Uncovering the Mystery of How Long Snakes Move After Death

» Anatomy » Uncovering the Mystery of How Long Snakes Move After Death

Have you ever wondered how long snakes move after they die? It’s a fascinating yet somewhat morbid question. This article will explore the mysterious phenomenon of snake postmortem mobility, commonly known as “snake zombie-ism”. We will uncover the scientific evidence behind how long snakes continue to move after death and explore possible explanations for this strange phenomenon.

Types of Snakes

Types Of Snakes

Venomous Snakes

Venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes, cobras and mambas, are capable of producing a toxic venom that can cause serious injury or even death in humans. After death, the venomous snake’s body begins to decompose and the venom no longer has an effect. Therefore, the snake will not move after death.

Non-Venomous Snakes

Non-venomous snakes, such as garter snakes, corn snakes, and king snakes, do not produce venom. After death, due to the lack of muscle control, the snake’s body may move in a jerking motion, but it will not move in a way that could be considered as intentional.

Causes of Death in Snakes

Causes Of Death In Snakes

Cause of Death Description
Natural Causes Natural causes of death in snakes can include age-related illnesses, dehydration, and diseases such as infections and parasites.
Predators Snakes may be attacked and killed by other animals such as larger snakes, birds of prey, and mammals such as raccoons.
Injury or Trauma Injury or trauma can be caused by a variety of sources, including humans, and can lead to death if not treated quickly and appropriately.
Poisoning Snakes can be poisoned by ingesting toxins or by exposure to toxins in their environment.

Snakes typically do not move after they have died, regardless of the cause of death.

How Long Snakes Move After They Are Dead

How Long Snakes Move After They Are Dead

1. Physical Response of Dead Snakes

When a snake dies, it still displays muscular movement. This is known as postmortem spasm or postmortem reflex. This is caused by the snake’s muscles contracting and relaxing due to a chemical reaction that continues in the body even after death. This can cause the snake to move in a jerky, spasmodic manner, appearing to move its body for a short time.

2. Factors That Affect the Time of Movement

The amount of time a dead snake moves is affected by several factors, including temperature, the size of the snake and the activity of the snake before it died. Generally, the larger the snake, the longer it will move after death. Similarly, the warmer the environment, the longer the snake will move after death. Additionally, the more active the snake was before it died, the longer it will move after death.

Myths Related to Movement of Dead Snakes

Myths Related To Movement Of Dead Snakes

One of the most common myths about dead snakes is that they can still move even after death. This is absolutely untrue, as all animals, including snakes, are completely immobile after death. There is no scientific evidence that suggests that a dead snake can still move, and any movements of the snake after death are likely caused by post-mortem muscle contractions. Another myth is that snakes can play dead, meaning they can pretend to be dead in order to avoid predators. This is also untrue, as snakes are unable to play dead. They may lay motionless when they sense danger, but they cannot actually pretend to be dead. Finally, some people believe that dead snakes can still bite and inject venom. Again, this is false, as snakes lose all muscle function, and thus the ability to bite, after death.

Effects of Dead Snake Movement

Effect Description
Movement A dead snake can still move in certain situations. This is because the muscles can still contract due to the presence of residual oxygen in the blood and the lack of rigor mortis setting in.
Noxious Fumes Dead snakes can release noxious fumes due to the decomposition of their tissue. These fumes can be hazardous to humans, particularly if the snake is venomous.
Insect Infestation Dead snakes can attract insects, such as flies, that can lay eggs inside the snake’s body, which can lead to an infestation.
Attract Predators Dead snakes can also attract predators, such as birds, which can further spread the dead snake’s remains and potentially create a public health hazard.

Dead snakes can still move for a short period of time after death. This movement can cause a variety of effects, including the release of noxious fumes, insect infestation, and the attraction of predators. It is important to properly dispose of dead snakes as soon as possible to avoid these potential hazards.

Prevention of Dead Snake Movement

Action Effect
Securely handle the snake Prevents injuries from movement
Place the snake in an enclosed container Stops the snake from moving
Place the snake in a cool, dry space Reduces the likelihood of the snake twitching
Clean the area around the snake Removes potential stimuli that could cause the snake to move

Once the snake has died, the best way to prevent it from moving is to securely handle it and place it in an enclosed container in a cool, dry space. It is also important to clean the area around the snake to remove any potential stimuli that could cause the snake to move.


  • Snakes, like other animals, will remain mobile for some time after death due to muscle reflexes and muscle spasms.
  • The exact amount of time that a dead snake will remain mobile is dependent on a number of factors, including temperature, humidity, and the health of the snake prior to death.
  • In most cases, a dead snake will remain mobile for a few minutes, though some cases have been reported of dead snakes remaining mobile for up to an hour.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Causes Postmortem Mobility in Snakes?

Postmortem mobility in snakes is caused by a phenomenon known as postmortem reflexes, or postmortem spasms. This is an involuntary and reflexive contraction of the snake’s muscles, which can cause the body to twitch or move. This phenomenon is caused by the lack of oxygen in the body and the breakdown of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in the muscles, which causes the muscles to contract involuntarily. In addition, the reflexive reaction of the muscles can be caused by external stimulation, such as sound, light, temperature, and touch. The movement can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.

How can you tell if a snake is still alive or dead?

Check for movement – a dead snake will not be able to move, while a live snake will move when provoked. Observe the tongue – a live snake will flick its tongue in and out, while a dead snake will not. Examine the eyes – a live snake will have eyes that are bright and alert, while a dead snake’s eyes will be dull and motionless. Feel for breath – a living snake will be able to breathe, while a dead snake’s body will be still. Listen for sound – a live snake will hiss or vibrate when disturbed, while a dead snake will be silent.

How long does postmortem mobility typically last in snakes?

Postmortem mobility in snakes typically lasts for a few minutes or less. It is caused by the contraction of the muscles due to the residual energy remaining in the body of the deceased snake. It can appear as though the snake is still alive, however, the movements are in fact reflexive and involuntary.

Are there any species of snakes that do not display postmortem mobility?

No, all species of snakes have been observed to display postmortem mobility, where the body of the snake will twitch and writhe even after death. This phenomenon is known as ‘thanatosis’ and is seen as a reflexive response of the nervous system. It can persist for several minutes and is believed to be an evolutionary adaptation that allows the snake to confuse predators.

Is there any way to prevent postmortem mobility in snakes?

There is no known way to prevent postmortem mobility in snakes. However, the phenomenon is not common, and usually only occurs in snakes that have already died from a physical injury or trauma. It can be minimized by avoiding traumatic injuries and handling dead snakes carefully. Snakes should be handled and stored on a flat surface and not disturbed until they have been completely immobilized.


The mystery of postmortem mobility in snakes has been explored in this article. It has been established that snakes can move for up to 24 hours after death, due to the presence of a muscle-based reflex known as postmortem mobility. This reflex is often triggered by environmental factors such as vibrations, temperature and light. Although further research is necessary to fully understand this phenomenon, it is clear that postmortem mobility is a real phenomenon in snakes.

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