Snakes are increasingly popular pets. Although only about 300 species of snakes are commonly kept as pets, there are over 4,000 species of snakes in the world.
Some of them live surprisingly long lives. And some pet snakes have short life spans, which makes them an ideal pet if you’re not looking for a long-term commitment.
Ringneck snakes usually have a lifespan of 5 or 6 years. Garter snakes live 6 to 10 years.
In this article, we will identify some pet snakes with short lifespans.
Snakes with Short Lifespan
I will cover each of the snakes in detail later, but if you want a quick run-down, below is a table with some snakes that have short lifespans in captivity.
|Snake||Lifespan (in Years)|
|Brahminy Blind Snakes||5|
|Smooth Green Snake||6|
|Rough Green Snakes||8|
Red Bellied Snakes (4 Years)
In the world of snakes, small snakes tend to lead short lives (4 years in captivity).
The diminutive red-bellied snake is a good example of this principle.
Red-Bellied snakes are small brown to black snakes with, as you might expect, red bellies. When they are fully grown, they are just 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) long.
They are found all over the eastern United States north into Ontario and the Maritime provinces, although they are absent on the Florida peninsula.
These snakes are, probably because of their small size, very secretive.
They spend most of their time hiding under fallen leaves, and nearly 100 percent of their diet consists of slugs.
They almost never bite people, but when they do, they reveal one of their most serious shortcomings as pet snakes:
Red-bellied snakes are venomous.
The venom of a red-bellied snake isn’t released in amounts sufficient to kill a human, although it might kill a kitten or puppy.
There is no way that a red-bellied snake could eat a kitten or a puppy or even a baby guinea pig, but it might attack in what is believed to be self-defense.
A bite from a red-bellied snake can cause severe tissue damage in humans.
The tissue destruction can be bad enough to require the amputation of a finger or toe.
This is why you will almost never see red-bellied snakes for sale, and it is really not a good idea to catch one and keep it as a pet unless (1) you have a steady supply of slugs to feed it and (2) you can keep it in an escape-proof enclosure at all times.
Worm Snakes (4-6 Years)
Worm snakes live to be just four years old in the wild, and four to six years in captivity.
They spend most of their very short lives hiding from potential predators, but when they come out, they can be fascinating to watch.
Worm snakes are tiny, secretive, and harmless burrowing snakes.
Some of them are just 4 inches (10 cm) long when fully grown, while others may grow up to about 40 inches (a little over a meter).
Larger worm snakes mainly eat crickets, live or freeze-dried. They are easy to maintain during their very short lives.
The smallest worm snakes can’t open their jaws wide enough to eat crickets, so they feed on ants.
Brahminy Blind Snakes (5 Years)
If you are really into snakes, you probably have heard of Brahminy blind snakes. These snakes usually live to be about 5 years old.
What is a Brahminy blind snake?
Also known as a flowerpot snake, this Florida native grows to just 4.4 to 6.5 inches (112 to 165 mm) in total length when it is fully grown.
Brahminy blind snakes are small, thin, and shiny purple, silver-gray, and charcoal gray.
Since Brahminy blind snakes reproduce by parthenogenesis, there are no male Brahminy blind snakes.
Your Brahminy blind snake will reproduce. They can’t bite (although they can release their version of a stink bomb), and they love to hide in flower pots with the plants.
Brahminy blind spots are easier to buy in Florida than in other locations.
You will need a steady supply of cricket larvae to feed them. Any Brahminy blind snake can reproduce, but very few of the young survive to maturity.
Egg-Eating Snakes (5-10 Years)
Egg-eating snakes like the African egg-eater and the Indian egg-eating snake are at the upper limit of “short-lived” pet snakes.
It isn’t unusual for them to live to be 10 or even 15 years old, but it isn’t unusual for them to live just 5 to 10 years, either.
The only food they eat is whole eggs. However, because they are small snakes, they can’t eat chicken, turkey, or ostrich eggs.
For egg-eating snakes in captivity, the only food they will find acceptable is quail eggs.
Moreover, they want fresh quail eggs. They won’t eat eggs that are at refrigerator temperature.
Smooth Green Snakes (6 Years)
Smooth green snakes live about 6 years when they are kept as pets.
They have bright green bodies and bright yellow underbellies, and, like their slightly longer-lived cousins, the rough green snakes, they feed on insects.
Smooth green snakes only eat insects, but they aren’t especially picky about which insects.
In addition to crickets and cricket larvae, they will also eat beetles, spiders, snails, slugs, centipedes, millipedes, and tadpoles when they are hungry.
Smooth green snakes don’t bite humans, but they may smear your finger with a foul-smelling substance if you get between them and their food.
Garter Snakes (6-10 Years)
Garter snakes live just 3 or 4 years in the wild, but can survive for 6 to 10 years in captivity.
