Snakes eat mice, but why do we pre-kill those mice for the snakes? I was wondering this same question and wrote about my discoveries.
Why feed pet snakes dead mice? Snakes, when domesticated, are not aggressive creatures. A cornered mouse, however, is very aggressive. As such mice are pre-killed to prevent any harm that the mice may cause your snake.
If your snake isn’t interested in the mouse, for whatever reason that maybe, then it is unlikely that the snake will try to eat the mouse even after it has been attacked. So what are the best ways to feed a snake? Is it okay to feed them frozen mice? How are these mice killed? And what should you do if you can’t convince your snake to eat those pre-killed mice?
How to convince a snake to eat pre-killed mice
Snakes are natural predators so taking them out of their natural environment of hunting can have some side effects. One of which being, an unwillingness to eat their pre-killed meal. To fix this you’ll want to trick your snake into believing that the mouse is still alive. There are two ways to go about this: movement and heat.
Movement: Live prey tend to move around, in order to trick your snake into eating the dead prey you should move the mouse around with a long stick or a pair of long and thin tongs. The movement from the mouse will attract the snake’s attention and then they’ll strike out at their food.
Feeding your snake frozen or microwaved mice
Snakes are cold-blooded creatures; as such, it is incredibly difficult for them to regulate their body temperature through natural means.
Snakes often lean on outside sources to regulate their temperature. So as your snake’s owner you want to be very careful about the temperature of the food which you feed your snake. Mice that are either too cold or too hot can have dangerous effects.
Frozen mice: Pre-killed mice are often sold frozen. This is for convenience purposes. Frozen materials are much easier to transport and avoid spoilage. While feeding your snake though you will want to feed your snake room temperature mice as frozen mice will lower your snake’s body temperature and can be potentially fatal. Be extra carefully as just because the outside of your mouse is thawed doesn’t mean that the inside isn’t still frozen.
Microwaved mice: When trying to warm your mice it is best to let them warm naturally as microwaving you mice may result in the destruction of the mice or the chance of overheating your snake’s prey. Similar to frozen mice, microwaved mice can hurt your snake by burning the inside of their bodies. To avoid this warm the mice in a plastic bag in warm water or under a low power heat lamp.
How are pre-killed mice killed?
It is concerning to think about how these pre-killed mice are killed, but all pre-killed mice are killed in the same humane way. Mice are placed in an enclosed container, and then that container is filled with C02. The C02 causes the mouse to fall unconscious and peacefully die. From there the mouse is frozen and packaged to be used as prey to pet snakes.
Differences in captive and wild snakes
Snakes in the wild are very different than the ones you keep as pets. For many reasons.
- Snakes in the wild don’t know when their next meal will come.
- Snakes in the wild have to avoid predators
- Snakes in the wild have to worry more about shedding their skin.
The wild is an unsafe environment where predators are always prey to another animal. Having a home habitation is not something that many creatures can afford, given that they need to spend most of their time hunting and the rest of it avoiding being hunted. A snake in captivity doesn’t have to worry about that. The owners of the snake feed it enough for it to sustain itself and there are no predators around to endanger the snake these serve as the core differences between a captive and wild snake.
With less needed concern for its safety, the snake can relax more, which can lead to the question of why snakes in the wild have to worry more about shedding their skin. As a snake sheds its skin the skin around the eyelids also gets shed the result is poor eyesight for the snake, for those first few days before it has shed its skin. The snake doesn’t hunt during that time because of its weakened state and lack of ability to keep itself safe from predators. Again, a snake in captivity doesn’t have to worry about those things.
Additionally, a captive snake generally knows when it will get its food. When a captive snake is fed on a schedule the snake may start to record when it receives its food. The result may be more active behavior from your snake around its schedule feeding as it will treat that as its time to hunt. The changes of a wild snake to a captive snake and the activities associated with it are natural ones and are ways that the snake has adapted to the environment in which it was placed. Snakes are very adaptive creatures and as such, they will react to best fit the environment that they are in.
Is it okay to return a captive snake to the wild? Captive snakes do not have many of the necessary survival skills that snake needs to survive. This will likely result in the snake not being able to fend for itself and eventually dying. The alternative is the snake surviving and potentially becoming an invasive species. This is much worse than the snake simply dying as the snake being out of its home environment can drastically change the natural cycle of the land it now inhabits.
Will a mouse eat a snake? While a mouse doesn’t generally eat a snake it is important to keep in mind that while you are feeding the snake you aren’t feeding the mouse. The mouse will then eat whatever it can and if it killed a snake in an attempt to stay a live it will eat it as well. This is why you don’t want to leave your snake alone with a mouse.
Is live feeding illegal? While some view live feeding as cruel it is not illegal to feed your pet snake live prey. Though as mentioned earlier live feeding can be dangerous for your snake and it is generally not worth the hassle of dealing with the drawbacks of feed your snake live prey rather than pre-killed ones.