Losing a pet snake in your home is a common, upsetting experience for snake owners. Anxiety and worry over your snake’s escape can make it difficult to know what to do. In many cases, following an organized game plan can help you find your snake more quickly.
So, how can you find your lost snake?
When looking for a lost snake in your house or apartment, start your search in the room the snake’s tank is in, thoroughly check under and in the furniture near the perimeter of the room, then move towards the room’s center. Placing heat sources, hides, and setting noise ‘traps’ like crinkly bags can also help!
It can be daunting to determine where to search first and how to search. Where is your snake most likely to hide? Read on for six simple steps to finding a wayward pet snake in your home.
Step 1: Secure Dangers and Isolate Your Search Areas
The most immediate dangers to a pet snake on the loose are other animals and humans. Before you start your search, secure your other pets in kennels or put them out in the backyard to keep them from finding the snake before you do.
If you have small children, enlist the help of an older sibling or spouse to keep the kids entertained and in one place. Even if your kids are usually gentle with your snake, having them cross paths while your snake is loose is problematic. Your snake might get stepped on or become startled and bite.
Next, close all the doors on the main floor. The ‘main floor’ here doesn’t necessarily mean the ground floor of your home. It refers to the floor on which you will concentrate your initial search efforts–the floor on which your snake’s tank is located.
Closing doors can help limit your snake’s movement and isolate search areas. Especially at night and when you are not home, keeping these doors shut can save you from having to double back on your efforts and re-search an area more than once.
If your snake search turns into a multi-day effort, watching your children and pets to see if they find the snake before you do is crucial. Your other pets might be a hazard to your missing snake, but use their keen senses to your advantage! Pay attention if your dog or cat perks up at a sound or fixates its attention on something.
Once you have closed all of the main floor doors, put away other pets and occupied children, it’s time to start your search. Go to the room that your snake’s tank is kept in. Close the door behind you and follow the instructions in Step 2.
Step 2: Thoroughly Search the Room the Tank is in
Before anything else, search the tank! Even if you are confident it is empty, search it again.
Start With the Tank!
Think like a snake: sift through the substrate, look under water bowls, inside hides, etc. Flip each item over and examine it from every angle.
Sometimes tank decorations like fake trees or rocks are hollow on the inside. Look inside every tank decoration. Snakes are notorious for their ability to squeeze themselves into much smaller spaces than ever seemed possible. (It is also not unusual for a snake to get itself stuck somewhere).
Here is an example of a pet store employee getting a ball python out of the fake log it is stuck in:
Once you have searched each handful of substrate and examined every item in the tank, search the room itself. Keep the terrarium lid open during your entire search effort, in case your snake attempts to return to familiar territory.
Searching the Room
Snakes have a finely tuned survival instinct. They do not like being out in the open. If you have let your snake explore under supervision in your home, you may have noticed it has the propensity to travel along the baseboards and move parallel to the walls.
In searching this first room, start with the perimeter of the room; Follow the baseboards. If there is furniture against the walls, search in and behind it. You may need to move smaller pieces of furniture in order to examine them from all sides.
If furniture casts a shadow or is too large to move, use a flashlight to illuminate hard-to-reach corners. If you can peek behind larger furniture pieces with a flashlight, do so.
Just because your snake is not on the floor underneath a large dresser doesn’t mean it hasn’t managed to tuck itself between the dresser and the wall.
Thoroughly go through every single piece of furniture in the room this way, slowly working your way toward the center of the room. Here are a few suggestions of items to check (this example assumes the tank was in your bedroom):
Check inside closets, under piles of laundry, drawers, on shelves, and behind or on top of items on the shelves (like tucked up on top of or behind a stack of books). Gently remove larger items from shelves to see if your snake is behind or under the item.
Search under your bed, in your sheets, pillows, box spring, and mattress. If you have lamps, check up near the lightbulb under the lamp shade, especially if the bulb is still warm from being on earlier.
Hand mirrors and flashlights (or the flashlight on your phone) can be great tools to enhance your search. Use them to help access hard-to-reach places and as an extra precaution before moving any larger pieces of furniture. As a rule, look underneath all furniture before moving it!
Snake Behaviors to Keep in Mind
This outside-in search pattern will apply to each room you search in your house, with slight variations. Remember, snakes do not like being out in the open. They are much more likely to be active and out in the open during the night.
You can use this to your advantage to make the most of your search. They will avoid areas with a large amount of human traffic present (hallways or the room where the family is spending most of their time). Still search these areas with sharp eyes, but prioritize other areas first.
