There are approximately 2,700 different species of snakes, and snake prey varies from species to species. Some snakes, such as the Brahminy blind snakes, are quite small, measuring only a few inches long (4-5 cm), while others, such as anacondas, can grow to be nearly 40 feet (12.2 m) in length. Consequently, the prey of snakes can range from small termites and the larvae of insects to large mammals, such as cows, jaguars, sheep, and dogs. The most common snake prey includes mice, frogs, and other small or mid-sized creatures.
Nearly all snake prey is eaten whole. In addition, the prey can be nearly three times the size of the head of the snake. This is because the bottom jaw can dislodge from the top jaw. The result is a wide bite and the ability to eat animals in their entirety. Generally, the teeth are not used for chewing the snake prey, but for holding it.
Some species of snakes, such as the Groen Boomslang, have opisthoglyphous, or rear-facing fangs, toward the back of their jaws. Although the saliva of these kinds of snakes is usually toxic, the rear-facing teeth also do their part to catch snake prey. Specifically, some snake prey, such as frogs, toads, and other snakes, tend to inflate their lungs and bodies to defend themselves from predators. The rear-facing fangs work to puncture the inflated air sacs and make the snake prey easier to swallow.
There are some species of snakes that are venomous, such as the pit viper and the rattlesnake. The venom is injected into the creature upon the first bite and will either affect the nervous system or the vascular system. Some snakes may only cause pain and swelling, while others inject deadly toxins.
Anacondas and pythons are constrictors. They squeeze their prey until the animal dies. Interestingly, if one of these snakes catch a large enough prey, they can live for nearly a year without catching more prey. They have been known to catch cows, alligators, wallabies, jaguars, and other large animals.
Some people enjoy owning pet snakes. They may wonder whether they should use pre-killed snake prey or give their snake live prey. Most snake specialists recommend that pet snakes eat mice, frogs, or rats that are already dead. They fear that a live rat or mouse could injure a snake if he wasn’t ready to hunt. In addition, the cost of keeping live prey may be more than some people would want to spend.