Bringing a snake home

Alon Frank and a friendly neighborhood serpent. (photo credit: JASON SHALTIEL)
Alon Frank and a friendly neighborhood serpent.
(photo credit: JASON SHALTIEL)
Under a hollow rock in a spacious top-floor apartment in the middle of Beit Shemesh rests Charlie, a 1.6-meter- long boa constrictor. And Charlie is man’s best friend, according to his owner, Alon Frank, a 44-year-old butcher from Amsterdam.
“People think, why? It’s not like a dog, it’s an evil creature – Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden. Well, it’s nothing like that,” Frank asserts while holding Charlie, who is sliding around his shoulders.
With a collection consisting of four snakes, a dog, two guinea pigs and dozens of rodents that he feeds to his limbless reptiles and sells to other snake enthusiasts, Frank has turned a hobby of raising pets into a lifestyle. However, his home seems like any other.
The house is clean and neatly arranged; it contains all the essential furnishings, with plenty of space for guests and family members. Several paintings and carved drawings adorn the living room walls, many of them crafted by his wife, Tzippy. His two fist-sized guinea pigs munch on vegetables in a cage near the kitchen, and his eight-year-old pooch, a pug, sleeps on the couch across from Charlie’s glass tank, which is placed against a wall.
Frank picked up his first snake, a ball python, two years ago after his wife encouraged him to purchase it.
“I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning at all,” he recalls, adding that he has learned a lot since his first snake perished due to a burn.
He has handled six snakes in total. The four in his current collection are Stripey, a ball python; Picasso, a corn snake; and Charlie and Cindy, both boa constrictors.
Each of the snakes has its own distinct color palette, with Picasso’s being the most pronounced. A shade of light orange lines Picasso’s smooth, slim form, and spots of red pop in a sequence along his back, forming entrancing circles.
“We named him Picasso because he is beautiful,” Frank says softly as the small snake slides along his fingers.
Some of the draws of having a snake as a pet are that they require little maintenance aside from cleaning, they don’t need to be walked, they’re non-allergenic, and they can exhibit affection through their behavior. As Charlie slides around Frank’s arms, the snake takes notice of others around him, retreating and moving his neck closer to his owner as curious strangers move their hands forward.
The price of a typical corn snake ranges from $30 to $100. They’re relatively small compared to other snakes, growing up to 180 cm., and are easier to handle.
Ball pythons and boa constrictors can be bought for $100 to $1,000. While Frank says they’re easy to handle, they often leave large messes from shedding and excreting, due to their size: A ball python can grow up to 1.5 m., while a boa constrictor can grow as long as 3 m.
The price of a snake often depends on its color and its sex. Females are more expensive than males, because multiple females are often used to breed with a single male, which has raised demand.
Pairing snakes of different colors, meanwhile, can create offspring with different “color morphs.”
Many snake enthusiasts have taken an interest in color morphing, with hundreds of online boards and Facebook groups (the most noteworthy being Boa Constrictor Keepers) created for those who want guidance in raising and breeding their snakes – or who simply want to show off.
Frank says one of his ultimate aspirations is to breed his collection someday.
“The satisfaction is when they grow well,” he says. “That is the ultimate goal – to one day breed them and get more mutations and beautiful colors.”
Contact Alon Frank at