How to Tell if a Snake is Sleeping or Dead: A Guide for Snake Owners

» Anatomy » How to Tell if a Snake is Sleeping or Dead: A Guide for Snake Owners

Snakes can be mysterious creatures, and it can be difficult to tell if a snake is sleeping or dead. In this article, we will discuss the difference between a sleeping snake and a dead snake, and provide some tips on how to tell them apart.

Anatomy of Snakes

Anatomy Of Snakes

  • Snakes have an elongated body and a long, scaly tail.
  • They have no limbs and their head is connected to the body by a flexible neck.
  • They have a pair of large eyes which are usually yellow, gold or brown in colour.
  • Snakes have a forked tongue which they use to smell their environment.
  • Snakes have a wide range of colors and patterns on their skin.
  • Snakes have a camouflage adaptation which allows them to blend in with their environment.
  • Snakes have a well developed sense of touch and can detect vibrations in the air and objects.
  • Snakes have a set of long, sharp teeth which they use to capture and eat their prey.
  • Snakes have a powerful digestive system which allows them to digest their prey quickly.
  • Snakes have a special respiratory system which allows them to breathe without lungs.
  • Snakes have a unique set of muscles which enable them to move quickly and efficiently.

Sleeping Habits of Snakes

Sleeping Habits Of Snakes

Snakes spend most of their time in a state of rest. They may appear to be inactive or asleep, but they are actually alert and ready to take action if needed. Snakes do not have eyelids, so they cannot close their eyes when they sleep. Instead, they enter a sort of trance-like state, during which they can still be aware of their surroundings.

Snakes typically spend several hours a day in this state of rest. It is important for their health and well-being, as not getting enough sleep can lead to a weakened immune system and other health issues. Depending on the species, snakes may also sleep for longer periods of time during certain seasons, such as winter.

Behavior Sign that Snake is Sleeping
Staying in one spot Snakes often remain motionless for extended periods of time when they are sleeping.
Lethargic movements Snakes may occasionally twitch or move very slowly while they are sleeping.
Relaxed posture Snakes may appear to be relaxed and not as alert when they are sleeping.
Unresponsive to stimuli Snakes will not typically respond to stimuli, such as noises or touch, when they are sleeping.

Signs that a Snake is Sleeping

Signs That A Snake Is Sleeping

Signs Description
Eyes Closed The snake’s eyes will be closed, unless disturbed.
Unresponsive The snake will not react to any external stimuli such as sound or light.
Slow Breathing The breathing of the snake will be slow and shallow.
Motionless The snake will not move, unless disturbed.

Snakes sleep for periods of time during the day. During this time they will be unresponsive to external stimuli, have their eyes closed, a slow and shallow breath and be motionless.

Signs that a Snake is Dead

Signs That A Snake Is Dead

  • Lack of movement, even when prodded
  • Discoloration and/or bloating
  • A dull, lifeless appearance to the eyes
  • No response to stimuli, such as heat or light
  • Rigid body and lack of flexibility
  • No reflexive response, such as a tongue flicking

How to Tell the Difference

How To Tell The Difference

The most reliable way to tell if a snake is sleeping or dead is to observe its breathing. If a snake is sleeping, its breathing will be slow and shallow. If it is dead, it will not be breathing at all.

Another way to tell the difference is to look for physical movement. A sleeping snake will be motionless, but its muscles will still be active. If it is dead, there will be no movement whatsoever.

You can also check the snake’s eyes for signs of life. A sleeping snake’s eyes may be partially closed and may not move, but if it is dead, its eyes will be closed and motionless.

Finally, you can look for signs of life from the snake’s tongue. A sleeping snake’s tongue will be still, while a dead snake’s tongue will be motionless.

By using these tips, you should be able to tell if a snake is sleeping or dead.

Tips for Handling a Dead Snake

  • Wear protective gloves and long-sleeved clothing when handling a dead snake.
  • Take extreme caution when handling a dead snake, as it may still be capable of biting even after death.
  • Gently scoop the dead snake up with a shovel or stick and transfer it to a plastic bag.
  • Completely seal the plastic bag and dispose of it in a bin.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after handling the dead snake.

Common Causes of Death in Snakes

  • Injuries – Snakes can suffer from injuries due to bites from other snakes, being stepped on, or other accidents.
  • Infections – Snakes can become infected with viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which can lead to death if left untreated.
  • Toxins – Snakes can be poisoned by consuming toxic substances or being exposed to toxic substances in the environment.
  • Starvation – If a snake is not provided with enough food, it can become malnourished and die.
  • Dehydration – If a snake does not have access to enough water, it can become dehydrated and die.
  • Old Age – Like all animals, snakes have a limited lifespan and will eventually die due to old age.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if my snake is sleeping or dead?

A sleeping snake will usually appear motionless, but may occasionally twitch its tail. Its eyes will be closed and its breathing slow and shallow. A dead snake, on the other hand, will be completely motionless and its eyes will be open. Its tongue may be hanging out, and there will be no signs of breathing or other movement. Touch the snake’s skin to check for temperature – a sleeping snake will feel warm, while a dead snake will be cold or room temperature.

What are some signs that a snake is sleeping?

Snakes usually sleep during the day, and remain still for long periods of time. They may coil up or lay in a relaxed position with their eyes closed. They will not move if disturbed and may take some time to respond to stimuli. Snakes may also have slightly slower breathing and their body temperature may be slightly cooler than normal.

What are some signs that a snake is dead?

A snake will be unresponsive when touched and its body will be limp and cold. The skin may also be dull or pale, and the eyes may have a cloudy appearance. There will be no movement of the body or tongue, and the snake will not be breathing. The mouth may be open, and the snake may have a strong odor.

What should I do if I think my snake is dead?

Check for signs of life such as a slow breath or movement. If there is none, feel the body to check for warmth. If the snake is cold and stiff, it is likely dead. If unsure, contact a veterinarian to confirm the snake’s condition. If the snake is dead, properly dispose of the body and clean the enclosure.

What should I do if I’m not sure if my snake is sleeping or dead?

If you are not sure if your snake is sleeping or dead, you should check for signs of life such as movement or breathing. Look for signs of movement like the movement of the tongue, twitching of the tail, or the widening of the eyes. If you cannot observe your snake breathing, you may need to gently move it to see if it will respond. If the snake does not respond, it is likely dead, and you should contact a veterinarian for advice.


Snakes may appear to be sleeping or dead, but there are a few tell-tale signs to differentiate between the two. Snakes that are sleeping will not have any visible signs of rigor mortis, whereas dead snakes will have signs of rigor mortis in the form of stiffness. Dead snakes may also have their eyes open, whereas sleeping snakes will have their eyes closed. Additionally, snakes that are sleeping will be warmer to the touch than dead snakes.

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