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What Do Anacondas Eat in the Wild and as Pets?

Nicole Cosgrove

Native to tropical South America, anacondas, or water boas as they’re also called are large, non-venomous snakes. Currently, there are four known species of anacondas with the green anaconda or common anaconda as it’s also referred to, being the most common.

The common anaconda is the world’s largest snake by weight and the second-longest. This snake can grow to nearly 30 feet in length and be 12 inches in girth. Some of these snakes tip the scales at well over 500 pounds with the females of the species being bigger than males.

As aquatic snakes, anacondas live in marshes, swampy areas, and along sluggish-moving streams and rivers. When they’re on solid ground, they’re slow-moving and clumsy but in the water they are deadly. An anaconda can suspend itself just under the surface of the water waiting for prey while hidden from sight. This snake’s dark green color and patterns on its body provide the ideal camouflage.

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What Anacondas Eat in the Wild

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Image Credit: Hans Brexmeier, Pixabay

In the wild, anacondas prey on many different animals including:

  • Fish
  • Turtles
  • Birds
  • Capybara
  • Caimans
  • Deer
  • Jaguars

An anaconda can go long periods without eating and especially after consuming a large meal. This snake kills its prey by wrapping its thick muscular body around its prey and constricting until the animal dies. Many of the animals that this snake captures in the wild die from drowning as they try in vain to get loose from the snake’s powerful grip.

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How a Wild Anaconda Hunts

Anacondas are fascinating creatures and especially when they’re looking for something to eat. An anaconda feels a series of vibrations in the water when there is prey nearby. This big snake can also detect specific chemicals in the air with its forked tongue and Jacobson’s organ.

Additionally, an anaconda detects heat signatures given off by potential prey using the pit organs on the top of its upper lip. An anaconda does not see or smell well but that doesn’t stop this snake from being an avid hunter thanks to its other keen senses.

What Anacondas Eat in Captivity

When kept as a pet, an anaconda must be provided with food that meets its nutritional requirements. It’s important to know that captive anacondas can refuse to eat all food except their favorite prey, so be ready for that if you keep one of these big snakes as a pet. Pet anacondas can be fed:

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Rabbits
  • Ducks
  • Chickens
  • Fish
  • Small pigs

Another important thing to know about feeding a pet anaconda is that this snake cannot distinguish between food and its owner. When it’s hungry, an anaconda will strike at anything that moves within its range so great care must be taken when feeding an anaconda.

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It’s Not Necessary to Feed a Pet Anaconda Live Prey

If you’re squeamish about the idea of feeding your pet anaconda live animals, don’t worry. An anaconda will eat a dead animal because it won’t usually turn down a free and easy meal. In fact, snake experts recommend that anaconda owners exclusively feed their anacondas pre-killed prey like thawed frozen mice and rats. This is recommended because a live animal like a rodent will fight for its life when grabbed by this big snake, which can result in an anaconda getting injured by the prey’s sharp teeth and claws.

Because anacondas prey on moving animals in the wild, feeding a pet anaconda requires a little trickery on your part. Simply use a pair of long-handled tongs or forceps to hold the prey by the tail and dangle it a few inches from the anaconda’s face. After exploring the prey with its tongue, the anaconda will grab the food and start constricting it. If your pet anaconda doesn’t take the prey, touch the prey to the snake’s nose to trigger its feeding response.

Because anacondas sold as pets are captive-bred, most will prefer eating pre-killed food because that’s the only food they have access to. Of course, you can feed a pet anaconda live prey if you’d like. Just be careful and stay out of your snake’s range so it doesn’t think you’re the prey!

How Often to Feed a Pet Anaconda?

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Image Credit: SeaReeds Pixabay

A young pet anaconda should be fed small animals like mice and birds about once every four days. As it grows larger, it should get food like rats, small pigs, and rabbits about once every seven to ten days. You’ll know when your anaconda doesn’t need food when it refuses to eat its favorite prey.

As stated earlier, an anaconda doesn’t know the difference between you and its prey so use caution when feeding your pet snake. Anacondas have four rows of backward-pointing teeth they use to grasp their prey and those teeth are sharp! And don’t forget that dead animals rot quickly so be sure to remove any uneaten prey from your snake’s enclosure.

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Conclusion

Anacondas are massive snakes that many people find fascinating. If you’re thinking of keeping an anaconda as a pet, learn all you can about these snakes before buying one. This big snake needs a large enclosure and must be fed a consistent, protein-rich diet to ensure it can live a long and healthy life. In captivity, this snake can live up to 30 years which is much longer than it can live in the wild which is about 10 years.


Featured Image Credit: blende12, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.