All snakes live for longer in captivity than they do in the wild. Wild snakes have their lives cut short by predation, prey shortages, and harsh climatic conditions. But the life of a captive snake is lengthened due to safety from predators, regular feeding, optimal heat and humidity settings, access to veterinary treatment, and a clean and sterile living environment.
Garter snakes have the shortest average life expectancy, rarely surviving for more than 8-10 years in captivity. A pet corn snake will live for 15-20 years, and boa constrictors and ball pythons live for 20-30 years. The lifespan of all snakes is reduced by about 40-50% in the wild. The oldest recorded snake was a ball python that lived for 48 years.
We’ll look at the average longevity for the most common species of pet snake. We’ll compare their lifespans in the wild and captivity. We’ll also look more closely at which factors affect how long snakes live, as well as how long a snake can survive without eating food.
Table of Contents:
- 1 What Is The Average Lifespan of Snakes by Species?
What Is The Average Lifespan of Snakes by Species?
How long snakes live on average depends on two factors:
- Species of the snake: Some types of snake can live for 2-3 decades, such as the boa constrictor, whereas others, such as garter snakes, will be fortunate to reach 10 years of age.
- Captive vs. wild snakes: Pet snakes live longer than wild snakes as they aren’t predated on.
The table (below) covers how long snakes live. These numbers are averages, so the longevity of your pet snake will depend on how you care for it.
|Snake||Lifespan in Wild||Lifespan in Captivity|
|Ball Python:||10-15 Years||20-30 Years|
|Corn Snake:||6-8 Years||15-20 Years|
|California Kingsnake:||10-12 Years||15-20 Years|
|Boa Constrictor:||15-20 Years||20-30 Years|
|Garter Snake:||3-4 Years||6-10 Years|
|Western Hognose Snake:||9-12 Years||15-18 Years|
|Reticulated Python:||15-20 Years||20-25 Years|
Each snake has different care and husbandry requirements which you must meet to ensure your snake reaches its maximum age.
How Long Do Ball Pythons Live?
Ball pythons are one of the most popular species of snake kept as pets in the U.S. They’re also one of the longest-lived snake species in the world. Native to sub-Saharan Africa, ball pythons enjoy tropical climates and can thrive in captivity if treated well.
Ball Python Lifespan in Captivity
If looked after well enough, a captive ball python can live for 20-30 years. The record for the longest-living snake in captivity belongs to a male ball python that lived at the Philadelphia Zoo.
According to a bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society, he died at the ripe old age of 48. So, if you’ve ever wondered “what is the maximum lifespan of a snake?” it’s probably around that age. So, what health issues can affect a captive ball python’s lifespan?
- Heat. Because ball pythons come from Africa, they need consistent temperatures: 70-80F at the cool end and 90-95F at the warm end. Cold temperatures can result in respiratory infections, digestive issues, etc.
- Feeding. Ball pythons can be picky eaters and have been known to go “off” their food for months at a time. Any stressor, illness or husbandry issue can cause ball pythons to refuse a rodent-based meal.
Ball Python Lifespan in the Wild
In the wild, ball pythons do not live as long as they do in captivity. The lifespan of wild ball pythons averages around 10-15 years. There are many factors about a wild environment that may lead to the death of a snake. Wild ball pythons can die from:
- Predation. Birds of prey, big cats, wild pigs, etc often hunt and eat ball pythons. The smaller the snake is, the more likely it’ll be eaten.
- Hunting by humans. Native tribes in Africa frequently kill ball pythons for their meat and skins. They are also captured for export into the pet trade, and often die from stress.
- Infection. Ball pythons eat rats, which can be quite vicious. Rat bites can lead to infections which, of course, cannot be treated in the wild.
How Long Do Corn Snakes Live?
Wild corn snakes can be found in the U.S. They thrive in temperate climates and in captivity. However, they don’t live as long as ball pythons.
Corn Snake Lifespan in Captivity
A pet corn snake will live for roughly 15-20 years. As with all snakes, this depends largely on how well you treat your snake.
