How Do Snakes Climb Trees?

Have you seen your snake climbing the branches in their enclosure?

Do you wonder about snakes in the wild living in the trees?

If you have noticed many snakes are adept climbers but are unable to figure out how they get so high without arms or legs, you might wonder:

How do snakes climb trees?

Even though snakes do not have arms or legs, these animals are able to climb by using their muscles and their scales to grip the bark and travel up the tree and on the limbs.

It is pretty amazing to think these animals climb without having hands, feet, claws, or sticky pads on their feet.

Keep reading as we dive into how snakes climb trees.

how do snakes climb snakes

How Do Snakes Climb Trees?

We might think it is next to impossible to climb a tree without having hands, feet, claws, or some other specialized limbs, but snakes prove us wrong daily.

These animals are able to scale trees with ease, despite not having the assistance of limbs. 

Many arboreal species of snakes spend the majority of their life in the trees. 

But how do they get up in those trees?

Snakes use both their muscles or scales to climb up into the trees, depending on the species and type of tree bark.

Most snakes use a combination of the two methods to travel up and down in a tree. 

Using Their Muscles

Many snakes will use muscular force as they climb.

This muscular force is created as the animal wraps its body around the tree trunk or branch.

Snakes, because of their long and thin bodies, can wrap their bodies entirely around the trunk.

The force they employ keeps their bodies from sliding down as they work their way upwards.

Researchers call this movement concertina locomotion.

As some muscles work to grip the branch or trunk, while other muscles in the body push or pull in the direction the snake wants to go. 

This form of climbing takes a lot of energy, and many snakes which spend the majority of their time in the trees will only climb this way when necessary. 

Think about if you have ever had to vertically climb up a rope in a gym class or are just attempting it for fun.

Your legs are holding you in place while your arms reach up to start your upward movement.

If you have ever tried this, you will understand how exhausting it is for your arms and legs.

In addition to being energy-draining, concertina locomotion takes snakes a fair amount of time to make a lot of progress. 

For a snake, if they feel they are in danger, it is worth it to use a ton of energy to climb a tree.

Safe and alive, but drained of energy, is more important to them than having energy but being in danger. 

Using Their Scales 

Other snakes rely more heavily on their scales to climb throughout the trees. 

Many snakes can angle their scales to make them rougher and, therefore, better grab at the surface of the tree.

The outward angle creates double the friction against the bark of a tree than if the scales were flat.

The angle of the scales also helps them catch and dig into the rough surface created by the bark on the tree.

This trick is less useful if the bark of the tree is more on the smooth side than rough.

If the bark isn’t rough, the scales cannot grip and dig into the surface, and they are unable to climb the tree in this way.

Do Snakes Live In Trees?

While you have probably read plenty about snakes who like to live in burrows in the ground or spaces under rocks, but there are other places snakes make their home.

Many snakes are arboreal, spending nearly all of their lives in the trees.

Not only do they live in the trees, but they also hunt for their prey in the branches of the trees they live in.

Some of their favorite meals come from birds, lizards, and frogs, who also spend their lives in the trees. 

From South America to Australia and Southeast Asia to Central America, many species of snakes live in trees.

South Pacific is home to brown tree snakes, some of the best tree climbers, but there are many more worldwide.

Why Do Snakes Climb Trees?

You might wonder why snakes like to be in trees or why they want to spend most of their lives there.

They thrive in the trees as much as on the ground, if not more.

Snakes climb and live in trees because it is safe from a lot of predators on the ground.

This isn’t to say there are absolutely no predators in the trees, but it does eliminate some of the predators looking to make a snake their latest snack.

Trees also offer a great cover from predators who reach or climb into trees.

The leaves and branches in a tree or shrub help the snake blend into their surroundings and stay camouflaged.

Not only are they out of reach of some predators, but now they can stay hidden from others.

A snake is also able to find a lot of prey in the trees.

There are plenty of birds, lizards, frogs, and even other snakes, who make their home in the trees. 

Snakes are really about survival above all else, and a tree helps them with this.


How snakes climb trees are fascinating when you stop to think about it. 

It highlights how unique these scaly pets are. 

It might seem hard to believe these creatures climb trees without the aid of hands, feet, or claws, but they do.

Snakes have an incredible ability to scale these trees using their muscles and scales to help them.