All 3,000 species of snakes are carnivores, meaning they only eat meat. Snakes do not eat three meals a day plus snacks, like humans. Some may only eat once a month, and some eat several times a week. How often a snake eats depends on several factors, including its size, age, and available food sources. A snake that can consume a large animal may not need to eat for a year.
If you have snakes on your property, don’t let them cause you concern. Instead, ask yourself, “What do snakes eat?” When you consider the answer, you will realize you should probably worry more about the rodents and other snake-attracting animals that have taken up residence in and around your home. Keep reading to learn more about a snake’s diet. If you have a problem with any of a snake's typical prey, call a professional to help. Eliminating critters and pests is the number one way to keep snakes off your property.
What Do Snakes Eat in the Wild?
The National Wildlife Federation reports that snake diets usually depend on the prey size. Consuming meat for a snake involves swallowing it whole since snakes cannot chew. They expand their lower jaw, which allows them to swallow larger species.
Large snakes eat larger prey. For example, an anaconda can eat a deer or goat. Small snakes, like garter snakes, enjoy eating frogs. There are even tiny snakes that consume ants and termite eggs.
Different snake species have food preferences. Some snakes only like to eat bird eggs. Some snakes will eat other snakes but they usually only eat snakes outside their species and only if they are starving.
In the wild, snakes have a myriad of food options, including the following:
Their diet in the wild includes invertebrates, insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
What Insects Do Snakes Eat?
Examples of snakes native to the United States that eat insects include the corn snake, the garter snake, the worm snake, the rat snake, the milk snake, the ribbon snake, and the baby rosa boa. Other insect-eating snakes include the rough and smooth green, small water, and ringneck snakes. Their diet consists of the following:
Snakes that eat insects are typically small enough to gain the nutrients they need from various insect species. Some snake diets may include cockroaches and beetles, like the ringworm and rough green snakes. If it can catch and overpower a cockroach or beetle, the garter snake will eat it.
Larger snakes will not eat insects because there are not sufficient nutrients in this kind of prey. Instead, these bigger snakes will wait until they find something larger and with more substance.
What Animals Do Snakes Eat?
Snakes tend to be known for eating mammals but they actually eat non-mammals as well. For instance, lizards and snakes often live in the same environments. Because lizards are accessible, snakes living nearby often prey on lizards and lizard eggs. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, there are those species of snake that eat other snakes like the king cobra and the cottonmouth snake.
Mammals that fall prey to snakes include:
Amphibians and reptiles snakes hunt comprise:
Snake species vary in their meat preferences. For the most part, snakes will prey on any animals smaller than themselves and may spend hours stalking prey before striking.
Snakes never eat plants or flora of any kind. One reason is that snakes require a high-calorie diet and can’t eat enough plants or grass to sustain themselves.
How Do Snakes Hunt?
If you see a snake slithering through the grass, you may notice its tongue flicking in and out of its mouth. Snakes do this to gather information about their surroundings, which animals are nearby, and which ones they should pursue. They use their tongues to smell and pick up chemical information. Furthermore, snakes can use their skin to feel vibrations from other animals.
These sharp senses help snakes size up their potential prey. Some snakes have enhanced sight, like night-hunting snakes with night vision. Most snakes do not have very good eyesight but they are still able to detect the movement of a target. If its quarry stands completely still, though, a snake may unknowingly slither past.
Once they capture prey, snakes will either constrict and suffocate, bite and release venom, or use both methods to kill the animal. Conversely, some snakes dislike eating dead animals and will eat them alive instead.
Snakes use the following techniques to hunt:
- Stealth and sneakiness
- Ambush with a surprise attack
- Hiding and camouflaging their bodies
Most snakes move slowly and spend much of the day inactive. They must be near their prey, where they live or forage. However, other snake species can race and glide to capture prey. In addition, some snakes can slither in a straight line rather than side to side, fooling prey and predators.
Certain snakes can manipulate their tongues to look like worms, luring prey and making for an interesting hunting strategy. Over and above that, some snake species even hunt in packs with each other.
How to Get Rid of Snakes in Your Home
Signs of snake activity in your home or around your property include skin sheds, slither tracks, droppings, a strange smell, and strange noises in dark, damp spaces. These signs also let you know you have a problem with the little animals that constitute a snake’s diet. Where the prey animals live is where you can find snakes.
For example, snakes will get into your living room walls only if you have a mice infestation in your living room walls. If you have rats burrowing in and around your front hedges, snakes will be there, also. If your small pond is a mating place for frogs, it will also be a hunting spot for snakes.
If you have signs of a snake, contact a wildlife expert like those at Critter Control for help. These professionals will inspect your home for both the snake and its prey, remove the animals safely while ensuring all regulations are followed, and put exclusions in place to prevent prey animals from returning in the future.
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