Where Do Snakes Live?

The answer to the question “Where do snakes live?” is almost everywhere on earth save the polar regions, where it’s too cold most of the time for these cold-blooded animals. Snakes live in the desert and in the forest, whether it is tropical or temperate. They are found in freshwater and brackish swamps and marshes. Some snakes are even completely aquatic. They live on farms and pastures, dry scrub, mountains, rocky areas, and even in houses and irrigation ditches.

Another interesting fact about snakes is that they don’t live in Hawaii, where you’d think the climate would be perfect for them. The reason for this is the Hawaiian islands were never connected to a larger landmass, and snakes couldn’t reach them. Greenland and New Zealand are also snake-free. Ireland is famously free of snakes, and it wasn’t because St. Patrick banished them. For some reason, Ireland never had snakes in the first place, even though one can find snakes right across the Irish Sea in England, Scotland and Wales. Read on for some facts that answer the question “Where do snakes live?”

1. The Rainforest

Where Do Snakes Live
A Borneo Paradise Flying Snake on a leaf. These snakes commonly live in the rainforest.

A rainforest is a forest that gets 60 to 200 inches of rain every year. A tropical rainforest is just the thing for a snake. The temperatures and humidity levels are just right, there is an abundance of prey and lots of vegetation in which to hide. This is why there are so many types of snakes found in tropical rainforests.

One snake that lives in the rainforest is the common boa constrictor of South and Central America. These snakes can grow between 6 and 13.5 feet long. Depending on where they’re found they can be dark brown, light brown, or gray with saddle markings. Some have red tails, especially young boas. These snakes subdue their prey by basically squeezing them to death in their coils, and though they’re not venomous they can bite. The common boa is a livebearer and has 15 to 50 babies at a time. It can also swim and climb trees in search of prey.

2. In the Desert

Where Do Snakes Live
Venomous Sidewinder Rattlesnake (Crotalus cerastes) with forked tongue lying on the desert sand.

A desert is a habitat that gets little precipitation. They can be hot or cold, and indeed, Antarctica is considered a desert. No snakes live there, but many types of snakes live in hot deserts. One of the interesting facts concerning desert animals is that they’re called xerocoles. One snake xerocole is the sidewinder.

The sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes is a type of rattlesnake that’s found in the southwest United States and northwestern Mexico. It’s a small snake that only grows to about 31 inches and is paler than other rattlesnakes to allow it to blend into the sands of the desert. The sidewinder comes in shades of gray, cream, tan, yellow, or even pink with rows of spots. It also differs from other rattlers in that it has “horns” over its eyes. This might keep the sand out of the snake’s eyes as it burrows. It gets its name because it moves in a diagonal, sideways movement over the sand. Scientists believe this sidewinding gives the snake traction. You can tell that a sidewinder has been in the area because it leaves J-shaped tracks.

Other snakes that live in the desert include the mole snake, the long-nosed snake, and the western coral snake.

3. Wetlands

Where Do Snakes Live
Water moccasin floating on water. Water moccasins are very common in wetlands.

Snakes also live in wetlands. One type of wetland is the swamp. A swamp is where the soil is saturated or covered with standing water. It is home to water-loving trees, bushes, and shrubs. Another type is the marsh. A marsh differs from a swamp because it is created by flooding from nearby lakes, rivers, or streams. Unlike a swamp, the plants in a marsh are herbaceous, which means they usually have soft stems. Like swamps, marshes can hold salt, fresh or brackish water.

One type of snake that lives in the wetlands is the cottonmouth or the water moccasin. This snake lives in the southeastern United States and gets its name because the inside of its mouth is white. Though it’s not a very big snake and usually doesn’t grow to three feet in length, it is dangerous and bad-tempered and has venom powerful enough to kill a human. Besides ponds and marshes, cottonmouths can be found in rice paddies, rivers, lakes, and streams. It’s even found in drainage ditches. The snake has no problem swimming in saltwater though it prefers to travel in freshwater. The cottonmouth eats anything it can tackle, but it usually sticks with frogs and fish. It’s also one of the few snakes that scavenge and is not above cannibalism.

4. In Saltwater and In Freshwater

Where Do Snakes Live
A Banded Sea Snake swimming over a coral reef.

