Do snakes always have the same number of offspring?
Do different kinds of snakes all give birth the same way?
Whether you’re thinking about breeding your snake or you’re just an owner who wants to learn more about your pet, reproduction is an essential part of snake health.
You might be wondering:
How many babies can snakes have?
Snake litters can range between 1 and 150 babies, depending on several genetic and environmental factors like species and the number of natural predators.
How Many Babies Can Snakes Have In Each Species?
Snakes reproduce at different rates depending on their species, the way they give birth, and their surrounding environment.
The following table shows eight different snake species and their average litter size.
Table of Snakes and Average Litter Size
|Snake Species||Average Litter Size|
|Black mamba||6 to 25|
|Boa constrictor||20 to 60|
|Corn snake||12 to 34|
|Diamondback water snake||40 or more|
|Garter snake||20 to 40|
|Hognose snake||15 to 25|
|Madagascan ground boa||6|
The largest known litter was from a mother puff adder who gave birth to 156 babies!
Why Do Snakes Have Different Numbers of Babies?
Snakes with fewer natural predators usually have offspring in smaller numbers.
For example, ball pythons have an expected lifespan of 20 to 30 years.
They have few natural predators and therefore have a higher survival rate among their offspring.
Corn snakes, on the other hand, only have an expected lifespan of 5 to 8 years and have many natural predators.
They give birth to a larger number of offspring to increase the chances of survival.
How Are Baby Snakes Born?
Snakes are born in three ways: hatched from eggs outside the mother, hatched from eggs inside the mother, or live birthed without any egg.
Egg-laying snakes will either deposit eggs and leave them to develop, or they’ll hold them inside their bodies until their babies hatch.
Around 30% of snakes give birth to live young.
Viviparity – true live birth with no eggs present – is extremely rare in snakes.
Most of the time, live birth in snakes is through a process called ovoviviparity.
A mother snake will have eggs, but she’ll store them safely inside her body until they’re ready to hatch.
Ovoviviparity evolved in snakes over time and accommodates environmental restrictions.
Water snakes, for example, don’t come to shore often.
A mother can hold developing eggs inside her and carry on with her daily routine in the water, avoiding unnecessary risks.
Ovoviviparity also protects hatchling snakes from predators.
A full-grown mother snake is much more able to defend herself and her babies.
Our post on snakes that give live birth will show you pictures of the different types of snakes and share some cool facts about live birth if you’re interested.
A majority of snakes hatch from a hard-shelled egg outside the mother’s body.
Oviparity – laying underdeveloped eggs – requires the mother to deposit her clutches of eggs in a safe location where predators most likely will not find them.
Mothers will find a damp, cool, and secure burrow or outcrop their babies will be better protected and have better chances of reaching maturity.
How Many Babies Do Snakes Have As Eggs Versus Live-Born Offspring?
Live-born snakes have greater numbers of babies at once.
They average 11 babies per litter, while egg clutches average seven.
However, a clutch of eggs will develop into snakelets, which average a 20% larger size than live-born snakes.
Since live-born snakes are held inside the mother until they are born, they don’t need to be large.
When babies hatch out of egg clutches, they must instantly defend themselves since they are unprotected.
So, they will generally develop more inside the egg before they hatch.
We have a post on how snakes protect themselves if you want to learn more about it.
How Do Young Snakes Survive?
When babies are born, they survive until their first shed on the nutrients from their egg yolk.
After their first shed, they will begin to hunt their prey.
All baby snakes are born fully developed and don’t require any training or parenting.
They’re expected to fend for themselves from the very beginning.
Snakes do not have family units the way many mammals do – most snakes are loners.
What Is The Survival Rate of Baby Snakes?
Not all hatchlings survive until adulthood. Survival depends on several factors, including:
- The prevalence of natural predators
- How much contact there is with humans
- The harshness of seasonal conditions
- The health of the mother
- The availability of prey
There is a variation in survival rates from species to species and from season to season.
Snakes with more predators will counter the risk of becoming prey by having larger numbers of babies, which increases survival rates.
However, with changing environmental conditions, and because of unnatural predators like humans, some snake species are becoming threatened.
Their populations are reducing because there are too many factors beyond their control.
The Survival of Northern Pine Snakes
Northern pine snakes are one example of a species experiencing a population reduction.
A long-term study conducted in New Jersey between 1986 and 2017 proves humans have significantly reduced these snakes’ natural habitat area.
This has had a profound effect on northern pine snake population numbers and their abilities to reproduce.
On average, one-quarter of all laid eggs actually hatched each year.
Of those hatched babies, only 10% of all female northern pine snakes reached an age of 3 years old, which is the earliest a snake would be sexually mature.
This means each year, at most one-tenth of the female snake population was able to reproduce.
This has, unsurprisingly, led to a drop in the snakes’ population numbers.
They need a higher reproduction rate and survival rate to maintain their current population.
Now you know more about what to expect with how many babies snakes can have.
Snakes have different numbers of babies depending on their species, the method of giving birth, the number of natural predators, and other environmental conditions beyond their control.
Snakes have evolved their birthing strategies over time to ensure better survival rates of their offspring.
However, rapid environmental changes, like humans destroying natural habitats, can have a profound impact on snake survival.