I met a new species of snake this week, a Macklot’s Python (Liasis mackloti) named Scar. This snake is a non-venomous python species found in Indonesia, and sometimes in people’s living rooms in Santa Cruz, CA.
Scar was aptly named because he has a huge scar running all the way down his belly. The scar is from a very bad burn he received a few years ago from a poorly placed heating element. After his injury he was taken in by the good people at Trop-Aquarium pet store and nursed back to health. He is a gorgeous snake now, his scales full of an iridescence that I tried to capture in this photograph (but couldn’t).
Burns in snakes are actually pretty common. Snakes (and other reptiles) will sometimes cozy up to heating elements and not get off even when they start to sizzle. Why this happens is a mystery – perhaps they don’t have well-developed heat receptors in their skin. No doubt in the wild they don’t come across many 500 degree surfaces, so perhaps evolving a response to such a situation wasn’t a priority. In any case, it is super important that all reptile owners realize this and make sure that their pets can’t come into direct contact with heat bulbs, heating pads, and the like. Heated rocks are just a really bad idea and should never be used for all the reasons stated above.
As I always do when faced with a new species, I rushed to the internet to read all I could before the appointment. I quickly learned that Macklot’s python’s have a reputation for being “irritable”, which isn’t a great feature in a 7-to-9 foot snake whose mouth you need to look inside of 10 minutes from now.
I shouldn’t have worried, because Brandyn (one of the owners of Trop-Aquarium) is a snake whisperer and had transformed Scar from an angry teenage snake to a pussycat of an adult. Scar is so tame that he goes to kids’ birthday parties and gets passed around from sticky hand to sticky hand. Apparently his only bad habit now is that he likes to stick his head in your mouth while you are talking. Which is naughty – doesn’t he know he can catch Salmonella from people?