Snakes are ectothermic–their body temperature relies on their external environment. Set up basking spots with a heat source, a hide, and a water source. Scatter these spots through different rooms on the main floor of the house. Check these spots every hour or so.
Snakes hunker down in a hiding place for a variety of reasons, so knowing what conditions encourage your snake to be active versus inactive can help narrow down your search.
After confirming that your snake is not in its tank or the room the tank is in, the next step is to fan out your search to adjacent rooms.
Step 3: Check Rooms on the Same Floor
As you leave the room the snake’s tank is in, make sure to close the door behind you. Continue this practice for every room you enter and exit during your search.
Start with searching the rooms adjacent to the snake tank room, then fan out, working your way to the rooms farthest away from your starting point. While each room will have unique challenges, your search should keep the following in mind: Snakes seek heat sources and can find their way into the most bizarre spaces.
While this article cannot list every single place to cover in your search, here are some suggestions:
Look inside all drawers and in cabinets, including behind the items being stored in the cabinets. Look in and behind boxes or storage bins. If you have a fireplace, look inside it. Here is a video of a snake owner finding his ball python hiding behind picture frames:
Pay special attention to searching under, behind, and near appliances that produce heat: your refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, heaters, etc.
Similarly, search in and under baseboard heating elements. Look near personal technology that produces heat like desktop computers, laptops, and gaming consoles.
Some of the most difficult items to search are upholstered pieces of furniture, like couches and chairs. Without tearing apart the upholstery, it can be near impossible to confirm with certainty that your snake hasn’t hidden in a piece of furniture.
What you can do is look under each cushion that can be shifted or lifted up; Check in the gaps of material between the arms and seats of the furniture.
Lastly, cast a discerning eye over any holes in drywall or household repair projects that are not completed. Rest assured, if there is a hole in a wall, it is only a matter of time before a curious snake finds it.
In the event this does happen, placing a water and heat source a couple of feet away from the hole can lure your snake back out enough for you to catch.
Step 4: Be Inventive – Set Safe ‘Traps’
Now that you have expanded your search to encompass all the rooms on the same floor, it’s time to get creative!
The time to implement this step is when you are fairly confident that your snake is still on the main floor of your house. There’s a sneaking suspicion in your gut that your escapee is just narrowly evading detection, or that it might have changed rooms since you last searched an area.
Here is where you can put your ingenuity to the test. You may not be able to be in every room at once, but you can set up ‘noise traps’ and visual ways to track your snake’s movement from room to room to help you zero in on your snake’s location.
First, set up noise traps. Pack plastic grocery bags or aluminum foil loosely between furniture and the walls at the baseboards of all the rooms. As your snake wanders around the edges of a room and slithers over these bags or foil, it will make noise.
Similarly, you can set up lines of dominos or stack plastic solo cups in doorways that will make a sound when knocked over.
Visual traps like leaving lines of flour down the middle of each room or in doorways are messy, but can show the direction in which your snake moved. As it slithers over the flour line, the movement of their body creates streaks in the direction of the area they moved to.
To mitigate some of this mess, lay down Saran Wrap or a flattened trash bag before putting down the flour. Note: only use flour on hardwood floors or tile, not carpet.
Do not use duct tape or any kind of adhesive-based trap! Although some sources claim that tape could slow or stop a snake’s wandering, the risk is not worth it. In using noise traps or visual traps, the focus is to track movement, not ensnare or physically restrict your snake.
A snake entangled in tape could become caught on something in its environment or stressed to the point that it hurts itself in an attempt to get free.
Do not leave food out for your snake or turn the temperature of your house too low. These can both cause harm to your snake. Thawed prey items can spoil (or get eaten by another pet) before your snake finds them. And an uncomfortable temperature could cause your snake to become less active, instead of more active.
Now, it’s time to expand your search!
Step 5: Check the Lower Levels of the House
After searching the entire main floor, move on to other floors. Check your basement or root cellar. Focus special attention on the hot water heater and furnace. Be careful not to burn yourself in doing so. Also shine a flashlight on exposed pipes, wooden beams, or exposed HVAC.
Investigate any crawl spaces or unfinished portions of your basement. Chances are that your snake is attracted to the exact same dank, dark corner that you are reluctant to explore.
Step 6: Search Outside Your House
You have searched your house, turned over every pile of laundry, and yanked every book off the shelves, but your snake is still nowhere to be found. You are concerned that your snake has found its way outside the house.
