How To Help Your Snake Shed Its Skin

Every snake owner knows that as their pet grows it will shed its skin. Normally, this process is accomplished quickly, easily, and without any issues. However, some snake species are prone to “bad” sheds or problem sheds where the entire skin does not come off in one neat, tubular piece.

Because incomplete sheds can become a health issue for a pet snake of any species, we’re dedicating this article to explaining what we do to remedy this problem at the Backwater Reptiles facility.

The Ideal Shedding Process

A normal shed occurs when a snake’s skin comes off in one single, tubular, opaque piece. It’s a very cool process and when your pet snake has completed a shed successfully, you actually have a really cool souvenir.

When a snake sheds its skin normally, the process is referred to as ecdysis. When the process doesn’t go smoothly and the skin sheds in flakes, pieces, or fails to come off properly in any way, the proper term becomes dysecdysis.

black blood python
Healthy snakes with proper husbandry and humidity in their enclosure should shed their skin in one solid piece.

You can tell your pet snake is preparing to shed its skin because not only will its behavior change, its physical appearance will also change.

Many snakes will go into hiding prior to shedding. They will retreat into their hide box and tend to stay pretty immobile most of the time. They might also become aggressive or refuse food if you offer it. But don’t worry. If you notice your snake has become lethargic, you can also detect changes in its physical appearance that will tell you that your pet is not ill, but just preparing to shed.

Prior to shedding, snakes will develop grey, cloudy looking eyes. You will also notice that their skin appears duller in nature. For instance, many snakes have shiny, iridescent scales. You will be able to see them become less brilliant in color and the iridescence may disappear altogether.

Side note: When you notice the signs that your snake is preparing to shed, you should handle it as little as possible. You also should avoid feeding as odds are the snake won’t eat the food being offered anyway.

Often times, your pet snake will shed without you even being aware of the process. You might notice a change in behavior and appearance one day, go to sleep, and wake up the next morning with a clean tube of snake skin waiting for you in the cage.

Solution Number One – Giving Your Pet Snake a Bath

If you do notice that your snake has shed some skin but not cleanly, the first solution we’d recommend would be to provide a large soaking dish within your snake’s cage if there is not already one provided. Often times problem sheds are caused by lack of humidity, so providing a bowl or water dish where your snake can go to naturally remedy the problem is a good place to start.

But what if you have an arboreal snake that doesn’t necessarily enjoy a good soak? Well, then you may just have to help the snake by giving it a bath or confining it to a sealed container with water for a time.

We recommend manually giving the snake a bath only if you know your snake has a pleasant temperament. You don’t want to try bathing and removing stuck skin on a grumpy snake.

If your snake is small enough, calm enough, and receptive enough to a manual bath, then fill a bowl or basin with lukewarm water. You want to be careful the water is not too cold or too hot as you don’t want to shock the snake’s system. Carefully immerse the snake in the water while making sure its head doesn’t get submerged. Many small snakes will let you hold them and dip them in the water. You can also dribble water over the snake while holding it if your snake doesn’t enjoy being in the water fully.

While manually bathing, it’s also useful to massage the snake’s body where the problem skin resides. Generally, once the skin has moistened, it will loosen naturally and you can gently rub it off.

If your snake is too large for the manual bath method or gets grumpy easily, then obtain a container with a lid that is large enough to hold your snake. Fill the container with enough lukewarm water so that your snake is submerged as much as possible but does not have to swim. You don’t want your snake to drown!

Once your container holds the appropriate amount of water, it can be helpful to place a rough object in the pool with the snake. This is because the snake will rub against it, either intentionally or unintentionally, and this will help remove the remaining skin. We’d recommend a textured rock or brick – just be sure there are no sharp edges for the snake to injure itself on.

The final step is obviously to place your snake in the container and shut the lid so that it has no choice but to hydrate. We always recommend standing by or placing the container somewhere it is always visible. It is never wise to leave a soaking reptile of any kind unattended, despite taking all the proper precautions.

If all goes well with the confined soak, you should be able to gently slough off any remaining skin pieces very easily after about fifteen to thirty minutes without harming the snake.

Solution Number Two – Putting a Rough or Coarse Object in the Snake’s Enclosure

Sometimes all a snake needs in order to complete a tough shed is something rough to rub itself against.

If you’ve noticed your snake soaking itself, placing a rough object in the cage is probably the easiest and most low maintenance solution.

Just like with the manual bath/soak method, a textured stone or a piece of brick can work wonders. As previously mentioned, please be sure that even though the object is rough that there are no sharp edges for the snake to cut itself on.

Once the object is in the cage, keep a close eye on the progress of the snake. If the problem skin still isn’t fully coming off, you can always try a confined soak or manual bath to finish off the process.

Solution Number Three – Use a Commercial Shed Aid 

If all else fails, there are actually commercially produced reptile shed aid solutions that can assist your snake through a tough shed.

These products are essentially “snake conditioners” and can be used in conjunction with the soak/bath method.

You can use the products by adding them to the snake’s bath itself, or you can lightly coat your snake after it has had a bath to help remove any remaining skin pieces.

We’d like to make note that we prefer the natural method of lukewarm water because nine times out of ten, this method will eliminate any stuck pieces of skin.

Troublesome Eye Caps

One aspect of problematic sheds that we’d like to touch upon specifically is what to do when your snake doesn’t properly shed its eye caps. Just for reference, the eye caps, or spectacles as some like to call them, are the scales that cover the snake’s eyes. Because snakes lack eyelids, they have a special scale to protect and keep their eyes moist. This scale can often stay put during problem sheds and can require special tactics to remove safely.

Retained eye caps can occur with both normal and problematic sheds. If you notice after any kind of shedding that your snake’s eyes are still cloudy, you might have to intervene and remove the eye caps yourself.

Because your snake’s vision will be impaired, sometimes it will make the necessary efforts to remove the retained spectacle itself. You may have to do nothing at all. We recommend making sure there are rough surfaces for the snake to rub on within its enclosure and waiting a day or two after noticing the problem. If the eye cap is still present, then you should make efforts to remove it manually.

bull snake pre-shed
Although this bull snake is only in pre-shed mode, a retained eye cap will look cloudy and grey like this snake’s eyes. It may also appear somewhat wrinkled.

Make sure that you are confident and comfortable handling your pet snake before you attempt to remove retained eye caps by yourself. It requires patience, confidence, and a knowledge of your snake’s mannerisms and temperament.

The first thing you should do is to moisten the eye cap. Because snakes don’t like to have their heads submerged under water, we recommend dribbling lukewarm water onto the affected eye cap and allowing it to sink in as much as possible. Next, gently rub the eye cap with a q-tip or fingertip. Make sure you have a light touch. This is simply to attempt to begin the process as you will usually need tweezers to completely remove the eye cap.

After you’ve softly rubbed the retained cap enough that you can see an edge, very carefully  grip the loosened edge with your blunt tweezers. Please don’t use sharp or pointy tweezers because if your snake jerks or moves, it could spell disaster. Very slowly remove the retained spectacle using the tweezers. Don’t pry – if it is not coming off with gentle manipulation, it needs to be moistened more or your snake might need to make a trip to the vet.

Make sure to monitor your snake’s behavior closely during this entire process. Many snakes will sit calmly through the process, but others will not like you being that close to their head and may start to show signs of aggression, even if they are normally well-behaved.

It will take some time and lots of patience, but with proper moistening and effort, you should be able to remove the eye cap safely.

