Constriction

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Black Racer Snake.jpg

If a snake is not venomous, it most likely a constrictor.

Below is the process a constrictor goes through to kill and eat its prey:

  • Once the prey is found, the snake will first grab it with its teeth.
  • The snake then coils its body around the prey.
  • Every time the victim moves or exhales a breath, the snake tightens its grip, making it more and more difficult for the prey to breath. It finally suffocates.
  • Once the snake feels that the heartbeat has completely stopped, it will move its "dinner" into a position that it can be swallowed head first and whole.
  • The snake's mouth is very flexible, with each side moving independently of the other. It slowly begins to use its body muscles to work the food into its mouth. The lower jaw has a flexible ligament that allows it to stretch open very wide. The backward pointing teeth help to hold on tightly to the prey. Depending on the size of the prey it may take a matter a minutes or up to an hour to swallow.
  • Just when it has swallowed most of the prey, it runs a risk of having breathing problems. The snake simply pushes its windpipe toward the front of its mouth and uses it like a snorkeler's breathe tube.

Depending on the size of its prey, the snake will not have to eat again for a while. In Ohio, a constrictor like the black rat snake may eat a mouse and not eat again for a day or two. Other snakes, like the boa or anaconda, that eat much larger prey, may not have to eat for a week. It has even been reported that if one of these large snakes were to eat an entire leopard it would not have to eat again for a year!

See Also