Serpent Spinal Injuries

In the evening, snakes often bask on roadways that have warmed by absorbing ultraviolet rays during the day. Because of this, snakes can be run over by passing traffic.

“Yeah. We ran over a snake the other day,” several people have told us, “and it just slithered off the road. It wasn’t hurt.”

Slithered Off the Road

But what happened to the snake after it disappeared from view? Snakes and other reptiles often don’t display symptoms of injury or disease until it’s too late to heal them. The snake that slithered from the road after being run over likely succumbed to spinal injuries later that evening. Even if there is no bone damage, separation of the spinal column is common, especially when run over by a high pressure bike tire or a vehicle. Spinal column separation could contribute to diminished mobility, making the snake more vulnerable to predation as well as hindering its ability to acquire food.

Numerous Vertebrae

Some people think a snake is all tail, but an inspection of their skeleton reveals as many as 400 vertebrae with accompanying ribs. Other than the skull, these are, for the most part, the only bones that make up a serpent’s body.

Rattlesnake dead on road
Rattlesnake dead on road

“Snakes are easily bruised and die when injured,” reports Australia’s Snake Handler website. “However, because their body is elongated, it can painfully take longer (up to several hours) before death occurs.”

While some people intentionally run over snakes lying on the road, others may not even realize they have, especially if it’s dark. A few may even stop to check out an injured snake in an effort to save it. When we have encountered an injured snake, we remove it from the road using a snake hook or tongs, place it under a bush to prevent further damage, and hope that it recovers or at least serves as dinner for a fellow critter.

Avoid picking up snakes with hands. Even dead snakes can inflict a bite.

For a multitude of reasons, as the weather warms in much of the country, it’s always a good idea to watch where we ride, walk and live. It’ll make for a happier life for both us and our scaly neighbors.

Sidewinder absorbing heat from road
Sidewinder absorbing heat from road