Snakes and mythology practically go hand in hand. These slinky creatures have long been associated with the mystique and the unknown, and as a result, they are one of the most misunderstood members of the animal kingdom. In reality, snakes are fascinating animals that play an essential role in ecosystems and make rewarding and exciting pets.
They are generally docile and static creatures who enjoy basking in the sun and provide their owners with most of their entertainment during biweekly mealtimes. Here at Pisces, our reptile department carries several different species of snakes.
Like any animal, keeping a snake as a pet still has potential risks and any bites should receive first aid. That being said, their dangerous reputation is largely undeserved. Here are the top 5 myths about snakes, and the truth about these misunderstood serpentines:
1. They’re Poisonous
We’ve all seen a movie that shows someone getting bitten by a snake or sucking the venom out of the wound. Luckily for pet snake owners, the status of venomous snakes worldwide is greatly exaggerated. According to National Geographic, “There are more than 3,000 species of snakes on the planet,” and, “About 600 species are venomous, and only about 200—seven percent—are able to kill or significantly wound a human.”
One of these 200 is the well-known Black Mamba, which can kill a human with only 2 bites of venom. However, in both Canada and the exotic pet trade, you are much more likely to come into contact with non-venomous snakes like the Ball Python or garter snake. Ball pythons don’t even have fangs (but do have small teeth) and a garter snake's mild venom is unlikely to cause more than slight itching or swelling.
2. They’re Slimy
A common misconception about snakes' physical characteristics is that they are slimy, or otherwise covered in some sort of sticky, goopy substance. While some amphibians like salamanders are slimy, reptiles including snakes are dry to the touch and are often perceived as being slimy to the shiny appearance of their scales or skin. Snakeskin is covered in a layer of scales that they periodically shed to allow them room to grow and discard any parasites. The shedding process is a slime-less one, as is the rest of a snake's existence. Snakes spend most of their time basking in the sun, and their skin is hard and dry to the touch.
3. Snakes are Aggressive
Contrary to popular belief, snakes would much prefer to slither away from us humans in silence than to start a fight. Like any animal, snakes can display aggressive behaviour if they’re hurt or feel threatened, but this isn’t a reaction unique to their species. If they do feel threatened, snakes might make their presence known by attaining an upright position called a striking posture, which is used as a defence strategy to give them more support if they do end up striking. Humans aren’t prey to snakes, and they will only bite as a defence mechanism.
However, the odds of this happening in captivity and with proper and patient handling are slim to none. Snake owners know that snakes are generally incredibly docile pets who often tolerate handling and are content to just hang out and bask in the sun.
4. Snakes are Deaf
It's an ironic myth considering the fact that snakes are also commonly associated with “dancing” for the music that comes from a snake charmer's lute. While it’s true that snakes don’t have ears or eardrums, to say that they are deaf is untrue. Snakes can hear a wide array of sounds – albeit not in the same way that other animals and we can.
They clearly don’t have ears, or even a “hole” for an ear like some other reptiles do. They do, however, use bones in their jaw to sense vibrations on the ground, effectively “hearing” them. They can detect between 50 and 1,000 Hertz while we can hear between 20 and 20,000 Hertz. More recent research has shown that snakes' hearing abilities may be better than previously thought, as may differ greatly between different species.
5. They Dislocate Their Jaws While Feeding
Lastly, a common misconception about snakes’ feeding habits is that they dislocate their jaws while feeding on large prey. Some species of snake are known for their ability to eat and digest big prey – Burmese pythons have even been recorded as consuming full deer. However, the answer to this feat doesn’t lay in the snake's ability to dislocate parts of itself. Snakes actually have the ability to open their mouths so wide due to the fact that their upper jaws, or mandibles, aren’t connected by bone like they are in humans. Instead, they are connected via a ligament that allows them to stretch and contract the area drastically.
Snakes are quiet and interesting pets who are not all worthy of their spooky reputation. Think you might be interested in getting a pet snake of your own? Give us a visit to learn more about our slinky friends, or read our blog on owning your first pet snake.