Side note: If your snake has several layers of unshed eye caps (usually only happens with poor husbandry habits), or if it is known for being aggressive, it’s probably best to take the snake to your local veterinarian. They will be able to properly anesthetize the animal and remove the eye caps during that time.

Preventing Future Problematic Sheds

The number one reason why snakes have issues with shedding is that their enclosure is not humid enough. Although different species from different habitats will obviously require different humidity levels, most species tend to need anywhere from fifty to seventy percent humidity.

Once you have determined the proper humidity level that is required for your species of snake, there are several things you can do to maintain this humidity.

The number one thing is to make sure your snake has a water dish! This should be common sense as snakes do actually drink water, but having water present in the snake’s immediate environment is key. You can also place an under the tank heating mat directly underneath the water source to help speed evaporation and therefore increase humidity within the cage.

Another option is to include a moisture box in your snake’s home. What this usually entails is creating a separate hide box and filling it with a substrate that retains moisture well such as sphagnum moss or moist paper towels. Be sure to check your moisture box frequently for mold though as you don’t want to unintentionally create a toxic environment for your snake.

And lastly, instead of altering the humidity levels within the snake’s cage, you can actually change the humidity within the room itself. Just go to any drug store or big box retailer and buy a humidifier. A hygrometer can help you measure the humidity in the room to make sure it is at the proper level for your snake.

Helping Large or Temperamental Snakes Through Problem Sheds

If your snake is very large, or if it has a bad temper, it might simply be wisest to take the snake to the vet to assist with an incomplete shed. This is particularly true if you are having trouble with retained eye caps.

However, this is pretty much going to be up to the discretion of the owner. Most snakes will put up with a certain level of handling, even if they do have a testy disposition.

We would however recommend that you wear leather gloves or some other form of protection if you know that your snake is prone to biting.

Conclusion

Snakes make wonderful pets, but like all reptiles, it’s very possible that you will have to deal with an incomplete or problem shed at some point during your snake’s life.

This article is intended to help out should your own pet snake encounter this issue as well as help prevent this issue from occurring in the first place.

If you have any other tips or suggestions for how you’ve helped your own snake through a difficult shed, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

 

How Do Snakes Eat?

Even if you’ve never owned a pet snake or seen one up close in real life, we bet you’re aware that snakes can swallow food that is much larger than their head in a single bite. How cool is that? But, how do snakes eat other animals?

As humans, we not only cut up our food into manageable portions, we also chew it until it is the proper consistency to be swallowed. It’s hard to imagine trying to swallow an entire cow or even an entire carrot whole, but that’s what snakes do.

How do snakes eat?

So, how are snakes able to eat this way without choking? What unique adaptations do they possess that allow them to eat so efficiently? Well, if you’re curious about this topic at all, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article, we’ll cover topics from how a snake’s jaw is built to other special traits they have in order to be such powerhouse eating machines.

how do snakes eat
Snakes are able to eat food that is literally larger than their own head. They have special jaws that give them an enhanced range of movement. This photo shows a Hog Island Boa (Boa c. imperator) consuming a mouse. This particular snake is a picky eater and therefore had to be fed a live mouse rather than one that had been frozen.

What do wild snakes eat?

As is the case with many wild animals, snakes are opportunistic eaters and usually will eat a variety of food based on what types of prey can be found in their vicinity. Keep in mind that all snakes are carnivores though, so there are no species that eat plants or vegetable matter.

Most mid-size snakes will eat small vertebrates, usually mammals. Ground-dwelling rodents such as mice, shrews, voles, rats, and even moles are all excellent meals for snakes in the wild. However, mid-size snakes are also not afraid to indulge in appropriately-sized vertebrates such as frogs, toads, small birds, and even other snakes!

Larger snakes can obviously eat larger food. North American species that don’t grow to extremely large sizes will eat chickens, lizards, rabbits, and other large rodents.

Some of the larger snake species (i.e. boas, pythons, and anacondas) can eat large game animals such as deer, boar, and even goats. However, this is usually reserved for jungle-dwelling species that eat wild game animals.

green anaconda
Snake species such as this green anaconda (Eunectes murinus) will grow so large that in time they will eat small game animals!

We’ve covered what large snakes eat in the wild. But, what do tiny snakes such as ringneck snakes and blind snakes eat in the wild? What prey items are small enough for these nearly earthworm-sized reptiles to consume?

Well, many will eat small invertebrates in place of vertebrates. Small insects like cockroaches, crickets, and even worms are all on the menu for these itty bitty snake species.

Notice anything in particular about this list of prey items? All of them are listed as “prey” and not “food.” This is because snakes actually won’t eat dead matter. They will only eat living food, or in the case of snakes we keep as pets, food that they perceive to be living prey.

How does a snake’s jaw work?

The jaw of a snake is very different from the jaw on mammals and other reptiles such as lizards and tortoises. Most mammals and reptiles that are not snakes have a skull and a lower jaw bone called a mandible.

These two main bones are generally fused together and unable to perform too broad of a range of movement other than opening and closing and perhaps a little shifting from side to side.

Snakes have jaws that are much more flexible and capable of a broad range of movement. This is because instead of two pieces that are fused together, the jaws of a snake are comprised of three pieces that are held together by much more flexible tendons, muscles, and ligaments.

Snakes have a top skull bone and two bottom jaw pieces that are actually not fused together at the chin. Instead, these two bottom jaw pieces are held together by muscle allowing each side of the jaw to move independently of each other.

Getting into the nitty gritty anatomy of a snake’s jaw, the upper bone and lower bones are connected via the quadrate bone. This special bone behaves like a hinge and allows for the snake’s jaw to open 150 degrees!

This means that any snake can open its mouth to swallow food that for all intents and purposes appears too large for it to eat.

snake jaw
This diagram shows the inner workings of a snake’s jaw. Notice the quadrate bone and how it behaves like a hinge allowing the snake to open its jaws to such a wide angle.

One myth that we’d like to clear up regarding a snake’s jaw bones is that a snake’s jaw can actually come unhinged or detached. This is not true. Snakes don’t detach their jaw bones on command.

As we’ve already discussed, they simply have special adaptations that make their jaws extremely flexible and this makes it appear that the jaw detaches.

If you’ve ever witnessed a snake eating, you’ll know that although you’d think it would be a very slow and tedious process, most snakes eat very quickly and will consume their prey in under five minutes.

This is because once the jaws have opened over the prey, the snake’s curved teeth grab the prey and make sure it doesn’t slip forward and out of the snake’s wide open mouth.

The snake then secretes a lot of saliva and lubricates the food while “walking” its jaws forward over the prey one side at a time. The digestive muscles then take over the remainder of the process and push the food further down the digestive tract and proper digestion begins.

How do snakes catch their prey?

If snakes have no arms, legs, or even claws of any sort to catch prey, how then do they capture food to eat? What special abilities do they have to make up for their lack of arms and legs?

As we’re sure you’re aware, some species of snakes are venomous. They have long, hollow, front fangs that grab prey and inject them with venom that allows the snake to eat the prey item at its leisure.

Examples of venomous snakes that most Americans are familiar with are vipers, coral snakes, and rattle snakes.

Did you know that each species of snake actually possesses its own special venom type? The effects of the venom can vary by species, but there are three main types – neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, and hemotoxins.

Neurotoxins affect the nervous system and generally cause respiratory function to cease. Cardiotoxins affect the prey’s heart, causing the muscles to deteriorate and eventually make the heart stop beating.

Hemotoxins cause blood vessels to rupture which results in widespread internal bleeding.

