Hide and seek is fun to play with your reptilian friend, but it can get a little frustrating if all it does is hide, never wanting to be found. Lots of snakes enjoy having their own special hiding spots, but what happens if your snake never leaves his?
Why won’t your snake come out of hiding?
There are multiple reasons why snakes stay in their hiding places for long periods of time including natural instinct, the conditions of their environment, or the state of their health. Hiding behavior varies by species and individual snake personality, so not every scenario may apply to every snake.
Let’s look at some of the reasons your snake is refusing to leave his hiding place and then we’ll address how long he might be in there, how to coax him out, as well as whether or not you should be worried about this behavior.
Reason #1: Your Snake is Nocturnal
If you are concerned by your snake’s behavior because all he does is hide all day long, you may want to research his natural tendencies. Some common species of pet snakes including the ball python and corn snake are actually nocturnal, meaning they are active at night.
These species prefer to rest during the day and do all their roaming around and hunting in the dark. Hiding during their period of rest provides safety and security, so oftentimes you won’t see nocturnal species begin to leave their hideouts until the sun starts going down.
Reason #2: Temperature Needs to be Adjusted
Nocturnal snake species and even some species active during the day will hide for long periods if their environmental temperature is not optimal. For example, those that are sensitive to long periods of exposure to direct sunlight make seek the shelter of shade so as not to overheat and potentially damage their skin from sunburn.
Alternatively, a snake may find that its hiding spot is warmer than the open spaces of its enclosure thanks to the structures that trap heat. Don’t forget that snakes cannot create their own body heat since they are ectotherms. Their internal temperature adjusts according to the temperature of their surroundings and all snakes have ranges that they can tolerate.
Make sure to check your snake tank’s temperature to see if it is optimal for your snake because its hiding behavior may indicate that it is uncomfortable.
Reason #3: Your Snake Senses a “Predator”
Your snake may not choose to come out of hiding if it believes there is a threat nearby. In the wild, some snakes, like ball pythons, are easy prey for large birds because these reptiles move so slowly. As a defensive mechanism, these snakes tend to stay hidden to avoid becoming a meal.
If something new is introduced into its environment such as a large structure hanging over its enclosure, your pet snake may be in tune with its natural instinct that a predator is lurking about. Other more outgoing snakes may stand up to get a closer look but more often than note hiding will be the first choice for your snake. You may find your snake reluctant to come out of hiding due to the understandable desire to not get eaten.
Reason #4: Enclosure is Too Big
If you find that your pet snake spends a lot of time in its hideout, one of the reasons could be a lack of sufficient hiding places. Although you may want to leave lots of open space for your snake to roam around and to provide easy viewing for you, your snake may not like being so vulnerable.
If you provide multiple hiding spots, especially in areas that provide different temperatures, you may find that your snake is more amenable to moving around rather than staying hidden in one spot for a long time.
Reason #5: Burrowing is in Your Snake’s Nature
Don’t be too alarmed if your snake does not want to come out of hiding – it may just be in its nature. Certain species of snake are considered fossorial meaning they naturally burrow in the substrate for shelter, temperature regulation, and more.
Check out this snake burrowing itself in the sand either to keep cool from the hot sun or lay a deadly trap for unsuspecting prey:
Sand boas are a great example of a fossorial species. If you have a burrowing snake and its enclosure doesn’t have a lot of substrates, it may use whatever it can find – wood shavings, caves, etc. – to suit its burrowing instinct and stay undercover.
Reason #6: Your Snake is Not an Active Species
Your snake may be reluctant to come out of its hiding spot not because it is actively hiding but merely because it’s not being active. Some species of snake are naturally lazy and do not explore or roam around without purpose.
These snakes are usually only noticeably active when they feed or take a drink of water. If they are not satisfying those basic needs, there is no need to come out of their hiding spot.
Reason #7: Your Snake is Hunting
Much like burrowing and nocturnal snakes, hiding is a natural instinct for snakes who are ambush predators. For example, carpet pythons will spend most of their time hiding to surprise any unsuspecting prey that may happen to wander across the snake’s path.
Some pet snake species still have this ingrained instinct to stick to the shadows even though their main source of food is already dead. If you notice that your snake is hiding for a long time especially if it hasn’t eaten in a while, it may be exhibiting that ambush hunting tactic, so you know it’s time to feed your slithering friend.
Reason #8: New Surroundings
If you move into a new house, it will take you a while to get used to your surroundings and you may need time to get your bearings. Snakes are no different. Your snake may be spending a lot of time in its hideout when it is introduced to a new enclosure.
Your snake needs time to assess its new home, figure out where it has access to food, and determine if there are any threats in the area. To accomplish all this, it will survey from a place of safety, hence why it may be reluctant to leave its hiding place for a while.
