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Why did my snake bite me?


If you’ve kept snakes for any amount of time you’ve very likely been bit at some point by one of them. Many times there is a simple explanation as to why a snake is biting the hand that feeds it:

  • Handling a rodent and not washing your hands
  • The snake feels threatened
  • Your snake misses a feeding strike and gets your hand
  • You’re Chewy from SnakeBytes TV and seem to like it

At other times a snake that has been docile and easily handled for years will suddenly and inexplicably start striking at anyone and everyone who comes near it. Often this is accompanied with violent displays of hissing, thrashing about the tank, and showing of the inside of the mouth. Personally I’ve dealt with three snake’s that began for no good reason to behave like this. All 3 were ball pythons, considered by many people to be the most docile snake there is. Which just goes to show that no species of snake is immune.


Snake Bites Hand

What makes a snake suddenly become aggressive?
I’ve never found a solid answer to this question but there seems to be a few factors which come into play:

The snake is more stressed than it was before:
It could be due to a simple environmental change. For example maybe you moved the tank into another room and the snake has to deal with more noise and foot traffic. Ask yourself what could be stressing the snake out. One of the ball pythons I mentioned became stressed and began striking when I put in a new washer and dryer. I finally figured out that the vibrations were driving the snake up the wall. After putting down some foam padding to muffle the noise the snake went back to it’s old, calm self. Here are a few examples of things that might stress out your pet snake and make it more prone to biting:

  1. Appliances
  2. More foot traffic
  3. A new pet in the house (other animals often love to harass pet snakes)
  4. Improperly maintained temperatures and humidity levels

The snake doesn’t like you:
Ok, so that’s not really possible as a snake isn’t capable of like or dislike. However there might be something you are doing that agitates it. A corn snake I had at one point would constantly strike at my ex girlfriend any time she tried to get it out. Everyone else could hold the snake all day long and nothing would happen. Finally we figured out that a bracelet she wore would set the snake off. Once we realized that she just took the bracelet off before trying to handle the snake and everything was fine. Strange thing was that anyone else wearing the bracelet had no problems, only her.

Another snake, the second of the three ball pythons I mentioned, would strike at anyone wearing clothes washed in Arm & Hammer laundry detergent. Once I figured that out I switched detergents and the snake stopped being aggressive. From what I could tell it was only triggered by the Arm & Hammer detergent and then only the liquid version. That’s not to say I tested all possible detergents, but I was able to narrow it down and eliminate the problem. If you have a snake that is biting try to pay attention to the little things and see if there’s not something simple that might be causing it to react in a defensive manner.

The snake is ill or injured
Just like a person, or any other living creature when a snake isn’t feeling well it can get grumpy. Before you assume that the snake is just being a “jerk” check to make sure it isn’t hurting. Even though they can’t vocalize a snake still has nerves and still feels pain. A friend of mine had a Rat Snake that suddenly became an absolute terror. Turned out to be a piece of substrate had been lodged into the roof of its mouth. Once the vet got it out and the snake had 2 weeks of being left alone it went back to normal. If your snake starts to strike at everyone around it check to make sure that there isn’t an injury or illness. If need be don’t hesitate to get a vet involved.

What if the snake won’t go back to being “nice”?
It ultimately comes down to the snake, and yourself. It can be a tough decision but remember your own health and safety has to take priority. A small snake, such as a ball python can draw blood, and cause some pain but for the average adult they pose very little health risk. On the other hand a Boa Constrictor could easily kill a full grown adult male if things get too far out of hand. You’ll need to evaluate a few things in deciding what to do with a snake that has become aggressive and won’t stop:

  1. Can you handle it on your own?
  2. Are you putting yourself or anyone else at risk?
  3. Is someone more experienced more appropriate to own the snake? I don’t generally recommend passing your problems on to others but sometimes someone with more knowledge will be able to handle a biting snake better
  4. If the snake were to strike someone aside from you what kind of liability is involved. A snake that is a classroom pet could become a problem if parents start hearing it is biting their kids

There are other questions you can ask but that should give you an example.

Have you had to deal with any pet snakes which have suddenly and for no obvious reason begun biting and striking at people? How did you end up having to handle the situation?

  • Mertle72

    You never feed a snake in it’s cage, you take it out and put it in a secure feeding box. You just don’t want the snake to think the opening of the cage and hands reaching in means it will get fed. If he’s hungry, he might just bite you. Another reason is that, especially for smaller snakes, they can’t always find the food in the cage.

