Watch for Sunbathing Snakes

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Out of the 46 species of snakes who are native to Florida, 34 are found in the southwest Florida region. Snakes provide many environmental benefits and play an intricate role in the food web to balance out small mammal populations, like mice and rats. Snakes are ectothermic, more commonly known as cold-blooded. This means they cannot thermoregulate or self-regulate their body temperature, and thus rely on the weather and external sources of heat to maintain an appropriate body temperature. Most native Florida snakes prefer temperatures between 78 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Many snakes will seek out natural ‘heating pads’ to maintain their body temperature. One convenient option for snakes are roadways; black road tops, sidewalks, and bike paths attract sunlight and warm quickly, snakes will oftentimes stretch out to allow for maximum warmth. Unfortunately, this can lead to dangerous situations, especially with the negative stigma surrounding certain snake species. In general, snakes are largely misunderstood animals, especially larger black snakes.


On April 7th, an adult Corn Snake (22-1380) was admitted to CROW after being hit by a bike. Upon further examination, the snake suffered heart failure and loss of blood. The patient was humanely euthanized due to the extent and severity of their injuries. Snakes become lethargic when their body temperature is too low, they will often warm themselves on sidewalks or bike lanes during sunny afternoons. Although almost all species of snakes can be seen doing this, it is especially important to keep in mind for the large, black Eastern Indigo snakes. These black snakes, ranging from 8 1/2 -9 feet, are the largest native snake in North America. They are considered ‘king snakes’ because they consume other snakes, including venomous snakes. Oftentimes, they can be found on roadways and bike paths warming themselves, making them at risk to be struck. Eastern Indigo snakes have been locally extirpated from Sanibel since the 1990’s. Unconfirmed reports say that the last known Eastern Indigo snake on Sanibel Island was hit by a bike and killed in 1999, on a trail named after the species- Indigo Trail.


There are many other anthropogenic threats causing harm to snakes. For example, homeowners may hire pest control companies who decide to use glue traps to catch ‘pest’ species such as rats and mice. This sticky adhesive not only catches mice and rats but can unintentionally catch snakes and birds damaging their feathers and scales. Though this may seem like a relatively easy fix, the feather or scale damage could result in the animals’ inability to be released. Most glue traps are not checked regularly, and any animal caught on these sticky boards can suffer a cruel, painful, and agonizing death. Additionally, netting and mesh used for pools and gardens can entangle snakes and cause constriction injuries, ripped scales, and body abrasions. It is vital to consider what implications come along with certain household and outdoor resources individuals choose to purchase. Making wildlife-friendly choices, such as natural remedies or Havahart traps can reduce the human challenges posed to wildlife species. Snakes are commonly misunderstood or feared but they can be the perfect backyard friend to help mitigate pest populations and contribute to a healthy, thriving local ecosystem.

THIS WEEK AT CROW (6/17-6/23):
There were 131 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 27 Virginia Opossums, 15 Eastern Cottontails, nine Common Grackles, five Gopher Tortoises, two Osprey, a Red-Headed Woodpecker, and a Seminole Bat. Recent Releases include a Florida Softshell Turtle, an Anhinga, a Black-crowned Night Heron, a Mexican Free-tailed Bat, and five Florida Box Turtle hatchlings. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases.

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year.  Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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