A pale yellow-and-brown snake with red eyes.

Why Does My Snake Bury Itself?

Have you ever looked in your snake tank only to be shocked that it has disappeared? It can give you a heart attack. At first, you think that your pet has gotten loose. Upon closer inspection, you realize that your snake has buried itself under the bedding. If your snake does this often, you may want to think about upgrading its enclosure.

It helps to understand normal reptile behavior when you’re wondering if something is wrong with your snake. Some pet store employees aren’t educated on complex animal care so you may need to do your own research or consult with an expert to truly comprehend standard snake habits.

How Snakes Behave

Different types of snakes have distinct ways of interacting with their environments. Your snake’s species may guide some of its behavior. Some snakes are active during the day while others are nocturnal. Snakes adapt easily to their environments. In the wild, snakes may cover a large territory during the day. In captivity, they become used to staying still. Because you give them food and water, snakes don’t need to move around much.

In colder climates, most snakes become less active during the fall and winter. Some people call this hibernation. The more accurate term for it is brumation, according to Snake Protection. Because snakes are cold-blooded creatures, they can’t keep themselves warm. Therefore, they have to find a place where they can stay warm when the weather gets cool.

Pet snakes don’t have to slow down their activity during the winter because you keep their enclosure at a consistent temperature throughout the year. You may still notice that your snake is less active in the winter. It may be responding to the shorter days. Some reptiles may go through winter anorexia. This means that they eat less during the winter. This habit has evolved from the snake’s need to brumate when the temperature drops.

Is Burrowing a Normal Snake Behavior?

While snakes like to hide, especially during the day if they’re nocturnal, a snake burying itself in its substrate could be a sign that their enclosures or hides are too small. Wild snakes spend much of their time curled up under rocks or in holes. This keeps them protected from predators and helps them maintain a stable body temperature.

According to Reptile Knowledge, snakes are private creatures. In nature, they take over hideaways created by other animals. You can encourage this natural behavior by providing hides, cave-like enclosures inside which your snake can hole up. You can buy hides that look like rocks, dirt, or grass. You can also make a hide from just about any opaque container. Cut a small opening in the side to serve as the door, and flip it upside down inside your snake tank. Experts often recommend that you keep one hide on the warm end of the tank and another on the cooler side.

If your snake burrows into the bedding in your aquarium, its hides may not be big enough. Even though a pet snake doesn’t need to travel around a large territory, it does need space to move around. A crowded tank can stress your snake out. When snakes become anxious, they’ll bury themselves and become less active.

What Your Snake Should Look Like

It’s also important to recognize a healthy snake’s appearance. Your snake should have smooth scales with no wrinkles. Actually, a snake doesn’t have individual scales. Areas of thickened skin are connected to one another with a thinner layer of dermis. Blistering, redness or sore-looking scales are usually an indication that something is wrong with your snake’s health.

Your snake’s underside should not look red or wet. If your snake’s abdomen looks swollen or distended, it could be constipated. Soaking the snake in warm water can encourage elimination. However, sometimes surgery is the only option for constipation.

When your snake sheds its skin, some areas may not come off. The snake may retain skin over the eye or on the tail. This can be dangerous. Retained scales on the tail can restrict blood flow. If the eyecaps aren’t sloughed off, they need to be removed. You can do this by soaking the snake in a warm bath and then applying mineral oil to the spectacle.

Keeping the Housing Clean

Caring for a snake requires keeping its enclosure clean. Many health problems in snakes come from issues with mold and moisture. You should use an appropriate substrate to line the tank. Newspaper, cat litter, sand, and gravel all work as bedding.

Humidity levels should also be regulated using a hygrometer. This is especially important for tropical snakes. Snakes need more moisture just before they shed. If they’re having problems sloughing off their skin, the environment may be too dry.

Although it’s more common to have a tank that’s too dry than too moist, excessive moisture can be a problem. Wet bedding can cause scale rot. Certain substrates, like cypress mulch, absorb wetness and don’t dry out well. Keep a small water dish in the enclosure, and put it on the cool side to keep the humidity low.

Check the tank daily for things like feces, urates, skin and uneaten food. Remove any wet bedding or spills. This gives you a chance to check up on your snake’s habits. You can ensure that your snake is eating well, check for evidence of parasites, and gauge normal elimination patterns. Disinfect the tank and its accessories weekly. This will allow you to inspect the hides and other objects inside the tank to make sure they’re in good condition. Fraying or broken surfaces can harm your snake.

The Right Cage for Pet Snakes

Active snakes need bigger cages than sedentary ones. They also need room to move around within the container. If the accessories take up most of the floor space, get a bigger cage. A general recommendation is that the cage should be no smaller than three-fourths of the length of the snake. Many snake owners use glass aquariums to hold their snakes. Aquariums are designed for fish. They may not be tall enough for your snake or the top might not properly hold heating equipment. The right enclosure has about 30 to 40 percent of its floor space free, enough height to accommodate an arboreal snake if necessary, and a tight-fitting top.