Releasing pet snakes into the wild has become a bigger problem as reptiles become more popular among consumers. The issue arises when your pet becomes too much of a burden, grows too large, or you just don’t want them anymore and you want to release them into the wild.
Can pet snakes survive in the wild? Pet snakes should never be released into the wild! Released non-native snakes can disrupt ecosystems, threaten humans, and be dangerous for the snake.
Pet snakes can survive in the wild in a technical sense. If they find enough food, don’t get run over by a car or eaten by a predator, and if they can find somewhere warm enough to stay then they will probably survive. There are a lot of reasons why pet snakes should not be released into the wild, and it is crazy the kind of harm that can come to them and from them. I explore all the whys and hows in the following sections.
Don’t Release Pet Snakes Into the Wild!
Pet snakes should never just be released into the wild whenever they are not wanted anymore. There are many factors that need to be considered before natural release is even feasible.
The main one is whether or not the snake was originally bred in captivity or caught in the wild and brought home. There are issues with where they are released and how the snake will survive. There are many other options available for you if you want to get rid of your pet.
A lot of the time, owners don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into when they decide to buy an exotic snake. They have special dietary restrictions, need large places to live, and require perfectly regulated temperatures.
Some owners will come to see their pet snake as a burden after a while and find that the easiest way out is to release the snake into the wild. This is not the right decision!
It may seem like a positive idea to allow the snake to live on its own outside of captivity, but that can be dangerous for a number of reasons.
Local ecosystems can be affected by released snakes that survive. Local species can become overrun and competition for prey increases. Big exotic snakes can also become a neighborhood hazard for small children and pets.
It may not be a full-scale attack that ends in a dog as a meal, but startled pet snakes can attack for protection. The best way to keep everyone safe is to find a new owner for your snake who will have the ability to care for it.
Releasing Into the Wild is Dangerous for the Snake
Captive bred snakes have spent their entire lives being fed frozen thawed mice and fish depending on the species. Some of the more popular food consumed by pet snakes are already dead before being put into their tank.
If live prey is used for a pet snake, there is still the fact that the food is provided for them, put into an enclosed space, and then hunted.
Pet snakes are not fully equipped with the “life skills” that will allow them to fend for themselves. Wild snakes learn and know what to eat, where to find it, and how to protect themselves.
There is a lot to say about pure animal instinct, but that can’t be the crutch used when snake owners are defending their right to release their snakes.
There is also the rare example of certain popular snake morphs that have the Wobble Syndrome from birth because they were bred captive (see this article on spider ball pythons). This defect causes trouble in the snake’s ability to make precise quick movements and dulls their muscles’ ability to tighten and grip.
Allowing a snake with any sort of breeding defect to fend for itself in the wild is cruel. The snake would not last long in a lot of instances.
What Does “The Wild” Actually Mean?
When someone talks about releasing a pet snake into the wild, they don’t always mean a vast wilderness. The wild is supposed to mean a place where snakes naturally occur and can find ample food, water, heat, and protection.
There have been many instances of pet snakes remaining in neighborhoods or cities after being released because they could locate a source of food and heat.
The city is definitely a wild kind of place within itself, but it isn’t a natural habitat for snakes no matter what anyone says.
An example of a snake that will usually survive, not hurt the ecosystem, and stay away from people when it’s released is a snake being re-released. Say you find a garter snake in your backyard and decide to bring it into your home for a day or week to try it out as a pet.
It doesn’t respond well, so you release it back into the woods behind your house. I would consider that a way to release into the “wild.” You already know the snake is a native of that place, and it can fend for itself because it had already made it this far in its life without dying. If you want to learn more about garter snakes including bite and size information, click here.
Invasive Species and Legality
Now that I’m done telling you what to do, let me explain why. When you release pet snakes in a place where they are not native, trouble commonly ensues.
A lot of states have laws against owning and selling certain types of snakes depending on size and specific species. This is a preventative measure that tries to help snake owners not take on a burden they can’t handle.
Populations of small animals that snakes feed on can diminish quickly when new species are introduced. This issue is referred to as an introduction of an invasive species.
Not an overly positive title. If released pet snakes thrive in the unnatural habitat, then they could overtake natural populations of plants, predators, and prey.
The balance of the ecosystem can be skewed and thrown off by the release of non-native species of snakes. This is one of the reasons that the Everglades have had problems with non-native pythons and other captive bred snakes affecting the area and harassing humans and native wildlife.
Many people have heard about the Everglade headlines that blame snake owners for releasing their exotic snakes. This isn’t the main cause for concern in the Everglades but is definitely a contributing factor.
Another factor is said to be an accidental release of exotic snakes from a facility that was damaged during a hurricane in the 90’s. Whatever the reason the snakes have for being there, they are not native!
They are not naturally found in these places and hurt the surrounding ecosystem. This is an important thing to take into consideration when considering releasing your snake.
Other Options For Getting Rid Of Your Snake
Some pets become burdensome and unwanted after awhile. Sometimes there is just no longer a way for you to care for your pet adequately so you want to give it a better life. Whatever the reason, there are safe ways to get rid of your pet:
- Contact the place/person you bought the snake from and ask about their return policy. Here, you can find an article we wrote specifically about PetSmart’s return policy on snakes.
- Go online (or in person) and advertise that sale of your snake
- Go online and look at postings of people who are already actively looking for a snake
- Contact a veterinarian or professional to get advice on what to do next
There is always someone who will want your snake or at least somewhere safe they can be resold. Choosing to sell on your own via the internet will probably allow you to make back your money or even turn a profit. Any option will most likely guarantee that your snake will be happy and taken care of.
Can snakes be pets? Snakes have become very popular pets among consumers! Their variety of sizes, colors, and habits make them fascinating pets. Exotic pets have become a huge commodity among traders and collectors. Snakes have been kept as pets for decades and can be found in most pet stores. Their food is easy to come by and suppliers are sold at most major retailers.
Can pet snakes recognize their owners? There is some speculation that says that snakes can recognize their owners after a while based on smell. Snakes do not have a vast range of emotions, but they do feel threatened or safe. An owner will be the master that provides food, water, and shelter. Snakes will probably recognize their owners after a routine has developed, but they will not respond to you as a dog or cat might.
Can snakes be tamed? Pet snakes are not tame animals. There are more docile species than others that may allow you to handle them easily. You may be able to train a snake to respond to food, but there is no real taming of a snake. You should always keep locks on your snake’s cage or tank to prevent escape. You should never leave small children alone with snakes.