Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: Do Snakes Drink?


Last updated 7/26/2021 at 1:22pm

The heat was oppressive as I headed into the house, but movement in the garden caught my eye.

I stopped and watched as a beautiful California kingsnake slowly emerged, moving toward our garden fountain.

To my surprise, it lifted over the edge and began slowly drinking water.

Old myths say that snakes don't drink water, but like any land animal, they must have water to survive, especially during periods of extreme heat. This is another good reason for residents to keep a ground level water source available for our wildlife friends, especially in the summer.

So, snakes do drink, but not like we do.

The inside of a snake's mouth has a lot of tissue with tiny groves that makes it somewhat like a sponge. When a snake reaches water, it will be able to absorb moisture into this tissue.

Snakes also have powerful jaw muscles, and they can then force the water into the body.

This whole process begins when snakes create an air-tight closure and small hole with their mouth that allows them to suck water in as if using a straw.

My kingsnake visitor was a beautiful specimen, nearly five feet in length with crisp, fresh coloration. Perhaps it has just shed its skin for summer.

Residents of Borrego need to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, but the kingsnake is a gentle and harmless neighbor. It got its name because it feeds on other snakes, including rattlesnakes.

Keeping a small basin of water in your garden is critical for the welfare of our wildlife neighbors, including quail and dove, rabbits, snakes and lizards, coyotes, and bobcats.

Something as simple as a clay flower pot saucer fed by a drip irrigation line could be a lifesaver for native species as well as providing you with the enjoyment of watching these interesting visitors.

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