Plants and Animals

Stressed Out Snake Eats Itself

May 2, 2014 | by Lisa Winter

Photo credit: Robert Mott/YouTube

WARNING: Graphic content ahead

“Silly snake, you are not your food!” you might say, as you watch this video.

Sometimes snakes will go full-on Ouroborus and begin to eat their own tails, creating a circle. However, unlike this mythical creature, it isn’t exactly about self-renewal when your pet snake does it. 

Snakes are cold blooded, which means they aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures. They need external heat sources (like the sun or a lamp, in the case of a pet snake) in order to warm themselves. But if they get too warm, they aren’t able to sweat to cool themselves down, and need to be able to find refuge in a cool, shady spot.

If snakes get too hot, they can become confused and disoriented. They also get a ramped-up metabolism, causing them to have a false sense of hunger and a desire to eat the first thing they see. As captive snakes typically live alone and food isn’t routinely consistently available to them, they end up attacking themselves. 

Snakes may also attack themselves if they are shedding and have diminished eyesight, mistaking their tail for prey.

When a snake begins to self-cannibalize, reducing the temperature by turning off heat lamps and spritzing the snake with cool water can help alleviate the stress and the snake may let go, though sometimes intervention by a veterinarian is required. These episodes can be fatal. Because snakes have evolved to trap food and guide it in, it can be difficult for them to let go once they have started eating.

Robert Mott, the videographer, was inside a pet shop when he came upon this snake and claimed in the description on YouTube that the owner was not immediately available (though it doesn’t sound like too much effort was put into trying to help the poor thing as he opted to laugh and film instead of demanding the attention of an employee). 

Though there isn’t background information about when the snake was last fed or what the internal temperature of tank was, the fact that the snake is inside the water dish and is still so agitated is not a great sign. The snake begins to draw blood on itself midway during the video, and unfortunately it is not known what the outcome of this incident was.

Tags