  • Krnlloyd1

    ive just gettin a red tail boa complete with good enviroments and needs bout 1 and a half yrs, 3 and a half foot and im new to this av read up on the facts but this particular snake was handled alot for the 1st year of its life but only twice in the past 6 month av had him 5 days now he was fed 4 days ago no probs but hes erratic when i go near him and seems to flinch when appears shocked, is there any way to gain its trust and more to the point will the bite hurt ? and how do i get it to let go ? its received quite a bit attention since arriving at his new home could this be a factor ?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3UHOMSAXFPZJWY3URP7Z5YJYE Jonzo

    I have a 4 year old male who was the same was at that age, however i found that patience is best with a new snake the trick is to be faster than the snake and always grab the head first hold him firmly enough not to hurt him but keep him secure till he calms down. repeat the process every few hours for a couple of days and he sould becomed accustomed to your scent, therefore settling down to a more manageable state.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3UHOMSAXFPZJWY3URP7Z5YJYE Jonzo

    Yes you should be okay they only get about 3-4 feet long and are generally pretty docile. I have a 2 yr. old who holds my snakes all the time. Just remain calm and don’t move to fast around it as they are not fond of fast movement espeacially around their head.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_F3UHOMSAXFPZJWY3URP7Z5YJYE Jonzo

    Feeding in their tank is fine they are more ready to eat if they feel comfortable. everytime i try to feed my collection in a different enclosure they always refuse the ffod until i put them back in their tanks.

  • Josh

    Well its still a baby and probably terrified, handling it often will help the snake learn trust. it probably thinks you are predator.

  • CornSnake223

    I’ve had a 1 year old corn snake for about 3 months now and its never bit me till about a day ago. So when i ever go in the room I see him in strike position How can I avoid this?

  • Ashmoresmooth

    hi i just change me snake water n as i done he went 4 me n he did it gain uknown y he do that he ant eat 4 over 7weeks cuz he ant took his mouse u think that y thanks

  • Andrewbartlett1986

    i got a 5 foot red tail boa and she bit me ant than she let go lol just watch your snake

  • Andrewbartlett1986

    when u feed a snake let them eat and leve them along for 4 days

  • 87shell

    help!!! I sold my mexican black king snake to my cousin she was fine to start with but now she wont let anyone put their hand in the tank.

  • Despinosa

    hi am am 12 years old and my california king snake shakes his tail a lot when i cary him is that bad

  • Ripster444

    if it’s in a new environment that is the most stressful time for a snake because he doesn’t know what to expect. leave him alone except for feeding for about 2 weeks to get used to the new place then he should feel comfortable enough to settle down. 

  • Fshnatdahole

    i had bought my 13 year old son a albino corn snake.and once in awhile it will latch on to his shirt.what is the best way to get the snake off with out hurting it.

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Just wait it out. It will let go eventually.

  • guest12345

    thank u 4 mentionning the fact that u fed him already because im sure ur pet is a well behaved snake. the only problem is NEVER handle a snake until at least 3-4 day after the feeding because it causes much pain and it cause it to regurgitate its food. SO NEVER HANDLE THE SNAKE ATLEAST 3-5 DAYS AFTER ITS EATEN!! THE ONLY EXCEPTION IS WHEN UR PUTTING HIM BACK IN HIS HOME ( TURARIUM)

  • Sophie anderson

    i have a baby boa constricter when ever i go near him he hisses and strikes for me and shows me the inside of his mouth i carnt think of a reson y :/

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  • Lexys World

    I have a corn snake and it has never been a problem for me. Until the day I started to babysit a erret. They had been in the same room but we noticed a change in p.s. (my snake) so we movedit downstairs into the dining room. How Do i fix this? And we feed it two frozen pinkies a week.

  • Willthomasmy3sons

    Hi i have a q i got a 1 1/2 yr. Old ball who has been verry dossile y the other day did she first go to strike my wife /so i figgure shes still hungry so i gave her anothe the next day as i went to take her out of the feeding cage i was walkn with her down the hall an she struck my arm fast but did not hold on Y has she just all of a sudden started this she never has ever acted liike this an no didnt smell of mouse she jut both us Y please help i love her dearly an. Dont want her to strike i have 3 boys an tho thay dont hold her but soon will please get to me soon thx i love anny help or opions thx. WILL

  • Samuelgerullis

    im having th same problem with my snake we would hold him  and put him back wnd he would be fine but after awial he started being a turd i feed him as much as im exposed to and we put him in a bigger cage and he is an even bigger jerk i dont wno wat to do.

  • Dshipley123

    I have a ball python i dont know if its a male or female but it bit my for the frist time last night and i have had it for 6 months now i just wanted to know if it will bit agian?