Corn snakes are one of the easiest types of snakes to look after. They don’t require high temperatures or much humidity, and tend to eat well. In fact, a problem with corn snakes is that they will overeat. This can lead to:
- Regurgitation issues. When corn snakes overeat, they may regurgitate their food. On rare occasions, this can cause be fatal due to inhaling stomach acid.
- Obesity. When kept in small tanks, corns don’t get the chance to exercise as much. An obese snake is not likely to live as long.
Corn Snake Lifespan in the Wild
Wild corn snakes may not live for more than 6-8 years.
Their length rarely exceeds 5 feet, and their bodies are quite slender. Because they have no venom with which to protect themselves, they are hunted and eaten by wild animals such as:
- Kingsnakes (snake-eating snakes)
- Hawks and other birds of prey
- Coyotes and wildcats
Humans also kill corn snakes, mistaking them for venomous snakes. Their orange coloration can fool people into thinking they’re copperheads.
How Long Do California Kingsnakes Live?
California kingsnakes are common in the western states. Kingsnakes are famed for their diet: they hunt other snakes, including rattlesnakes. In captivity, they can thrive on a diet of rodents.
California Kingsnake Lifespan in Captivity
California kingsnakes can live for 15-20 years in captivity. They have similar care requirements in terms of temperature and humidity. They also subsist on the same rodent-based diet. Health risks include:
- Because California kingsnakes like a slightly drier atmosphere, they can get scale rot if humidity is too high (above 60%).
- Some people choose to “adopt” California kingsnakes from the wild, as they are commonly found in yards. It can be difficult to get wild-caught California kingsnakes to eat frozen-thawed rodents. This can lead to refusal to eat and premature death.
California Kingsnake Lifespan in the Wild
In the wild, California kingsnakes tend to fare better than corn snakes. On average, they survive for 10-12 years. They risk being predated on by American wild animals (birds of prey, wild cats and canids, etc.).
- Cals can be injured or killed by their prey. As they eat other snakes, including venomous species such as rattlesnakes, the risk is high.
- Cals that live in the colder parts of the U.S., such as Oregon, are also at risk of death from low temperatures in the winter. They brumate (hibernate) to conserve body heat, but they do not always survive.
How Long Do Boa Constrictors Live?
Boa constrictors, native to South American countries such as Brazil, are some of the best-known snakes. Though they are happiest in tropical rainforests and grow to quite considerable lengths (up to 13 feet), they have become a popular pet for experienced snake keepers.
Boa Constrictor Lifespan in Captivity
In captivity, boa constrictors do extremely well. The oldest reported boa constrictor was 40 years old when he died in 1977 (again, at the Philadelphia Zoo). However, this is an extreme example. With correct care, most pet boas can reach 20 to 30 years old.
Boa constrictors are slightly harder to care for than other snakes. Some of the issues that may reduce your boa constrictor’s lifespan include:
- Humidity and heating. It can be hard for snake owners to simulate the boa’s natural environment. Letting humidity drop below 60%, or the temperature to get below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, can be fatal. It can lead to respiratory infections, regurgitation, and anorexia.
- Inclusion Body Disease (IBD). This is a common disease affecting the Boidae family of snakes. It results in neurological problems, such as loss of motor control and is fatal. According to The Veterinary Journal, over 40% of captive boa constrictors contain the virus, although not all of them will go on to develop the disease.
Boa Constrictor Lifespan in the Wild
Boa constrictors live for around 15 to 20 years in the wild. It’s uncommon for them to reach the same age that they would in captivity. This is because South American rainforests pose all sorts of dangers for these snakes.
Boa constrictors have many natural predators. These include birds of prey, reptiles (caimans) and jaguars. Juvenile boa constrictors are the most at risk of predation as they’re smaller and less able to defend themselves.
Arguably the biggest predators of boa constrictors are humans. Their skins are often harvested to create shoes, bags, and clothing.
How Long Do Garter Snakes Live?
