Frequently-Asked Questions About Snakes

  • Do milk snakes drink milk?

    What you might have heard: Milk Snakes sneak into barns and barnyards where they suck milk from cows.

    The real story: A milk cow would hardly stand still for having a Milk Snake's teeth clamped to one of her teats. But Milk Snakes do enter barns sometimes in pursuit of mice and other small rodents.

  • How many snakes in Ohio are venomous?

    The real story: Most snakes found in Ohio are not venomous. Still, there are three kinds of snake in Ohio that are venomous, and therefore are dangerous. They are the Northern Copperhead Snake, the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, and the Timber Rattlesnake.

  • Are hoop snakes dangerous?

    What you might have heard: Hoop snakes are dangerous snakes. When surprised one of these snakes will grab its tail in its mouth, form a "hoop" with its body, and roll away. One version of the myth says that the hoop snake will chase a person in this manner, but a conflicting version says that the hoop snake uses this means to escape from a threat. Yet another version has it that the snake will roll down a hill killing anything and everything in its path.

    The REAL story: There is no such thing as a hoop snake. You won't find one in a zoo, you won't find one in a museum. And you won't find a record of a hoop snake observation that has been verified by an independent, second observation.

  • Do snakes use a buddy system?

    What you might have heard: Snakes travel in pairs. If one snake is killed the other snake seeks revenge.

    The real story: There is no evidence to prove that snakes travel in pairs. If there is good habitat for a particular snake a person may see more than one individual in a small area. Also males follow females closely during mating season. And finally, there is no evidence to show social bonding in snakes.

  • Do rattlesnakes add rattles over time?

    What you might have heard: Rattlesnakes add a rattle each year.

    The real story: Rattlesnakes add a rattle each time they shed, and they can shed several times a year. Also, an individual may lose rattles as they break off. Therefore, counting rattles is not at all a way to tell a rattlesnake's age.

  • When do rattlesnakes add a new rattle?

    The real story: Rattlesnakes have rattles at the ends of their tails with which they can make a noise. As the snake grows and ages it adds a new rattle each time it sheds its skin.

  • Are snakes slimy?

    What you might have heard: A snake's skin is slimy and yucky, disgusting to touch.

    The real story: A snake's skin is dry and mostly smooth. Edges of the scales may make it seem a little rough. Many people find it pleasant to touch.

  • Does a hognose snake have poisonous breath?

    What you might have heard: A Hognose Snake, sometimes called a puff adder, can mix poison with its breath and kill a person at a distance of 10 or even 20 feet.

    The real story:Hognose snakes do not produce poison, nor do they blow their breath at other animals or people. They may hiss when threatened, but the only danger from that would be from fright.

  • Do snakes chew their food?

    The real story: Snakes do not chew their food. They swallow their prey whole. In fact, snakes can swallow whole an animal that is much bigger around than they are.

  • Can any Ohio snakes squeeze their prey to death?

    The real story: Some snakes in Ohio will subdue small animals by wrapping coils around the prey and squeezing until the animal dies from suffocation. The snake then swallows the animal whole.

  • How often do snakes shed their skins?

    The real story: Snakes shed their skins several times a year rather than just once.

  • Do snakes have stingers on their tails?

    What you might have heard: Snakes have stingers on their tails with which they can poison prey or a person.

    The real story: Some snakes have pointed tails but they do not have stingers like bees and wasps. Also, snakes produce and store venom in their heads, not their tails.

  • Can snakes hypnotize their prey?

    What you might have heard: A snake can hypnotize or "charm" its prey so that the animal is unable to escape from the snake.

    The real story: There is no scientific evidence that snakes are able to do this. A possible explanation for this false story is that a small animal may become frozen with fear at the approach of a snake.

  • Can snakes jump?

    The real story: Snakes cannot jump. They may fall from a ledge, soil bank or tree, but they do not jump.

  • Do snakes have to be coiled to strike?

    What you might have heard: Snakes can strike only from a coiled position.

    The real story: Snakes can strike from any position. If a person grabs a snake's body the snake can turn extremely quickly and bite the hand that holds it.

  • Can snakes move at high speeds?

    The real story: Snakes can move fairly rapidly for a human on foot, but not at truly high speeds. Top speed for most snakes probably is about five to eight miles per hour.

  • Are all snakes bad for humans?

    The real story: Some snakes actually are beneficial to humans because they prey on insect and rodent pests.

  • Do snakes only die before sundown?

    What you might have heard: An injured snake dies before sundown of the same day.

    The real story: There is no evidence to support this myth. A badly injured snake dies quickly; a slightly injured snake will flee if possible.

  • Do all snakes lay eggs?

    The real story: Some snakes hatch from eggs, while others are born alive. For example, garter snakes in Ohio bear their young alive.

  • Does removing the fangs of a venomous snake make it harmless?

    The real story: Removing the fangs of a venomous snake does not make that snake harmless. A new pair soon replaces the lost fangs. In fact, the fangs of venomous snakes in Ohio are constantly being renewed.

  • Do snakes swallow their young?

    What you might have heard: Some snakes, such as garter snakes, swallow their young in times of danger in order to protect them.

    The real story: Garter snakes bear their young alive, as do some other kinds of snake. When born, however, the young are independent and they move away from their mother rather quickly.