  • Gando1978

    i was the same as everyone else. my snake is 2 years old. from about 10 months, i put my hand in to change the water and it bite me, has done it twice since. i am the same as others, it doesnt hurt just more of a shock and it was on the hand but i dont want it to strike my face. and i have lost confidence in handling him, which is a great shame.       question do snakes know about fear? meaning can it smeel that i am nervous now and takes that to hes advantage?

  • t0shi0

    :) Hey there! I think I might have the answer to this for you!
    Red-Tails are known to become more grumpy at “adolescence”– shes likely hit that grumpy stage. And, yes, when leaving snakes alone for months on end, they can revert back to being “wild”– I would gradually handle her more until shes back to being your loving little snake. Also, I would make sure that she has plenty of hiding places in the new tank– most snakes like to hide and feel secure. My own 7 year old red-tail has a large piece of “bark” that serves as his hide that he STILL goes under for this security need. :)

  • t0shi0

    You tried to hold it the very next day after feeding? Rule of thumb with snakes is to allow them a full 24-48 hours after feeding to digest meals. Possibly even give them longer– think of it as a thanksgiving dinner– you eat all you can, then you want to sleep and let everything settle. A snake is no different. :)

  • Carolinepurkey10

    I have a ball python. My mom and sister want to get a pet rat but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. My mom says if I can come up with a good argument she won’t get the rat. Is ther any reason why we shouldn’t get a rat

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Keep the rat and the snake separated and you won’t have any problems. Make sure that hands are thoroughly washed after handling the rat and before handling the snake. I don’t see any problems as long as you use common sense.

  • Brennibear Smith

    my snake is not eating what the pet store dude told me to feed him and im getting freaked out o and he is a wild common Garter snake 

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    Try feeding it in its tank instead of pulling it out. Don’t try to handle it for several days (3 days before you feed and 2 days after) and see if that helps at all. Also use small, controlled movements around the snake.

  • http://pet-snakes.com Pet Snakes

    I don’t know if they can sense when something is wrong with a person, but for some reason some snakes just don’t like some people. It could be a product (hair dye, shampoo, perfume, laundry detergent, etc) that your wife uses. It could be something she is carrying, or your wife might have inadvertently hurt the snake at some point and the snake associates her with pain. Hard to tell

  • colin

    i had the same problem and i got another one to go with him and he stopped biting idk if u can tho since youve had her for a few years but if u no any breeders you can ask but it was a few weeks after i got mine so you could try that but dont do it until you know if ones gonna get territorial or aggresive i put them near eachother and they just sat there all calm and stuff and neither of them ever tried to bite me again

  • Millerjeff22

    Putting your snake in a new tank will stress the snake I give my snakes at least 2 to 3 weeks befor I try to handle them you have to let the settle in first

  • Hastecaster

    I was just bit by my new ball python totally my fault she was feeding and mistook my hand for food. She drew a lot of blood, I’m worried I might have issues in the future with guests. Is this mostly a feeding thing, or should I expect her to develop a taste for human blood and must keep her away from public now?. Please help I don’t want to put her down.

  • Sailstar91

    Hi, I have had my corn snake for around 2 years now with no problems. It is usually calm and loves to be handled. Today I tried to pick him up but he tried to bite me. It seems really out of place but my friend said it might be because he is hungry because his usual feeding day is tomorrow? Could this be the problem? It really concerns me because he has never tried to bite me before. Thank you for you help!

  • Kmuzquiz11

    always feed your snake in a box or another area  never feed a snake in same cage  they become cage aggressive i have 12 snakes my biggest being a 200 pound red tailed boa from columbia  all tame and healthy

  • Kmuzquiz11

    always feed your snake in a box or another area  never feed a snake in same cage  they become cage aggressive i have 12 snakes my biggest being a 200 pound red tailed boa from columbia  all tame and healthy

  • Kkbabylove

    I have a baby spiderball python and have had him for one month.  He eats every Friday, He eats live mice, and he is very tame, i can handle him whenever I want and he just chills or explores or even cuddles to me. I interact with him a lot, I trust him and I believe he trusts me. When I first got him I researched and looked at websites to try to learn how to make my snake happy. I have learned that everyone has something different to say. I do my own thing with him and just learn more about him everyday. they have unique personalities and what works for one may not work for the other. My best advice is dont hover over the head, dont just grab them out of the cage and leave the body to dangle, put a heating pad beneath a snug hiding spot, feed them in a box with no loose bedding, soak them in warm water a few times a week, and handle your snake regularly and be calm while doing so.

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