If you own a pet snake that is coming toward the end of their lives, or if your snake has recently and sadly passed away, you’re going to want to know about how to dispose of their bodies. I decided to conduct some research within the pet snake community. I would like to share what I have found with you here today.
So, what can you do with your dead snake? The two most common options are burial and cremation. You can bury your pet snake yourself, or you can get a vet to organize this at a communal pet burial ground on your behalf. Either way, the snake will need to be buried with the permission of the land owner and/or any local authorities. You can also have your snake cremated. This can be organized through your vet but is generally the more expensive option.
Let us now take a closer look at some of the considerations around your snakes death before turning to the disposal options and which is going to be best for you.
Snake Life Expectancy
The life expectancy of a pet snake depends very much on its breed.
Popular snake breeds include Boa Constrictors, Garter Snakes, Burmese Pythons, and Corn Snakes.
These snakes are tough and can last for many years.
On average, pet snakes last a long time, between 15 to 30 years.
Snakes can conserve energy quite well, and as you may probably already know can survive for weeks without food.
If you want a pet snake, you must consider that they live for many years, and require special care in terms of their diet, temperature, and habitat.
They are a long-term commitment, but you must face the inevitable and when your serpent dies you must know how to appropriately dispose of them.
Do Snakes Play Dead?
As incredible as this sounds, some snakes are very dramatic and play dead.
Certain snake species are more prone to this type of behavior than others. They act this way as a defense mechanism, usually if they feel threatened. Sometimes, it will be followed by the emission of a foul odor to ward off predators.
Let’s look at the snake species that are notorious for this behavior:
1) The Grass Snake – these shy snakes can be found in England, the Mediterranean, and even further afield. Grass snakes secrete a chemical from their anal glands that smell horrendous and is sure to repel any threat.
2) The Common Kingsnake – this snake will “play dead” and before they do will shake their tail against a dry plant, to imitate the sound of a rattlesnake. They do this, hoping to frighten their enemy. They will proceed to defecate and wriggle their tail to smear the feces over their opponent. They will roll into a ball and play dead.
3) The Asian Tentacled Snake – this snake pretends to be dead by becoming completely stiff as if rigor mortis has set in. They loosen up once the threat has passed.
4) The Hognose Snake – these snakes will hiss and swell their necks to imitate a cobra. They will act very aggressively toward their opponent and will lunge at them as if about to bite. If this doesn’t put their attacker off, they will pretend to die by going limp, attempting to confuse and discourage his enemy.
When a snake plays dead, it’s very theatrical. Many snake experts will tell you that they put on really believable performances.
As an owner, the only way to know for sure that they are playing dead is to conduct your research into your species ahead of time.
Find out if this is a behavior they engage in and understand the series of events that usually result in this behavior.
You’ll also need to monitor and observe them and their own unique ways. If your snake is prone to playing dead, regardless of species they usually will ‘come back to life’ in a couple of minutes, or when they feel the threat has passed.
Is My Snake Hibernating Or Dead?
Snakes are ectothermic, which means that they can’t regulate their body temperature. They don’t go into deep hibernation for months as many mammals do.
Their version of hibernating can be called dormancy or brumation, and they do this if they feel very cold.
When a snake goes into brumation, they occasionally wake up to warm themselves. If you pick up a snake during this time, they will react to your touch and will even wrap their body around your hand.
If startled they will look around, to make sure that everything is okay, before going back to sleep.
Many snakes don’t need to brumate, it’s only if they live in very cold regions. This is because it’s a great way to conserve energy which is ultimately the purpose behind it.
When a snake wants to brumate, they will go into their hiding place and remain there for a long time. They will wake up occasionally but will not consume food as they require warmth for digestion.
If you want to know for certain whether your snake is hibernating or dead, you must be aware that a dead snake will not react to any stimuli, it will just hang limply from your hands and be completely unresponsive.
Symptoms Of A Dying Snake
You must be familiar with the symptoms of a dying snake so that you can prepare for their upcoming death both emotionally and logistically.
Your vet can discuss with you the best way to care for your snake in their last days. They can advise you on how to make living conditions as comfortable as possible for them and to reduce any pains that they are likely experiencing.
If you notice any of the following symptoms you must contact your vet immediately:
1) You will notice sudden behavioral changes.
2) Your snake will refuse food and drink and will lose weight.
3) You will see discharge coming from your snake’s nose or mouth.
4) Your snake will struggle to shed their old skin.
5) Your snake’s poop will be runny and may have blood in it.
How Do You Dispose Of A Dead Snake?
Thinking of how to dispose of your snake can be a daunting and painful task. As they live for so long and because they require a lot of care, it is only natural to become very attached to your snake.
The thought of what to do with their body once they have died is very stressful so it is always a good idea to think ahead of time and prepare when and where you can.
Ultimately, there are two many options to consider when it comes to disposing of their body.
One of the more common ways that snake owners dispose of their snake is via burial in their backyard. If you do so, you need to check with your local authorities to ensure that you have permission to do so. Some local authorities forbid this, so its important to check ahead of time or you can run the risk of fines/legal action.
If you own the land, have been granted permission by the landowner/authorities, then burying your snake is one of the best ways to send them off. You can even conduct your own service.
If you do decide to bury your snake it is strongly recommended to purchase a non-biodegradable casket. This will prevent scavengers and other animals from digging up your snake for a snack. Dead snakes, and other dead animals, emit a lot of strong smells and odors that other animals in the local vicinity will pick up.
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Additionally, will need to ensure that you dig a sufficiently large hole in the ground and place your casket deep inside. Extremes and weather will lead to the erosion of the soil over time and if you do not place your casket deep enough, it can become exposed.
If you do not have permission, do not have the space or do no want to conduct your own burial, you can contact a pet cemetery. They will be able to bury your pet snake.
If you can’t find a pet cemetery close to you, you can talk to your vet, who will advise on burial services for your snake. Consider that this is generally a more expensive option.
The second most common option is cremation.
Your local vet should be a great source of information if you consider cremation and many vets would be able to provide this service for you.
Communal cremations can sometimes be free, this is when your pet is cremated with other animals, but you won’t be given the remains. While its dignified, its quite sad to see them go without having anything to remember them buy.
Alternatively, you can pay for a separate cremation where you get their ashes back. If you opt for this, the price will vary, depending on the size of your snake.
You will also be able to source your own Urn to keep their ashes in. There are a lot of affordable options, ideal for snakes, on Amazon.
Other Natural Ways
There are some other natural options to be aware of. The most common is composting the body of your dead snake.
While this does sound quite disrespectful, its actually a very eco-friendly and meaningful way to send them off. This Washington Post YouTube Video discusses why.
If you think this option is for you, then it will require careful planning of the compost heap and you will need to ensure that your snake is placed firmly within.
It’s good to know that snakes can live a long life, and it’s good to be aware of the differences between a snake that is healthy, sick, playing dead or in brumation.
While there are many species of snakes and while they may exhibit their own personalities and behaviors, they will all eventually go through the respective phases of life.
Many people don’t believe that snakes show affection to their owners. But they do in their own way, and you can develop a very special bond with them. Its sad having to have to say goodbye.
It’s important to grieve the loss of your snake, especially when you think of how long your snake has lived with you. 15 to 30 years, it’s a long time.
Knowing what arrangements to make for your snake is important to think about before your snake dies so that you can mourn their passing properly.
Burial and cremation are the most common options that you should consider to send them off.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.