Snake
Snakes

 

Defenders of Wildlife

Defenders of Wildlife
1130 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 1-800-385-9712

defenders@mail.defenders.org

STATUS:
There are about 2,700 species of snakes, of these 375 are venomous. In the United States, ten species are listed as threatened and seven species are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

DESCRIPTION:
Snakes are elongated, limbless, flexible reptiles. Their body shape depends on the habitat in which they live. Aquatic snakes usually have a flattened body; those living in trees are long and slender with a prehensile tail while burrowing snakes tend to be compact. Snakes are found in a huge range of colors, from bright to dull. Brightly colored snakes are usually venomous, their coloration serving as a warning to predators, while dull colored snakes use their coloration for camouflage. Some snakes mimic the color and pattern of venomous snakes.

SIZE:
Brahminy blind snakes are the smallest snake at two inches in length. The anaconda can reach lengths of 38 feet.

 
LIFESPAN:
In captivity, some species will live as long as 50 years.

 
RANGE:

Snakes are found throughout the world except Antarctica, Iceland, Ireland, Greenland and New Zealand. Most snakes are found in tropical regions.

HABITAT:
Snakes are found in many habitats including in the water, forests, deserts and prairies.

FOOD:

Snakes consume a variety of items including termites, rodents, birds, frogs, small deer and other reptiles. Snakes eat their prey whole and are able to consume prey three times larger than the diameter of their head because their lower jaw can separate from the upper jaw. To keep prey from escaping, snakes have rear-facing teeth that hold their prey in their mouths. Venomous snakes inject their prey with venom, while constrictors squeeze their prey. They do not need to hunt everyday. Anacondas and pythons can survive for up to a year without food after feeding. Snakes hunt mostly at night.

BEHAVIOR:

Often observed flicking itís tongue, snakes use their forked tongue to smell the air. Snakes are ectotherms, meaning they must regulate their body temperature externally by sunning themselves or retreating to cool, shaded areas. Snakes hibernate during the winter. Snakes must shed their skin three to six times per year.

OFFSPRING:
Most snake species lay eggs, but some species give birth to live young. Snakes lay their eggs in a warm location. With the exception of some python species, eggs and young are not cared for by the male or female.

 
THREATS:
Roads, habitat destruction.

 
PROTECTION:
Endangered Species Act


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