Snake Habitat

Surprising Things You Never Knew About the Habitat of Snakes

Snakes are found all over the world, except for the continent of Antarctica and a few other regions, such as Ireland, Bermuda, etc. If it is difficult to demarcate their natural habitat, it is because of the vastness of their geographic range.
Horned Viper
Snakes in the Arctic
The common adder or European viper (Vipera berus) is the only snake found towards the north of the Arctic Circle.
3,400 species ... 500 genera ... 20 families ... When it comes to snakes, you get to see immense diversity. On one hand, there is the thread snake (Leptotyphlops carlae), with an average length of around 4 in. On the other, there is the reticulated python (Python reticulatus), which can attain a length of up to 22 ft. at full growth.

That we have so many misconceptions about snakes is a sad truth. For instance, the term 'snake' seems to have become synonymous to venomous of late; that despite the fact that only around 600 of the 3,400 species of snakes are venomous and even fewer are potentially harmful to humans. Similarly, most people have no idea as to why snakes are not found in the cold regions of the world ... or that they are not found in cold regions for that matter.

Snake Habitat in Wild

As we said earlier, snakes are found in nearly all the biomes of the world. They exist everywhere; right from the dense forests of South Asia―the King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)―to the arid regions of North America―the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). Even the pine and scrub oak sandhills of North America―eastern coral snakes (Micrurus fulvius)―and the Savannah grasslands of Africa―ball pythons (Python regius)―have a fair share of species to their credit.

  • Boa constrictor
  • A boa constrictor in the New World tropical rainforests.
  • King cobra
  • A king cobra on the forest floor in Southeast Asia.
  • Western diamondback
  • A rattlesnake in the rock outcrops of North America.
  • Green vine snake
  • A green vine snake in the tropical forests of Sri Lanka.
  • Northern water snake
  • A northern water snake in thick foliage in the US.
  • Sea snake
  • A sea snake with its flattened tail to assist swimming.
  • Green snake
  • A green snake coming out of the hollow tree trunk.
  • Desert viper
  • A desert viper camouflaged in sand waiting for its prey.
  • Green anaconda
  • A green anaconda in the South American rainforests.
  • A horned viper in the arid region of southwest Africa.

Besides, there also exist snakes that inhabit water. There are approximately 62 species of sea snakes in the world―the pelagic sea snake (Pelamis platura) being the most common. Then there are species that frequent between land and water. Genus Nerodia, for instance, comprises nine species which are known as water snakes because of their aquatic behavior.

Snakes are cold-blooded creatures, which means they have to rely on external source of heat to regulate their body temperature. That makes it impossible for them to survive in cold regions. If the European viper is able to survive near the Arctic, it's because it resorts to hibernation.

Some snakes resort to physical adaptations to survive in the unlikeliest places. Sea snakes, for instance, are equipped with flattened paddle-like tails, which makes it easier for them to move in the water. Similarly, the coloration of copperhead snakes (Agkistrodon contortrix), native to the deciduous forests and dense woodlands of North America, complements their natural surroundings and provides them cover from predators. In fact, their camouflage is so perfect that it is very difficult to spot a copperhead lying among the dry leaves in this region.

In some regions, snakes live in the vicinity of human settlements―a deadly combination which is bound to harm either the snake itself or humans. These reptiles prefer hiding in gardens, basements, and other cluttered places where they feel at home.

How to Prepare an Ideal Habitat for Your Pet Snake?

Ophidiophobia, i.e., the abnormal fear of snakes, is one of the most common phobias in the world, which explains why snakes are relatively less popular as pets. Of the few species that are often kept as pets, king snakes, corn snakes, and ball pythons are the most common. If you want to keep a pet snake―and that, mind you, is not as easy as it seems―then you need to have a rough idea about their habitat in the wild. Based on that, you will be able to prepare a captive habitat for your pet. While the specific requirements will differ from species to species, certain guidelines will be common to all; especially the ones pertaining to housing, heating, humidity, etc.

The size of the terrarium, i.e., the glass enclosure to house your pet snake, will depend on the size of the snake. A 50-gallon terrarium will be sufficient for small species like garter snakes and milk snakes. However, if you intend to keep a python as a pet, you will require a specially built enclosure. It is wise to opt for a big terrarium in the very beginning, as these reptiles are known to grow pretty fast.

Tip: Always ensure that you have closed the enclosure properly. Snakes can give even renowned escape artists a run for their money.

When it comes to substrate, a plain newspaper will work well in most of the cases. However, if it is a burrowing snake, you will have to resort to potting soil or sand as substrate. You can also opt for reptile carpets available in the pet stores. Regardless of what you use as substrate, you will have to make sure that you keep it clean, or else it will make your pet snake vulnerable to skin infection.

Temperature and Heating
Snakes being cold blooded animals require a source of warming in what is referred to as thermoregulation. You will have to create a temperature gradient within their captive habitat using incandescent lights. You will also have to place a heating/warming pad beneath the bottom of the enclosure. Never use a rock in their captive habitat, as your pet snake might end up burning itself on the same.

The necessary humidity levels will depend on the species you choose. While the species native to tropical areas will do fine in a highly humid environment, those native to arid areas will require medium humidity. You can use a hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels inside the terrarium.

Other Accessories
Besides these, certain species will require additional accessories in their habitat. For instance, if it's an arboreal species, you will have to include some branches in the enclosure for the snake to climb. You can also buy specially designed snake caves and boxes that are readily available in the pet store.

It goes without saying that the habitat of a snake in captivity should also include a source of drinking water, ideally in the form of a dish. More importantly, you need to ensure that the temperature and humidity levels of your pet snake's habitat are optimum.

As we mentioned earlier, you need to get the basics of the habitat right if you intend to keep a snake as a pet. Even if you don't intend to, it's not like you will get bored reading about the wild or captive habitat of these reptiles.
Boa dumerili
Close-up of copperhead snake in the leaves
Meadow viper ready to strike
File snake / Acrochordus granulatus
Desert rock python on sandy ground