Don’t count on just a 10-year commitment to taking care of your snake, however, because garter snakes can live to be more than 10 when they are well-fed and kept in clean, warm terrariums.
Garter snakes are often described as cold-blooded but not cold-hearted.
More than most other pet snakes, garter snakes are social with other snakes and with their humans.
Scientists have learned that garter snakes in the wild form friendships with a small group of other snakes, seeking them out after having to scatter to find food or to escape a predator.
Because garter snakes are the most popular of the shorter-lived snakes, we will give you some of the reasons they are favored as pets.
Garter snakes have a number of desirable characteristics.
Garter snakes are easy to handle
Some garter snakes will be just 18 inches (45 cm) long when they are fully grown.
The very largest garter snake, collected in California and Nevada, will be just 4 feet (122 cm) long at maturity.
These snakes aren’t constrictors. That is, they do not wrap themselves around their prey. They weigh less than half a pound (less than 200 grams).
Garter snakes seldom bite
Garter snakes are docile, especially if you take several weeks to let them get to know you. Always approach your garter snake slowly, from the side.
Predators approach garter snakes quickly and from above, and you don’t want to trigger an instinctive reaction to a predator. Just stroke your garter snake with a gloved hand the first few times you pet it.
Then gradually let it get used to running through your fingers outside its enclosure.
If a well-socialized garter snake bites you, it is usually because your fingers got between it and food at feeding time.
It is a good idea to take your garter snake out of its regular enclosure and put it into another cage for feeding, so it will learn that biting behaviors aren’t going to result in getting food while it is still in its regular enclosure.
Garter snakes do have venom, but they are not poisonous to humans, just to the insects and fish they eat.
If you were to get a garter snake bite, you would just need to clean the wound with antiseptic and use a steroid cream if you developed an allergy.
Garter snakes come in many morphs with an assortment of colors.
They don’t eat rodents. Many snake owners regard them as the perfect short-lived pet snake.
However, there is another kind of snake that is even more interesting that won’t become a long-term burden.
Rough Green Snakes (8 Years)
Rough green snakes live to be up to 8 years old in captivity.
They are a popular choice for snake enthusiasts who don’t like feeding rodents to their snakes.
As their name suggests, they differ from smooth green snakes by the roughness of their scales and by a flap on their tail ends.
Rough green snakes have bodies covered with brilliant green scales and bright yellow underbellies.
They aren’t happy without a hiding place and a piece of driftwood to climb on in their terrarium.
They feed on crickets and earthworms, although you can train them to eat commercial Rough Green Snake Food if you start them early enough.
Rough green snakes don’t bite, either. However, they can also defend themselves with a smelly, sticky musk.
You probably need to get some experience holding and transferring either kind of green snake to see how you react to the musk before you buy either kind of pet snake.
Water Snakes (9 Years)
Water snakes live about nine years when they are kept as pets.
The downside of keeping a water snake is that it will never be an affectionate pet.
It will hiss and strike if you even approach it, before you pick it up.
Water snakes have the same markings as rattlesnakes, so if your water snake escapes, someone who does not know what it is may kill it.
The upside of keeping a water snake, other than its shock value from looking like a rattlesnake, is that you don’t have to feed it mice.
Water snakes don’t eat rodents. They thrive on a diet of crickets, tadpoles, and minnows, though it is important not to feed them too many small fish so they do not develop a biotin (vitamin B7) deficiency.
Fully grown water snakes range between 2 and 4.5 feet (0.6 and 1.4 meters) long, most water snakes grow to about 3.5 feet (a little over a meter) long, so they need a standard enclosure.
Is There a Lot of Difference in How Long Snakes Live?
If you are a beginner at keeping snakes, you may not have a frame of reference for just how long snakes live.
All of the snakes we have mentioned in this article are much shorter-lived than some of the more popular kinds of pet snakes:
- Ball pythons, as we mentioned earlier, can live as long as 35 years.
- Corn snakes can live up to 25 years.
- Hognose snakes can live up to 18 years.
- Rubber boas can live 15 years or more.
It isn’t fair to a pet snake to plan for anything less than giving it a lifetime of good care.
You shouldn’t just let your snake loose in the woods when you are tired of it.
Captive-raised snakes may survive in the wild, but they can cause a local upset in the balance of nature, endanger neighborhood pets, and scare people who are not expecting to encounter them.
Always plan on giving your snake the best care possible.
And if a time comes that you can’t, find a place to sell your snake or give it to someone you know will take good care of it.
Fun Fact: The Guinness Book of World Records reports that the longest-lived pet snake ever recorded was a Colombian rosy boa named Ben, who lived in Valdosta, Georgia. Ben’s owners bought him from Pet World in Peoria, Illinois in 1974. Ben died at his owner’s home in Georgia on 6 June 2016, at the age of at least 42 years and 6 days.
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