Is my ball python gravid... ?

Dear VPI,

Hi again. Only one question--the female of one of my ball python pairs has shed just after the brummation process. She bred several times from December until now in mid-February. I haven't have observed ovulation, but I am not at home in the day to watch her closely (I'm a scientist in Madrid and I "live" at my lab.) Still, I am certain that she has not ovulated. What confuses me is that this female refused food until yesterday. She shed and then two days after shedding she ate a rat voraciously.

I thought that ball python females didn't eat after ovulation. Do you think that things are going bad with this female, or it is possible that her shed was a pre-ovulation shed? The male has not been removed and he doesn't want to eat. I honestly think that something is wrong, but I'd like to know your opinion. Thanks, I.S. 

Dear I.S., 

Keep a good thought. I doubt that anything is wrong--meaning that I think your two ball pythons are perfectly fine. I don't know if you're going to get babies out of this, but that possibility also seems likely.

Some female ball pythons will not eat all through their active reproductive cycle, while others will eat the entire time. I'Most do something like what you are seeing; they eat a few meals and then stop, then a few weeks later they will again take some food.

The fact that the female went off feed is possibly an indicator that she may have ovulated. However, many females do not eat in the winter, whether they are gravid or not. Probably a few meals will allow her to finish the growth and maturation of her follicles and bring on ovulation

Usually the post-brummation shed is the shed before the post ovulation shed, so she probably hasn't ovulated yet. It's possible that she has ovulated and you'll see eggs about 30 days after this past shed, but more likely you'll see her swell dramatically for 24 hours (ovulate), shed 10-14 days later and then lay eggs in 30 days.

The fact that the male is still off feed is a possible clue that she has not yet ovulated. You probably can take him out anytime, though. Ball pythons can breed up to four and five months before ovulation with fertilization assured.

Anyway, get a nest box made for the female, someplace where she will want to lay her eggs. You may have some on the way.  Good luck,  DGB