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What Do Snakes Eat in the Wild and as Pets? Diet & Health Facts

corn snake eating a mouse

Snakes are becoming more and more popular in the United States, and some breeds like the ball python and corn snake are available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, making them even more desirable. The most common question from people looking to purchase a snake is: what do they eat? It depends on what type of snake it is, but most will eat mainly animal protein since they are all carnivores.

If you are thinking about purchasing a snake for your home, keep reading while we look at a few of the most popular kinds to see what they eat in the wild and in captivity so you can see if you can stomach their diet.snake divider 2

What Do Small Snakes Eat?

garter snake_Nature-Pix_Pixabay
Image Credit: Nature-Pix, Pixabay

Natural Diet

Smaller snakes like the ring-necked snake, garter snake, and the California green snake typically eat a diet of insects but will also eat salamanders, lizards, frogs, worms, and other smaller snakes. Many of these smaller snakes are not dangerous to humans, but you should always use caution around any snake, especially if you are inexperienced because some bites can cause serious injury even if they are non-venomous.

Captive Diet

cricket_Del Green_Pixabay
Image Credit: Del Green, Pixabay

You will primarily feed your smaller snakes a diet of crickets, earthworms, and mealworms. Since these insects don’t have bones, you may need to provide your captive snake with a calcium supplement, and if you don’t use UVB lighting, you will also need a vitamin D3 supplement. Luckily these two nutrients are often packaged together. You will dust the insects with the supplement shortly before feeding them to your pet. The insects you feed your snake will need to be gut loaded, which means they should be fed with nutritious vegetable matter at least 24 hours before giving them to your pet. Always purchase your insects instead of finding them around your home because wild bugs can contain parasites that could cause a health problem for your pet.

Divider-snakeWhat Do Medium-Sized Snakes Eat?

corn snake
Image Credit: Frauke Feind, Pixabay

Natural Diet

Medium-sized snakes like the green unicorn, the Honduran milk snake, and the corn snake are a little too large for crickets and worms, but they will still eat them if they can’t find anything else. They prefer larger prey like mice, frogs, lizards, and birds. Some snakes will even eat eggs if they can find them. Many of these snakes are poisonous and can cause serious health issues in humans, so make sure you have plenty of experience before approaching these snakes in the wild.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Captive Diet

Your medium-sized captive snake will primarily eat mice. Most experts recommend feeding frozen and thawed captive-bred mice for the best results. Wild mice caught on your property may excite your snake and engage its hunting instincts, but they can also transfer parasites and bacteria to your pet, which can cause health issues. Since your snake eats the mice whole, including the fur and bones, you will not need to dust the food with a calcium powder.


What Do Large Snakes Eat?

anaconda snake_Piqsels
Image Credit: Piqsels

Natural Diet

Big snakes like the green anaconda, Burmese python, and boa constrictor primarily eat fish, birds, reptiles, smaller snakes, squirrels, rabbits, and even larger game like deer. Luckily for humans, most of these large snakes are slow-moving and non-venomous, so they make fantastic pets.

Captive Diet

rats in grass_sipa_Pixabay
Image Credit: sipa, Pixabay

Large captive snakes will primarily eat rats. Rats are a good-sized food that your snake can easily digest and they contain all of the nutrients your snake requires to stay healthy. There is no need to dust this food, and like mice, you can purchase rats frozen so they are easy to find and store. Plus, there is much less risk of accidentally transmitting bacteria or parasites to your snake if you choose captive-bred rats.snake divider 2

Final Thoughts

In the wild, snakes are opportunistic feeders that will eat just about anything they can fit their heads around. In fact, snakes have the amazing ability to open their mouths 150-degrees to fit in food larger than their bodies. Smaller snakes will stick to primarily insects and worms, but as the species gets larger, the food it eats does, too. Some of the bigger snakes can consume large animals like deer, but they primarily stick to smaller prey like rabbits, squirrels, and rats. We recommend using only commercially purchased captive-bred insects, mice, and rats for your snake to promote optimal health.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this guide, and it has helped answer your questions. If we have helped improve your snakes’ diet, please share this guide to what snakes eat in the wild and as pets on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Image Credit: Jan Hejda, Shutterstock

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