What pet snake has the shortest lifespan?

pet snake shortest lifespan

No matter the species, how well-behaved or naughty a pet may be, people can’t help but become attached to their animal companions and hope that they’ll live a long time. Reptile lovers are no exception and are just as inclined to wonder about the lifespan of their pets. But wondering which pet snake has the shortest lifespan—or which one has the longest—isn’t just a question rooted in sentiment. It can be an important determinant in deciding whether a certain snake species is a practical choice for your lifestyle. In this article, we’ll cover a few of the most popular pet snake that has the shortest lifespan.  

The Average Lifespan of a Snake

Reptiles tend to have a reputation of living a long time and far outlasting their more traditional pet counterparts (i.e. cats and dogs), but ultimately, how long snakes live depends on the particular species. As a whole, snakes tend to have an average lifespan of about 15-40 years—that’s a pretty big range!

The reason the lifespan range is so large is that there are dozens upon dozens of snake species that are kept as pets and lifespan can vary greatly by the particular species. Between these many pet snake species available, the differences between a snake’s lifespan can vary from a couple of years to potentially outliving their owner. 

The Difference of Wild vs. Captive

A snakes’ species is not the only factor that will determine how long that snake will live. One of the most impactful factors is whether it is captive-bred or wild-caught. A captive-bred snake means that it has been born and raised in captivity and never lived in the wild. These types of snakes are often much better accustomed to people and therefore are the easiest to tame, the most pleasant to keep around, and overall tend to be much healthier (often due to selective breeding). For this reason, captive-bred snakes live much longer than their wild-caught counterparts, sometimes as much as several decades!  

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Popular Pet Snake Lifespans (From Longest to Shortest)

In general, snakes aren’t considered to be short-term pets. However, there are a few whose lifespans are on the shorter side and tend to average less than a decade. Keep in mind that a pet snake with the shortest lifespan can still be a considerable commitment and there are plenty of instances where a pet snake lived well beyond its estimated lifetime. 

Red-Tailed Boa (Boa Constrictor)

The most commonly kept type of boa, the red-tailed boa is a large snake with a lifespan to match. These snakes are native to Colombia and live about 20 years in the wild. In captivity, they can easily live upwards of 30. 

Ball Python 

One of the most popular pet snake options for both beginners and experienced pet owners alike, ball pythons have an impressive lifespan for such a small snake. In captivity, these beloved snakes live about 30 years. However, they are a hearty species so don’t be surprised if your pet ball pythons live far longer. The record for the world’s oldest snake is held by a 62-year-old ball python held at the St Louis Zoo.

California Kingsnake

This popular beginner snake belongs to a class of snakes called colubrids that houses several other popular pet snake species. However, the California kingsnake has nearly double the average lifespan of its counterparts, with a captive snake averaging between 20 and 30 years.

Milk Snake

A popular colubrid, milk snakes can live up to 20 years in captivity, although their life span tends to average between 10-12 years. In the wild, they’re known to live about 15 years.

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Kenyan Sand Boa

A snake rapidly growing in popularity, these snakes are rather small, rarely extending beyond 30 inches. Despite their small stature, they have an impressive lifespan of around 15-20 years. 

Corn Snake

These mind-mannered snakes are one of the most widely kept by beginners. These snakes have the shortest lifespan of a pet snake but are still pretty considerable. In captivity, a corn snake will live about 10-15 years. In the wild, their lifespan is drastically shorter and is between 6-8 years.

Why Knowing Snake Lifespan Is Helpful

If you are in the market to buy a new pet snake, before you browse available snakes for sale, it’s important to have an idea of just how long your new pet snake will be around. Unfortunately, many snakes end up being surrendered or abandoned because owners were unprepared for either the time commitment or their size. Snakes are indeterminate growers that never stop growing, meaning that your long-life snake has the potential to get very large—and something that every snake owner must account for. For a fun (and responsible) snake-owning experience, always be sure to ask a breeder about the expected lifespan of the snake you plan on purchasing.

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