When you’re driving in rural areas, wildlife can get in the way. Perhaps a snake was basking in the sun or trying to cross the road when you accidentally ran over it with your car or bike.
If you run over the tip of a snake’s tail, it’ll likely make a full recovery. If you run over its head or organs, it will likely die. Cars and motorbikes will be fatal, but a bicycle may not be.
If you ran over a snake with a car, only stop when safe to do so. Maintain a safe distance from the snake as, if alive, it could still strike. Even if the snake is still alive, it’s not wise to try and help it. If it’s not severely injured, it will go somewhere to hide. If it is badly hurt, it’ll die anyway.
Can a Snake Survive Being Run Over?
It depends on where you ran over the snake. Think of reports of people being involved in accidents. The accident is more serious if it affects crucial parts of the body, like the head or torso.
So, if you run over the snake’s head, then it will die instantly. Snakes may be anatomically different to humans, but their head and brain are just as important to them as ours are to us.
But if you only run over its tail, a snake may go on to survive. Snakes can’t regrow their tails like some animals can. But the tip of their tail can heal in a general sense, and isn’t as important to them as other parts of their body.
Whether the snake survives also depends on what vehicle you’re driving. It also depends on the kind of ground that it’s on. Hard ground, and the impact will be more debilitating. On soft, loose ground with lots of give in it, the damage to the snake won’t be so serious.
Can a Snake Survive Being Run Over by a Car?
It’s unlikely that it would survive if you hit a snake with a car. Cars are heavy and travel at high speeds. If you were hit by one, you would likely be seriously injured or die.
The same applies to trucks. With trucks being even heavier than your average car, they’re even more likely to cause serious damage. You may also take trucks off-road, where it’s more likely that you’ll find snakes in your path.
Another reason why cars are fatal to snakes is where the two are likely to meet. Cars drive along asphalt roads or concrete pavements. These surfaces are hard with no give in them at all.
This has an added effect if you run over a snake. The harder the surface, the more serious the injury becomes. The snake will be squashed between your tire and the hard ground. Snakes die almost 100% of the time when they are hit head-on by a moving vehicle.
The only scenario in which a snake could potentially survive is if you run over the tip of its tail. The tip of the snake’s tail isn’t that important—it’s sort of like your pinkie finger. It doesn’t contain any organs until you get further up towards the snake’s cloaca/vent.
However, this is unlikely. Even if you miss the snake’s body with your front wheel, you may hit it with your rear wheel. That’s especially the case if you tried to swerve to avoid the snake.
Can a Snake Survive Being Run Over by a Motorbike?
Motorbikes are big, heavy, and you ride them on surfaces that make it even more likely a snake will die when hit by one. The main difference is that with a motorbike, it’s easier to avoid a snake.
Bikes are responsive and agile compared to cars. You also have better vision of the road in front of you without the hood in the way.
Just like a car, if you run over a snake with a motorbike, you will probably break its back. This will be fatal for the snake. Even if it isn’t paralyzed, it won’t move as fast away from threats like predators.
I Ran Over a Snake on My Bike
A bicycle accident is easier for a snake to survive. Of course, there is still a likelihood that it will be injured and could die. But there are better odds of the snake pulling through. That’s because:
- Bicycles don’t move as fast as other vehicles
- Bicycles are lighter than other vehicles
- Many bicycles, especially trail bikes/mountain bikes, have a larger void in the tire making them less hard
- Bicycles are easier to steer to one side when you see an obstacle like a snake
All these factors together mean that a snake could potentially survive an encounter with one.
However, there are other reasons why bikes can be deadly for a snake. The first is where you ride them. People ride down trails on mountain or trail bikes.
Here, you can encounter lots of snakes in their natural habitat. There are far more snakes here than on a suburban road. So, the likelihood of hitting and killing one goes up.
Can a Snake Survive with a Broken Back?
Any animal in the wild that gets a broken back is practically guaranteed to die. That’s especially the case with snakes as their backs are so important. According to the journal Evolution, snakes can have more than 300 vertebrae, and, of course, no limbs. Damage at any point is debilitating.
