So, let's say you're thinking of getting a snake or got one recently. You may already know what to feed your new reptile and have the perfect enclosure for it. But you may still wonder if your pet is a male or a female, and we're here to help you know the difference between them.
Knowing if a snake is a she or a he is tricky since there's only a significant difference between both sexes. The shape and length of the tail are what separate males from females. How? Well, males have thicker, longer tails that seem to get thinner at the end abruptly.
Yet, depending on the species, it may be more challenging to tell whether a snake is a boy or a girl. So, how can you know for sure? We have the answer and more in this post!
As we mentioned before, you can, for the most part, tell if a snake's a boy or a girl by paying close attention to its tail.
As a rule of thumb, male snakes have longer and thicker tells that seem to get thinner almost out of nowhere.
Meanwhile, a female snake tends to have a slimmer, shorter tail that gets thinner in a more even way up to the tip.
That said, depending on the species, it may be harder to notice any difference between tails.
You would also need to have both a male and a female compare them when they're side to side in an enclosure. And, let us tell you, you should only have snakes of the opposite sex together during mating season. Otherwise, your two pets may end up hurting each other, and, in the worst-case scenario, one could die.
Still, if you only bought one snake and no one at the pet store told you what is sex was, this method may not be that helpful. Luckily, there's another one, but it'll take more than only staring at your reptile's tail.
So, let's take a look at the more advanced way to tell if a snake is a male or a female.
Probing consists of inserting a metal instrument into a snake's cloacal vent. The goal of probing is, of course, to determine the reptile's sex. Why? Because this part of a male snake's body hosts its hemipenes.
Let us explain. Every male snake has two hemipenes that are, well, its penises.
To be specific, there's one hemipenis on each side of the cloacal vent of a male snake.
Thus, a male snake's tail is thicker and longer: it needs more space to hold both hemipenes.
But is there a proper probing technique? Yes, there is. You need to move the lubricated metal instrument down the cloacal vent carefully. You have to move the tool in the tail's end direction but do it slowly.
If your snake is a female, there won't be much room to move since they only have space for small scent glands.
Meanwhile, if your pet's a boy, you'll notice you can slide the tool down several scales.
Yet, this process doesn't guarantee that you'll know whether your snake is a male or a female. Sometimes, you may not move the tool enough or won't notice there's more space. Thus, you could assume your pet is a girl.
Sometimes, you can opt for popping, which consists of exposing a hemipenis on purpose. Think of this technique as a “controlled” prolapse that will show if your snake’s a boy in a very visual way.
Thus, you need to be extra careful if you decide that popping is how you will determine the sex of your snake. You need to have someone to help you hold the snake still, or it could be a traumatic experience for the reptile.
So, please get help from someone with experience.
For example, you could ask someone at your local exotic pet trade or tell your veterinarian.
Otherwise, you could end up causing damage to the snake and not having any answers in the end.
If a hemipenis pop, an experienced person will also know what to do to put it back in without causing the pet more pain.
It's also safer to use this method on young, smaller snakes. An adult snake could be more difficult to hold still and may get very aggressive.
That said, it would be better if you wait until your snake's familiar with you and its enclosure. By waiting, you may cause less stress to your pet.
Although you may be curious to know whether your snake is a male or a female, be careful. It would be best if you didn't give probing a try unless you are an experienced reptile owner. This method can cause a lot of stress to your pet, so you'll need help, professional if possible.
The easiest way to know the sex of your snake would be to have a male and a female of the same species. Then, you can compare their tails and spot their differences.
Also, unless you're planning to breed snakes, knowing the sex of your pet won't make any difference. You can give a gender-neutral name to your reptile; it won't understand it, anyway.
Yet, if you're only thinking about getting a snake, you could ask if it's a boy or a girl at the pet store.
Having a female or a male snake isn't that different. Regardless of the sex, the behavior of these reptiles depends more on the species.
Likewise, the time of the year also influences the way both males and females act. For example, when it's shedding its skin, your snakes can get aggressive, whether your pet's a boy or a girl.
So, it doesn't matter if your first snake is a female or a male. But, if you're planning to breed snakes in the future, you may want to ask the sex of the reptile when you buy it.
Then, you could get a snake of the opposite sex the next time.
That said, there's a critical difference between getting a female or a male snake: the price.
Breeders are often looking for females, especially when the mating season approaches. As a result, females are more expensive than males, so you need to consider your budget when getting a snake.
Also, exotic pet stores can sometimes "run out" of female snakes. Breeders buy females on bulks, which is as wrong as it sounds.
There are reports of female snakes laying eggs in captivity without males involved. In particular, ball phytons, which are popular pet snakes, can sometimes reproduce asexually.
This peculiarity receives the name of facultative parthenogenesis. This term refers to when a female can reproduce and have viable offsprings without a male.
Facultative parthenogenesis is uncommon both in the wild and in captivity. So, you should not expect to be getting baby snakes if you buy a female pet.
But, you never know, you could get a female pet that's been saving sperm from a previous mating season. Unlikely, but not impossible!
After all, allegedly, a 62 years old ball phyton lay eggs without being in touch with males for, at least, two decades. And some people dare to say that they don't believe in miracles!
Yet, since you'll likely get a pet baby snake, the chances of asexual reproduction are minimal.
Unless you decide to get an adult female, which we would not recommend. Why? Because it’s better to get the reptile time to adjust to its enclosure and your presence as it grows. It's also fascinating watching a snake shed its skin and reach its maturity, trust us.