Do snakes eat owls? (A guide on snake feeding)

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Do snakes eat owls? We will talk more about food for snakes and how you should feed your pet snake.

Do snakes eat owls?

Yes, some snakes eat owls. That is as long as the owl is not bigger than the snake’s circumference, otherwise, the roles may be reversed, and the snake may become prey rather than the predator.

Most of the snakes feed on warm-blooded animals mainly rodents and small birds, while others eat frogs, insects and even others of the same species. Some species base their diet on the eggs of birds and reptiles.

The vast majority of snakes that can be kept as pets are from this group and feed on small mammals and birds. Although it depends on the size of the snake, they usually eat rats and mice, but they can also eat gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, quail, chickens, etc. Most of this type of snake accepts dead prey, pieces of meat and specially prepared meals as well. 

What kind of owls do snakes eat?

Strigiformes are birds built for night hunting, that is why they have privileged hearing and sight, but sometimes that is not enough to survive. The predators of owls are animals as large or larger than them, endowed with characteristics such as speed and cunning.

Among these animals are mainly reptiles, carnivorous mammals and other birds of prey. Specifically, eagles, hawks, foxes, snakes, raccoons, domestic cats, stoats, crows and great owls, especially the horned owl, can be mentioned.

According to many observations and studies, one of the most predatory is the long-eared owl (Asio otus), a medium-sized bird that can be preyed upon by snakes, raccoons, porcupines, buzzards, gopher snakes, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, goshawks, red-shoulder bardos, tawny owls, and even small but cunning birds such as magpies. 

In contrast, the adult American owl (Bubo virginianus) lacks predators; sometimes crows and raccoons steal the eggs to eat.

The nest of the Barn Owl (Tyto alba) can be attacked by snakes and stoats. American owls are known to have attacked adult individuals. Subspecies should watch out for golden eagles, red kites, goshawks, peregrine falcons, buzzards, falcons, and tawny owls.

The western owl or California scops owl (Megascops Kennicott) have some known predators: American owls, California tawny owls, North American owls, raccoons, gopher snakes and crows. Eggs and chicks are usually the most affected by snakes.

When the predator becomes the prey 

Owls are birds of prey. Moreover, they are among the best birds of this kind anywhere, as if the whole body of owls was made to help them hunt.

The owl has strong, claw-shaped claws that close over its prey, like the jaws of a race. Claws have a spur with which the owl can change position forward or backwards.

Most species of owls have large eyes, which help them see better in the evening and at night, in daylight than during the day. The owl has better ears than any other bird. Its two ears can have different shapes and are hidden under the feathers of the feet.

The owl hunts best in the sunrise, sunset or on nights with a visible moon. It can hear a mouse fleeing to the ground many meters away. When an owl hears its prey sitting down, it spreads its wings and the skin that covers their ears. Thus, a huge funnel is formed, which gathers even the faintest sounds. After locating its prey by sound, the owl attacks quickly and directly with its silent wings and catches its prey with its claws.

Owls feed on mammals such as mice, squirrels and rabbits. They also eat reptiles, snakes, frogs, birds, even fish. Owls can catch mice better than most man-made traps.

What do snakes eat?

One of the most important aspects that we must know is their diet.  All snakes are carnivorous, but depending on the species of snake that we have as a companion, we must offer it to eat some animals or others. Therefore, below, we are going to comment on the different groups of snakes according to their diet:

Mammal and Bird Eaters

The vast majority of snakes that can be kept as pets are from this group and feed on small mammals and birds. Although it depends on the size of the snake, they usually eat rats and mice, but they can also eat gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, quail, chickens, etc. Most of this type of snake accepts dead prey, pieces of meat and specially prepared meals as well. 

This group, in turn, can be divided into two subgroups:

  • Small Snakes: Snakes and those that can be considered as small snakes, usually measure between 60cm and 140cm. Some of the best known are king snakes such as Lampropeltis Alterna, Lampropeltis Mexicana, Lampropeltis pyromelana, and Lampropeltis getula. Other also very common is the false corals Lampropeltis triangulum and the corn snakes or mouse traps Pantherophis guttatus.
  • Boas and Pythons: They are the largest snakes, some specimens can exceed 8 meters although in captivity they do not usually exceed 5 meters. Besides, they are constrictors and they are also what most people look for as a pet. The best known are the Python regius, the Python molurus and the Boa constrictor.