Boa dumerili
This Dumerils Boa (Boa dumerili) is a typical constrictor. It will suffocate its prey before eating it and does not possess fangs like venomous snakes.

When a venomous snake is not biting something, its hollow fangs fold back into the snake’s mouth. This is because if the fangs didn’t lie flat, the snake would either be incapable of closing its mouth or its teeth would puncture through the bottom of its own face.

Most other non-venomous snakes are constrictors, meaning that once they lunge and grab their prey, they begin to squeeze the animal until it has suffocated to death allowing the snake to eat freely. Each time the prey inhales, the snake’s coils tighten and the prey is unable to take another breath.

So, whether the snake injects venom or squeezes its food to death, it’s clear that lacking limbs poses no problems for these reptiles when it comes to grabbing a meal.

How should I feed my snake in captivity?

Snakes are usually not hard to feed in captivity. Most smaller species will happily eat mice their entire life, while the larger constrictor species will eventually move onto rats.

If you’re squeamish about feeding a living rodent to your pet snake, luckily most snakes will eat pre-killed frozen rodents. All you need to do is keep the frozen rodent in your freezer until it’s meal time for your snake and then you de-thaw it.

We usually allow our frozen mice to thaw in warm water, but you can also just allow them to sit out until they’ve completely thawed. Just be sure to NEVER put a frozen rodent in the microwave!

You will have disastrous and rather messy results and end up with a snake that goes hungry.

Sometimes, snakes can be picky eaters. This is usually only true of the ones that are wild-caught. Captive bred snakes will generally accept frozen/thawed rodents with no issue.

If you do end up with a picky eater, you can certainly feed it living rodents. Pet stores sell feeder mice specifically for this very reason. There will be a few extra steps to the feeding process though.

First of all, we don’t recommend throwing a live mouse in with your snake in its normal enclosure. No matter if you’re feeding a live rodent or a frozen one to your snake, we highly recommend transferring your snake to a new enclosure for the feeding process.

This helps your snake to associate being moved to a specific area with feeding time and helps develop a schedule. It also trains your snake to recognize that not every time the cage opens means feeding time and will help minimize accidental striking and biting.

So, the first step when feeding a live rodent is to transfer your snake to a separate feeding container. Once you’ve done this, we recommend stunning your live rodent. This process is certainly not for the faint hearted.

There are many ways to stun a rodent, but many snake owners will strike the mouse against a hard surface to knock it unconscious. The rodent should be stunned because like any animal, it will fight for its life and this means that if your snake doesn’t consume the rodent immediately, the rodent could actually gnaw on your snake and inflict wounds that will get infected.

If you are simply unable to stun your snake’s dinner, then always stick around for the entire feeding process and make sure that the mouse or rat is not injuring the snake in any way.

If your snake turns out to not have an appetite, which can happen often if the snake is preparing to shed, then always remove the rodent from the enclosure and return your snake to its normal enclosure. Never leave the rodent around assuming the snake will eventually eat it.

There are also specific species of snakes such as egg eating snakes, water snakes, and tiny snakes like ringneck snakes that don’t eat mice. Obviously, egg eating snakes eat eggs.

They’re specialized eaters and won’t eat rodents no matter how hungry they are. Water snakes might eat rodents, but usually they eat small reptiles and amphibians in the wild, so we recommend offering feeder frogs and even feeder fish.

green water snake
Specialized snake species such as this green water snake probably won’t eat rodents like a “traditional” pet snake. We recommend doing your research before you purchase any species of snake to be sure that you can properly address its food requirements.

If you ever happen to end up with a snake that proves to be a troublesome eater, we actually wrote an entire blog article dedicated to offering tips and tricks to get them to eat. You can find that particular article here.

Conclusion – How do snakes eat?

Snakes are fascinating reptiles and watching your pet snake eat is usually quite a spectacle. Most snake owners genuinely enjoy observing the feeding process and it’s a huge reason many reptile hobbyists choose to care for snakes.

We hope that this “How do snakes eat?” article has taught you some things about how snakes have evolved to be able to eat food that is much larger than their own head. We think it’s a really cool adaptation and we never grow tired of feeding the snakes we keep at Backwater Reptiles.

 

 

Misrepresentations of Snakes in Movies

Welcome to our ultimate guide to snakes in movies. We’re a reptile company, so naturally we have a better perspective on the subject than your average Joe.

It’s a given that we all love reptiles at Backwater Reptiles, so it also makes sense that we love seeing some of our favorite scaly, slithering snakes on the big screen in movies. Don’t you?

However, one thing that kind of bugs us is when the critters we love get misrepresented in cinema. For instance, being snake fanatics, we know that often times non-venomous species of snakes are depicted as venomous in order to create a sense of danger because non-snake folks don’t know any better.

So, in this blog article, we’ll discuss some common tropes associated with snakes in film and why their incorrect portrayal of our scaly companions can sometimes be annoying.

snakes in movies
We’re always happy to see snakes in movies, but they do tend to be misrepresented or stereotyped.

Snakes in Movies – The Ultimate list

Oversized or Giant Monster Snakes in Movies

It’s common knowledge that members of the boidae and pythonidae families (boas, pythons, and anacondas) are the largest species of snakes in the world.

However, often times, these snakes will be depicted on screen as enormous, monster, killer snakes. If you’re going to put a snake in a movie, why not use a huge one, right?

There are a few SyFy channel original movies starring killer giant snakes such as “Piranhaconda,” “Mega Snake,” and “Boa Vs. Python.” However, although these films are relevant to this discussion, we’re intentionally leaving them out due to their intended gimmicky nature and the fact that they played on television and not in movie theaters.

Probably the best example of an oversized killer snake within recent memory is the 1997 flick “Anaconda” starring Jennifer Lopez, Jon Voight, and Ice Cube. While this movie does in fact place the anaconda in the correct native habitat, the snake itself is depicted as larger than life.

In reality, the largest reported anaconda was twenty eight feet long and had a recorded girth of forty-four inches. This is obviously a huge snake, but the killer snake represented in “Anaconda” was large enough to consume Jon Voight’s character whole in one bite with no trouble or resistance.

While anacondas can eat large prey items like deer and pigs, it’s highly unlikely one would get big enough to accomplish this feat so easily.

anaconda movie poster
It’s clear from the tagline of this movie poster that “Anaconda” is a movie where a giant snake is out to “get you.”

We’d also like to mention that a snake so large would most likely not be as energetic or active as the anaconda in the film. Sure, anacondas are quick to strike, but they are not typically considered speedy.

Perhaps in water they are nimble, but overall, these heavy animals lie in wait for their prey and don’t tend to seek it out or chase after it.

The bottom line is that oversized, gigantic and monstrous snakes in movies can be fun but they are also misleading. People who don’t know better might actually think that anacondas commonly grow to the proportions shown in the film, which is just not true.

And because we sell snakes to the public and believe in educating our customers, it can be annoying to have incorrect portrayals of the creatures we love so much in the media.

Overly Bad Tempered Snakes in Movies

While it’s clearly not a film meant to be taken seriously, “Snakes on a Plane” is an epic misrepresentation of the temperament of snakes as a whole. No matter the species of snake, the ones on Samuel L. Jackson’s plane are mean and out for vengeance which is a completely inaccurate picture of the disposition of snakes in general.

Whether they’re attacking people in the lavatory or actively chasing potential victims down the crowded aisles of the plane, the snakes in this film are certainly overly aggressive. Even in real life, venomous snakes don’t chase people or seek out ways in which to harm them, no matter how small the space they are in.