Reason #9: Your Snake Just Ate
It is not uncommon for a snake to retreat to its hiding spot after it eats a meal. Unlike you and I who aid in the digestion of our food by chewing it into tiny bits before it hits our stomach, snakes swallow their food whole. It takes a much longer time for the digestive system to break down a fully intact mouse than it would a chewed-up hamburger.
As a result, snakes use a lot of energy to digest anything they eat and become very lethargic during the process. If you notice your snake hanging out in his hiding spot for a long time after he eats, don’t worry. He just needs an extra-long siesta to let his food digest before he can access the energy gained from it.
Reason #10: Your Snake is Sleeping
While it can be difficult to tell for sure since snakes do not have eyelids, your hiding snake may just be sleeping. Snakes can sleep for a long time especially after they’ve eaten a big meal or if they are more active during the nighttime.
For safety reasons stemming from the instincts of their wild brethren, even pet snakes will sleep in a hideout to allow themselves to be less vulnerable to potential threats that may attack them if they were snoozing out in the open.
Reason #11: Time to Shed
All snakes shed their skin periodically to grow larger and stay healthy by getting rid of any potential disease or blemishes on the old skin. When the time comes to shed, most snakes will retreat to a hiding spot to do so.
Shedding takes a lot of energy and can take up to two weeks to accomplish. To ensure its safety from exposure to harsh sunlight and potential predators, snakes will spend most of this time in hiding. Once the shedding is complete, your pet snake should be back to its normal amount of activity.
Reason #12: Your Snake is Sick
Most of the reasons listed so far for why your snake may be hiding are other natural or easily remedied. However, you should also be aware that excessive hiding behavior can be indicative of health issues for your pet snake.
A snake that is typically very active and then suddenly starts hiding for abnormally long periods could be very ill. Other symptoms will often accompany a sick snake, so be on the lookout for other unusual behavior or any physical ailments.
Will My Snake Ever Come Out of Hiding?
No snake will stay hidden forever. Even the least active snakes will venture from their hiding spots to find food and water. Depending on the reason for your snake to stay in its hiding spot, you may be waiting a long time for it to emerge, but it will eventually do so.
If your snake’s hiding behavior is not within the range of its specific nature, then once you determine the reason for its prolonged sheltering, you can take steps to remedy anything that may be wrong. Have patience, your scaly friend will come out to play soon enough!
How Long Do Snakes Stay in Their Hiding Places?
It may be frustrating and exhausting to sit and wait for your snake to emerge from its hiding spot, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can outwait your snake. Some snakes can stay in their hideouts for hours, days, and sometimes weeks.
Snakes that are shedding will most likely refuse to emerge from their hideouts until the process is complete. Nocturnal snakes typically spend the entire daytime in hiding and only come out when the sun goes down.
Snakes are patient animals and often don’t have much incentive to emerge from their hideouts where they can stay for much longer than most pet owners can sit staring at the enclosure waiting for their reptile to move.
How Can I Get My Snake to Come Out of Hiding?
If you want to coax your snake from its hiding place, the first thing you need to do is determine why it’s hiding, to begin with. If your snake is shedding, sleeping, sick, or new to its environment, there’s not much you can do but wait.
If your snake is nocturnal, you will have to wait until nightfall before your snake comes out of hiding. However, you may be able to persuade it to emerge as early as late afternoon if you entice it with the promise of a tasty meal. Burrowing snakes and ambush predators may also be similarly encouraged to come out of hiding with food.
If your snake is hiding because there is too much open space or the environmental temperature isn’t suitable, once you fix these problems you might find that your snake is more willing to interact with you outside of their comfortable hidey-hole.
Should I Be Worried If My Snake Hides for a Long Time?
For the most part, if your snake hides for a long time, this is not a cause for concern. In fact, for most snakes such as those who are nocturnal like ball pythons, burrowers like sand boas, or ambush predators like carpet pythons, it would be worrisome if they didn’t exhibit excessive hiding behavior.
Even if your snake is hiding because of issues with its environment, there is no need to be concerned because these problems can be readily fixed and usually don’t take a toll on your reptilian friend.
However, you should be worried if your snake starts to show other symptoms of sickness in addition to excessive hiding behavior. For example, if your pet snake experiences significant weight loss, has discharge from its eyes, nose, or mouth, or exhibits other unusual behavior such as stargazing, these are all causes for concern.
Under these circumstances, you should contact your veterinarian right away to determine what is wrong and get your snake the treatment it needs.
Snakes are great pets but if you’re expecting them to have the energy and interaction of a puppy, think again. Most snakes spend a lot of time curled up in the corner or in their hideouts for various reasons, most of which are perfectly natural and provide no cause for concern.
Once you get to know your snake and the natural instincts of its species, you can anticipate how long and for what reason it may spend a copious amount of time hiding. Then you can plan out the best times to observe and interact with it when it feels comfortable enough to emerge from its shelter.