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Myth Buster: Snakes Aren't Slimy

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Snakes get a bad rap because many people don’t like them. Adding to this dislike is that some people think snakes are slimy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A midland brown snake. (Photo by Suzy Lyttle)

Snakes are cool and dry to the touch — the opposite of slimy. Some people probably think they are slimy because many amphibians are wet and slimy. However, reptiles, which includes snakes, are not. Amphibians are slimy because they have glands that secrete a slimy liquid to help them keep their skin moist. Snakes are covered in scales and don't need to be kept moist.

Many snakes are smooth to the touch, but some have keeled scales that give them a rougher texture. Snakes with smooth scales often appear shiny or glossy, which may give the appearance of being wet or even slimy. Keeled snakes look dull and drab in color.

The idea that snakes are slimy is just one of many myths about snakes. Have you heard that rattlesnakes always rattle a warning before they strike? That's false. They might rattle their tails before striking, but they don't always. Did someone once tell you water snakes don't bite underwater? False. They can bite while underwater, and do it often while hunting for prey.

Another false myth about snakes is that they can't hear. For a long time, people thought snakes were deaf because they don't have eardrums. Snakes can hear, though. They don't have a good sense of hearing like we do, but they can hear. They also get information about their environment from vibrations in the ground.

If you encounter a snake in the wild, just let it be. Most snakes will try to escape when they encounter a human, so don't stand between them and the direction they appear to be traveling.

If you have a snake in your yard, make sure to tell a parent or trusted adult. If they think it is necessary to move a snake from your yard, try spraying a hose in its direction, without spraying the snake itself. It will probably move to another location. If it's indoors, you can try to catch it with a broom and a large lidded container such as a storage bin or waste basket. Simply tip the container on its side and gently sweep the snake into the container. Once it's inside, place the lid on the container and relocate the snake to your yard.

Never handle a snake unless you can be certain it is not venomous. Will County is not home to any venomous snakes, but it's always best to know what type of snake you are dealing with before handling it.

And remember, like all other creatures in nature, snakes play an important role in the ecosystem, maintaining the balance in the food web and keeping rodent populations in check.


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