When I was a kid, I wanted my corn snake, Ernie, to have a happy life. I wondered if it would be safe to let him out of his tank and roam around my bedroom for a while. I nearly lost him! I learned that day how difficult it is to let your snake roam safely.
It’s a bad idea to let your snake roam freely. Snakes are expert explorers and will easily escape into their surrounding environment. Not only can this result in your snake’s death from temperature variations, but it can also result in breaking laws regarding releasing exotic species into the wild.
Let’s take a deeper look at the problems with letting your snake roam, and, if you’re still considering it, what you need to do to snake-proof your home if you’re going to let your snake move around.
Table of Contents
Why You Should Not Let Your Snake Roam
Repeat after me: “Snakes love to hide”. Yup, your snake might seem like it enjoys being with you and being handled, but the reality is that snakes tend to shun company. They enjoy being away from people, snakes, and other animals.
A huge part of a snake’s behavioral process is hiding, where it is safe, can digest food, and can wait for its preferred time of the day or night to move around.
This means that your snake, if you let it, will seek out the most tucked away, difficult to reach, and undetectable places in its environment to lay low. This can create a number of problems, such as:
Your Snake Could Get Lost
Trust me, your snake will find nooks and crannies you aren’t even aware of in your home. Wall cavities, pipes, wiring, insulation, ventilation, the inside of a computer, etc, all of these will be accessible to your snake.
Even if it stays in your home, it’s more than likely that you’ll lose your animal before you can save it from other environmental hazards.
It’s tragic when a pet dies, but not knowing what happened to it can be just as harrowing.
Your Snake Could Get Stuck
We all know that snakes are experts when it comes to enclosed spaces; however, they aren’t infallible. A snake can get stuck in a poorly chosen hide. This is especially true inside a home.
In the wild, underground hides might have plant roots and stones to contend with, but a snake will naturally avoid or move around these.
In a home, there are wires, the insides of bottles, and other man-made materials that can easily trap your snake. What’s worse, some free-roaming snakes have been trapped because objects or furniture were moved in front of a spot where they were hiding, unbeknownst to the owner.
Lack of Heat
Snakes are ectothermic. They need heat to warm up their internal organs and blood so that they have the energy to be more active. Most snakes live in hot climates, and so it’s essential that their environment mimics that climate.
Furthermore, individual species will require different environmental variables like temperature, humidity, and day/night cycles.
Once your snake is roaming around and has snuck into some inaccessible part of your home, the temperature will be different from its enclosure. Without access to the sun or a hot enough climate, the snake will eventually get ill and even die.
No Food or Water
Isn’t it amazing how long a snake can go without food? But they still need it, usually every 1 – 3 weeks, depending on the species.
Once hiding in your home, a snake might have no access to food and/or water. Unless you’re unlucky to have a rodent and insect infestation, the likelihood is that your snake will eventually starve or die of thirst.
However, there is one grisly type of food a snake might be able to find, and that leads us onto…
Other Pets Disappearing
Yup, it’s not just your snake vanishing that you need to worry about. Depending on your snake’s size, it might happily eat a cat, dog, or other pet in your home. That doesn’t bear thinking!
Attacking Family or Friends
“Hey! Come on over tonight. There’ll be beer, Call of Duty, and… Oh yeah… The chance of being bitten by my pet snake.”
It could be a friend, or worse, it could be a child. As a snake owner, it’s your responsibility to ensure the safety of others.
If your snake doesn’t get trapped or sick, it’s likely that it will eventually make its way outside of your home. That’s going to be problematic for two reasons:
- Releasing exotic animals into the world is illegal. This can badly impact the environment and local wildlife. In some instances, such as the red-eared terrapin problem in UK rivers, foreign animals can start to breed and break the food chain.
- If your snake is venemous or a large constrictor, it could kill other people’s pets, or even a neighbour. I know sometimes we don’t get on with neighbours, but I think “death by snakes” is taking things a little too far just because they’re noisy.
This covers most of the main issues with allowing a snake to roam. That being said, some snake owners do allow their animals some autonomy outside of their enclosure.
If you’re thinking about doing the same, there are some other things you should know.
When Not to Let Your Snake Roam
Even if you are considering letting your snake roam, there are times when you absolutely should not do this. These include during:
If your snake is suffering from an illness, then it could get into trouble when reacting to a larger environment. Your snake could slither into a hide and its condition could worsen.
It might not have the strength then to come back into the open where you could find it and then take it to the vet.
Your snake could also pass something on to another snake or animal in the wild, including a contagious disease or parasite.
This can be devastating if your snake is exotic to your part of the world where the ecosystem has no built-up immunity to foreign pathogens and parasites.
During Or Before Shedding
When a snake sheds its skin in the wild, the animal largely focuses on removing the shed. Even in captivity, most snakes don’t feed during the shedding process.
Snakes are more vulnerable when shedding, and their ability to see properly can even be reduced as the occular lens scales are replaced.
If your snake is shedding, it’s best to keep it safe in its enclosure where it can remove the shed away from any other animal, person, or danger.
If it’s cold where you are or you are experiencing a dip of more than a couple of degrees in heat where you live, then you shouldn’t allow your snake to free roam. Colder temperatures can negatively impact your snake’s health.
If your snake is showing signs it isn’t happy, then hold off on letting it roam. It’s important to discover what’s stressing your animal before you expose it to possible other stressors.
How to Prepare Your Room for Snake Roaming
You know we love a good checklist at Reptile Craze. It’s a great way to make sure you’ve thought about everything. If you are going to let your snake roam, here’s a list of things you’ll need to do:
- Establish a roaming area, one your snake will not be allowed to leave. A single room is usually best as this is more controllable.
- Seal the room. It’s difficult to do, but the best approach is to move everything out of the room and then seal up any cracks or holes with some wire wool and expanding foam. You can move things back in, later.
- Fit stormguards to the foot of any doors to ensure a seal when doors are closed.
- Tape any closets or cupboards shut.
- Remove any glass items that could smash and cut your pet.
- Either box off or remove any electrical wires.
- Use ventiliation covers for any vents in the room. Make sure the holes are too small for your snake to get through.
- Create artififial hides. An upturned box with a hole cut in it and some towels on the floor will provide places your snake can hide in and feel safe. Using artificial hides, you’ll at least know where your little buddy is.
- If you have to move things back into the room like furniture, seal up any holes. You don’t want to sit down on your favourite armchair and then get a nasty surprise!
- Check all snake proofing every couple of weeks to ensure the environment remains safe.
I hope you enjoyed this article on letting a snake roam free. Always err on the side of caution with this topic. Snakes are escape artists!
But if you follow our checklist, you should be able to remove most of the hazards. Please do let us know how you get on or if you have any other ideas about snake-proofing a room in the comments below.