Reading the body language of your snake. It’s, of course, important to know the individual quirks of your snake species at home. the body language we’re going to be covering will be more generalized. To the majority of snakes but again yours at home might be a little bit different
Relaxed and Happy Snake
We’re going to start with the body language of a happy or relaxed snake. Then we will move towards the body language of a snake that stressed or acting defensively.
We’ll begin with a snake that is very relaxed scientific that is very relaxed include holding their body in a way that isn’t tensed up at all. The snake also might curl up or resting its head on a coil of its body and it’s not looking at you in particular and has very few if any tongue flicks.
It’s hard to tell when a snake is sleeping because they can’t blink their eyes, they sleep with their eyes open. If your snake is in a safe place like in its cave its curled up it’s not moving at all and it’s not tongue flicking at all. There’s a good chance that it might be asleep. if it’s not asleep. If it’s moving a teeny bit but not any tongue flicks it’s most likely very relaxed
Curious and Inquisitive Snake
Now let’s talk about snakes that are curious or inquisitive or exploring. They’re not stressed at all it’s a snake that’s checking out their surroundings. This includes some tongue flicking not a ton of it like a normal rate. Which is hard to describe but once you own snakes for a while you’ll kind of know what a normal rate is. When it comes to tongue flicks as well as how long the tongue flicks are. if there’s something of particular interest around the snake that it’s trying to investigate a little bit more. It’ll take its tongue and curve it in direction of whatever is interesting to them. Instead of relaxed snakes that are kind of laying there. A curious or inquisitive snake will be moving around. It’s checking out its surroundings. It’s not focusing its attention on one specific, thing it’s generally looking all, around itself. There are of course some exceptions to this.
Body language of a hungry snake feeding behavior or feeding movements. Hungry snakes will act in a way that they’re moving around. It looks like they’re on a mission to get to something. They’ll almost lock eyes with you or something that moves past that catches their interest. They think could potentially be food. They might have just learned to associate you with providing them with food so they follow you around when they’re hungry. This is also accompanied by very quick moving and frequent tongue flicks. Meaning they are trying to investigate that food item and determine whether it’s food and again if the food is off to one direction or the other. They will flick their tongue in the direction of the food they may even go so far on intensely staring at you or whatever is of interest to them. That they think could be food. With those quick tongue flicks and they’ll follow it like if you take a rodent. That they want they’ll follow it around their head cause they are showing interest in eating that
Defensive or Scared Snake
Let’s move on to more scared or defensive body language found in snakes. For snakes that are exhibiting, scared or threatening body language. They will often try to shy away or tuck away from something that’s scaring them. This is often seen in ball pythons that our head shy. Ball pythons will usually if you touch anywhere near their head. They’ll tuck it back because they don’t like to be touched in the face. Some snakes instead of shying away from a threat will try to get away from you all together and we’ll quickly slither away from you. If you’re reaching into your snake’s enclosure and the snake takes off in the other direction. It’s probably thinking you’re a predator and he is scared of you. Some snakes may if they feel cornered like if you’re reaching into your corn snakes enclosure and you lift their cave. They might just freeze and they’re hoping that you don’t see them and you leave them alone. If they’re feeling quite stressed you’ll also notice that their tongue flick is very long. They take a long time to pull the tongue back into their mouth. That’s because they’re trying to pick up as much of the scent around them as possible before drawing it in. Then processing it in their Jacobson’s organ.
The hognose snake is one that’s very well known for its dramatic defense mechanisms. They make an excellent example of this. The hognose when it’s feeling threatened will stretch out the skin on the sides of its neck. What the hognose snake is doing is it’s trying to look bigger than it is to try to intimidate you to make you leave it alone. They do this with people they do it with predators. This is their first option for their defense mechanism. If you see a hognose snake that’s hooding up you don’t want to egg it on. That means it’s stressed it thinks you’re a predator. That’s gonna eat it or attack it. Hognose snakes that are hooded up will then often bluff strike at a predator or a threat that gets too close to them. This means that they keep their mouths closed but they strike at the threat. They kind of boop you with their nose or the side of their face. They’re trying to scare you with quick movement and bit of a hiss to try to get you to leave them alone. Speaking of hissing the hognose snakes’ noise when it’s striking isn’t actually hiss from its mouth instead. These guys have a very unique rostral scale which is the scale right in front of their nose. It’s pushed up even in their skeleton you can see it that bone pushed up. That allows them to make a very loud noise when they exhale through their nose. What they’ll do is they will bluff strike. They will quickly jerk their body. They exhale quickly through their nose to make a hissing sound and they hope that scares you away. If you have a hognose snake that is acting in this manner defensively. You don’t want to like reach in and pull out because they strike they bluff strike at you and then reach in again and pull out again. In their eyes, you look like a predator say a bird that is swooping down and getting scared away and then coming back down and trying to attack them again. Find a way that you don’t want to look like a predator to them. You want to reach in confidently and with one swift motion pick them up to remove them from their enclosure. 99% of the time after you remove an upset hognose snake from their enclosure. They come right down and they’re perfectly handleable afterward. They realize that if you were a predator you would have eaten them by now and instead you’re still holding them. They realize you’re not really a threat anymore. Most often when you hold them for a couple of minutes they revert to that curious and explorative mode that we were talking about earlier
When they’re feeling extremely threatened. They will stop the whole hood up thing. They don’t want to look threatening anymore. They take the opposite route. They’ll roll over onto their backs open up their mouths stick out their tongue and they’ll play dead. They think they’re dead. They’ll wiggle around. They’ll poop on themselves. They’ll even regurgitate a previous meal or they can purpose pop a blood vessel in their mouth and bleed from their mouth on purpose. What they’re doing now is instead of trying to scare you away. They try to make you think they are as gross and as unappetizing as possible. That you would get sick if you continue to mess with them so instead you should just leave them alone. Now, this does mean that if a hognose snake plays dead. It is almost accepting its fate that’s. Its last resort it is terrified even though there are cute pictures out there and of hognose snakes playing dead. We think it’s adorable that snake is so scared it’s not as cute as you might originally think. The snake is terrified so you don’t want a proud a hognose snake to the point where it plays dead. It thinks you’re seriously gonna eat it.
Hopefully, the article about body language has helped you learn a little bit more about the behavior of your snake at home. What they’re feeling, based on how often and how long their tongue flicks are. What they’re looking at and how they’re holding their body and how tense they are. You can generally get a good idea of how they’re feeling by looking at those variables. The most important thing though is that. You need to learn the behavior of your personal snake at home and once you get to know what normal behavior is for your snake. How it holds itself where it looks around how it looks around and explores. Then when it starts acting differently you can learn why it’s acting differently whether it means it’s hungry or it’s agitated it’s preparing for a shed and once you learn all of that you’ll have a much stronger relationship with your pet snake because you’ll know how to read his body language.