While there might not be too many other films specifically dedicated to multitudes of snakes murdering people in confined spaces, we feel that it’s safe to say that in general, snakes cast as the “bad guy” or meant to be a threat to a character in some way or other are nearly always shown as being unrealistically bad tempered.

Because we handle snakes on a regular basis at the Backwater Reptiles facility, we know that in real life, most snakes prefer to hide and be left to their own devices.

Some species don’t mind interacting with people, but many snake species that are not bred in captivity will only bite as a last resort. They will usually choose to try and escape from you rather than seek you out and come after you.

The bottom line is that snakes chasing down humans – whether the snakes are normal-sized like those in “Snakes on a Plane” or monstrous like the previously discussed killer snake in “Anaconda” – is a myth.

While we know the truth about how to handle snakes of different dispositions ranging from grumpy to docile, not everyone does. We think portrayals of snakes with bad tempers gives people the wrong idea and more reason to vilify these already misunderstood animals.

Snakes as Comic Relief in Movies

There are several instances where snakes are cast as comic relief in films. Have you seen “City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold”? There is one scene in particular in this comedy where a character believes he has been bitten on the rear end by a rattlesnake, when in reality, he just sat on a cactus. Clearly, the rattlesnake is the butt of the joke so to speak in this scenario.

If you’ve seen any of the original Indiana Jones flicks, you’ll remember that our hero Indie has quite a dislike for our slithering pals, and there’s an epic snake pit involved (full of snakes that have no business being in Egypt, by the way).

While the actual snakes present in the film never do anything that makes them seem funny or silly, their screen time is met with a laugh from the audience due to how they make Indiana Jones so uncomfortable.

The sentiment behind the joke being that such a masculine, virile, explorer who can tackle life threatening situations daily can’t handle a few serpents makes the snakes funny.

In our opinion, this is one of the few snake-related jokes in a movie series that’s okay by us. Because we handle, feed, and ship out snakes on a daily basis, it’s old hat for us to be around snakes of all personality types.

While we know that many people do have a phobia of snakes, we can’t say we understand it since we love these animals so much. It’s hard for us to sympathize with anyone, let alone an action hero, who is afraid of these amazing reptiles.

Another more well-known instance in which snakes are cast in a humorous light is in Disney animated films. We’ve all seen “The Jungle Book” and know of the snake Kaa’s scenes with Mowgli. Kaa’s attempts to hypnotize Mowgli and eat him are met with disapproval and ultimately humiliation.

Another animated Disney snake of note is Sir Hiss from “Robin Hood.” Sir Hiss is the henchman of Prince John and as a rule of thumb, henchmen tend to be silly, stupid, or foolish characters in cartoon movies. Sir Hiss is no exception as his attempts to warn Price John are always met with temper tantrums and punishment.

sir hiss
This screen capture from Disney’s “Robin Hood” shows that Sir Hiss is definitely cast as comic relief in this scene.

Granted, Disney animated cartoons with anthropomorphic critter characters are obviously not meant to be taken as serious representations of what animals are really like, but these caricatures are usually based on stereotypes.

Although it might be entertaining to cast snakes as nitwitted characters that always over-pronounce their “S” sounds in their speech, we think it’s a definite over simplification of the true nature of these fascinating animals.

Snakes have personalities just like other pets, plus they should definitely be respected regardless of whether or not they are a non-venomous constrictor or a dangerous black mamba.

While casting them as comic relief doesn’t cause them to be misunderstood in the same manner that casting them as villains does, we still think it’s an unjust, albeit far more pleasant role for them to play in film.

Snakes as Villains in Movies

The most well-known, recent example we can think of where snakes are credited as being villainous is the Harry Potter series. Obviously these movies were books first, but the representation of snakes as evil or wicked remains true in both the novels and the films.

In the second Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” a giant snake called a basilisk is running rampant throughout Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The entirety of the film is spent trying to locate the “monster” that resides within the Chamber and save the students from being killed or petrified. This is an example of two common snake tropes in action – both the gigantic snake and the villainous snake are at play in the character of the basilisk.

Although there is no such animal in real life, the mythical basilisk is known for being able to kill with a single glance, which is also true in the Harry Potter film. What could possibly be more malevolent than a creature that kills you before you can even see it coming?

harry potter basilisk
Harry Potter is battling the evil basilisk in this scene.

Aside from the basilisk, the all time worst villain in the Harry Potter series, Lord Voldemort, keeps a “pet” snake that he actually instills with part of himself. This snake is akin to Voldemort’s “familiar” and actually helped him be reborn and ascend back into power by giving its venom to sustain and feed him when he was weak.

And while we’re on the subject, Lord Voldemort himself can speak Parseltongue, which is the language of serpents. And it is a well-known fact within the wizarding community that the ability to speak to snakes tends to mark one as being a practitioner of dark magic.

In addition, Voldemort’s dark mark that he brands all of his followers with is the image of a snake intertwined with a skull. And the crest of one of the four houses of Hogwarts, Slytherin, that is reputed to have produced all the wizards who ultimately end up siding with Voldemort and practicing the dark arts, also features a snake as its center piece.

While we’re fully aware that Harry Potter is clearly a work of fiction and fantasy, there is no doubt that snakes are a symbol and representation of all that is evil in this particular series of movies. They have no redeeming qualities or facets. Snakes in movies don’t get much love, do they?

Aside from Harry Potter, snakes are often cast as villains in films where massive amounts of them are out to get the often unsuspecting and otherwise innocent human beings. A few examples of this are the aforementioned “Snakes of a Plane,” “Snake Island” (2002), and “Rattlers” (1976). All of these movies feature large groups of snakes that for some weird reason just want to kill people.

While we’re not incredibly alarmed by snakes being depicted as villains in either fantasy or science fiction films, we would like to reiterate that real snakes would much rather flee from humans than seek them out and murder them.

Again, these wonderful animals are being shown in a bad light and we just wish there were more instances in film where snakes are not mean or malicious.

Rattlesnakes in the Western Genre

It’s pretty much a given that any movie in the Western genre will have a rattlesnake in it at some point or other. We have no real problem with this trope as it’s not necessarily untrue, but we do think that rattlesnakes in Westerns has gotten sort of cliche.

In most dramatic Westerns, whether they are more recent or from thirty plus years ago, rattlesnakes are simply part of the terrain. A character will often encounter one in some capacity or another.

Sometimes the hero will interact with the snake by either killing it, eating it, or being bitten by it. Nothing too alarming about that, although we still think that more often than not, rattlesnakes would rather hide from cowboys than bother them.

A good example of a snake character that utilizes nearly all the tropes listed above is Rattlesnake Jake from the 2011 animated film “Rango.” We’re a fan of this movie not only because it’s funny and appropriate for many ages and audiences, but also because many of the main characters are cartoon reptiles!

rattlesnake jake
Rattlesnake Jake clearly looks pretty villainous despite being an animated character.

Rattlesnake Jake is of course initially depicted as the villain in “Rango,” although it later comes to light that he is not as evil as some other characters, so that takes care of the “snake as villain” trope.

Jake is also comic relief at times, although we’d say “Rango” is a comedy in general, so nearly all the characters have humorous moments on screen. Jake also has a bad temper, although he doesn’t set out to hunt down innocent bystanders like many other ferocious snakes in cinema.

Conclusion – Snakes in Movies

Overall, we’re happy to see snakes in movies at all and therefore we can’t complain too much when they are easily type cast and tropes are over utilized.

However, we do think it would be nice to see snakes cast in a more positive light from time to time. What do you think? Are you happy with the way snakes are often seen in movies? What would you change? Can you name any films where snakes are portrayed as more dynamic entities?

