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PET PROFILE

THE PET: Reticulated python.

WHERE AVAILABLE: Pet stores and breeders.

COST: Averages $99-$159.

BREEDS/VARIETIES: The reticulated python has a distinctive color pattern that can include shades of brown, yellow and green/copper.

SIZE: Generally 20 to 25 feet long, although some reach 30 feet and longer. A 10- to 12-footer can weigh up to 150 pounds.

AVERAGE LIFE SPAN: 20-25 years.

WHAT IT EATS: Rats, rabbits and chickens, preferably frozen and thawed so there is no chance of a "live" meal injuring the snake.

IQ: Snakes basically live according to instinct, not intelligence.

EASY TO TRAIN? Can't be trained to do anything, although they become more docile (that is, won't bite) if handled a lot.

TEMPERAMENT: Can be unpredictable and more temperamental than other python species. Has the reputation of being unfriendly.

GOOD WITH CHILDREN? Not recommended for children, nor does it make a good starter snake for adults.

SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS: Full-spectrum lighting or natural sunlight is recommended, but isn't as critical as with turtles and lizards. A hiding place is important for smaller ones. It needs a fairly warm environment and a water bowl so it can immerse itself completely. A spotlight at one end of the aquarium will give the snake a choice of temperatures. A 20-gallon aquarium is adequate for a hatchling. It can grow up to 10 feet within the first year, needing an aquarium or walk-in cage at least 6 feet long.

POSSIBLE HEALTH PROBLEMS: Parasites, mites and mouth rot.

BREEDING: Best left to the professionals. Females lay up to 80 eggs and the babies can be nippy and nasty when they first hatch.

Compiled by NANCY PARADIS of the Times. Information supplied by Animal House Pet Center in St. Petersburg and Doug Wagner, acting president of the Florida West Coast Herpetological Society.

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