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What is the Most Common Snake Prey?

Deanna Baranyi
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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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.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Deanna Baranyi
By Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her work. With degrees in relevant fields and a keen ability to understand and connect with target audiences, she crafts compelling copy, articles, and content that inform and engage readers.
Discussion Comments
By summing — On Mar 06, 2012

Why are some snakes venomous and some snakes not? It doesn't seem to have anything to do with size and location because there are big and small snakes the world over who have developed the ability to transmit venom. I'm sure it has to do with the mysteries of evolution, but have herpetologists come up with any theories about how this trait developed?

By ZsaZsa56 — On Mar 06, 2012
I saw this photography exhibit recently that was all very large very high definition pictures of snakes swallowing prey. It ranged from tiny snakes eating little mice to huge constrictors that could eat a whole pig.

Most of the shots were taken in profile so you could see how wide the snake's jaw was. It also helped to contrast the placid looking face of the snakes with the frantic back half of the animal being swallowed alive. I don't normally go for nature photography but this was a great exhibit.

By nextcorrea — On Mar 05, 2012

So you know in those movies about killer snakes the snakes are always able to eat human beings, usually while they are still alive? I know in that one movie Anaconda the snake ate like 10 different people. The movies aren't real of course, but can snakes really eat a human being? Will they actually go after a person and swallow them?

Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi
Deanna Baranyi, a freelance writer and editor with a passion for the written word, brings a diverse skill set to her...
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