Snakes are master escape artists; they are smooth, slender, flexible, strong, and smarter than we give them credit for (generally). Coupled with ambush hunting instincts honed from thousands of years of evolution, they really have a knack for hide n’ go seek — and for driving their doting humans crazy.
Step One: Don’t Panic
Upon realizing that your snake has gone AWOL, don’t freak out. Even if it takes a week to find him/her, snakes can stay alive for quite a while outside of their tank (varying from species to species, of course). However, they will suffer from the cold, lack of humidity, and dehydration, so it is important to keep looking.
Worst case scenario: If it’s warm outside and you don’t have good seals on your windows or doors, the snake could have escaped outside. Give your neighbors a picture of the snake and your contact information, and explain to them in clear terms why they are NOT in danger.
This is another reason why it’s important to secure your snakes. As worried as you might be for your pet’s welfare, non-reptile people tend to panic when there’s a snake on the loose. Myths about child-eating pythons and the like…you know how it goes.
Step Two: Secure Your Pets
Free-roaming pets (cats, dogs, birds, etc.) can pose significant threat to a lost snake, particularly with cats. Secure them when you’re not home, and especially at night when the snake is most likely to be out and about.
Step Three: Turn the Place Upside-Down
Most missing snakes are found by diligent owners who roll up their sleeves and conduct a top-to-bottom search, room by room.
Start looking around where you last saw them. Once snakes find a good hiding spot, they rarely go far. After that, continue your search one room at a time. Upon clearing one room, close the door and stuff a towel in the gap at the bottom to completely seal it off.
Check under, behind, and on top of EVERYTHING, even the places where you think they can’t possibly fit. (Snakes have Ph.D’s in Hide n Go Seek, with additional studies in “If it fits I sits.”) Keep in mind that snakes are most often found in warm places. This can be behind warm appliances like refrigerators, in your furnace closet, or snuggled up to another reptile’s terrarium.
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Boxes and anything hollow (trash bins, Kleenex boxes, pizza boxes, file folder boxes, shoes, purses, etc.)
- Garbage disposal (seriously)
- Washer/dryer and vents (take them apart if necessary – snakes have been known to get inside)
- Warm appliances (refrigerators, furnace, DVD players, gaming consoles, computers, etc)
- Behind the toilet tank
- Air ducts
- Baseboard heaters
- Upholstered furniture
- Window sills
- On top of curtain rods
- Firewood piles
Search at night. Most snakes, even the diurnal ones, are most active at this time.
Lay on your back and look up. Think like a snake – where would you go?
In spots where you can’t reach, use your phone. Put it on a selfie stick (I can’t believe I’m telling you guys to use a selfie stick…) and use the flash to take a picture of the area. Personally I’ve never had to use this for snakes, but I’ve done it many times searching for an escaped blue tongue skink.
This is a great opportunity to deep-clean your house, by the way.
Set a Trap(s)
Generally speaking, snakes like to stay put once they’ve found a good hidey hole. They’re ambush predators, after all. But if you can’t find your snake the old-fashioned way, you can try to find your snake by setting a trap.
Scatter a thin but visible layer of flour or corn starch on the floor. If the snake travels, it will leave tracks. The powder can be easily vacuumed up later. If you don’t want to make as much of a mess, leave a line of powder at the entrance to each room and leave the door open. This will at least narrow things down to one room.
Go to the bank and exchange $10 for 1000 pennies (or coin equivalent if you’re not in the US). Place lines of pennies at the entrances to each room, closet, and even on top of furniture like tables, desks, and counters. A snake on the move will dislodge the pennies and indicate their direction. If on a desk or counter, the falling pennies will alert you to the snake’s location.
Place lengths of scotch tape sticky side-up along walls, furniture, and doorways. As with the flour and pennies, the snake will not know to avoid the tape. The tape will stick to the snake (harmless), creating a trail that will help lead to your snake’s latest hiding spot.
Plastic bag trap
Snakes like to travel along walls, furniture, and baseboards. Line these areas with slightly crumpled plastic grocery sacks. Around 9-10pm, turn off all lights, TV, stereos — anything that makes sound — and hop on a chair/couch to listen. It will may take about 30-60 minutes for the snake to decide that it’s safe to travel, but once you hear something, get out your flashlight and (to use a phrase from Melissa Kaplan) nail ‘em! Be careful not to run, however. The vibrations will scare the snake back into hiding and you’ll be back to square one.
