A question I frequently come across online and in various emails I receive from readers is regarding how to get avoid getting bitten by a pet snake. Snakes are very simple creatures with rudimentary brains and they only bite for a few reasons. Once you know the reasons your snake is biting you it becomes much easier to avoid.
- Snakes, just like all other animals have a natural defense mechanism to lash out and bite when they feel threatened. This is especially true if you don’t handle your snakes often. I read a description on the internet once that really drove the point home for me. In a nutshell what the person said was this -
Your snake is minding its own business just hanging out and all of a sudden Godzilla comes along, picks up the house, moves things around, grabs the snake and packs it off. The snake is scared to death and strikes out.
That’s not an exact quote but it gives you the idea. If the snake isn’t familiar with you it will fear you. If it fears you then it will very likely bite you.
- When it is feeding time and you start prodding around in the snake’s tank it doesn’t matter how tame it is chances are that it will attempt to strike at you. It is only a matter of time before you get bit by a hungry snake looking for an easy meal if you don’t pay attention to the signs.
A hungry snake will often exhibit the following characteristics:
- Excessive tongue flickering as it smells the air for possible prey
- A lot of roaming back and forth within the tank as it searches for prey
- When you open the tank it will often sit in the strike position waiting for prey
- Sometimes they will yawn a lot to loosen up their jaws and prepare to strike
Not all snakes react the same way to being hungry, but those are a few common warning signs. You’ll need to learn how to read your own snake’s behavior to determine when it is hungry. You’ll greatly improve the likelihood of getting yourself bit if you ignore the snake’s signals when it wants something to eat.
- You smell like the snake’s food
- If you smell like the prey your snake eats chances are sooner or later it is going to strike and bite you. Don’t handle the food and then handle the snake before washing your hands. Actually it is a good idea to wash your hands before and after handling your snake regardless of if you’ve handled the snake’s food.
- When all is said and done some snakes tend to be more aggressive than others which leads them to bite more often. Certain species have a tendency to be more nippy. Amazon Tree Pythons for example are known for being more likely to bite. Young Carpet Pythons are known to be biters until they get used to being handled. Some snakes will outgrow it and some won’t. That’s why it is very important to research the snake you plan to buy and have a through understanding of the type of animal it is genetically.
Those are the main reasons why snakes bite. Sometimes it is tempting to attribute human emotions to a snake and tell people that their snake bit them because “it doesn’t like you”. Please avoid doing this as it is completely untrue. Snakes neither like nor dislike people. They are either motivated or not to bite based on outside stimulus not on emotions. Avoiding snake bites isn’t hard it just takes common sense and being aware of what is going on.