How Do Snakes Communicate?

Have you ever wondered what your snake is thinking?

Do you think about how snakes in the wild react when they see other snakes?

If you have noticed how some animals communicate with each other or with humans and wonder how this idea applies to snakes, you might ask:

How do snakes communicate?

Snakes are known for being solitary creatures, so their need and ability to communicate is limited. When they do communicate, they use their vomeronasal system, pheromones, body language, and hissing. 

If you own a snake, you might have seen some of these, but you might not be familiar with others.

Read on to learn more about how snakes communicate, whether in the wild or captivity. 

how do snakes communicate

How Do Snakes Communicate? 

Snakes prefer to be on their own, opting for a solitary life rather than a communal one many animals enjoy.

Because of this, they don’t need or have the same ability to communicate other animals have.

Many other animals, from dogs and cats to whales and birds, live with and interact with other members of their species daily, and their survival and day to day lives depend on it. 

The way snakes communicate isn’t through vocalizations, like you might find in other animals. 

This doesn’t mean they don’t communicate at all.

Snakes use various methods to communicate with each other, their owners, and other animals in the wild. 

Vomeronasal System

Snakes analyze the world around them based on chemical cues they collect through their sense of taste, smell, and the vomeronasal system.

The most important part of the vomeronasal system is the Jacobson’s organ.

The snake flicks their tongue out into the air collecting tiny particles.

Then they bring their tongue back into their mouth and rub it over their Jacobson’s organ to interpret what has been collected. 

This allows them to know if there is a nearby predator, but it also helps them communicate with other snakes.

They can collect and analyze chemical cues other snakes in the area are putting off.

This comes in handy, especially during mating season, when a male snake is doing his best to find a female. 

Pheromones

Related to the vomeronasal system is the snake’s ability to put off pheromones.

These are chemical cues they leave for other snakes.

Pheromones tell other snakes how old they are, whether they are male or female, and if they are ready to mate or not.

The vomeronasal system and pheromones were hand in hand to help these animals communicate with each other.  

Body Language

Up until now, we have touched on ways snakes communicate more with each other, but not how they might communicate with animals or humans in the world. 

Body language is one way snakes communicate with each other and with their owners and potential mates.

We communicate with each other through our own body language, from the way we stand to where we put our hands.

There are many things body language conveys, and for snakes, they use body language to “talk” to other snakes or animals.

A twitch or jerk by a male snake and a lift or wave of a tail from a female are signals they use when deciding to mate. 

These movements tell one snake the other is open and willing to mate with the other. 

When males are fighting for territory or a lady snake, they will work to intimidate each other.

This often escalates to physical combat, but rarely death or severe injury.

When it comes to communicating with their owners, you will need to learn and acknowledge their body language to help reduce stress in the animal. 

Snakes are not warm, cuddly creatures.

Their emotions basically circle hungry, afraid, and relaxed.

A calm snake will be happily exploring or basking in their tank, where a fearful snake will be hiding or will cower if you come near it.

An agitated, fearful snake will follow movement around to make sure whatever is moving is not a predator. 

Some will strike as an attempt to scare, intimidate, and bite a potential predator. 

They will also move away quickly if they feel the tide turning and move away like they are attempting to flee.

Hungry snakes will have their body language, prowling around the enclosure and flicking their tongue more than usual.

Knowing your snake’s body language will only help you provide better care, reduce stress, and let you know when your snake is up to interact with you.

As you get to know your snake, you will learn this body language and tell what your snake wants and needs.

Hissing

Hissing is a kind of stereotypical communication device for snakes.

You often see this in film, TV and written about in books.

But if you have done some research about snakes, you might know they don’t have the best sense of hearing, relying more heavily on their sense of smell and the vomeronasal system.

Some snake species do communicate by making a hissing sound.

Others, like rattlesnakes, shake their “rattles” on their tails in the air to communicate.

Still, others like the king cobra make a growling sound or a lower frequency kind of hiss to communicate with other king cobras.

Snakes do have an inner ear and hear certain noises and vibrations.

Airborne sounds are hard for them to hear, but vibrations traveling through the ground are a different story.

Not only do they use this form of communication to communicate with snakes, but this is also used as a signal for humans and other animals, they deem to be potential predators.

Conclusion

Now you know more about how snakes communicate with each other. 

All animals communicate in some way, even if it isn’t how we as humans communicate.

Though they would rather be alone, snakes communicate with others and those around them in various ways.

After reading this article, we hope you have a better understanding of the many ways a snake might communicate with other snakes, with their owner, and with other animals they encounter.