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Commonly Asked Questions About Snakes

Q: Are snakes slimy?

A: Not at all! Many people think that snakes are slimy because they have the same basic shape as worms–but snakes have a very flexible soft, smooth skin.

Q: Are snakes dangerous?

A: Any animal that has a mouth can bite, and every bite can inflict damage. But most snakes are not dangerous, provided that they are cared for properly, treated well, and handled in a manner that is not dangerous to the snake or the owner.

Q: What about the really BIG snakes?

A: In nearly every report where a big snake harmed or killed a human, the human was at fault. The most common mistake is not using a “buddy system” when dealing with a snake larger than six feet.

Q: Will snakes attack humans?

A: Not without provocation. If a snake is frightened, and can’t escape from the situation that it finds threatening, it will react like any other animal, and strike to protect itself. The instinct is called “flight or fight,” and is not limited to animals; humans in a crisis situation react the same way.

Q: What about that movie “Snakes On A Plane”?

A: When interviewed, the producer went on record as saying that they had to deliberately provoke the snakes that were used in the filming, because their natural instinct was not to attack, but rather to find a safe, dark, quiet place to curl up and sleep. The events in that movie, and many others like it, could not happen in real life.

Q: Do all snakes eat live mice and rats?

A: No. Actually, most snakes can be trained to eat frozen mice and rats. The advantages to this are many: Frozen mice and rats are cheaper, can be kept indefinitely without spoiling (or needing to be fed), are healthier for the snake because freezing kills their internal parasites, and are safer because the snake cannot possibly be injured in the feeding process.

Q: How can I keep my snake from striking at my hand while I’m trying to feed it?

A: Provide it with a separate feeding box. If you reach into its habitat every time with a mouse (live or dead) dangling from your hand, the snake will associate your hand with food–and in striking for the food, may miss and bite your hand. This is rarely a deliberately aggressive action, but it can still hurt! However, if you place its food in a separate container, then reach in to pick it up, it will associate your hand with pleasant things like snuggling, and will not be nearly as likely to strike at you.

Q: My snake keeps striking against the glass, and ignoring its food. Why?

A: Check to see what kind of bedding is in the snake’s tank. Cedar and pine have extremely strong resins, and the smell can overcome the snake’s ability to locate its food. (They use scent much more than sight, since most snakes are nocturnal hunters.) It may be striking at the glass in desperation, knowing that food is nearby but unable to pinpoint its location. Changing the bedding to a low-resin substrate such as coconut or cypress should make the behavior stop.

Q: My snake’s eyes look milky. Is it going blind?

A: No, it’s getting ready to shed. As the old skin lifts up, the skin over the eyes turns white, and often has a milky-blue cast. Be careful not to startle your snake; it can barely see (imagine trying to make out objects with a pillowcase over your head) and even the most placid snake will strike in self-defense right before it sheds. Remember that while it’s getting ready to shed, the drying skin will be tight and uncomfortable. If your snake seems irritable, don’t try to handle it until after it’s shed and eaten a good meal.

Q: My snake is shedding in patches. What can I do to help it?

A: Provide it with a “hide box” and line it with damp sphagnum moss. The extra humidity will help soften the dried skin, and it should peel off more cleanly, without doing damage to the delicate new skin underneath.

Q: How often do snakes shed?

A: Healthy babies will shed often as they grow…and depending on the species, they can grow fast! Once a snake reaches adulthood, its growth slows, and it may only shed once or twice annually from that point forward.

Q: If a snake suddenly wraps tight around me, how can I get it off without hurting either of us?

A: Gently grasp its tail, and begin to unwind it. Never try to unwind it starting at the head...if you do, it will assume that its “prey” is trying to escape, and will tighten its grip.

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