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Program and General Information
Woma pythons are a non-venomous constrictor species native to the shrublands and woodlands of Australia. They are a medium sized snake ranging in length from 4.5-8.5 feet. Males tend to be smaller than females. Woma pythons are generally light brown-green and black in color, with a tan-yellow underbelly. he scales around the eyes are usually a darker color than the rest of the head. This species also lacks the heat sensing pits of all other pythons. Breeding season occurs from May to August. Females are oviparous and lay 5-20 eggs per clutch. Eggs incubate for 2 months and, once hatched, hatchlings are independent.
Hatchlings will mature between 2-3 years. Snakes are becoming more popular in the pet trade. By purchasing and owning an exotic animal, you could be supporting the illegal exotic pet trade so be sure to do your research and only purchase from reputable breeders.
Woma pythons consume mainly small reptiles, as well as mammals, birds, and bird eggs.
They are ambush predators and have a neat trick for attracting prey. Woma pythons wiggle their narrow, pointed tails to entice prey to come close while keeping the rest of their bodies completely still. Once the prey is close enough, the python will lunge forward, bite onto the prey, and coil around it. They will then constrict the prey and swallow it whole. Woma pythons have also been known to squash their prey against the walls of their burrows.
Habitat and Range
Woma pythons are native to the Australian interior, from central Australia into the south-western edge of Queensland, and into northern South Australia. They mainly inhabit grasslands, shrublands, savannas, and woodlands.
Woma pythons hunker down in hollow logs and burrows by day, and hunt by night, though they occasionally may be seen basking during the day in mild weather. Woma pythons have a unique way to travel across hot sands; it will lift parts of its body off the ground and move forward.
Common Physical Features
Woma pythons are a medium sized snake ranging in length from 4.5-8.5 feet. Males tend to be smaller than females. Where they live dictates woma pythons’ coloration. For the nocturnal woma, a distinctive pattern of light and dark brown alternating bands down its body is effective camouflage. These signature stripes may fade with age.
Coloration ranges from yellow to reddish, gray, or olive brown, but they are generally light brown-green and black in color, with a tan-yellow underbelly. The scales around the eyes are usually a darker color than the rest of the head. The woma python has a narrow head and small eyes. Its body is broad and flattish in profile and its tail tapers into the skinny “lure” it uses to entice prey. This species also lacks the heat sensing pits of all other pythons
Adaptations: Snakes have an interesting way of sniffing out their prey items. Like other reptile species, ball pythons have a Jacobson’s organ in the roof of their mouth. They will stick out their tongue in order to pick up scent particles in the air or from the surface of objects. Their tongues are forked at the end, splitting in two directions in a V- shape, allowing the snake to pick up scent particles from two different directions. When the tongue is brought into the mouth to the Jacobson’s organ, the organ will process the information and determine which side of the tongue the scents came from. This will inform the snake which direction to go to find that scent. (If it picks up the scent on the left fork, then it knows to go to the left. If it picks it up on the right, then it goes to the right. And then if it picks up the scent on both forks then it knows the scent is coming from straight ahead. )
Woma pythons are efficient constrictors/squishers of prey. Should a prey item find itself in the woma’s burrow, there may not be enough room for it to properly wrap around and constrict the animal, so instead, the snake squishes it against the burrow walls. Like other snakes, they do not have moveable eyelids. Instead, they have a special clear scale that covers the eyes, making them appear to be always awake. Not having eyelids allows the snake to refrain from blinking and keep its cover when it is camouflaged. Womas will use their tail to lure prey close before constricting or squishing them.
They have powerful body muscles to squeeze and suffocate prey. Snakes have a highly flexible skull that allows them to swallow their prey whole. Contrary to popular belief, they do not actually unhinge/dislocate their jaws to swallow prey because there isn’t anything to actually unhinge/dislocate! A snake’s jaw is only loosely joined to its skull by ligaments, which allows the jaw to be solid enough to bite, but flexible enough to expand for swallowing. Once prey is inside the mouth, the snake alternate using the left and right sides of the upper and lower jaws to “walk” the prey to the back of the throat where powerful muscles will help force the prey down the rest of the body. To better visualize the movement of the jaw imagine laying on your stomach and crawling using your elbows and knees to move. That is similar to how the snake’s upper and lower jaws work to push the food into the mouth and down the throat.
Behavior and Life Cycle
Breeding season occurs May-August. A female will lay her eggs inside her burrow the following September-October. Woma pythons are oviparous and lay 5-20 eggs per clutch. Once the eggs are laid, females will coil around them for temperature and humidity control. Since pythons cannot regulate their internal body temperature, they cannot incubate their eggs per se; instead, they raise the temperature of their eggs by small movements of their body. The eggs will hatch in 2-3 months. Hatchlings are independent and will mature within 2-3 years.
Purposeful Pet Ownership
Many snake species are becoming more popular in the pet trade. Many people don’t realize, however, just how much work goes into caring for reptile species. Reptiles require specific lighting, humidity, space, nutrients, substrate, heating, and if they do not receive the proper care then that reptile’s health can decline rapidly. It can be difficult to find veterinarians that are equipped to care for reptiles if they get sick.
By purchasing and owning an exotic animal, you could be supporting the illegal exotic pet trade. Oftentimes these exotic pets are taken out of their natural habitat to be sold in the pet trade, which can be detrimental to wild populations. One more exotic pet in captivity is one less animal in the wild which is resulting in species population numbers dropping drastically.
What can we do?: Be sure to fully research any pet before buying one. While you may think a reptile would make a cool pet, it’s important to know all of the care that goes into providing that animal with the best possible welfare, and as mentioned before reptiles require a lot of extra care. It is important to make sure that if you do buy an exotic pet that you are buying it from a reputable breeder, someone who knows how to properly care for the animal and hasn’t taken that animal from its natural habitat.
Do not release an unwanted pet into the wild. While you may think that you are doing something good by releasing the animal back into the wild, animals that have been kept under human care often do not know how to survive on their own out in the wild and could end up getting hurt or dying if left to their own devices.
- The specific name, ramsayi, comes from Australian zoologist Edward Pierson Ramsay.
- The Woma Python eats many species of Australia’s most venomous snakes and is actually immune to venomous snake bites.
- Woma pythons are preyed upon by the king brown snake Pseudechis australis, also called the mulga snake.