snake facts

Snakes are reptiles with no arms or legs. So how do they eat?

Snakes need some love. Misunderstood and much needed for our environment, snakes get a bad rap. Here’s a quick quiz.

Are you more likely to be killed by a snake or a cow in the US? How about a deer? Think about it and the answers are in the next section.

First, some snake facts. What is a snake? Well, they are elongated, carnivorous reptiles. And they have no arms or legs. And there are over 3,000 species on our planet. That’s a lot of snakes.

Some live in water but most live on dry land. Almost all snakes have scales that help them regulate their body temperature. So what we have is a limbless, long reptile that scares a lot of people. 

snake facts

Are cows or snakes more dangerous? Illustration: Stuart Rankin/Flicker


Are Snakes Dangerous?

But the big question is why are snakes good to have around and are they dangerous? Back to the quiz.

So how many people die from being bitten by a snake a year? Would you believe only 6? Your kidding!

That’s right. Only 6 people on average die from snake bites a year in the US. Whereas 20 people die from cows, often by being trampled, and over 200 people die from deer, usually by auto collisions. And most folks bitten by a snake are trying to catch it or kill it.

They are way more afraid of you than you are of them. Although that is probably hard to believe if you are one of the 33% of us that have ophiophobia or a fear of snakes.

How Do Snakes Eat With No Arms?

snake facts

Snakes us their forked tongues to smell and locate their food.

I have always wondered how snakes eat with no legs or arms. But first, they have to find the food to eat.

This is where their forked tongues come into play and by the way, all snakes have forked tongues. They use their forked tongues to smell their surroundings and to locate food. Now that is cool.

Once the food is located, most snakes eat their prey whole. Since they have no limbs to hold onto their prey, they swallow the whole animal and digest it over a period of days. Now that is not so cool!

We saw this in person when our resident black snake ate all 5 of our baby bluebirds just before the babies were due to leave the nest. I cried. But we could hardly be mad at the snake. It was just finding food.

We now have a snake-proof birdhouse so the snake will have to find food elsewhere this year. You can read how to snake-proof your birdhouse at our blog “Saving Your Bluebirds With Snake Guards”.

snake facts

Snakes shed their skin as they grow. Photo: Hadley Paul Garland/Flicker

How Do Snakes Eat With No Arms?

But before we get into why snakes are good, here are a couple of other cool snake facts. Snakes shed their skin 4-12 times a year as they grow.

Unlike humans, the snake’s skin doesn’t grow as the snake gets bigger. Their solution is to get rid of (or molt) it on a regular basis.

Keep an eye out for shed snake’s skin. We routinely come across it around our house or hiking. A fun treasure to find.

snake facts

Most snakes hatch from eggs.

Most snakes hatch from eggs. But some snakes give birth to live babies.

Once the eggs are laid, the mother generally leaves them to hatch and fend for themselves. Many eggs are eaten by predators before they hatch providing food for other animals. One of the good things about snakes.

Why Are Snakes Good?


Snakes also keep your rodent and tick population in check. As they eat the rodent, they also eat the ticks on the rodent, helping reduce the chance of getting nasty tick-related diseases such as Lyme disease.

Their venom is also being used to develop life-saving drugs. The proteins in snake venom are being used to treat various cancers, heart attacks, pain and loads more illnesses.

Plus if you keep your distance, they are fascinating to watch slithering through your yard all the while dropping great poop for your garden. What’s not to love?

snake facts

How Can We Help Snakes?

First, leave snakes alone. They will generally not bother you if you respect their space.

Second, please don’t use rodent poison near your property. When the snake eats the poisoned rodent, it will die as will any raptors (owls, hawks, and other birds) that might eat that mouse or rat.

And don’t use bird netting around bird feeders as the snakes could become caught in the netting.

Share positive stories about snakes on social media. Your friends will all think you are cool!

snake facts

Snake venom is being used to fight cancer and other illnesses.

Learn More

What to do about snakes: The American Humane Society

Save the Snakes: Snake Conservation

Snakes: Snake facts by National Geographic

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