Can Snakes Drown?

Yes, Snakes can drown if they are underwater and can’t obtain any oxygen. Snakes are able to stay underwater for prolonged periods but will swim upwards. Most species of snakes can stay underwater for 30 minutes.

How Long Does it Take A Snake To Drown?

Anything after 30 minutes is dangerous for a snake. This is because the snake is more suited for land environments. In addition, snakes don’t have fins so they have to exert more energy when swimming underwater. 

How Long Can A Snake Stay Underwater?

On average, snakes can stay underwater for 30 minutes. Unless they are sea snakes, they won’t be able to stay underwater for long. Snakes are unable to breathe underwater because they do not have gills. 

Sea snakes don’t have gills, but they can last underwater for an hour before needing to resurface. When swimming underwater, their nostrils are closed, and they are able to hold their breath for longer. 

Other snakes like water moccasins can hold their breath underwater, but not as long as a sea snake. That is because they live the majority of their lives in the water’s edge or in shallow water. 

Can Sea Snakes Drown?

While snakes return up to the surface every 30 minutes, sea snakes can remain submerged underwater for up to 8 hours. This is due to the snake’s anatomy. Snakes are able to take up to 33% of the oxygen they need through their skin. When doing so, they remove up to 90% of the carbon dioxide. 

Interestingly enough, sea snakes can die of thirst. They can still swim and exist underwater, but they still need fresh water to live. When thirsty, some snakes will swim up to the surface to find water. Other snakes will wait for the rain to deposit on the ocean so they can drink while swimming.

What Snakes Can Live Underwater longest?

Cottonmouth Snake

Cottonmouth snakes come from the viper family. They are a freshwater type of snake and prefer to live on shallow lakes and slow-moving rivers. But they won’t die underwater and have experience living in the sea. 

When they feel threatened, cottonmouth snakes will place their head in the center and make a coiled shape. It will open its mouth wide and show its white interior. This defensive technique is called “gaping’ and is used to protect the snake from predators. 

Since cottonmouths are semi-aquatic, they are able to live their lives on both land and water. They can bite while underwater and hold their breath for a long time. 

North American Water Snakes

Despite having the ability to swim underwater, North American Water Snakes are not aggressive towards humans. They are non-venomous snakes that are in the same family as garter snakes. 

North American Water Snakes can be found in the eastern and southern United States. Some can be found in countries such as Mexico or Canada. Being semi-aquatic, they can live near freshwater areas such as swamplands, lakes, and ponds. 

Since they aren’t venomous, North American Water Snakes do not require medical treatment if bitten. However, they do have sharp teeth, and a bite from them will cause bleeding. If left unsanitized, the bite will become infected. 

Amphibians and fish are common prey for North American Water Snakes. But unlike most snakes, they don’t kill their prey by constriction. Instead, they grasp onto their prey with their teeth and kill them by swallowing them. 

Sea Snakes

Sea snakes tend to live in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They live in the same family as coral snakes and cobras. Since they don’t have gills, they have to swim up to the surface to prevent themselves from drowning. 

In the US, you’ll only find sea snakes in Hawaii and California. Sea snakes can bite underwater, and it contains toxic venom. If bitten by a sea snake, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Stiffness
  • Aching 
  • Vomiting

Did you know that one drop of sea snake venom is strong enough to kill three men? Eventually, a bite from a sea snake will lead to paralysis as it breaks down the muscle tissues.

Can Garter Snakes Drown?

Garter snakes are generalists. They can adapt to multiple environments such as woodlands, gardens, and water. Garter snakes are commonly found in the United States. While there are no reports of snakes in Alaska, in 2005, there was a sighting of a roadkill garter snake in Haines, Alaska. 

If they are exposed underwater for more than 30 minutes, garter snakes will drown. Before drowning, a garter snake will attempt to swim up to the surface to receive oxygen. If it is unable to, it will die underwater. 

How Do Snakes Bite Underwater?

Snakes will only bite underwater if they feel threatened by a predator or an animal larger than them. Also, some poisonous snakes float to the water when they are stationary. However, non-venomous snakes stay underneath the surface when standing still. Their heads are the only visible part of their body when underwater. 

How to Protect Yourself From Underwater Snake Bites?

Sea snakes and water moccasins are not dangerous enough to fully devour humans. Because of this, they won’t see you as prey. The only reason why you’d be bitten underwater is if the snake perceived you as a threat. 

It is rare for sea snakes to attack people underwater. Fishermen are the only group of people that are bitten by sea snakes. That’s because they accidentally step on them or accidentally catch them via their trawl nets. 

If you see a water snake, don’t make sudden movements or get too close to them. Extend your distance from them and slowly back out of the water. Don’t attempt to grab the snake or pick it up, even if you think it’s a nonvenomous one. You can call pest control if a water snake is on your property to remove them.

Final Thoughts

Snakes can drown, but only if they are unable to reach the surface before losing air. While sea snakes can remain underwater longer than the average snake, they too will need to resurface since they lack gills. Conclusively, if you see a snake when underwater, swim away from them to ensure you’re not bitten!

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