and as said before get huge, with energy to match. Most are very good as captive animals, but simply by their size they require a great deal of attention and finances to support them. Should one want to ever acquire one of these as a pet, always make sure you have a lot of experience under your belt first. Start with small, classic pet species like corn snakes, ball pythons, or even king and milk snakes (which are similarly very active animals). Then move up to something a little bigger; carpet pythons and several boa species average between 5 and 10 feet in length, not quite as big but a good intro to feeding and housing large snakes. Retics and their sister giants as adults need tanks that may push 8 or 10 feet in length and at least a couple feet long and tall as well, something that's never cheap and you need to plan in order to have room for it as well. And as with all snakes, it is imperative their housing is SECURE! If there's a way out, they'll find it, and if it's not fixed, they'll find it again in even less time. Such animals can be very rewarding to keep, but they are animals that must be given respect first and foremost in all aspects.