 

How to Pick Up Your Pet Snake

If you’d like to learn how to pick up your pet snake, you’ve come to the right place. In truth, many pet reptiles and amphibians are better off as observational pets–in other words, it’s better for the animal’s health if you keep the human interaction to a minimum.

Luckily, this is not true for most species of snakes that are commonly kept as pets. In this article, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions about how to handle your pet snake.

How to pick up your pet snake

How should I pick up my snake?

We’d like to start off by stating that even docile snakes can be slightly skittish or nervous when you are in the process of removing them from their enclosure. Sometimes this is due to the temperament of the species, sometimes it is because you are waking up a sleepy snake, and other times, you might unintentionally frighten your snake.

The bottom line is that even the best pet snakes do strike out from time to time, and it is usually when they are in the process of being taken out of the cage to be held.

how to handle your pet snake
This is a gopher snake being held. Gophers aren’t traditionally “friendly” snakes, although they’re also not typically aggressive. But as you can see, most snakes are friendly once you let them grow accustomed to you.

We also recommend transferring your snake to a separate container for meals. If you feed your snake in its normal enclosure, it could begin to associate the cage opening and therefore seeing you with food. This will lead to unintentional striking and biting at you as the snake will think that every time the cage opens, it’s dinner time.

Getting your pet snake out of its cage is not as simple as grabbing it and lifting it out. There are certain things you should do and things you should also avoid.

Here are some DO’s for picking up your pet snake:

-Do grab the snake around the middle section of its body.

-Do support as much of the snake’s body as much as you can. Try letting it wrap around your fingers, arm, and wrist so that it feels secure.

-Do be confident and consistent in your mannerisms when you pick up your snake. Try not to be timid, shy, or nervous as this will translate in your body language. Consistency will teach the snake that no harm will come to it when you pick it up and it will get used to interacting with you.

sunbeam snake
When your pet snake is relatively small, it will enjoy wrapping itself around your fingers and wrist. Just make sure most of the snake is supported, and it should be a pleasant experience for both the snake and the owner.

And on the other side of things, here are some definite things you want to avoid when picking up your pet snake:

-Don’t grab the snake by the tail. Many snakes will spin or thrash around if you grab their tail, and this behavior can cause the snake bodily harm.

-Don’t pick up your snake by its head. Many snakes are “head-shy,” which means that anything suddenly touching the animal’s head will scare it and could result in biting.

-Don’t let your snake flail around in your grip. You want the animal to be relaxed and calm, which will happen if you support its body and allow it to feel safe.

What snakes react best to being handled?

Corn snakes, king snakes, boas, pythons, and milk snakes are all good snakes for people that enjoy holding and connecting with their pet through physical contact.

All of these species adapt very well to captivity and many are even captive bred so they have no parasites and are in overall peak health.

Another good thing about many of these species is that they have relatively calm temperaments and with the exception of a few species of constrictors, they also don’t usually grow overly large. Smaller snake = smaller and less harmful bite if the snake does happen to strike at you for some reason.

rubber boa
Pictured is a rubber boa. These are very calm, docile snakes and will take to being held very well.

I own a venomous pet snake. How should I pick it up?

We highly recommend that you keep the handling and interaction with venomous snake species to an absolute minimum.

Unless you are an expert, playing with, holding, and otherwise having contact with a venomous snake can spell disaster.

However, if you feel ready to own a venomous pet snake and you want to remove it from its enclosure, we highly recommend using a snake hook, which we will talk about more below.

Should I use a snake hook to pick up my snake?

If you are unfamiliar with what a snake hook is, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a metal tool with a handle on one end and a hook on the other end. They are used to handle venomous, aggressive, or nervous snakes.

snake hook
This is what a snake hook looks like. We recommend using them with venomous species as well as aggressive species.

Generally, once you get to know your pet snake and its own individual disposition, you’ll be able to read its body language. If your snake is in a defensive posture and you need to pick it up, we recommend using a snake hood to avoid being bitten.

Once you have removed the snake from the enclosure using the hook, it is usually safe to transfer it to your hands. Again, as we’ve previously mentioned, snakes tend to be at their most nervous at the initial time you are taking them out of the cage.

Conclusion – How to pick up my pet snake

Many species of snakes do well when interacting with people. Most are content to sit in the palm of your hand, but others develop habits of wrapping around your arm, shoulder, or neck.

No matter where your snake likes to sit, if you follow our tips and tricks, you’ll have a calmer, more pleasant experience each time you hold your snake.

The Smallest Pet Snakes

What are the smallest pet snakes? Most people imagine enormous constrictor snakes when they think of a pet snake. While it’s true that enormous snakes do make fulfilling pets, due to their large size, they are quite care intensive and require a large environment to call home.

The aim of this blog article is to showcase the smallest species of snakes sold at Backwater Reptiles. Small snakes deserve loving homes too and many people are surprised to learn how little space they actually do require to be healthy and happy.

The Smallest Pet Snakes List

Bimini Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

There are many species of blind snakes, but they all have one thing in common – they are tiny! In fact, blind snakes are so minuscule that they are very often mistaken for earth worms.

In addition to resembling earth worms in physical appearance, blind snakes also behave very similarly to worms. They are burrowers and are most common found in moist soil. They’ve even been known to live in garden flower pots, which is how they received their other common name – Flowerpot Snake.

the smallest pet snakes
As you can see from this photo, blind snakes very closely resemble earth worms in appearance and size. Definitely one of the smallest pet snakes.

The Bimini Blind Snake, which is one of the more common blind snake species, has very minimal care requirements. All a tiny blind snake needs for a home is a medium-sized glass jar with moist soil and a hiding place or two.

We’ve actually written a detailed care article on the Bimini blind snake that discusses everything from what these itty bitty reptiles like to eat to how to set up a habitat.

Ringneck Snake (Diadphis sp.)

Ringneck snakes are not all that much larger than some blind snakes, although you can definitely tell that a ringneck snake is not a worm.

Ringnecks are black with a bright orange collar or necklace around their neck, hence their common name.

ringneck snake
Ringneck snakes are distinguished by their orange or yellow band around their necks.

Many people assume that ringnecks are baby snakes, but the truth is that full grown, mature snakes still only grow to be approximately fifteen inches long. They also won’t usually get thicker than a pencil in diameter.

In the wild, ringnecks consume everything from worms to small invertebrates. In captivity, we recommend feeding them night crawlers, but some people have reported success giving them crickets.

Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus)

Many people are drawn to hognose snakes because they have cute upturned noses used for shoveling sand when they burrow. They can vary highly in terms of color and markings, but they are all very stout-bodied. They’re also known to resemble rattlesnakes to the untrained eye, although herp hobbyists know better.

As far as size is concerned, hognose snakes are quite a bit larger than blind snakes and ringneck snakes, but they’re still considered small pet snakes. They can grow to two to three feet long and have very long life spans for such small critters. With proper care and husbandry, hognose snakes can live to twenty years or longer!

western hognose snake
Hognose snakes are recognizable by their upturned, pig-like noses.

A snake the size of a Western hognose should be given a tank that is around twenty gallons. Unless you have a particularly large specimen, you can usually even house a breeding pair together as well.

Because hognoses are burrowers by nature, we recommend providing a sandy substrate to allow for this behavior.

Ball Python (Python regius)

Not only are ball pythons very reasonably sized as far as snakes are concerned (often considered a small pet snake), but they are also extremely mild-mannered with pleasant dispositions. This is what makes them quite possibly the most popular pet snake on the planet.

