Being a pet owner is fun, happy, and rewarding experience. But as the rule goes, be it human or animal, everyone’s time is limited.
A lot of per snake owners wonder what to do with their dead pet snake.
The most common options for a pet snake’s final resting place are burial and cremation.
But with certain common kinds of pet snakes, you should make sure your snake is really dead.
Burial is a do-it-yourself option. You can bury your snake on your own property, or your vet can arrange for burial in a pet cemetery or common pet burial ground through your vet.
If you are burying your snake in a rented property, you need to make sure you have the owner’s permission.
Cremation is a more expensive option. If you want to get your pet’s ashes back, you will need to request a private cremation.
It’s important to understand the details of this service ahead of time.
Your vet can take care of the details of either kind of final resting place for your snake, but it helps to understand the process ahead of time.
Signs that Your Snake is Nearing it’s End
Snakes are tough creatures that live long lives when humans take care of them.
A Garter Snake may live just four or five years, and a Corn Snake six to eight, but a Burmese Python can live to be about 20, a Rubber Boa will live 20 to 25 years, and an Anaconda may almost make it to 30.
If your pet is an elderly snake, then you need to be ready for their final care both emotionally and logistically.
Sometimes snakes will show signs that death is near.
Snakes that are close to death:
- Display behavioral changes. A snake that has always watched the world outside her enclosure may start spending all her time hiding. Or a snake that enjoyed handling may hiss and retreat when you try to pick him up.
- Refuse food and water, with significant weight loss. Very few adult snakes need to eat more often than once a week, and it’s not unusual for some species, like Ball Pythons, to go six months or even longer without eating. But when your snake won’t eat and is losing weight, chances are that something is wrong.
- Struggle to shed old skin. Skin that just won’t peel off, that gets stuck around your snake’s eyes, or that is incompletely replaced is another sign the end may be near.
- Runny or bloody bowel movements. Diarrhea or blood in stools are signs of serious, possibly life-ending digestive disease.
- Discharge from your snake’s nose or mouth. Parasites as well as bacterial or viral infections can cause this symptom.
When these symptoms appear in a snake nearing the end of its expected lifespan, it is time to make an appointment with the vet to learn what you can do to make your snake’s final days more comfortable.
But when a younger snake is hiding or refusing food and water, or seems to be dead, but there are no signs of decay (like a horrible smell), then there’s another consideration.
Younger Snakes Can Play Dead
Snakes don’t hibernate, they brumate
They can’t go into hibernation the way some mammals can, because they don’t have the ability to regulate their body temperature the way mammals can.
Some snakes can stand temperatures at or even below freezing, but all snakes have a lower limit of acceptable temperatures.
When a snake feels cold, its metabolism may shut down to avoid damage to healthy cells. This process is known as brumation.
A snake’s adrenal glands will produce a smaller amount of stress hormones, so the snake isn’t as reactive to disturbances that normally upset it. Its digestive tract may shut down.
If your snake is brumating because it is cold, it may wrap itself around your hand or arm for warmth when you pick it up.
If you jostle its enclosure, it may look around to make sure everything is OK and then go back to brumating.
A snake in this state won’t eat (and may become constipated) because warmth is required for digestion.
When your snake finally stops brumating, it will be groggy until its body temperature rises, but once it warms up, it will behave in the same way as usual.
Brumation doesn’t have any permanent effects on snake behavior. But if your snake has died, no amount of stimulation will wake it up.
What You Need to Know About Burying Your Snake
The most common way of dealing with the body of a dead snake is burying it in your backyard.
However, you don’t automatically have a right to do this.
If you are renting your house, you need your landlord’s permission to bury your snake on their property.
Even if you own your own home, you need to be sure you aren’t violating any municipal code or homeowner’s association rules by burying your pet.
If your local municipality restricts burials on private property, you can be hit with fines or even a criminal citation for breaking these rules.
Pet parents who have the necessary permissions to bury their snake can take care of burial themselves.
