What do snakes eat in the wild?
I am going to give a brief overview of what snakes eat both in the wild and when they are kept as pets. Understanding what a snake’s natural diet and eating habits are will help you better understand their needs as a reptile keeper. In order to maintain good health proper diet is mandatory.
Snakes are carnivorous some of the more common prey items in the wild are rodents (mice, rats etc.), birds, frogs and even other snakes. For the most part snakes are opportunistic hunters taking advantage of whatever prey they come across. Some of the larger species (pythons and anacondas) will even eat small deer or crocodilians.
There are also more specialized feeders such as water snakes preying on fish and amphibians mainly or the African egg eating snake. In addition to this arboreal species may prey exclusively on birds or lizards in the case of tree boa species.
What do snakes eat in captivity?
In captivity it is very hard to mimic the variety a snake has in its natural diet. Most herpetoculturists rely almost exclusively on a rodent based diet typically rats or feeder mice. Occasionally for more picky eaters it is necessary to use natal rats or even gerbils.
Picky eaters can even be induced to feed by offering a prey item that has been scented with another creature. This is typically accomplished by rubbing the prey item with bedding of another species of rodent. Scenting with a lizard shed can also be done to get lizard loving snakes to eat rodents in some cases.
For snakes more likely to take birds the most commonly available types are day old chicks and quail. Regardless of what you feed a snake in captivity it is always very important to make sure the prey item has been fed a complete diet to ensure proper nutrition for your reptile. This is easy enough if you breed your own feeders but, if you get them from another source be sure to inquire about what the animals are fed.
One final consideration when feeding captive snakes is whether to feed live or frozen/thawed. If possible it is advised to feed frozen/thawed feeder animals. This reduces the risk of damage to your reptile or even death in the case of aggressive rodents. If you can’t get your snake to switch over to frozen/thawed feeders make sure you monitor the animal when you feed to prevent injury.
Photo credit: Benimoto