What Do Snakes Eat?

Posted by Crystal Long
Snake eats a mouse.

Ah, the snake. We know these slippery, slithering vertebrates swallow their food whole, but how much beyond that do we really know about the reptile's diet?

Snakes are portrayed in pop culture as something dark and sinister (like their role in the Harry Potter movies) or critters that spend their days slithering around looking for mice to eat. While the last part about mice might be true for some species of snakes, in reality, snakes actually have a wider food range than just, well, mice.

Snakes are carnivores. These reptiles will only eat meat -- and yes, they do swallow their food whole. This is because they can't chew their food. (They don't have the right teeth for it!) No matter what types of snakes, whether it's the skinny rattlesnake or the large boa constrictor (like the giant anaconda), their jaw is expandable and allows them to eat prey items that are much larger than them. Unlike humans, the snake's upper jaw is attached only by muscles and ligaments and the upper and lower jaw are connected by a bone that's like a double-jointed hinge, allowing the lower jaw to unhinge and opening the reptile's mouth as wide as 150 degrees.

What Do Pet Snakes Eat?

While there's no real "one size fits all" for the snake's diet, what you feed your pet snake will largely depend on the species of snake you have and whether your snake is a generalist species or a specialist species: one that'll only eat one type of food. (i.e. the egg-eating snake will only eat eggs.)

Most common pet snakes eat an assortment of small mammals such as mice, rats, gerbils, and hamsters -- larger pet snakes will even eat whole rabbits. Some pet snakes will also eat insects like live crickets, earthworms, and slugs; amphibians (like frogs or toads!) and fish can also be included in your pet snake's diet.

Luckily, most of these pet snakes feed can be found at your local pet store.

What Do Wild Snakes Eat?

In the wild, snakes have a wider range of foods available to them. Snakes like to eat live prey, and while some wild snakes will eat fish and insects, they'll mostly eat prey like chipmunks, frogs, gophers, and other small rodents like mice and rats. Some wild snakes will even eat birds and their eggs, pretty much any animal that's available to them in the wild that they can take.

Very large snakes will even eat large prey like deer, pigs, and monkeys.

Do you have a pet snake or have seen a snake feed in the wild? Share your story on the Wide Open Pets Facebook!

READ MORE: Mother Owl vs. Snake in Battle to Defend Her Babies

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What Do Snakes Eat?