Snakes are mysterious reptiles that seem to defy gravity in some instances. You may have seen unbelievable videos of snakes falling from great heights and slithering off as if nothing had happened to them. Not only that, but their climbing ability is awe-inspiring for an animal without any arms or legs! But why do snakes climb trees, and how do they survive these insane falls?
Why do snakes climb trees?
Depending on the snake species, there can be different reasons why they are drawn to climbing trees. Some snake species are arboreal, meaning they spend much of their life in the tree tops. These snakes will be up in the trees to hunt and catch their prey but may spend more extended amounts of time up there due to the intense effort needed to descend from the tree safely.
Other species of snakes will spend more time in the tree tops to escape predators. Despite their reputation, snakes have many predators, and in dense forests, they often have incredible eyesight or terrifying attack mechanisms, which means the snakes don’t stand much of a chance! This is why many species of a snake slither up to the tree tops to avoid being someone else’s next meal.
How do snakes climb trees?
It is clear that the animals that spend most of their time high up in the tree tops are made to climb. Orangutans, sloths and spider monkeys have incredibly well-adapted limbs perfect for ascending even the tallest trees. Snakes, however, don’t have limbs, so how do they climb trees?
Snakes can ascend to the top of even the tallest trees by wrapping their bodies around the tree trunk. Then they apply intense amounts of muscular pressure to the tree trunk to prevent themselves from slipping down. Now all they need to do is keep slithering in circles around the trunk until they’ve climbed as high as they need to!
How far can a snake fall without getting hurt?
Multiple reports of people observing snakes in the wild and zookeepers looking after snakes in captivity say that they have witnessed snakes surviving falls from up to 6 m (25 ft)! Of course, this depends a lot on the species of snake and the environment they are falling into. A soft landing is less damaging than a hard or rough surface.
How do snakes survive falls?
Snakes can survive falls from such high places by relaxing their bodies entirely. When snakes become aware they are falling, their brains signal for their bodies to create a substance which acts as a muscle relaxant. During the fall, a snake will be able to spread itself out, completely relax and even right itself on the way down in a way that is quite similar to a cat.
What causes a snake to fall?
Snakes fall a lot more frequently in captivity than in the wild. Often in captivity, snakes do not have the required temperature to promote optimum amounts of movement. This causes a snake to spend a considerable period in one place and be unable to right itself quickly enough if it loses its balance.
In the wild, the weather is a significant cause for snakes falling. A large storm or a particularly windy day can be enough to cause a snake to fall. This is one of the biggest causes of fatalities in wild snakes as sometimes the extreme weather causes them to fall, so they cannot prevent injury.
Pregnant snakes are much more likely to fall from trees than any other snake. The change in a snake’s body and the added weight can throw a snake off balance or even cause them to miscalculate how much weight a branch can hold. If the branch they are on breaks, then the snake will fall together with the branch.
Sometimes falling from trees is totally purposeful and is a way of preventing an encounter with a predator. Snakes usually climb trees to avoid predators, but sometimes they meet predators in the tree tops. If a snake feels it is at risk when they have climbed a tree, then occasionally, it will almost jump off of the branch it was on to try to escape.
Can snakes climb vertical structures like walls?
Snakes can climb up vertical structures depending on the snake species and the wall. Longer, skinnier species of snakes can fit in tiny grooves in walls that help them slither right up their sides. On hot days you may be able to spot a skinny snake slithering up the mortar in between the bricks on the outside of a house.
How high do snakes usually climb?
Since snakes are 85% muscle, there is no limit on how high they can climb. Many snakes will not go much higher than twenty feet, but if a snake feels threatened, it may climb to a higher area to feel more secure in its environment.
Do snakes like to climb?
When kept in captivity, many snakes will enjoy having a place where they can climb. While not all species of snake must climb to survive in the wild, many scientists believe that snakes enjoy climbing and find it fun when they are not feeling threatened by predators. Snakes find it frightening when they fall down, so if you are thinking of building a climbing structure for a pet snack, make sure it is safe for your snake.