Snakes do not eat berries. They are obligate carnivores, and their digestive system cannot process compounds found in berries.
While the idea of including berries on a snake diet might be appealing, snakes cannot eat berries and require meat to survive.
The digestive system of snakes lacks microbes that facilitate processing and breaking down fiber and sugars found in berries.
Although there have been some myths about snakes eating blackberries, this is far from the truth. Actually, berry bushes provide a good place for snakes to lay and wait for prey. Berry plant branches can also be a good place for snakes to bask in the sun.
Because berry bushes mainly flourish at the edge of grasslands and forested areas, they are a natural habitat for snakes. Therefore, it is a typical location to find snakes, but they do not feed on berries.
Why Can’t Snakes Eat Berries?
The digestive system of snakes is different from that of herbivores and omnivores. Herbivores have flat teeth that allow them to grind their food. Grinding of food aids in breaking down the berries.
The broken-down food is then passed through the stomach into a long tube of intestines. For effective extraction of nutrients, herbivores have a vast range of gut bacteria.
However, snakes do not have these features. They have small, hooked teeth that they use to grip prey. Therefore, snakes cannot grind their food, and instead, they swallow it whole.
Furthermore, snakes have short intestinal tracts that lack the gut microbes necessary to digest berries. In case it swallows a berry, it will pass through its digestive system undisturbed and excreted intact.
The snake digestive system is designed to eat foods that contain high calories like animals. Such prey allows the snake to stay for more than one week without getting the urge to eat again. However, berries are low-calorie, and if they were to be eaten by snakes, they would die of malnutrition.
Are There Snakes Species That Eat Berries?
There are no omnivorous snake species (i.e. that feed on plants alongside meat). The snake diet is 100 percent meat.
Although there are instances where snakes might ingest berries in the wild, it is purely an accident. For example, it might be on the prey animal or inside its body and unintentionally swallowed by the snake. However, in such cases, the plant will not be digested because the snake digestive system cannot cope with the high fiber content in plants.
Additionally, there are instances of cottonmouth feeding on seaweed, but not intentionally. Seaweed has a smell similar to that emitted by fish, which can trigger the snake to feed on it. However, the snake does not digest the seaweed, and it was found intact in its droppings.
Snakes perceive things in two ways. Firstly, they identify large animals such as humans as predators and will automatically escape. Secondly, they view small animals such as rodents and rabbits as prey, and they will habitually attack.
However, as for plants, they will see it as a source of shelter or a suitable location to lay eggs, but not as a source of food. Therefore, they will never feed on berries.
Furthermore, snakes identify prey through motion or sensing their heat. Berries, do not emit heat, and snakes will not see them as a source of food. Snakes also have poor eyesight, and it is through preys’ motion and heat that snakes rely on to identify their food.
Although plants have movement, they lack the unpredictable darting motion of prey, so they will not be viewed as food.
Snakes have heat sensors on their face that allow them to see heat radiating from their prey. However, berries do not emit heat as animals do. So, snakes that use heat sensors to identify prey will not recognize berries as prey.
Will Berries Kill Snakes If Consumed?
If a snake accidentally consumes berries it will not be harmed in any way. However, there are several berry species that are extremely poisonous for example, nightshade, moonseed and elderberry.
Nonetheless, for a poison to be effective it has to be digested first. Snakes swallow everything whole. Therefore, it is unlikely for any poisonous substance to be absorbed by their bodies.
Additionally, snakes cannot process and digest berries. If consumed, the snake’s digestive system does not have the necessary microorganisms to ferment and break down berries. In most instances, accidentally swallowed berries are excreted whole.
If They Don’t Eat Berries, What do they Eat?
Snakes are obligate carnivores. Therefore they feed on meat alone. Some snake species prefer warm-blooded animals, and others prefer insects, amphibians, and eggs.
In captivity or in the wild, most snakes feed on rodents as they provide the necessary macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals that the snake requires to survive healthily. Furthermore, they are high in calories and fat, and their bones have enough calcium to sustain the snake.
However, some snakes feed on rodents and some survive on insects, fish, or eggs. Some of these snakes feed on insects, arthropods, and specific bugs when they are young, but they shift to mammals and birds when they grow.
But, some snake species predominately eat insects, snails, spiders, and slugs throughout their lives because they are small in size, limiting them from swallowing whole animals like mice. These snakes are tiny and range between 2 inches to 2 feet. Examples include the Green snake, De Kay’s brown snake, and Brahminy blind snakes.
Unfortunately, it is challenging to have insectivorous snakes as pets because they refuse to eat in captivity, and it isn’t easy to have a reliable food source for them.
Many snakes feed on bird and reptile eggs as their natural diet. However, eggs lack adequate nutrients to sustain the snake. Hence they must supplement it with rodents and other animals.
Some species of egg-eating snakes can be kept in captivity, such as some African egg-eating snakes, including rhombic egg-eater. If egg eating can be considered vegetarian, some snake species can be regarded as vegetarian, but that depends on what you consider vegetarian friendly.
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Snakes are 100 percent carnivorous. They only eat meat, and it is enough to provide them with all the required nutrients to survive.
So on whether snakes eat berries, it is for sure that they Do Not. While in the wild, snakes feed on prey alive and whole.
In captivity, it is vital to feed them dead or frozen animals. Furthermore, there are commercially available animals to feed your pet snakes and have all the nutritional requirements for the snake.
Although they might accidentally ingest berries or plants, their digestive system lacks the necessary microorganism to digest them and will be excreted untouched.
Intentionally feeding your snake pet with berries only makes it sick and malnutrition because its digestive system cannot process high fibers and sugar contained in the berries.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.