Ball pythons breed readily in captivity, which means that they are available in a multitude of morphs. You can get a ball python that is pure white and everything in between as far as markings and coloration are concerned.

ball python
Ball pythons are the most well-known pet snake on this list, as well as the largest.

Ball pythons are also the largest snake species on this list, although we’d still say that they are “small” for a pet snake. Males are typically smaller than females, reaching lengths between two to three feet long. Females will be anywhere from three to five feet long.

Conclusion – The Smallest Pet Snakes

If you’re in the market for a small pet snake and you have limited room in your home for a cage or vivarium, then we think any of the snakes on this list would be a good fit you. All of them attain reasonable sizes and are known for placid demeanors and even-tempered personalities.

 

Most Interactive Pet Reptiles

What are the most interactive pet reptiles? Some people have said to us that they don’t understand why people keep reptiles as pets. Because they are technically an exotic species, most types of reptiles, whether lizard, snake, turtle, or tortoise, are not particularly cuddly or playful towards their owners in the same manner that a dog or cat would be.

However, this blog article will prove those naysayers wrong. While it’s true that many reptile species are best kept as “decorative” pets, there are species out there that bond with their owners and like being taken out of their cage to be played with. Read on to find out which species we’ve ranked as the most interactive pet reptiles.

The Most Interactive Pet Reptiles

Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps)

Bearded dragons are bred to be many different colors and textures (i.e. they are available in countless morphs) to appeal to owners with all kinds of aesthetics, but they are also one of the most relaxed, uncomplicated species of lizards you’ll ever encounter.

most interactive pet reptiles
This hatchling bearded dragon is quite at ease being held and touched by people.

Bearded dragons are captive bred through enough generations at this point that while they are not technically domesticated, they have become quite tame.

It’s not uncommon for Beardies to enjoy being taken out of their cage to spend time with their owners. Many people like to place their Beardie on their shoulder while they sit at the computer and still others will take their Beardie to the couch to watch TV with them!

The point we’re making here is that Beardies are extremely friendly, mid-size companion lizards that will enjoy human interaction.

Ball Python (Python regius)

Although they’re a bit on the quiet side, ball pythons are very calm, docile snakes and have been dubbed the most popular pet snake in the reptile world.

Like bearded dragons, they can also be bred to express any number of traits in a seemingly endless number of morphs. Some of the most popular are albino, pastel, and fire.

baby ball python
This “normal” phase baby ball python is perfectly content to curl up in a ball and sit in the palm of your hand.

Ball python hatchlings are usually sold at around ten inches long and will mature into mid-size snakes that max out at approximately six feet in length, although three feet is a far more common size.

Ball pythons enjoy curling up into a ball and sitting in your hand, but once they reach adult size, many people also enjoy wrapping the snake around their neck. Ball pythons are not super squiggly snakes, so they tend to move slowly and more often than not, they will stay put wherever you place them.

Sulcata Tortoise (Geochelone sulcata)

If you want a carefree pet that will make itself at home in your backyard, then we highly recommend you get yourself a sulcata tortoise.

sulcata tortoise outdoors
This adult sulcata tortoise is enjoying wandering around outside in the nice weather. If you create a proper outdoor enclosure, your pet sulcata will feel the same.

Not only do these tortoises live very long lives (most will outlive their owners!), they’re also very low key. If you let your tortoise roam your yard, odds are you’ll see it at feeding time and out basking when the weather is nice.

The bottom line is that sulcatas don’t ask much from their owner. They are content to wander your yard and they’ll come say hi and get their shell scratched from time to time.

Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus)

A word of warning before we start singing the praises of the Savannah monitor – these lizards grow large. If you are not prepared to house a lizard that will top out at around five feet long, then please, stick to one of the other smaller species on this list.

baby savannah monitor
Baby Savannah monitors are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, but be warned – they grow to be around five feet long!

Savannahs are friendly as babies and with training and socialization, they can become as tame as a dog or cat. In fact, there are many videos online that show massive Savannahs watching TV sitting on their owners’ laps or on leashes going for walks. Once they are full-grown, a Savannah that is well cared for will be friendly and sociable with people.

We recommend starting out with a hatchling Savannah monitor and forming a bond with it as it grows. Babies can comfortably sit in the palm of your hand and if you teach them that being taken out of their cage means petting, food, and positive interaction with people, before long you’ll have a Savannah monitor that you’ll be happy to introduce to your friends and family.

Conclusion – Most interactive pet reptiles

We hope we’ve shown you that although reptiles are not necessarily going to share your bed like a cat or dog would, they can capture your heart just as quickly. They can be loving, friendly, and full of personality just like any other pet.

If you wish to purchase a pet bearded dragon, ball python, sulcata tortoise, or savannah monitor, Backwater Reptiles sells all of these interactive pet reptiles.

 

How do I get my snake to eat

Although snakes are very common pet reptiles, it’s not uncommon for them to refuse food from time to time. In fact, at Backwater Reptiles, one of the most commonly asked questions we get when it comes to reptile care is – how do I get my pet snake to eat?

So, if you’ve ever struggled with a picky eater or are currently trying to get your snake to eat, continue reading to learn what tips and tricks we use at Backwater Reptiles to get our own snakes to eat regularly and healthily.

Live Prey vs. Frozen Prey

The biggest problem many snake owners seem to encounter is getting their snake to eat dead prey. In the wild, obviously snakes kill and eat live animals, so some snakes need to be taught that when you present them with a dead mouse, the mouse is meant to be eaten.

How to get my pet snake to eat
This green water snake (Nerodia floridana) could prove to be a tricky eater as they are primarily known to eat small amphibians in the wild.

Many small animals that snakes eat in the wild (i.e. mice, gophers, rabbits, etc.) are mammals that create their own body heat. The key word here is heat. If your thawed frozen mouse is not warm enough, your snake might not recognize it as a food source.

In order to thaw and warm up a frozen mouse of any size, do NOT place it in the microwave. Ever. You will wind up having to clean mouse innards out of your microwave. Instead, thaw the mouse the same way you might a chicken breast. Place the mouse in warm water or run it under warm water until it is warm to the touch.

In addition to feeling warm, the mouse should also not be hard in the center. If the feeder mouse is hard or tough in the center when you squeeze it gently, it’s still frozen inside. This might not only deter your snake from eating it, but it can also create digestive issues down the line.

Throughout the years, we’ve also learned that some snakes just don’t like to eat thawed food. Maybe they fancy themselves food critics – who knows? But the only real way to feed a snake that refuses to eat thawed food is to feed it living food.

red tail green rat snake
A small, slender snake like this red tail green rat snake (Gonysoma oxycephala) should be eating small mice.

Feeding your snake living mice, rats, or in some cases, even rabbits, can be distressing to both you, the owner, and the snake. Even though it’s part of life and the food chain, it can be tough to have to administer a living animal to another living animal. And as far as distress to the snake is concerned, if your snake doesn’t capture and eat the prey immediately, the prey can actually injure the snake! It’s not unheard of for unattended live mice left in a snake’s cage to actually gnaw on the snake and create wounds.

Ultimately, we highly recommend frozen food if your snake will eat it for both safety and convenience’s sake, but live prey is always an option should you have a very picky eater on your hands.

Color of Food

It has also been suggested that the color of the prey item makes a difference in the snake’s appetite.

Many mice obtained from pet stores for snake food are white, which is not a naturally occurring mouse color in the wild. Most wild mice are grey, brown, or some combination thereof.

