Is it possible that our snakes are more scared of us than we are of them? As we care for snakes, we realize that all their responses are based on stressors or lack thereof in their environment. But there are just those instances where they seem too afraid of us. Why is your snake afraid of you?
Snakes get afraid of humans as part of their predator and prey response. Trauma may also stem from improper handling training. Also, having a chaotic environment outside the enclosure can make snakes anxious. The smell of the owner’s hand may also trigger a negative response.
Are you in a situation where you have tried everything to gain the trust of your snake, yet it always resorts to hiding and even biting when you are around? You might be doing something wrong, so keep on reading to learn how to make your snake less afraid of you.
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Why Your Snake Is Scared Of You
When people who do not own snakes as pets see a snake, their immediate reaction is fear. This is a natural human response brought about by negative perceptions influenced by socio-cultural factors.
For us snake pet owners, we know that it is the other way around. Therefore, it does not surprise us that snakes are actually more scared of us.
Here are some explanations as to why snakes react that way as well as some errors in caring that we might be doing that leave our beloved snakes scared.
1. Your Snake Is Afraid Of You As Part of Their Natural Response
In the wild, snakes have an automatic flight or fight response. This even applies to highly venomous snakes. They know that if the prey is smaller, slower, or can be ambushed, they can fight it and go home well-fed.
On the other hand, if what they see is larger and more threatening, they quickly register that as a potential predator.
By just size alone, we humans are certainly larger than our pet snakes which can intimidate them and make them exhibit defensive behaviors such as hiding, biting, striking, or even playing dead.
In this study, it was interesting to note that almost all snakes that were studied illicit a fear response even when confronted with different facial expressions.
Therefore, it does not matter if you look happy, calm, stressed, angry, etc. To a snake, when they deem that something is threatening, they feel anxious and afraid.
Even captively bred snakes have a natural predator-prey response. Therefore, it is our job as snake owners to establish a bond of trust with our snakes.
It is an arduous process that involves a lot of nips and bites, but with consistency and proper technique, eventually, our snakes will no longer be afraid of us.
2. Your Snake Is Afraid Of You Due To Improper Handling
Handling training is as important as feeding your snake in order to establish a trusting bond. This is where you take out your snake from its enclosure and hold it for 15-20 minutes, at least twice a day.
This activity helps establish to your snake that you mean it no harm and therefore, it should not react defensively towards you. However, if handling is done erroneously, the result will be the opposite.
Improper handling may be done in these ways:
- Starting handling training too early. In cases where you just put your snake in a new enclosure and you have not given it time to adjust to its surroundings.
- Doing handling training while your snake is in blue or in shed.
- Handling your snake after a meal.
- Handling your snake and not adjusting your hands with the natural motion of your snake.
- Handling your snake and doing fast and rapid movements in front of its head. (Egging your snake to strike)
- Doing handling training during brumation or pseudo-brumation.
If you are curious as to what happens to a snake when they go into brumation or pseudo-brumation, you can read this article.
Remember: If your snake does not calm down in the first five or six minutes of handling it, you are handling it the wrong way.
3. Your Snake Is Afraid Of You Because Of A Chaotic Environment
Snakes can get easily triggered by certain things. This also includes the things that are happening outside its enclosure.
As they are very defensive reptiles, anything that causes a vibration, noise, or sudden movements can put your snake on high alert. Therefore, they almost always attribute the disturbances that cause them stress to the nearest living being, which is you.
So the next time you try to feed or handle them, they will resort to hiding or even biting as they are already stressed. They become even more afraid of you as you are a contributing factor to the chaotic environment.
4. Your Snake Is Afraid Of You Because Of Your Smell
This is an overlooked reason why snakes are afraid of their owners. Just like other animals, snakes rely on their sense of smell to perceive objects and living things in their environment.
Therefore, if they smell something that may be threatening, they will become afraid and exhibit defensive behaviors. Snake owners who also have other snakes make the mistake of not washing their hands in between handling different snakes.
What happens is that the next snake will smell the scent of the other snake and it will perceive that your hand is actually another snake.
As funny as it may sound, snakes are not that bright in that area (mistaking a human for another snake based on scent)
Note: Although snakes may be more intelligent than we think as we explain here.
The same goes if you are a smoker and you handle your snake after smoking. Smoke is a natural deterrent for snakes.
There are still no studies as to why this is, but snakes are very sensitive to the smell of smoke.
How To Make Your Snakes Less Afraid Of You
We really cannot remove the sense of fear of our snakes towards us completely, but we can minimize those instances. Here are some tips:
- Do consistent handling training. Even if your snake bites you, you have to keep handling it properly.
- Do handling training at the right time and the right way.
- Hand-feed your snakes using tongs. The distance between your hand and the mouth of the snake can make it less anxious about your presence. Add to that that it knows that its food is being provided by you, which will establish that you are not a predator.
- Minimize the noise and activity around its enclosure. Put the enclosure in a quiet and undisturbed part of the house. You can also cover it with a cloth to make your snake feel more secure.
- Wash your hands before handling your snake and in between holding different snakes. You should also wash your hands if you held a live or frozen-thawed feeder.
Snakes are just scared and anxious reptiles by nature. It is our responsibility as snake pet owners to coax them to minimize their defensive behaviors and make them understand that we mean them no harm.
It can be a tiring and sometimes painful process (due to the nips and bites), but it will be worth it in the end. Especially when you get to the point that your snake is already relaxed when you open its enclosure and open to handling.