Have you ever wondered why a snake shed its skin? It is really quite fascinating that reptiles have their own way of growing and maturing. Snakes shed their skin as they grow just as humans change their clothes. This is because it has outgrown its current skin. While humans “shed” millions of skin cells every day, snakes and other animals shed a layer of skin in one continuous piece, a process called ecdysis. An average snake sheds its skin two to four times per year. But it still depends on their age and species. For young snakes that are actively growing, they may shed every two weeks. For older snakes, they might only shed their skin twice a year.
Technically, all animals shed their skin. It’s just that some are too grandiose, and others aren’t very visible. But why is it necessary for snakes to drop their old skin and develop a new one?
Firstly, as snakes continue to grow, their skin remains the same. Unlike human skin, a snake’s skin doesn’t grow as the animal grows. Eventually, a snake’s skin reaches a point where further growth is not possible. As the old layer is discarded, a new one is generated.
This process also helps them to get rid of parasites. Parasites are creatures that take away nutrients from their host animal to survive. Dogs and cats get parasites and they need a little bit of hands-on care to rid them of them. A good bath with an effective shampoo does the trick. But for snakes, it’s a totally new layer of skin needed just to get rid of them. And old skin is too worn out for them.
It is also interesting how snakes undergo this process. Before it sheds, the snake’s skin begins to lack lustre and become a bit duller than normal. Its eyes can become a bit opaque which hinders their vision. After a few days, the snake will rub its head on a hard surface, a rock for example, until it splits open. They will ripple their muscles and wiggle out of the old skin and discard it. The whole process doesn’t happen overnight. This skin shedding takes 6-10 days. Changes occur in their body for a few days before it finally generates a new skin later and gets rid of the old one.
An interesting fact is that the skin between the scales loses it’s elasticity as it separates from the body. This means that that when the skin that has been shed is fully stretched out its actually about 1/4 length longer than the actual snake. This means that that 4m skin you found in your roof actually belongs to a 3m snake!
But do snakes stay where they shed their skin? Or do they come back to where they had the whole process was done?
Chances are high if we talk about the snake going back to where it shed its skin. But not specifically and intentionally for their skin that had expired but rather, they come back because it is a place of comfort for them. They also consider it a place to find cover and protection from the weather or predators. This is their safe spot and also an area which might have an abundance of food.
So, what do we do when we spot a snake shedding its skin? Now we know the signs that they are undergoing that important process of their lives. It’s best to leave them alone especially when they’re not really inside your home or inside a building. Better identify their species and if it’s not the venomous one, it’s going be alright. But if not, you know when and whom to ask for help.