This might not hold true for all snakes, but some owners swear that snakes will refuse white mice but eat naturally-colored ones with no problem.

Feeding Schedule & Feeding Tanks

If you can, we do recommend sticking to a schedule. Regularity will help the snake to know when it’s feeding time.

Most mature snakes should eat once every one or two weeks. Growing hatchlings should eat no less than once per week. Some will have large appetites and even consume multiple mice in one sitting.

Along with the schedule, you should create regularity in how the snake is fed. We highly recommend utilizing a feeding tank so that your snake will come to understand that being placed in the feeding tank means food will arrive shortly. This will not only encourage eating, but will also encourage your snake to strike less when you take it out to handle it because it won’t associate your hand with food every time the cage is opened.

Shedding Time

The only time that a snake will normally refuse food is when it is preparing to shed. Your snake will become dull and its eyes will become cloudy or opaque and this indicates that it will shed shortly.

ball python
Ball Pythons are notorious for refusing food from time to time, although they usually overcome this habit.

Most snakes do not feed in the wild when they are preparing to shed because their eyesight is compromised. This behavior also holds true in captivity and is to be expected.

The bottom line is that you should withhold food until your snake has completed its shed because the snake will probably refuse the food anyway.

Snake Constipation

As silly as it seems, sometimes a snake can get constipated and will therefore decline food due to an upset stomach.

A good remedy for this is to give the snake a good soak. Prepare a lukewarm water bath and allow your snake to sit for anywhere from ten to fifteen minutes.

The moisture can sometimes help stimulate the snake to defecate, not to mention that nearly all reptiles enjoy a good soak.

Conclusion

There are many reasons why snakes sometimes won’t eat. Some are picky eaters and some might even be in pain without your knowledge.

We recommend trying out our tips and tricks and if your snake still won’t eat after three weeks of trying, it’s time to see the vet.

 

 

Snakes for Kids

Are you thinking of getting your child a pet snake? Are you unsure which species would do well with children? Well, look no further – this article was created specifically to list the top four species of pet snakes for kids.

1. Ball Python (Python regius)

Ball pythons are at the top of our list for a few reasons, but mainly because they have been captive bred for many generations and are essentially the most popular pet snakes on the market. Captive breeding produces snakes that are not only healthier and more beautiful, but far more docile as well. In fact, captive bred ball pythons rarely bite or strike.

Pet snake for kids
Ball pythons are readily available pet snakes with a long history of healthy captive breeding. We highly recommend them for kids.

Hatchling ball pythons are about 10 inches long and will mature into snakes that can be up to five feet long, although most will average three feet long. If properly cared for, your ball python can live up to 30 years.

In general, ball pythons are somewhat thick snakes with hefty bodies, despite their relatively small size. We think this is great for kids because children can  move quickly around them and the snake will not get upset. In fact, unless they are preparing to strike at feeding time, your  ball python’s movements should be slow and calculated.

2. Corn Snake (Elaphe g. guttata)

Like ball pythons, corn snakes are readily available at pet stores and through breeders. They have been bred long enough in captivity to be extremely healthy and hardy snakes that are born to be many different colors or morphs. If your child wants a purple, red, or even black and white snake, there’s a morph out there that will make him or her happy.

albino corn snake hatchling
This is an albino corn snake hatchling. This snake can grow to be five to six feet long if properly cared for.

Corn snakes are medium-sized snakes and will require a medium-sized enclosure once they are grown. They are small enough as hatchlings to be kept in a home as small as a shoe box, but once they do grow up, they are still a size that a child could handle them without being intimidated.

If you want to educate your child about reptile breeding, corn snakes can give great lessons on genealogy as well as reproductive habits of reptiles. They procreate easily in captivity and also make excellent classroom pets.

3. King Snake (Lampropeltis g. californiae)

King snakes are very common throughout the U.S. in the wild. However, because these snakes have been bred successfully in captivity for so long, we recommend purchasing one through a breeder since it will be healthier and friendlier.

Like corn snakes and ball pythons, king snakes are available in a seemingly endless number of morphs or color variations. Their patterns will vary greatly and you can obtain a snake with patterns and colors as common or rare as you’d like.

Normal CA king snake
This is a “normal” morph California king snake. It has not been bred to express any special coloring or patterns.

King snakes can grow rather large, although it will take many years for them to reach their full potential. Hatchlings will be eight to twelve inches long and adults can reach more than six feet in length, although three to four feet is a far more common size. A king snake’s lifespan can surpass twenty years!

Mature king snakes should be kept in a 20 gallon enclosure (at the least), but babies are perfectly content in a shoe box. Whatever type of home you provide your king snake, we highly recommend that it has a secure lid since king snakes can be escape artists.

4. Kenyan Sand Boa (Eryx c. loveridgei)

Kenyan San Boas are also known as East African Sand Boas, but both names refer to the same animal. These snakes are very round with heavy bodies and relatively small heads. They have extremely smooth scales and are slow-moving, which we think makes them wonderful snakes for children to handle.

In addition to being available in many morphs like all the other snakes on our list, Kenyan sand boas are small snakes with simple care requirements. Even the largest sand boa will not usually surpass two feet in length and their cage need not be larger than a ten gallon tank.

Kenyan sand boa
Kenyan sand boas are small snakes with simple care requirements.

You can also keep Kenyan sand boas communally, so long as two males are not housed in the same enclosure. In other words, two female boas cohabitating is fine, and a male and female boa will also do fine together.

5. Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis)

Garter snakes are great for kids because they’re harmless, a very manageable size, slow, and easy to keep and feed. Growing up a child in the Midwest, I used to catch “Garters” in the woods and on prairies with my good friend. The best place to find them was under a rotting log, tire, or plywood.

They usually only reach 24″-36″ or thereabouts, although once in a while they’re a little bigger. Garter snakes probably have the largest distribution of any snake in the United States, and are found in every single state except Alaska and Hawaii.

garter snake for kids
Garter snakes are a perennial favorite snake for children.

This species can comfortably be kept in a 10 or 20-gallon tank with a water dish, hide spot, and heat pad (although some believe heat is optional). They can have long lifespans.

These snakes are carnivores but can be fed crickets, nightcrawlers, slugs, amphibians, minnows, and baby mice (called “pinkies”).

One piece of trivia is that many people think these snakes are called “Gardner” snakes, but that’s incorrect. The correct word is “Garter.”

Snakes for kids – Conclusion

Each of the snakes on this list has very simple care requirements. All you really need to keep any of these species happy is a modest-sized enclosure, a simple heat source, and a water dish. Other cage accessories are optional.

We also feel that each of these snake species has a good history of captive breeding which makes them all healthy, tamer snake species overall. Over many years, we’ve also found that the above listed species are very hesitant to strike (if ever), which is another reason we consider them the absolute best pet snakes for kids.

If you’re interested in purchasing a snake for a child, we’ve got all of the above species listed on our snakes landing page.

Is My Pet Snake Going to Shed Its Skin?

Maybe you’ve never owned a pet snake before but you’re considering it. Well, we’re all about education and potential owners making informed decisions about the animals we sell, so this blog article is dedicated to explaining the process of how snakes shed their skin.

In this article, we’ll answer four important questions regarding snake shedding:

-Why do snakes shed their skin?
-How can I tell if my snake is going to shed?
-What do I do when my snake sheds?
-How often will my snake shed?

Bullsnake Prior to Shed
This is a bullsnake (P. sayi) prior to shedding its skin.

Why do snakes shed their skin?