Lower the temperature in your home to about 68°F (20°C). Then cut a snake-sized hole in a shoebox and put a shipping warmer inside. Leave where the snake was last seen and check in the morning. Because that hide will be one of the warmest places in the house, it is more likely to choose that as its next place to hole up.
In the evening, place a warm, F/T rodent in a wire cage or 2-liter bottle (with holes poked throughout to leak scent). The idea is for the opening to be large enough for your snake to slither in, but small enough that it will get stuck after ingesting its meal. Reportedly, fresh, unwashed chicken eggs can be used as an alternative to F/T rodents.
Whichever trap you choose, don’t forget to keep the missing snake’s terrarium open. Some snakes will return to their terrarium once they’re done exploring, especially if that is the warmest spot in the house. If your snake isn’t much of a climber, set the enclosure on the ground to make it more accessible. This doesn’t always work, but it doesn’t hurt to try!
How to *Prevent* a Snake from Escaping
Ultimately, the best way to find a lost snake is not to lose it in the first place (wow that just sounded like my mother).
- Most front-opening enclosures have built-in locks. If you don’t have a lock, install one.
- Racks should have no gaps between the shelf and the top of each tub. Additionally, the tubs should be impossible for a snake to push out, creating an opening.
- If you have a top-opening enclosure, invest in some good clamps or bolts (depending on your lid type) to keep it firmly shut. This is especially necessary for glass aquarium-type enclosures with screen lids.
- If you like to let your snakes free-roam, supervise them CLOSELY. This is not a time to look at your phone or watch TV. They can disappear in seconds. If you don’t trust yourself to supervise, create a snake-proof room for them to roam.
- If you have any holes in the wall, fix them. The last thing you want is a snake in your walls/floor, because it is very difficult to retrieve them. Same goes for window screens, as well as seals on your windows and on any doors that lead outside.
When it comes down to preventing a snake from escaping, paranoia is your friend. Confidence or arrogance will be your downfall.
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I’m so glad to hear it! Losing a snake is always stressful.
Thanks to this, I was able to find my snake, who was missing for a week.
Those baby colubrids can be really hard to keep contained. I’m sorry to hear about your situation. There’s always the possibility that you will be able to find it again with the tips in this article, but there’s also the chance that it will find its way outside. It’s unlikely to stick around in your house unless it finds a regular source of food or can’t find a way out.
My boyfriend brought a baby, and I mean very small. Northern Red Belly snake into the house last night and it got out. Should I be worried we will never find it and it will just always be here. I’m due for a baby in January and everything is stressing me out. I have two cats as well.
One thing that helps give me peace of mind is knowing that reptiles are extremely hardy, and capable of surviving extreme circumstances for long periods of time. I’ve heard of snakes that have been found after ~1 year of being lost. Skinny and dehydrated, certainly, but alive. Keep at it and you’ll find your pet eventually!
How do you keep yourself calm in these situations and not worry about the snake especially when the house as been ripped to pieces looking for him I can’t help but cry and worry that he is going to die or have escaped outside as we have the backdoor open most of the time even though he is upstairs
Sorry to hear about your corn snake! The good news is that he’s probably stayed inside where it’s warm, but the bad news is that with a snake that small, it’s probably going to take a while for you to find him. All ideas I have are already detailed in this article, so my best advice is to have patience and keep trying. Good luck!
Hi, we have a corn snake about a year old. We went on vacation and when returned he had escaped from his enclosure. We have torn apart the entire apartment. It is winter and it is cold outside. We have also locked up our declawed cats in hopes to find him. It seems he has been out about a day or so. We have set bag traps, heat traps, and a food trap since it has been about 5 days since he has eaten. We have shut all the lights off at night to have him come out. Do you have any suggestions or ideas to help us find him?
It’s very likely that the snake has found a cozy hiding spot somewhere in your daughter’s room and is camping out. Juvenile corn snakes are very small and can squeeze in and out of very small spaces, so you’re going to have to search every nook and cranny of the room. Try to think like the snake!
