What Do Snakes Eat in the Wild and as Pets?

Snakes are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and some breeds such as ball pythons and corn snakes are available in a variety of colors and patterns, making them even more popular. The most common question from people looking to buy snakes is: what do they eat? It depends on the type of snake, but most will eat mainly animal protein as they are all carnivores.

If you’re thinking about buying a snake for your home, keep reading while we take a look at some of the most popular breeds to see what they eat in the wild and in captivity so you can see if you can digest their food.

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What Do Little Snakes Eat?

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Natural diet

Smaller snakes such as ring-necked snakes, garter snakes, and California green snakes usually eat insects but also eat salamanders, lizards, frogs, worms, and other small snakes. Many of these small snakes are harmless to humans, but you should always exercise caution around any snake, especially if you are inexperienced as some bites can cause serious injury even if they are not venomous.

captive diet

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You will primarily be feeding your smaller snake a diet of crickets, earthworms, and mealworms. Since these insects have no bones, you may need to give your captive snake a calcium supplement, and if you’re not using a UVB lamp, you’ll also need a vitamin D3 supplement. Luckily these two nutrients are often packaged together. You will clean the insects with a supplement just before feeding them to your pet. The insects you feed your snake must be gutted, which means they should be fed with nutritious vegetables for at least 24 hours before giving them to your pet. Always buy your bugs instead of finding them around your home as wild bugs can contain parasites that can cause health problems for your pet.

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What Do Medium-Sized Snakes Eat?

corn snake

Natural diet

Medium-sized snakes like the green unicorn, Honduran milk snake, and corn snake are a bit too big for crickets and worms, but they’ll eat them anyway if they can’t find anything else. They prefer larger prey such as mice, frogs, lizards, and birds. Some snakes will even eat eggs if they can find them. Many of these snakes are poisonous and can cause serious health problems in humans, so make sure you have plenty of experience before approaching these snakes in the wild.

caterpillar eating

captive diet

Your medium-sized captive snake will mainly eat mice. Most experts recommend feeding captive mice frozen and thawed for best results. Wild rats caught on your property can excite your snake and use its hunting instincts, but they can also transfer parasites and bacteria to your pet, which can cause health problems. Since your snake eats the whole mouse, including the fur and bones, you don’t need to dust the food with calcium powder.


What Do Big Snakes Eat?

anaconda_Piqsels ular snake

Natural diet

Large snakes such as the green anaconda, Burmese python, and boa constrictor mainly feed on fish, birds, reptiles, small snakes, squirrels, rabbits, and even larger game animals such as deer. Luckily for humans, most of these large snakes are slow-moving and non-venomous, so they make fantastic pets.

  • See Also: What Do Ball Snakes Eat In The Wild & As Pets?

captive diet

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Large captive snakes will mainly eat mice. Rats are good sized food that your snake can easily digest and contain all the nutrients your snake needs to stay healthy. This food doesn’t need dusting, and like mice, you can buy frozen mice for easy finding and storage. Also, the risk of accidentally passing bacteria or parasites on to your snake is much less if you choose captive mice.snake divider 2

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Summary

In the wild, snakes are opportunistic eaters who will eat anything they can fit on their heads. In fact, snakes have the uncanny ability to open their mouths 150 degrees to fit food larger than their bodies. Smaller snakes will stick primarily to insects and worms, but as the species grows, so does the food they eat. Some of the larger snakes can eat large animals such as deer, but they mainly stick to smaller prey such as rabbits, squirrels, and mice. We recommend using only commercially purchased captive insects, mice and rats for your snake to promote optimal health.

We hope you enjoyed reading this guide, and that it has helped answer your questions. If we’ve helped improve your snake’s diet, please share our guide on what snakes eat in the wild and as pets on Facebook and Twitter.


Featured Image Credit: Jarkko Mnty, Pixabay