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How to Tell If a Snake Is Pregnant

Oliver Jones

Breeding snakes at home is certainly an exciting and rewarding process, but even experts can have difficulty at times telling whether a snake is pregnant or not. Simply noticing that your female has gained weight after mating is not enough to confirm that she’s pregnant, as she may just be digesting her most recent meal!

The only way to be certain that your female is pregnant is to take her to your local vet for an X-ray or ultrasound, although other signs may give you hints beforehand. Let’s take a look.

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Signs of a Pregnant Snake

Here are a few of the most revealing signs that your snake may be pregnant, but these could just be signs of typical snake behavior:

  • Lack of appetite. One of the first signs of possible pregnancy is that your snake will stop eating or eat far less, and this may continue for several weeks. This also happens before and during shedding, though.
  • Staying in cooler parts of the tank. A pregnant female will often stay away from a heat lamp or the warmest part of her tank in an attempt to keep her body cool.
  • Lying on her back. A pregnant female may lie on her back with her belly exposed when pregnant or take regular baths in her water bowl, in an effort to stay cool.
  • Pregnant females will be less happy with handling and may even become aggressive at times. They do this to protect their clutch once the eggs are laid too, so it’s best to keep away from her until the eggs are hatched and relatively independent, no matter the species.
  • Color change. Some snakes, like Pythons, may change color while pregnant, although this is also common during shedding. This is often referred to as “pregnancy glow,” and your female’s scales may get lighter in color, with more contrast between light and dark patterns.
  • Lumpy mid-section. Although this will be most noticeable toward the end of the pregnancy, your female will have small lumps on her body, indicating the presence of eggs. This is called “lumping up.”
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Image Credit: Dan_Koleska, Shutterstock

How Long Are Snakes Pregnant?

All snake species are different, and the time that they are pregnant, or “gravid,” for is different too. Most snakes that are commonly kept as pets are typically pregnant for anywhere from 30 to 60 days.

Here are the gestation periods for common pet snakes:

Species Gestation Period
Ball Python 54–60 days
Burmese Python 60­–90 days
Green Tree Python 45–50 days
King Snake 55–60 days
Milk Snake 28–39 days
Corn Snake 30–45 days
Rosy Boa 100–140 days
Gopher Snake 65–70 days

How to Take Care of a Pregnant Snake

Once you’ve confirmed that your snake is indeed pregnant, she’ll need special care during her gestation period. Keeping the correct temperature consistent is vital, and though she will naturally seek out cooler parts of her tank, she may still want to lay under a heat lamp occasionally too. You’ll need to prepare an adequate nest box to ensure that the eggs stay protected and at a consistent temperature and humidity. Although the size of the nest box will depend on the species of snake, it should typically be a relatively small space.

Your pregnant female will eat little or not at all during this period, and this is nothing to worry about and perfectly normal. It’s also best to avoid handling during this time, not only to prevent causing her unnecessary stress, but your snake will also likely become more aggressive while pregnant.

Related Read: 11 Snakes That Give Live Birth Like Mammals

Can Snakes Breed Without a Male?

Depending on the species of snake, your female may be pregnant even though she hasn’t mated with a male. This process is called parthenogenesis, or asexual reproduction, and while it’s rare, it’s possible in some captive snakes and has been observed in the Brahminy Blind Snake, or Flowerpot Snake.

Some snakes may also lay a clutch of eggs years after being adopted, leading many owners to believe that she produced eggs asexually. It’s more likely that the female mated before you adopted her, as some female snakes have the unique ability to store viable sperm for up to 6 years!

Even if your female has not mated a male recently, some of these signs could mean she’s pregnant!

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Final Thoughts

The only way to tell with absolute certainty whether your snake is pregnant is to take her to a vet for a scan, although several tell-tale signs can give you a few hints beforehand. Your female may stop eating, become more aggressive, change color, and prefer the cooler area of her tank suddenly, all of which could be potential signs of pregnancy.

Related Read: How Many Eggs Do Pythons Lay & How Many Survive?


Featured Image Credit: Gerald A. DeBoer, Shutterstock

Oliver Jones

Oliver (Ollie) Jones - A zoologist and freelance writer living in South Australia with his partner Alex, their dog Pepper, and their cat Steve (who declined to be pictured). Ollie, originally from the USA, holds his master's degree in wildlife biology and moved to Australia to pursue his career and passion but has found a new love for working online and writing about animals of all types.