Bull snakes. You’ve probably heard of them as being large, aggressive snakes that kill and eat rattlesnakes for sport. While this legend may not be entirely true, bull snakes are relatively large, and they do eat many different kinds of animals. So, what does a bull snake eat, exactly? How often do they eat on a regular basis, and how long can they go without food and water? If you have a baby bull snake you’re keeping as a pet, what should you feed it? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.
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What Foods Do Bull Snakes Eat?
Bull snakes, like many other snakes, are opportunistic carnivores–they will eat whatever they can catch, kill, and fit into their mouths. Some of their favorite foods include:
- Mice and rats: Small rodents, especially mice and rats, are plentiful and make up a large part of the bull snake’s diet.
- Rabbits: Rabbits and small hares produce lots of offspring, and bull snakes will eat both the young and the adults.
- Frogs and toads: Bull snakes will eat various types of amphibians, especially frogs and toads. They will eat all sizes of these amphibians.
- Birds: There are many different kinds of birds a bull snake may prey on. If they are hungry, they can eat up to five small birds in a 15 minute period!
- Eggs: Bull snakes will also eat all different kinds of eggs–bird and chicken eggs, lizard eggs, eggs of other snakes, and any other eggs they can find.
- Lizards: Bull snakes often live in dry desert environments, where lizards are plentiful. They will eat a variety of small to medium-sized lizards–whatever they can catch and swallow.
Bull snakes are constrictors, which means they kill their prey by wrapping their own bodies tightly around the prey animal, killing it by crushing and suffocating it. They will then swallow the animal whole.
Though bull snakes will generally eat whatever they can kill and swallow, there are a few things they don’t usually eat. These creatures include insects and fish.
They don’t usually eat these creatures because they can’t catch them as easily–they tend to avoid water, so they can’t get to the fish, and insects are generally too small for the snakes to constrict them.
A common misconception is that bull snakes will eat rattlesnakes, but this is not true. Bull snakes will sometimes kill rattlesnakes when competing with them for food or territory, but they don’t hunt them for food or sport, as is commonly believed.
How Often Does a Bull Snake Eat?
The answer to this question depends on the snake’s age and what’s available. Younger bull snakes generally eat more often than adults do, but both babies and adults eat pretty sparingly most of the time.
Young bull snakes will typically eat once to twice a week, while adults may eat just once every ten days to two weeks. If there is more food available, they may eat more, though if they’ve recently had a large meal, they may go even longer without eating.
Adults eat less than babies because, since they are larger, they can fit more food into their mouths at a time. Also, because they are no longer growing, they don’t need as much food as babies do.
But you may still be wondering, why do they eat so little in the first place? Why only twice a week at most?
It takes bull snakes a long time to digest their food–their metabolism is relatively slow and, considering they eat prey animals whole, they have to break down hard-to-digest parts such as bones and fur as well. For this reason, they don’t need to eat everyday–in fact, they wouldn’t be able to do so, even if they wanted to.
How Long Can a Bull Snake Go Without Eating?
Snakes in general can go for extended periods of time without eating–anywhere from several weeks to 6 months.
While it’s uncertain exactly how long a bull snake could go without food, there is good reason to believe they could survive for at least a couple of months.
Bull snakes hibernate during the winter, congregating in dens and burrows that they build and only coming out on warm, sunny days. During this time, their metabolism slows down significantly and they survive off their own fat reserves, according to Reference.
Not only can they survive long periods without food, they can also go without water. Snakes in general can tolerate incredible levels of dehydration, and bull snakes are no exception.
What to Feed a Baby Bull Snake?
Baby bull snakes generally eat the same foods as adults, only smaller amounts and sizes. For example, an adult bull snake might eat adult mice and rats, large birds, chicken eggs, and large frogs, while a baby bull snake might eat baby mice, small birds and their eggs, and small frogs.
If you have a baby bull snake in captivity, you’ll probably find that it’s easiest to feed it frozen baby mice, which you can purchase at your local pet store. Of course, you’ll want to make sure and thaw the mice before feeding them to your snake.
Feed your baby bull snake 1 to 2 of these baby mice per week. It is generally best to stick with pre-killed, frozen and thawed prey–giving live prey to your snake is also acceptable, but you’ll want to do so while supervising feeding time, as snakes, especially babies, can be injured from fighting with prey.
Check out this video of a bull snake in captivity during feeding time.
Bull snakes are opportunistic carnivores that eat many different types of food. Some of their favorite foods include mice, rats, and other rodents, rabbits, frogs and toads, birds and bird eggs, and lizards.
If you have a baby bull snake in captivity, you’ll want to feed it frozen and thawed baby mice, which you can purchase at a pet store. Feed your baby snake 1 to 2 of these mice per week, as they won’t need to eat any more frequently than that.