In searching outside of your home, check areas that offer your snake cover from being exposed to potential predators: tall grasses, shrubs, debris piles, wood piles, loose rock walls, or landscaping features like small garden ponds.
Tall grasses might prevent you from seeing your snake, but it isn’t uncommon to see a snake pop its head up and out of tall grasses (like the periscope of a submarine) to get a clearer view of its surroundings.
If you have a shed full of lawn equipment, search it! If you have a garage, look through it. If your car is parked in the garage, search the wheel wells and under the hood of your car. Check the undercarriage as well.
Knowing the habits of your pet snake’s species will come in handy here. If you have a young ball python or an arboreal (tree-dwelling) species, for example, you might focus more on small trees than you otherwise would.
If you have a rat snake, consider that it is capable of climbing vertical surfaces that other snakes cannot (like the brick walls of your house).
How to Find a Lost Snake in Your Apartment
Losing a pet snake in an apartment instead of a house comes with its own set of benefits and complications. On the positive side, an apartment has less space to cover in your search.
The downside to this is that an apartment is typically part of a complex or building, with neighboring tenants, whose spaces you cannot enter or search without their knowledge and consent.
Searching for a lost snake in your apartment requires following a condensed version of the steps to search a house. However, in an apartment, it is advisable to immediately block under the doorways or any crevices that give your snake access to neighboring apartments or the building’s hallways.
After you have done this, follow the applicable steps for finding a snake in a house: secure dangers, isolate the search area, and thoroughly search the room the tank is in (including the tank).
Broaden your search to check other rooms of the apartment, starting with the rooms closest to the snake tank room and working your way out to the rooms farthest away from it. Just like in a house, you can set a series of safe ‘traps’ to help find your snake.
In keeping with a positive attitude, assume that the above steps have led you back to your snake. Now that you have located your slithering explorer, what’s next?
I Found My Snake! Now What?
On its impromptu adventure, your snake has exposed itself to a world of potential health concerns. A loose snake can come in contact with harmful chemicals, ingest something dangerous, become dehydrated, or suffer burns or abrasions.
It is possible that your wandering reptile slithered its way across a shard of glass that the broom missed in the kitchen or coiled up next to something too hot.
An abundance of caution is never unjustified after reuniting with a lost pet. Check to make sure that your snake does not have injuries in need of immediate attention.
Next, place your snake in a secure tank. If your snake has been gone for several days, soak your snake in a soak tank with a sturdy lid to help them rehydrate and offer them food.
Depending on the length of your pet’s ‘sabbatical’ from its tank, consider taking your snake in for a visit with an exotic veterinarian. They can help dispel any lingering concerns you have, administer fluids or antibiotics, and check for more subtle injuries or illnesses.
A Word on Prevention
Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This is just as true for dealing with a lost snake—the best way to address it is to prevent it. There are a couple of precautions that, when taken, can reduce the risk of your snake getting loose:
First, make sure that the enclosure and setup that you have is suitable for your snake’s size and species. Housing a reptile in a tank that is large enough helps avoid the possibility of your snake muscling its way past a flimsy tank lid designed for a different species (or smaller snake).
Do your best to mimic the conditions of your snake’s natural environment. Make sure that the tank temperature and humidity are within the correct ranges for the species you are keeping. A stressed, uncomfortable snake will look for more optimal conditions.
Don’t overlook security measures on your tank lids. Locks, clamps, and latches are a must! Never house a snake in a tank without a lid, even temporarily. As an added measure, close the door of the room where the snake’s tank is kept when you leave the house for the day.
When done in a controlled setting, allowing a snake to explore for a few minutes can be rewarding. Always supervise a free-roaming snake. They can vanish into the most unexpected places in seconds.
Lastly, keep up with household repairs to things like damaged window screens, holes in walls, and unsealed gaps around the plumbing. It will save you future grief!
Snakes are escape artists and masters of camouflage; their skills at hiding have been perfected by their wild ancestors for millions of years.
It’s hard not to blame yourself when a pet snake gets loose. Lean on the expertise of trusted reptile resources. Reach out to other snake owner friends to see if they can lend a hand or words of advice. Don’t give up and don’t be too hard on yourself.
Pet snakes escaping is more common than snake owners would like to admit. At the end of the day, use the experience as a way to identify shortcomings in the security of your snake tank and as a valuable learning opportunity.