A broken back often results in paralysis. But even if it doesn’t, the injury is still severe. It will limit the range of motion that the snake can exhibit. It will make it difficult for the snake to:
- Move around quickly, especially in response to threats like predators
- Strike at its prey
- Climb into trees (which many snake species do)
- Move into and hide inside burrows
- Mate with other snakes
The snake will be vulnerable after its accident. If it is hurt to this extent, then it will likely be eaten soon by a predator. It may try to find somewhere to hide to counter this problem.
But even then, the snake will be vulnerable. Even if a predator can’t find it, the snake will still need to eat. With a broken back, it can’t hunt. With no food easily available, the snake will likely starve soon.
Plus, all of this is assuming that the snake doesn’t die instantly from its injuries. A broken back is severe enough that it likely occurs alongside other serious injuries. As such, the snake may die immediately anyway.
Can Snakes Get Paralyzed?
Broken backs frequently result in paralysis. That’s because the spinal column contains the most critical nerves in the body, which run from the brain to every limb.
Snakes, of course, don’t have limbs. But it still needs to move the lower half of its body from side to side so that it can move forward. Some snake species move in unique ways, but all need to use their full body to move forward.
A snake’s nervous system runs from its brain along its back. Therefore, if you break the snake’s back, doing so may damage its nervous system too.
Paralysis would also result in the loss of other functions. Snakes have an organ called a cloaca which is used to defecate and mate. It would lose control of this organ if it were paralyzed at some point along their back.
An animal that experiences this kind of damage will soon be the victim of a predator.
How to Tell If a Snake Has Broken Bones
The reaction of the snake depends on the snake’s temperament. Some snakes are highly aggressive when hurt or threatened, while others try to escape, and others still try to play dead. You can’t tell from their behavior.
One obvious sign is if the snake’s back is bent. A broken backbone will leave a kink in the snake’s back. This kink will stay in place even once the initial damage is healed.
If the snake is a pet snake, you can from their behavior for sure. A hurt snake hates being handled. So a snake with a broken rib, for example, would not want you to handle them. An injured snake may display signs of cage aggression where it didn’t before.
How to Tell If a Snake Has Internal Injuries
Internal injuries are, naturally, harder to spot. Damage to their organs cannot be seen, but usually occurs alongside other kinds of damage like broken bones. It’s unlikely that a snake will have internal injuries but no external injuries.
Can snakes bruise? They can, in the same way as we can. A bruise is the result of burst blood vessels, which are caused by tissue damage. Tiny capillaries under the skin burst as a result of trauma, and the blood is trapped in place.
Can Snakes Heal Themselves?
Snakes can and do heal themselves. All animals can heal, some in ways that even we can’t. When a snake is run over, it will have several kinds of injury. It is likely to have:
- Broken bones
- Damaged and flattened tissue
- Damaged organs (if their midriff was part of the accident)
Some of these kinds of damage will heal over time on their own. Damage to tissue will scab over, for example, and the snake will regenerate blood it has lost. The snake will heal eventually, but because of the severity of tissue damage, a scar will form and the area will stay flattened.
Broken bones can heal, too. A broken backbone will likely be painful for the snake, and if nerves aren’t damaged, will heal over time. The snake will have a kink in its back though, where it points in a different direction.
Damage to organs is much more difficult to heal. If your lung is punctured, for example, you could die. Something like a punctured lung or ruptured gut wouldn’t have a chance to heal.
A common misconception is that snakes can regrow their tail. Many animals can, but snakes can’t. Snakes also can’t regrow organs after they lose them, like eyes or lungs or their heart. Snakes are vulnerable creatures, especially compared to a car.
What to Do with a Hurt Snake
If you’ve accidentally killed a snake, it’s not a pleasant feeling. But even if the snake isn’t dead, there’s little you can do. There are three things you must consider:
- Stopping your car and walking out into the road could be dangerous, both to you and to other motor vehicles
- The snake is likely to be severely injured, to the point where you can’t assist it
- The snake could be a venomous species, and dangerous, even if you’re trying to help it
Given these two factors, it’s likely best for you to continue driving. Pull over the next time you get to a safe spot to ensure that no damage has been done to your car.
If you are in a position to stop shortly after hitting the snake, you could consider putting the animal out of its misery. Only do so if you can do it from a safe distance. An injured snake is still a dangerous snake.