GUELPH/ERAMOSA – Corey Woods in Guelph/Eramosa Township has snakes, and lots of them.
As the owner and operator of Corey Woods Reptiles, the Township of Guelph/Eramosa councillor breeds and ships rare and exotic ball pythons worldwide.
“I always wanted to breed ball pythons. At the start, I had 28 babies hatch,” Woods said.
“I’ve been breeding them for over 25 years now and I produce about 1,500 snakes a year.”
The ball python is the most popular pet python and is tied for first place as the number one best kept snake.
“Second is the corn snake. Ball pythons get a little bigger, at about three feet long,” Woods said.
Ball pythons make good pets because they are smaller in size, are generally friendly and manageable to care for, and come in a remarkable array of colours and patterns.
Each year, breeders like Woods create innovative, never-before-seen pattern and colour variations that attract new fans.
With a passion for pairing different coloured ball pythons, Woods anxiously awaits the next colourful surprise that each match will bring.
“At first, I would take an albino and make more albinos. Then, I would get one with a stripe, then breed that one with an albino, and then just see what happens,” Woods said.
“When you find out that you have bred a different colour or pattern, that’s so exciting.”
Since he was a young boy, Woods was captivated by reptiles, often bringing home a newly-captured turtle or frog.
But, when Woods was 13, his fascination for reptiles grew after a visit to a reptile show with his parents.
“I got to hold a little baby snake. It was a ball python. My parents saw my excitement, but they said that there was no way no way I was bringing a snake home,” Woods said.
“I became super annoying saying that I wanted a snake for my birthday, and for Christmas. I had a business plan in place saying that I was working hard and making money. I could have bought a dirt bike or a four-wheeler, but all I wanted was a snake.”
His parents relented and Woods brought home his first ball python.
"When I got that first baby snake, I raised it and that was it," Woods said.
It wasn’t long after, that Woods decided that he wanted to breed them, turning a much-loved hobby, into a full-time business.
“It’s great to have an interest, a passion, or a hobby, but you also have to be able to run all sides of things from being able to keep them, and then sell them as well,” Woods said.
“All I wanted to do was breed snakes. It’s not for everyone but there is a small portion of us out there.”
When not breeding snakes, Woods serves as Ward 2 councillor for Guelph/Eramosa Township.
“Everyone says hey, there’s that 'snake guy' looking for re-election. That’s what they call me,” Woods said.
Woods and his wife have two boys, six and nine, who attend Eramosa School.
“Every now and again, a teacher will ask me to bring in one of the snakes, and I will. It’s educational. But no, I don’t do birthday parties,” Woods said.
“For my kids, it’s no different than having a pet cat. They probably think everyone has a snake in their house.”
Corey Woods Reptiles has been operating full-time since 2004.
“A lot of people think wow, you keep snakes. How cool! But really, there’s a lot involved and it comes with a lot of administrative work,” Woods said.
“A lot of my business is export. I try to keep existing customers happy, so many of them are repeat customers who just keep buying. I recently sent 75 snakes to a distributor in the U.S. who will distribute them down the west coast."
Currently Woods has about 100 males, and 500 breeding females. Prices range from $200 to $10,000.
“Prices do vary. Typically in pet stores, customers want to spend about $300 or under,” Woods said.
Ball pythons are native to central and western Africa and thrive in warm, tropical areas.
“Because of where they come from, if they were to get outside here, once September hits, they would not survive. They are not considered an invasive species. They are harmless because they are non-venomous constrictors," Woods said.
“They are nocturnal, so, they sleep during the day. Their favourite places to go are termite mounds. So, that’s where they can be found. They burrow during the day to keep out of the hot sun and come out at night to hunt for food.”
Ball python hatchlings are approximately 10 inches in length.
“Eggs are as big as a 60-watt light bulb, and a female can have about six eggs at a time,” Woods said.
“Females lay eggs they incubate the eggs for 53 days. When they hatch, the babies crawl away and the mother crawls away. Her job is done. The babies fend for themselves right from the start.”
With proper care, ball pythons can live 30 years or more.
Juvenile ball pythons do well in small enclosures that make them feel secure. Woods says a small snake in a big cage can become overwhelmed and stressed.
“Ball pythons are very reluctant to bite.They are called a ball python because when they are scared or being attacked, they curl up in a ball to protect their head,” Woods said.
Woods is always eager to share information and advice when it comes to ball pythons.
“We all have our own interests. Some people can't have conventional pets because they are allergic to cats or dogs. Often, people just find snakes and reptiles fascinating,” Woods said.
“What I really enjoy is seeing a snake hatch out with new colour or different pattern. It’s almost like I get to experience Christmas a few times a week. You never know what you’re going to get.”
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