These backyard snakes are endemic to North America and can be found in almost every contiguous state. There are many species which are referred to as “garter snakes,” and they all belong to the genus Thamnophis.
Garter Snake Lifespan in Captivity
Because garter snakes are small and are non-venomous, they make good beginner pets. Garter snakes don’t live for as long as other snakes, yet they can still live for several years if treated well.
Most captive garter snakes live for 6-10 years. Some have reached 15 years, although this is rare. These can affect the lifespan of the snake:
- Transmissible illnesses. Many people choose to keep several garter snakes in one tank as they’re social creatures, unlike most snakes. However, contagious illnesses/diseases can spread quickly.
- Fighting. Though garter snakes can live with others, they have been known to fight. Garter snakes fight over food, space, or the right to mate. Rarely, they may eat each other, especially if one is smaller. Wounds can also become infected, which can be fatal.
Garter Snake Lifespan in the Wild
Garter snakes in the wild do not live very long lives. The average lifespan of a wild garter snake is just 3-4 years. This is usually due to:
- Fighting with other garter snakes
- Predation by various birds, mammals, and other snakes
- Failing to survive very cold winters. Garter snakes are well adapted to harsh winters and can survive freezing temperatures for at least two days, according to a study in Cryo-Letters. However, younger snakes are not able to handle cold weather as well as adults. Though they brumate (hibernate) in large groups, this is not always enough.
How Long Do Western Hognose Snakes Live?
Western hognose snakes are commonly kept as pets due to their small size, unique appearance, and placid temperaments.
They are identifiable by their upturned “snout,” which they use for digging around in the sandy soil, in search of prey. Western hognose snakes are native to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Western Hognose Snake Lifespan in Captivity
You can expect a well taken care of Western hognose to live for 15 to 18 years. Females are larger than males, but have an equal lifespan. Some of the issues of keeping your Western hognose include:
- Feeding. Some hognose snakes are only interested in frogs and toads and have a hard time adjusting to a diet of mice. Wild-caught toads can carry dangerous parasites.
- Burrowing. Western hognoses burrow in their substrate. This can result in ingesting or inhaling substrate, which can be fatal.
- Humidity. If the moisture in your hognose’s enclosure is too high, this can result in problems such as scale rot.
Western Hognose Snake Lifespan in the Wild
In the wild, hognose snakes live between 9 and 12 years. They can live longer than other small American snakes due to their elaborate defense mechanisms.
When threatened, hognose snakes “play dead” by rolling onto their backs and secreting a foul-smelling musk. This dissuades predators.
When this dramatic display fails, hognoses are preyed upon by the same animals that threaten the other U.S. native snakes. This includes birds of prey, wild cats, and larger snakes.
How Long Do Reticulated Pythons Live?
Reticulated pythons, native to Southeast Asia, are famed for being one of the largest snakes in the world. They can reach lengths of 20 feet or more.
Reticulated Python Lifespan in Captivity
Reticulated pythons (or retics) have an impressive lifespan that matches their length. It is not unusual for a retic to live for 20 to 25 years, or even longer, in captive care. Of course, this does depend on the level of care that is provided. Pay particular attention to:
- Reticulated pythons start off small, but grow large within the first few years. Many retic owners are not prepared for just how big their snake is going to become. Keeping a reticulated python in a vivarium which is too small can result in stress. They are active, inquisitive snakes that need space and enrichment activities.
- As reticulated pythons grow, they become too large for rats. Fully grown retics often do best on a diet of chickens and rabbits.
Reticulated Python Lifespan in the Wild
There’s not much that preys on adult reticulated pythons. Even the babies are at least 2 feet long. Retics can easily survive for 15-20 years in the dangerous Southeast Asian wilderness.
Hatchlings and juveniles can be preyed upon by birds of prey, big cats, king cobras, etc. However, once retics become adults, they are apex predators.
Reticulated pythons are still vulnerable to predation by humans. Like boa constrictors and ball pythons, reticulated python skins are used in the fashion industry.