Can Snakes Climb Stairs?

can snakes climb stairs

Snakes are reptiles that have no arms or legs.  And yet, they seem to be able to move in all sorts of fascinating and unexpected ways!  Snakes are fast, sneaky, and intelligent.  If you have a pet snake, you know that they are always getting into places that they shouldn’t.  Have you ever had your pet snake make their way to a different floor of the house and wondered;

Can snakes climb stairs?

You might be surprised to learn that snakes can definitely climb stairs.  These reptiles don’t need limbs to be excellent climbers.   Snakes use a special movement to get from one step to the next called a concertina movement that takes advantage of the many muscles and vertebrae in a snake’s body.

The short answer is that, yes, snakes can climb stairs!  To find out more about how, why, and what other things snakes can climb, keep reading!

Can Snakes Climb Stairs?

All species of snakes can climb stairs and entire staircases.  If they really wanted to, a snake could get from the ground to a third-floor apartment.

But, this doesn’t mean that all snakes can climb stairs quickly.  If you’re ever in a race to beat a snake up the stairs, you would probably win.  Take a look at this video which shows a pet snake climbing the stairs in their house.

You can see that this pet snake is a steady stair climber, and would get to the top of a staircase in a couple of minutes.

How Do Snakes Climb Stairs?

So now that we’ve established that snakes can climb stairs.  Let’s talk about how!

Obviously, snakes climb stairs in a very different way than we as humans do.  Stairs are a human design and help us get from one level to another without having to bend over or do any climbing,

Snakes, on the other hand, have to use other traits to get from one level to the next. Snakes have hundreds of vertebrae and ribs running the length of their bodies.  These vertebrae make snakes super flexible, while the ribs protect the snake’s inner organs from damage.  If we slid along our bellies on the floor our skin would quickly become damaged, and our stomachs would start to hurt.

Snakes also have strong protective muscles that help protect their vertebrae while also allowing snakes to make incredible movements. Snake scales are specialized and tough and can grip onto rough edges of a tree or even onto the concrete of an outdoor step.

As you saw in the video above when a snake climbs, the snake looks like it is almost melting upwards on the staircase.  This effect is called the concertina movement.

What is the concertina movement?

The concertina movement is a motion used by snakes and other legless animals to climb.  During this movement, an animal uses one part of its body to grip and anchor to an object, while using another section of the body to push or pull.  So, what does this mean for snakes climbing stairs?

Well, when a snake climbs a stair, you can see that it pushed the upper part of its body to the next stair while using the lower part of the body as an anchor.  Then, once the top part of the body is on the next stair, the snake will use that part of the body to pull the rest of the body up.  All of this is actually happening simultaneously, and if you watch a snake climb it actually looks like one smooth movement.

These undulations used for climbing are named the concertina movement.

Can Snakes Jump Up Stairs?

After learning about how incredible, you might be wondering if snakes can just jump up a staircase.  I mean, snakes are tough, muscular, and fast, so they should be able to jump right?

Actually, no!  Snakes cannot jump.

By definition jumping requires legs.  Jumping also requires the jumper to get completely off of the ground.  While snakes can strike or slowly climb up a staircase, they are’t explosive enough to actually jump off of the ground.

If you would like to read more about the fallacy of jumping snakes, see our article explaining the answer here.

What Else Can Snakes Climb?

So even though snakes cannot jump, they are still able to climb a set of stairs by using the concertina movement.  It makes you start to wonder what else snakes can climb.  It was mentioned earlier that snakes are excellent climbers and that’s true!  Whether you are worried about wild snakes getting in or about your own pet snake getting out, let’s answer some common questions about snakes climbing!

Can Snakes Climb Up A Tree?

If you have wild snakes in your area, you know you need to watch your step when hiking.  But, it’s possible you might also want to look into the tree branches above you.

It won’t surprise you at this point to find out that snakes can climb trees exceptionally well.  Arboreal snakes are snakes who spend most of their lives up in a tree.  These tree-dwelling snakes can climb trees so well because of the special adaptation they have (called spurs) and by using the concertina movement.

Mostly, these tree-dwelling snakes aren’t found in most parts of North America and are more common in Asia, Australia, and South America.   But this video of a snake climbing a tree is both impressive and nerve-wracking!

This video is a great example of the concertina movement and proof that most snakes are able to climb up a tree if needed.

Can Snakes Climb Up A Wall?

Now, a wall is a little bit different than all of the other things we’ve been discussing.  Stairs have levels and a ledge and aren’t usually very tall.  Trees are very tall but they are rough, and sometimes snakes can wrap their bodies completely around a tree.

Walls are different.  Most walls are completely vertical and somewhat smooth.

Even so, snakes still have an amazing ability to claim walls.  Certain walls, like brick or stone walls, are easier for a snake to manage.  But any vertical surface that a snake can grip with its scales is free game for climbing!  Marble or metal walls would definitely be difficult for a snake to climb.

Because snakeskin is water resistant, snakes also won’t have a problem climbing a wet wall, like the side of a house!  Even though snakes can climb walls, they’re still not good enough climbers to be able to slither across a flat ceiling.  A snake would need beams or another architectural feature to be able to navigate a ceiling.

Can Snakes Climb Through A Window?

If snakes can climb trees, stairs, and walls, it’s easy to assume that they can also climb through windows.

An open window is an invitation for a wild snake to come inside.  If you think about it, your home is probably a better temperature than outside.  Your home also has plenty of hiding places and maybe even food for a snake.  If a window is open, a snake can definitely enter or leave a home through it, even if the window is high up off the ground.  As we just discussed, snakes have no problems scaling walls to get to a window.

If a window is latched or locked shut a snake probably won’t be able to get through it.  Even an animal as smart as a snake might have some trouble opening a latch without any hands.

Can You Prevent Snakes From Getting Into Your House?

Here at The Reptile Room, we are snake lovers.  We don’t commend any methods of snake removal that harm or injure the snake.  At the same time, we also don’t recommend pest control companies that will come to your house and remove an animal by killing it.

So, what can you do to prevent snakes from getting into your home?

The best way to keep snakes out of your home is to not give them a reason or opportunity to get inside.  Snakes like cold dark places to hide in.  Keeping your yard free of hiding places for a snake is a good place to start.

Beyond that, always make sure your doors and windows are shut or screened if you are worried about wild animals coming in.  And, if a snake does get in, don’t panic.  If you can shoo them towards an ext safely, do so.  but, remember that all snakes can strike up to a distance of 2/3 of their body length, so you shouldn’t;t get too close.  If you need to call a professional, make sure to call a humane pest control company, which will safely relocate the snake!

How Can You Keep Your Pet Snake From Escaping?

If you’re reading this and not trying to keep snakes out, you’re probably trying to keep your scaly friend in their enclosure!

Snakes are notorious escape artists because of their climbing abilities.  Make sure that you have an enclosure that latches or locks shut and always make sure to double-check that you’ve locked it. You can add extra measures to keep your snake in the enclosure as needed.  If you have a sliding glass door on your tank, you can fit a wooden rod to it so that the snake cannot push the door open from the inside.

If your snake does have a tendency to escape their enclosure, always keep the door to their room shut, because once they escape into the house it can be difficult to find them again.

Final Thoughts

Snakes are incredible climbers that can not only climb staircases but also trees, and walls, and climb through windows.   Never underestimate the power of these legless reptiles, and always keep a safe distance from snakes in the wild, as they have a tendency for the unexpected!