Snakes are reptiles and as such possess scales instead of elastic, stretchy skin like mammals. A mammal’s skin grows and expands as the mammal grows, but a snake’s skin doesn’t actually grow along with it, so the snake must shed the skin in order to comfortably grow. This process of shedding skin is also called ecdysis.

In truth, the snake doesn’t actually shed its entire skin. Once the top layer of cells has accommodated as much growth as it can, the snake will slough it off in one single, hollow, sheath leaving behind a shiny, iridescent, and much more vibrant outer layer.

In addition to allowing for growth, getting rid of the top layer of old skin allows the snake to shed any unwanted skin parasites that may have attached themselves. This is not a common reason for captive pet snakes to shed due to human interference and prevention of parasites, but in the wild, this is a huge advantage to the animal.

How can I tell if my snake is going to shed?

When your snake is preparing to shed its skin, both it behavior and its physical appearance will change.

Your snake’s scales will acquire a grey sort of tone to them and lose iridescence. The snake will also appear to get cloudy, milky, or grey eyes. You might think your pet snake has developed cataracts, but in truth, eye clouding is 100% normal and you only need to be concerned if your snake has shed its entire skin and its eyes still appear cloudy afterwards.

Bullsnake Pre-Shed
This bullsnake will shed its skin in a day or two. A great indicator of this is that its eyes are clouded over.

Don’t be surprised if your pet snake also becomes lethargic, more secretive, or even more aggressive. Snakes, like people, have different dispositions and some will go through the shedding process smoother than others.

Some pet snakes might strike out more if you attempt to remove them from their enclosure and others might hide and not come out until they are ready to actually slough off their skin.

It is also very common for snakes to refuse food a week or so prior to shedding. Do not be alarmed if your snake is just not hungry. This is normal.

What do I do when my snake sheds?

More often than not, snakes will shed their skin in secret. The entire process could occur in under an hour and you might not even realize it has happened until you discover the skin in the enclosure.

If you happen to come upon your snake in the physical process of shedding, do not disturb it. You could injure the snake and the snake could become stressed and injure you unintentionally too. 

Once you can see that the entire skin has been detached from the snake in one piece, remove it from the cage and dispose of it. 

Pay close attention to your snake’s eyes in this time as you want to be sure that the shedding process occurred without any issues. Sometimes, particularly in instances where the humidity level in the cage is not high enough, snakes can have trouble ridding themselves of the skin cap that protects their eyes.

How often will my snake shed?

Snakes will shed their skin as long as they are growing, even if they grow at a much slower rate as they advance in years.

Young snakes who are growing rapidly will shed as often as every two weeks. Adult snakes who are considered mature will shed far less frequently – usually around two to three times per year.

Cornsnake Prior to Shedding
This baby blood red corn snake (Elaphe guttata) hs dull skin and clouded eyes. It will shed its skin soon.

Conclusion

Snakes make great pets for people who are educated and aware of the care requirements for these slithering reptiles.

If you are prepared to deal with an animal that wears a new skin every few months, then feel free to check out Backwater Reptiles’ many species of snakes for sale.

 

How to Feed Your Pet Snake

At Backwater Reptiles, we sell snakes of all sizes ranging from tiny Ringneck Snakes to giant Green Anacondas, so we have lots of experience feeding and maintaining the health of these animals.

In this blog article, we’ll answer these three commonly asked questions regarding snake feeding habits:

-What do I feed my pet snake?
-How do I feed my pet snake?
-Should I feed my snake live rodents or use frozen/thawed ones?

What do I feed my pet snake?

First off, we should mention that nearly all snakes eat mice, rats, or other small vertebrates in captivity. The smaller the snake, the smaller the prey item.

Most hatchlings will start off with pinkie mice and eventually grow into being able to eat fuzzies. Only the larger species of snakes such as anacondas, pythons, and boas to name a few, will get large enough to the point that they require full-grown mice as meals. We recommend doing your research if you don’t want to have to handle full-grown feeder animals.

Snake Food
We feed our snakes using tongs because not all snakes have great aim. Using tongs is a great way to avoid an accidental biting.

Some smaller species of snakes will not need to eat rodents. For instance, the Ringneck Snake is so small that it eats night crawlers in captivity. Garter and Ribbon Snakes can eat mice, but will actually do quite well on a diet of minnows or other small feeder fish, and even nightcrawlers.

Feeder rodents of all sizes can be purchased at most pet stores. Backwater Reptiles also offers feeder mice that are conveniently delivered to your door step, as well as nightcrawlers.

How do I feed my pet snake?

If you feed your snake frozen mice, then the first step is to thaw the frozen rodent. After removing the feeder animal from your freezer, place the animal in warm water for a few minutes. Allow it to de-frost and thaw like you would a cut of meat. Because most feeder rodents are very small (especially the pinkie mice), it shouldn’t take more than five to ten minutes to thaw the food.

Thawing Feeder Pinkie Mice
These pinkie mice are floating in warm water to thaw out.

NOTE: Do not EVER put the frozen rodents in the microwave. Not only will you have a mess to clean up, but you will have wasted perfectly good snake food.

Once you are sure your feeder rodent is sufficiently warmed, remove your snake from its enclosure and feed it in a separate, temporary enclosure. This need not be a large or elaborate container – just something tall enough so that the snake won’t climb out during the feeding process.

The reason we advise moving your snake to a separate feeding tub is to prevent your snake from becoming aggressive. If you feed the snake inside its own cage, it will assume that every time the cage is opened, food is coming, which could lead it to “train” itself to strike whenever the cage is opened. In other words, it will associate the cage opening with food instead of bath time, cage cleaning time, or even play time. Moving the snake to a separate feeding area will help counteract this type of behavior.

Once your snake is in its feeding enclosure, simply hold the rodent out for the snake to strike at or drop the rodent into the enclosure in front of the snake. You can also use tongs to hold the prey item in front of the snake’s line of vision.

If you feed your snake live prey, we highly recommend stunning the animal before putting it in the snake’s enclosure. This is because feeder animals can actually scratch and bite the snake before the snake has time to consume it. This can lead to infections or even unsightly scars on the snake’s body.

Should I feed my snake live rodents or use frozen/thawed ones?

We highly recommend using frozen/thawed feeder rodents when it comes to snakes for two main reasons – safety and convenience.

It might not seem like a big deal, but as we previously mentioned, living feeder animals can actually harm snakes. Rodents are sneaky and will do everything they can to outsmart a snake. They will bite and claw the snake if it hesitates at all. This can be a problem is your pet snake is a slow eater or if it is not hungry when you feed it. Again, you don’t want your snake to be injured by its food.

We also think that it’s safer for you, the snake’s owner, to feed it frozen food. It has been said that snakes becomes more aggressive when fed live food and we agree. While there’s not really any definitive proof that this is true, it does seem to be the case in our experience.

Snakes that are given live food have to strike to kill and usually will have to strike more than once to catch the animal they’re eating. It just makes sense that the snake will be more likely to strike if it is practicing this behavior on a regular basis.

We also feel that feeding frozen animals to your snake is more convenient. If you opt for feeding frozen/thawed, you can simply keep the food in your freezer until your snake’s meal time. On the other hand, if you feed your snake live food, you either have to keep living feeder rodents at your home or go to the pet store once per week to obtain them.

Hungry Savu Python
This Savu Python is prepared to strike. It is his mealtime and he is aiming at a pinkie mouse.

Conclusion

Feeding your pet snake is a fairly simple process, whether you opt for frozen meals or live prey. It’s honestly as simple as thawing your feeder mice or stunning your live prey and offering it to your snake. Nature does the rest.