My 10 year old daughter’s juvenile female corn snake escaped from the top of the 20 gallon terrarium. We’ve only had her for 10 days. We think she escaped during a water change. She normally hides and rests deep inside the aspen shavings. So it was a shock to find her missing during a feeding,
We’ve looked everywhere in the house, have plastic bags crumpled up, and set out water. She has been missing for 5 days. Do you think she is still on our daughter’s room? Welcome your advice.
Unfortunately, your chances of finding a lost snake (especially a juvenile) outdoors is extremely slim. Keep looking in likely hidey-holes near warm areas, and I wish you the best of luck.
My 6 month old Ball Python escaped his outdoor cage. I bring him in the yard with me so he can enjoy real nature. I think he may have gone into one of many chipmunk holes and mole holes in the yard. I SEARCHED EVERYWHERE FOR 10 hours on my hands and knees. Every rock and every branch. It is now 2am and I’m a wreck. It’s down to 55 degrees and I’m desperate. I set up a heat trap in the yard with a heat lamp, heating pad and a small heater. But still no sign of him. Please any suggestions would be so appreciated.
All of my advice is laid out in this article. If you have an enclosure with sliding glass doors rather than hinged ones, then it’s possible that your snake may be small enough to fit in the gap between them for escape, depending on how young your snake is. Otherwise, be patient and think like a snake. You’ll find it eventually!
My juvenile corn snake got out of his enclosure somehow and we haven’t found him, despite tearing the room apart. I’ve laid out water bowls surrounded by flour and set out plastic bags as well. Is there anything else I could do? Also, I have no idea how he escaped. Any advice for finding his escape route so I can fix it?
Sounds like your basement has a lot of fun things that a curious snake would loooove to explore. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but most likely you’re going to have to dig him out in order to find him.
I lost my super banana, he excepted somewhere in my basement. Half reptile room other half is full of wood working equipment and junk. It would literally take me hours to dig everything out. I’ve searched all around the other tanks and he’s nowhere to be found. He’s only a couple months old.
Someone in my house left the tank door of my snake’s enclosure ajar two nights ago. We’ve looked everywhere for him and set traps but there’s no sign of him. I’m really worried about him and I hope we can find him. This is helpful though, thank you.
That’s a tough situation. One thing you can do is try setting up a trap near the hole in the wall with a frozen rodent inside. If the snake is nearby, it may smell the rodent and come out.
I think my ball python is inside the wall. Is there any hope in finding him?😭😭😭
Good luck! And make sure to double-check your enclosure’s security for the future. 👍
I’m a first time snake owner and my baby ball python escaped sometime this morning. We’re gonna try some of these. Thank you for this advice!
Uff da, that’s tough! Baby corn snakes are sooo tiny. Keep looking, and don’t lose hope — even young corn snakes are still pretty resilient. Meanwhile, now would be a good idea to reevaluate your enclosure and make it more secure.
my baby corn snake is currently missing, and has been for a few days now. I’m kinda worried because I’m a new snake owner and my house isn’t exactly snake proof, but I’m pretty sure she should turn up soon.
Speaking from personal experience, the most effective method I’ve found is simply tearing the room apart. Look *everywhere*, even the places that you think are unlikely. They often don’t leave the room. And don’t worry too much — snakes are very hardy, so even if your snake is lost for a couple weeks, it should be just fine.
my 2 year old common ball python escaped twice this week this time i couldn’t find her but its only been one day hopfuly some things from this artical will work
Personally I would prefer the boa getting out! The larger the snake, the harder it is for it to hide.
My juvenile corn snake escaped twice when I was a new snake parent. Luckily for me, she didn’t go far, once I found her curled up in the top cabinet of the hutch that her tank was on, and the 2nd time she was behind the iron (someone else found her because I don’t iron). 24 hours was the longest she’s gone missing, and its been 17 years since then. Current home is 1/3 of a very large glass enclosure with a custom hinged wooden top with window locks. The other 2/3 is inhabited by her neighbor, our Boa. And I’m very glad we had the missing snake experiences with the tiny snake, not the big guy.