You are here:

Reptiles/Is my Snake Dead or just hibernating?


QUESTION: I have a pet snake, a bull snake, that I caught and have owned for 2 years. He has always been a good eater and very active. He started slowing down at the beginning of this week, which I thought was caused because I had waited longer than usual to feed him. I bought some mice for him (I always give him frozen mice which I defrost) and put them in his cage as usual. He ate one, but took a lot longer than usual to find it and a long time to swallow it. He wouldn't eat the other one, which is unusual for him. The morning after I fed him, I went to check on him. He had regurgitated the mouse and was unresponsive but not stiff. He was like a limp fish, not stiff but not responding to me picking him up. I was pretty sure that he was dead, though if you just looked at him he would not appear to be deceased, but I decided to wait for rigamortis to set in so that I could be sure. He is cold to the touch and his cage is not very warm either (although it has never been an issue before). I have waited for over 24 hours, but he still has not stiffened at all. His stomach has also turned green. I am relatively sure he is dead, but I know that there could be a possibility that he is hibernating. How can I be sure?

ANSWER: Hello Rachel,

Oh my, how horrible that must look!
If his tummy has turned green, it doesn't sound very good at all.  Do you not see any signs of breathing at all?
Where did you get the mice, they were frozen thawed, correct?  Was it warm enough for him to eat?
I hate to you have any pictures you could show?

I am so sorry, this is never fun to have to go through.  
I honestly don't think it sounds like hibernation/brumation though.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Drake\'s back
Drake's back  

Drake\'s belly
Drake's belly  
QUESTION: My snake's name is Drake. He is not showing any signs of breathing and he does not react at all when put on his back. The mice I buy from Petco and petsmart and I have never had any problems with them before. I always check the mice to make sure they are defrosted thoroughly before feeding them to him. I have another snake in a different terrarium that I also fed that same night with mice from the same place and he had no problems; he ate his mice quickly and is still doing well. His cage is the same temperature as Drake's, so I do not think that that was the issue. Although Drake's cage has been a bit chilly lately, but not anymore chilly than his usual December cage temperature. I caught him near my house, so I know that he is most likely we'll adapted to the weather outside, and his cage is definitely not that cold. I just took some pictures which I attached so that you can see what he looks like. Thank you so much for your assistance and for your quick response.

Hello Rachel,

I am thinking now, that he may have had liver failure.  I have only seen that type of greenish marking/coloring once & I believe it was liver related.
The only true way to determine 100% would be to do an autopsy, unfortunately.  I am so sorry.  I am not sure what could have happened, unless he has had a bad liver for awhile.  I don't think there could have been anything wrong with the mouse that you fed him since your other snake was fine with the other one.
Can you get him in the freezer until you can get him to a vets for analysis, if you are positive there is no life left?  Even when you hold him, he isn't breathing?

I am so sorry that this has happened to him.  Drake was a great looking snake, very nice markings.



All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Tracie Kretzschmar


I can answer questions pertaining to health, UVB specifics, overall husbandry care & supplementation, analysis of blood test results, and behavioral problems & handling. I can answer questions pertaining to bearded dragons, leopard geckos, iguanas, uromastyx & ball pythons. I can answer adeno virus related questions in bearded dragons, & then specifically about the testing methods as well. I am beginning an Pogona Adeno Testing Society in 2008 which will help to begin to start some standardization within the bearded dragon colonies of the breeders who choose to test.


I have been working with bearded dragons for over 5 years now, as well as leopard geckos, too. I am currently doing rescues, as well. I hope to be able to educate people prior to them purchasing an exotic pet in order to avoid any health crisis with them.

I have a master's degree in sports medicine & physiology, & 1 year of vet tech schooling, & am currently working on a reptile certification through the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.

©2016 All rights reserved.