One of the first things to do is to buy a pet coffin. Biodegradable and non-biodegradable pet coffins are available from many sellers online.
Non-biodegradable pet coffins keep scavengers from digging up your snake’s remains.
They also prevent the strong smells released by the bodies of dead pets and other dead bodies.
It is important to dig a hole deep enough that the body of your snake won’t be dug up by predators and the casket won’t be washed away by flooding.
Usually, a snake needs to be buried under at least two feet of earth to prevent scavengers from finding the body, and under at least three feet of earth to keep the body and/or casket from being washed away by flooding or erosion.
What You Need to Know About Cremating Your Snake
Cremation transforms the body of your snake into ashes.
The process of cremation vaporizes organic matter, leaving metal and bone. The crematory removes metal with a magnet and pulverizes the bone into dust.
You don’t always have to arrange cremation on your own. Often, your veterinarian can arrange it for you.
Your vet can make arrangements with a pet crematory to return your snake’s ashes to you in a few days.
Crematories will return the ashes to you in a box, or you can arrange for them to be placed into an urn.
It’s also possible to have the crematory dispose of the ashes for you. In this case, they will just send you a certificate of cremation for your snake.
Some crematories will allow you to be present in a viewing room (not the same room as the cremation oven) during your snake’s cremation, but others will not.
The process takes about 30 minutes for smaller snakes and up to two hours for larger animals.
Pet crematories offer a less expensive service in which multiple animals are cremated together, but you can only receive commingled ashes if you opt for this service.
The cost of cremating a smaller snake is usually $30 to $50, but cremating a large snake may cost as much as $300.
Urns cost can vary from $50 to $2500.
There is even a company called Eterneva that can transform your snake’s ashes into a diamond.
Using the Services of a Pet Funeral Home
You may find “pet burial services” as you are looking for places to bury your snake.
Pet funeral homes offer many of the same services you will find at funeral homes for people.
They usually sell urns, vaults, and caskets. They can help you with memorial stones and grave markers.
They can provide transportation for your snake’s remains. Many will help you hold a funeral service for your pet.
A pet funeral home may be able to help you find a pet cemetery, or may have its own pet cemetery.
Putting Your Snake in a Pet Cemetery
It’s also possible to make a pet cemetery your snake’s final resting place.
Some reasons owners put their snakes in pet cemeteries include:
- Not having a legal right to bury their snake at home.
- Not wanting to cremate their snake.
- Wanting to bury their snake in a place they can visit.
- Wanting to be buried near their snake when their own time comes.
The average cost of burying a small snake, like a Corn Snake, Garter Snake, or a Rubber Boa, in a pet cemetery is about (US) $400.
This fee includes a small casket, a dedicated burial plot, and the costs of digging the hole and burying your snake’s casket in it.
A memorial stone and annual maintenance fees (or a perpetual maintenance contract) will be extra.
The cost of interring a larger snake will usually be calculated on the basis of weight.
One of the things you need to know before you bury your snake in a pet cemetery is who actually owns the pet cemetery.
Sometimes the land for a pet cemetery is leased, and the real owner can take it back.
You may also want to know if there are visiting hours, whether you are allowed to decorate the grave, and whether the cemetery is a member of the International Association of Pet Cemeteries & Crematories (IAOPCC), which ensures ethical treatment of animal remains that honors the owner’s wishes.
Frequently Asked Questions About What to Do with a Dead Pet Snake
Q. Is green burial a possibility for my pet snake?
A. Green burial composts the body, usually in a beautiful park setting.
Some green cemeteries accept pets as well as people, but you will need to inquire ahead of time.
Q. Can I be buried with my snake?
A. A few states allow people and pets to be buried together.
Another option would be to find a cemetery for people that has an area for the burial of pets. Consult your local funeral home about pre-planning this kind of burial.
Q. I want my snake to have a very natural end, with a “sky burial.” How do I do this?
A. Very discreetly. In a “sky burial,” you leave your snake’s body on the ground so other animals can find and consume it.
It’s best to do this on private property in a rural area with permission.
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