Snakes are a member of the reptile family. The reptile family includes lizards, turtles, alligators and crocodiles, and snakes.
All reptiles are covered with scales. Scales are smooth, tough folds of skin. Snakes have two kinds of scales. On their backs, the scales are small and round or oval. On their stomachs, the scales are large and rectangular. The rectangular scales help the snake to crawl.
All reptiles are cold blooded. That means their bodies are the same temperature as the air around them. Because they are cold blooded, reptiles can’t live where it stays very cold. Can you think of ways a cold snake might get warmer?
Where the temperature is warm, snakes live in many places. For example, some snakes live in trees.
Some kinds of snakes live in the ocean. These include the most poisonous snakes in the world.
Some snakes even live underground. Snakes that live underground don’t have any eyes. Can you guess why?
Snakes are different from the other reptiles in that they have no legs. But on some snakes you can see where the legs used to be because there is a tiny claw. Scientists have studied these claws and discovered that millions of years ago, the ancestors of snakes had four legs.
Another way that snakes are different is that they have no ears. You can yell at a snake but he can’t hear you.
But snakes can feel vibrations through the ground, so in a way, this snake can “hear” or feel the car coming.
The eyes of a snake are also different. Snakes that move around during the day have round pupils just like a person. But snakes that move around at night have slit shaped pupils. Can you think of an animal many people have as pets that has a slit shaped pupil? If you thought of a cat, you’re right. Cats usually hunt at night too.
The strangest thing about a snake’s eyes is that they have no eyelids. Their eyes are covered by a single clear scale. Don’t start a staring fight with a snake. You’ll lose for sure.
What part of your face do you smell with? Your nose, right? Well, snakes don’t smell with their noses. They smell with their tongue and some special organs inside their mouths.
Snakes must shed their skin to grow and heal cuts. They rub the old skin off against rocks. The new skin is shiny and brightly colored.
A few kinds of snakes have live babies. Two examples are gartersnakes and rattlesnakes. Baby rattlesnakes have poison just like their parents as soon as they are born.
Most snakes lay eggs. Snake’s eggs are not hard like chicken eggs. They are soft and leathery. Snake eggs hatch after 6 to 8 weeks.
All snakes have teeth. Like most other wild animals, they can bite you. But they won’t if you leave them alone. If by accident you were bitten by a nonpoisonous snake, you would treat it as you would a scratch.
Some snakes are poisonous. These snakes have fangs which work just like a doctor’s needle to inject poison into you. If you were bitten by a poisonous snake, you would go immediately to a doctor. But most snakes are harmless and no snake will bite you if you just leave it alone.
Why are some snakes poisonous? It lets a snake kill its food without getting hurt. Sometimes, when a snake attacks a rat to try and eat it, the rat will bite the snake before the snake can kill the rat. A poisonous snake can bite the rat and then let go. Later, after the rat is dead, the snake can eat it. That way, the rat can’t hurt the snake.
There are 2,600 kinds of snakes in the world. Most are non-poisonous. Nonpoisonous snakes must kill their prey by biting and squeezing it. Snakes are not strong enough to crush an animal. They hold their prey so tightly that it can’t breath anymore. This is what kills the prey.
Snakes have no arms and they certainly have no knives and forks. That means they must eat their prey whole. To do this they have special jaws which can open very wide.
Different kinds of snakes eat different kinds of prey. Some of the things that snakes eat are insects, frogs, eggs, birds, rats and mice, and even other snakes.
Farmers like to have snakes live in their fields. Do you know why? It’s because the snakes eat rats and mice that would eat up the farmer’s crops.
Snakes eat many things, but many things eat snakes too. One of the things that eats snakes are birds.
The most dangerous enemy snakes have is man. Many people kill any snake they find. This is very wrong. Most snakes are helpful and most are harmless. If you find a snake while out walking and don’t know if it is dangerous, leave it alone.
If you find what you think is a dangerous snake near your house, call the animal shelter and they can take care of it.