Snakes: Top 10 Questions

May 2011

Thanks to Frank Lundberg, Reptile Conservation Resource President and Adjunct Professor, Boise State University; and Scott Smith, Reptile Expert for the answers.

1: How do snakes shoot venom or inflict venom?

Most snakes do not shoot venom except one that does from its fangs. It's called the spitting cobra. What snakes do instead is inject it like a hypodermic needle. The venom comes from glands in the snake's mouth and when they bite their prey, the venom comes in through either a groove in the teeth or a hole in the fang. (From Danny in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary School in Boise)

2: What habitats are the most popular with snakes?

It depends on the type of snake. We find snakes everywhere, from the driest deserts in the world to rain forests and forested lands. Snakes are found all over the world on all of the continents, except for Antarctica. (From Ellie in Mrs. McCoy's class at Donnelly Elementary School in Donnelly)

3: Why do snakes hiss?

Snakes do not have vocal chords so they cannot talk. They do, however, exhale rapidly, and when the air comes out of their lungs, it creates a "rushing of air" sound. Some snakes have enlarged openings, like the gopher and bull snakes, and when they hiss, they hiss really loudly. (From Shelby in Mrs. McCoy's class at Donnelly Elementary School in Donnelly)

4: How do snakes hold their poison?

The poison is contained in venom glands in the head. When the snake wants to inject the venom, there are muscles that surround these glands and the snake squeezes these muscles, which forces the venom through the specialized teeth that they have. (From Ryan at Joplin Elementary School in Meridian)

5: Why do snakes shed their skin?

Everyone sheds their skin but for people, you can't always see it. The outer layer of the skin dies and when it comes off of the snake, it comes off all at once versus in little tiny pieces. A fluid forms that pushes the old skin off. (From Victor in Mrs. Hunt's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary School in Boise)

6: What do snakes eat?

In this area, most snakes eat rodents. Some snakes that are here, like the garter snake, will eat fish or frogs. In other parts of the world, some very large snakes may eat large animals, like deer. Overall, snakes are carnivores, as they eat meat and swallow their prey whole. (From Ethan in Mrs. Hunt's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary School in Boise)

7: What is the most poisonous snake?

There are two. The most venomous snake that lives in the water is the sea snake, which is part of the cobra family. The most venomous land snake is the Inland Taipan. It lives in the outback of Australia. (From Maritsa in Mr. Harvey's class at the Coeur d'Alene Tribal School in DeSmet)

8: Can snakes swim?

All snakes can swim. All snakes can climb. Some of them do these things better than others, depending on the type of snake. (From Jasmine in Mrs. Woodall's class at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

9: Do snakes have ears?

Snakes do not have external ears. They do, however, have internal ears that are very sensitive to vibrations. In fact, for hundreds of years in Japan, they have used snakes to help predict earthquakes. The snakes would come out of their dens as they sensed an impending vibration well before a human would be able to. (From Carl at the Idaho Virtual Academy)

10: Why do snakes' eyes not move in their head?

Snakes eyes are covered with a scale so they do not blink, but their pupils do move. You cannot see it but they do contract and open. (From Ely in Mrs. Schultz's class at Dalton Elementary School in Dalton Gardens)

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