Recently I had the great pleasure of speaking with Brian Gundy, owner of For Goodness Snakes. Well known for his outstanding work with ball python’s and educational talks on a wide variety of reptiles, Brian has one of the most desirable reptile collection’s in the world.

Have a look at what we spoke about.

Q.   How did you first get in to the hobby and what was your first reptile?

A.   As a young boy growing up in in San Jose Ca.

My two older brothers and I caught a gopher snake when I was about 5 years old. Lucky for us both of  my parents were very comfortable around all animals. By the time I was 10 we had collected just about every  type of reptile that could be found in the San Francisco Bay Area. At 12 I purchased my first boa constrictor.  During the day I would keep him in this real nice cage that my dad built for me, but at night I would put him on  a tree limb that I had suspended from the ceiling of my room. It was so cool, I would wake up in the morning  and look strait up from my bed to see my 6 foot boa crawling around the limb. I was hooked from the moment  I touched my first snake. 

When I graduated from high school I started working at an animal hospital. Lucky for me one of the vets that I worked with specialized in exotics so before I knew it I was working around all sorts of exotic animals including reptiles, mountain lions, cheetahs, African lions, wolves, and chimps. 

In 1990 I started purchasing colubrids from some of the best breeders in the country, Bob Applegate, Steve Osborn, Dwyane Richard and Loyd Lemki and began to focus on breeding rather than just collecting snakes. In 1995 I met a guy at work that also had colubrids so before you knew it we became partners. It wasn’t long before my partner Mike Austin and I were producing over 300 colubrids a year. It was actually his wife that came up with our business name "For Goodness Snakes”. After breeding and selling colubrids for about 12 years I started getting burnt out. I was actually in the process of selling out my colubrid collection when I saw a photograph of a pied ball python. So I took the money that I had gained from selling my colubrid collection and started purchasing ball pythons. At that time pieds were selling for $25,000 each.

Q.     If you were to start over again, what gene would you work with?

A.  I wouldn’t change a thing, It’s always been and will always be the pied and pied combos.

Q.   It seems like some genes are undervalued and are not seen in many collections. What genes would you like to see more of?

A.  The crystal is one of my favorites and you just don’t see many around. I’d like to produce a Gold Blush OD  GHI crystals someday. 

Q.     What would you say is your favorite combo that you have ever hatched?

A.  I’ve hatched out 5 amazing looking double visual yellow striped pied clowns. I’ve also hatched out some gold  blush pastel fire mojaves that are so fun to look at.

Q.    Can you tell us about any breeding you are most looking forward to this season?

A.  The gold blush trait has been my pet project for the last 10 years. After many years of working with this  project I was finally able to isolate the gene trait. I’m hoping to prove this year that the gold blush has a  super form. The fun part is that you never know what the super form of any co-dominant gene trait will look  like until it’s produced. To tell you the truth it really doesn’t matter what the super form looks like as long as  I’m able to prove that it is in fact co-dominant. The gold blush trait works as an enhancer gene something  like a fire or yellow belly. My goal as a breeder is to eventually have gold blush mixed in with every project  I’m working with.

Q.     What are your views on maternal incubation and have you ever done this yourself?

A.  I’m all for Maternal incubation I’m just not ready to take that plunge. 

Q.     Is there any genes that you don’t work with and never will?

A. The bamboo is one of those traits that just doesn’t do much fo me, another one is the champagne.

Q.    Do you think there is anything missing from the hobby or can be improved on?

A.  Yeah my concern is that the focus seems to be on how many genes we can layer into one snake. When I  hear people like Keven MCurley say that he really can’t tell which base morphs are included in his combos  then I wonder if our focus is more on producing muts rather than to focus on quality. I’m sometimes  embarrassed when people send me photos of their baby ball pythons to identify. I see a huge amount of ODs  that look more like normals or enchis that look like normals. I hope that someday there will be a grading  system. In other parts of the world like Indonesia when they have reptile expos there are judges that will pick  best of show. I hope someday that quality will be as important or more important than how many  genes can be layered into one animal.

Q.   With the scaleless Ball python missing Heat pits, how do you feel about this gene?

A.  I have no problem with the scaleless project. Remember just because the pits are missing doesn’t mean  they can’t still sense heat. The heat sensors are still there the scales that used too cover them are gone. 

Q. In the past, a few people have tried to breed female desert ball pythons. As they have reproductive problems and are deemed unfit to breed, do you think a super will ever be made if another sex-linked gene were attached e.g. banana this may have an effect on the female?

A.  I hope that someday we can find a way for the deserts to re-produce. It’s one of my all time favorite morphs.

Q.   How many reptiles do you have in your collection at the moment and do you have any plans to expand?

A.  I have around 200 sub adult and adult ball pythons in my collection and I produce about 150 baby snakes per  year. Along with the 200 snakes and a colony of 200 rats I also do about 300 educational reptile  presentations per year in the SF Bay Area. I’m one of the real lucky ones I get to do this for a living, but have  no plans to expand.

Q.   Are you making any changes when breeding this year with regards to temperature, bedding, incubation ect…

A.  I’ve spent the last 30 years or so fine-tuning the art of breeding snakes. Right now 25 out of the 30 adult  females on my breeding team are gravid and the season is still young. I always say if it works don’t fix it. 

Q.   Finally, Do you have any top tips for all the breeders out there?

A.  For the new breeders I would advise that you keep your temps no lower than 80 degrees during the  breeding season. If your snake’s temperature goes below 80 for any length of time you will increase the likely  hood of your ball python getting RI. 

If you want huge clutches and you want your females to be in decent weight after they drop their  clutches begin feeding your adult females as much as they want to eat beginning in November.  Keep your cages and water as clean as possible. Having a highest level of health in your collection will  decrease the quantity of visits to the vet. It’s always best to be proactive rather than reactive.

For some reason there seems to be a huge level of importance with humidity when it comes to keeping ball  pythons. Most people are amazed or shocked when I tell them that I don’t measure humidity and I don’t do  anything to add humidity to my ball python’s environment. In fact I do everything I can to keep my ball  python’s environment as dry as possible by using newspaper as the substrait. Remember I went to the  college of colubrids. The only time I increased the humidity to my colubrid's environment was just before their  shed and during incubation. Colubrids are terrestrial snakes just like ball pythons. If ball pythons spend most  of their time underground just like colubrids do then why would we concern ourselves with humidity when  keeping ball pythons. A corn snake living 12 inches underground in Florida will most likely see the same  levels of humidity as a ball python living 12 inches underground in West Africa. So why the fuss? My ball  pythons thrive with no humidity at all.

 From breeding ball pythons to spotting wildlife Brian talks about a range of topics through his YouTube channel and over the years I have learned so much from him. I'm confident that you too will be sure to find lots of useful information on a variety of animals.

Here are a few links to the For Goodness Snakes YouTube and Website.

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