Eaters of lizards and other reptiles

These snakes are saprophagous, that is, they eat lizards, and coprophages, which eat other snakes. This type of snake is not very common as a pet and the only one that you can have is the Lampropeltis, which has also become used to eating mice.

Insect and arachnid eaters

The snakes of this group are insectivorous, that is, they feed on insects and also very diverse arachnids. Above all, they eat small grasshoppers, crickets, cockroaches, worms of various types, fly larvae, spiders, etc. They are snakes that, even though they are small in size, are not the most suitable for beginners. 

Well, they need much more care than other snakes. Not many insectivorous species are traded. The most common that we can find to have as a pet is the Opheodrys aestivus aestivus or northern rough green snake.

Fish eaters

The latter group of snakes are ichthyosaurs, so they feed on freshwater fish, whether alive or dead, such as goldfish, carp, guppies and other small aquarium fish. They are one of the easiest species to keep and therefore are suitable for beginners. The most common in stores are the Thamnophis sirtalis, known as the garter snake or striped snake.

Now that we can identify what type of food our snake has, we will have to make sure that we provide it with the food that corresponds to it and not another because it will surely not eat it.

How should I feed my snake?

Regarding how to feed your snake, it will depend on whether it is already used to a specific shape or not. Snakes taken from nature, there are still some in certain zoos, they will rarely get used to eating dead prey, as they have great hunting instincts and no matter how much the prey is prepared as if it were alive, they will not accept it, so it will always be necessary provide them with live prey so they can capture them.

On the other hand, snakes born in captivity and commercialized can be easily fed from small bites to dead prey, pieces of meat and meat derivatives prepared especially for them.

The prey and the prepared pieces are sold frozen and must be kept that way until before offering them to your snake. This is to guarantee good conservation of the piece and prevents your snake from eating something in bad condition that could make it sick.

 It will be necessary to let the dead prey or the piece chosen to feed it thaw and, if our hissing friend is a species without thermoregulatory pits, it will be enough to stimulate it by moving the food in front of it with a rocking movement.

On the other hand, if our snake does have thermoregulatory pits, the temperature of the dam will come into play, so defrosting will not be enough and it will have to be heated minimally in the microwave or in a similar way.

It should be kept in mind that whole prey, whether dead or alive, offers many more nutrients than pieces of meat and meat preparations. This is why a whole prey provides the snakes with calcium, digestive enzymes, necessary bacteria, etc. since it has bones, organs, fur or feathers.  Instead, the “ready-meals”  or pieces of meat will only have the protein of the meat.

What is normally done to compensate for these deficiencies when our snake is not fed whole prey, is to administer nutritional supplements indicated for them, introducing them in the pieces of meat or sprinkling them over the prepared food. 

FAQ on Do snakes eat owls?

Will owls eat snakes?

Yes, owls can eat snakes, but it depends on the size of both the prey and the predator. Generally, owls can eat small snakes, but the opposite can happen too. Snakes often eat owl eggs and chicks. 

What animals will eat snakes?

The animals that will most often eat snakes are foxes, owls, bobcats, coyotes,  raccoons, weasels, snapping turtles, alligators, even crows.

Will a fake owl keep snakes away?

Yes, a fake owl, also known as a “scare owl” can keep snakes away from your yard. Make sure the owl looks as realistic as possible. 

Which animal can kill a snake?

The animals that can kill a snake must be bigger than the circumference of the snake. Thus, eagles, honey badgers, mongoose and bigger owls often hunt for snakes. 

What are snakes afraid of?

Snakes are afraid of racoons, foxes, coyotes and other larger animals and larger birds. 

Conclusions

In this blog post, we answered the following question: Do snakes eat owls? We also talked about food for snakes and how you should feed your pet snake.

In short, yes, snakes can eat smaller owls, eggs and chicks. Snakes are carnivorous, thus if they can, they will feed on owls, other smaller birds, mice, smaller reptiles and insects. 

Regarding how to feed your snake, it will depend on whether it is already used to a specific shape or not. Snakes taken from nature, there are still some in certain zoos, they will rarely get used to eating dead prey, as they have great hunting instincts and no matter how much the prey is prepared as if it were alive, they will not accept it, so it will always be necessary provide them with live prey so they can capture them.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know. 

References

PetMD – What Do Snakes Eat?

Animal Corner – Snake Characteristics

MSD Manual – Nutrition in snakes

Hi, I am Martin, I am a pet lover! I own a Golden retriever and a Long-eared Owl. They keep me company & I often had questions about them which I couldn't find answers for online. I put this hub together for people like me & you.

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