Sea snakes are truly aquatic snakes that spend all their lives in the ocean. They are so well adapted to the ocean that they really can’t function on land. An exception is the sea krait, which still has scales on its belly to give it traction on land. Found around the Indian and Pacific Oceans, nearly all of them are venomous, though most rarely bite. Adaptations that allow these snakes to live in saltwater are tails like paddles and compressed bodies that make them resemble colorful or prettily patterned eels, but unlike eels, they lack gills. Like whales, sea snakes need to come to the surface to breathe. They can also expel excess salt from their body. They eat fish and baby octopuses.

Sea snakes aren’t the only fully aquatic snakes. Filesnakes, found in Oceania and southern Asia are also aquatic, but they are found in freshwater.

5. The Mountains

Where Do Snakes Live
A juvenile Himalayan Pit Viper, Gloydius himalayanus in Uttaranchal, India. These snakes are commonly found in India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

It’s astonishing, but snakes are also found in the mountains and at rather high altitudes! The Himalayan pit viper is found on the south slopes of the Himalayan mountains at heights between 6900 and 16,200 feet. Indeed, it is the highest living snake in the world. As such, it has had to adapt to the cold dry air that comes with living at such elevations and is described as a bit sluggish. It shelters under rocks or fallen leaves and eats small rodents and invertebrates.

The Himalayan pit viper is a small snake that only grows to about 3 feet in length, and it has a notably wide and long head with large scales. It’s brown or mottled at the top and white with red and black dots on the belly. It is distributed among the countries of India, Nepal, and Pakistan and is the only pit viper found in Pakistan.

6. In the Forest and Woodlands

Where Do Snakes Live
A black Rat snake in Virginia’s Caledon State Park. The rat snake is a constrictor, commonly found in the central-western United States.

Woodlands are basically places that have trees but not so many that the sunlight is blocked. Because they get lots of sun, woodlands often support grasses and herbaceous plants that are found at the feet of the trees. Snakes are fond of this type of habitat, for it provides lots of cover and prey, and they can find a log or a flat rock to stretch out on and bask in the sun. One snake found in woodlands is the rat snake. This common snake is found in the central western United States. It can grow to about 6 feet long, though individuals have been found that are over 8 feet. Beautifully suited to its habitat, it can easily climb trees and swim, and during the winter it densifies up with rattlers and copperheads.

The rat snake is a constrictor, and despite its name, it doesn’t specialize in rats or anything else. It will readily eat other snakes, lizards, amphibians, baby rabbits and possums, birds, and their eggs. The snake mates in late spring and lays its own eggs in early summer.

Forests are also full of trees, but in such numbers that the area is shady with little sunlight. Snakes that live in the forest include the South American coral snake, the king cobra, and the golden lancehead.

7. Grasslands

Where Do Snakes Live
A Green anaconda (Eunectes murinus), which is especially partial to flooded grassland.

As the name says, this type of habitat is dominated by grasses, with a smattering of legumes and herbs. Grasslands, like snakes, are found just about everywhere on earth save the polar regions. One snake that is found in grasslands is the anaconda, which is not big enough to eat a human. This huge snake, however, does eat capybaras, a dog-sized rodent as well as deer, juvenile jaguars, and even caimans. It also likes lagoons and rivers found in the rainforest, but it is especially partial to flooded grassland. There, this 17 foot long, 150-pound snake can lie in wait in the grass until a prey animal comes close enough for an ambush. Because it spends so much time in the water, the anaconda has eyes that are closer to the top of its head than terrestrial snakes.

8. In and Around Human Habitation

Where Do Snakes Live
A Black rat snake looking in sliding glass door on back porch of a house in North Carolina in spring.

Another answer to the question “Where do snakes live?” must include houses and outbuildings such as barns. Indeed, there’s a snake called the common house snake. Native to subSaharan Africa, this harmless snake is from 3 to 5 feet long and comes in solid but iridescent colors of bronze, brown, black, or red. Though it’s not true that homeowners deliberately bring this snake into their homes, it is famous for its consumption of rats and mice.

Other snakes that might show up in houses in the United States include garter snakes, ringneck snakes, rat snakes, and king snakes. Snakes that inhabit farms, pastures and gardens include the northern death adder, several species of cobra including the Indian spectacled, the mamushi, the corn snake, and the coachwhip.

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