Can Snakes Climb Walls or Stairs? (And How Can They Even Do It?)

Have you seen the pictures of the snakes going up the walls, especially in Australia and India? These huge snakes seem to be excellent climbers, otherwise, how else could they have gotten there?

Okay, the question of whether they can climb stuff is kind of important for your safety and for the snake’s safety as well, so I did some research, asked a few experts, and here is what I’ve found out.

So, can snakes climb walls or stairs? Snakes can climb rough stone and brick walls but not smooth walls as snakes can’t stick to the surface as insects and lizards do, and snakes can climb up some stairs if the snake has enough body length to push itself upwards, but climbing up stairs and walls is difficult on snakes in general.

Snakes are not the best climbers, and not all snakes can climb surfaces, and even those that can do it only do it when they need to.

In this article, we are going to discuss what can snakes climb, how can they climb it, and what to do if you want to prevent snakes from climbing up the walls or the stairs and into your house, so keep reading.

How can snakes climb?

snakes climbing brick wall to show how can snakes climb walls or stairs

Insects and lizards stick to walls, and that’s how they can climb up vertical surfaces with ease, but this is not the case for snakes.

So, how can snakes climb? Snakes can climb basically the same they move, but upwards instead of forwards or backward. (you can learn how snakes move backward here)

Snakes climb by bending and flexing their entire tubular bodies. Their polished bellies may appear to be unsuited for climbing, but they slide over rough tree bark with ease. They would have caused friction and slowed the snakes’ advancement if they had been rough.

The texture of a tree’s trunk varies, ranging from smooth to rough. Some snakes are defeated by smooth tree trunks and walls that lack a grip. Western rat snakes avoid climbing smooth-barked trees across North America because they avoid going up trees with smoother bark.

The South Pacific’s northern brown tree snakes are among the world’s greatest climbers. They snuck onto ships during World War II and invaded Guam as stowaways.

Their numbers grew unchecked due to the absence of predators. There is no part of the island where they are not present. Native avian and mammal species have already been destroyed by them.

What snakes can climb walls?

Some snakes can climb, although not all snakes do so for a reason.

Snakes may be classified as either active hunters or ambush predators. Snakes that pursue their prey will follow whatever scent they are given. It’s possible the snake could scale a wall due to this.

Snakes in the family of vipers, however, lie in wait for prey to come by. These snakes are less inclined to scale buildings than ambush snakes.

Snakes that hunt for food are typically thin-bodied and quick. As a result, they’re exceptional climbers. These are some of the best snakes that can climb walls, stairs, and other surfaces:

  • Rat snakes (and corn snakes)
  • Kingsnakes
  • Milk snakes
  • Garter snakes
  • Racers (e.g. black racers)
  • Hognose snakes

Ambush snakes are generally sluggish moving and hefty-bodied. Due to their weight, they are less likely to scale walls. They also don’t have as much of a desire to, since they don’t pursue food.

However, if a snake is seeking warmth or pursuing a mate, it may attempt to scale a wall.

Do Most snakes climb?

No, most snakes can’t climb walls or stairs. In fact, only a small percentage of snakes can actually do it.

There are three factors that determine whether a snake can scale surfaces: the species of snake, its size, and where it lives. Some snakes live in habitats with plenty of vertical surfaces to climb, while others don’t.

Smaller snakes can climb better than larger snakes, because they have a greater surface area-to-volume ratio and can more easily wrap around objects.

Some snake species are better climbers than others. For example, the brown tree snake is an excellent climber, while the king cobra is not.

Can Snakes climb high walls?

No, snakes can’t climb high walls. Walls that are too smooth or vertical present a challenge for snakes and most can’t scale them.

The only snakes that can climb high walls are thin-bodied, quick hunters. These include rat snakes, kingsnakes, milk snakes, garter snakes, and racers.

Even then, not all snakes in these groups can climb.

Snakes that live in trees or other habitats with plenty of vertical surfaces are more likely to be able to climb walls and stairs.

Can Snakes climb stairs?

Some snakes can climb some stairs, but this depends on many factors, such as the surface roughness of the staircase, the height of the step, and the length of the snake itself.

In this case, the snake would not be able to climb in the manner you think of. It isn’t climbing up the staircase by gripping its way along it. This is also a problem that it would have with the wall. To be able to do so, it doesn’t have sufficient grip or traction.

The secrets to its ability to climb stairs are in the strength of its incredible muscles, which allow it to move rapidly. You know how a snake moves when you’ve seen it slither along the ground. It contracts its body and then extends to go forward or backward, which is a very ingenious technique for moving quickly and with force across the ground.

Similarly, the snake may use this technique to get up the stairwell. Instead of crawling on the ground, the muscles allow the snake to raise a portion of its body and then push forward onto the step above it. This allows the snake to climb from one step to the next by using its body in a similar manner that it would while crawling.

Here is a short video showing a ball python moving up the stairs

A snake can only do this if it has enough length throughout its body to travel from one step to the next. If the distance between two steps was let’s say 10 inches, and the snake was only 12 inches long, this would not be enough body length for the snake to push up and keep its entire weight on the higher step in order to grab the next step up above it.

In this case, if a snake can’t make it to the top of a flight of stairs because there is not enough body length for them to be able to climb from one stair to another, they would only go as high as their bodies can allow and then stop climbing once they can no longer move forward.

In most cases, though, a snake is much more likely to slither down the staircase than to go upwards. Snakes are very reluctant to expend their limited energy, and moving up the stairs will take a lot of energy that they would rather save by moving down the stairs than moving up them.

Why would snakes climb up the stairs or walls?

The only reasons a snake would climb up walls, stairs, or tree trunks are:

  • To hunt prey (such as rats or mice in your attic)
  • To find a mate
  • To find safety

Snakes are not big fans of exploring new places since snakes don’t have a memory anyway, and they are likely to try to go in the holes in your wall to hide away from you and your pets (since snakes are afraid of pets, especially dogs)

Can Snakes climb brick walls?

Snakes can climb brick walls, and it’s probably the easiest surface for snakes to climb because they can slither through the holes where the brick meets the soffit and then go from one hole to the next using these gaps to push themselves using their core muscles.

Can Snakes climb glass windows?

Some snakes can climb some glass windows, but this depends on many factors, such as the surface roughness of the window and the height of the window.

In this case, the snake would not be able to climb in the manner you think of. It can’t grip on as it moves up and down the glass pane with its body like a sticky gecko can do or run across an entire pane of glass from end to end as is portrayed in movies sometimes. The reason for this is that snakes lack toe pads or claws like a gecko has.

The secrets to its ability to climb glass windows are in the strength of its incredible muscles, which allow it to move rapidly across the entire window.

Can Snakes climb wire mesh?

Snakes can climb wire mesh, but this depends on the size of the holes in the wire and how wet it is.

In a dry environment with small enough wires for a snake to get its body through, snakes can go up vertical surfaces at any angle because they can make their muscles contract or expand as necessary to adjust themselves and keep their grip.

What about in a wet environment?

In a wet environment with large holes in the wire mesh, snakes can only climb if they can get their body through one of the holes and then use their muscles to grip onto the wire from there. If they can’t do this, then they will slip down the surface of the wire.

Can snakes climb trees?

Some snakes can climb some trees, but this depends on the size of the tree and the type of bark that is on the tree.

In general, though, it’s very hard for a snake to climb a tree because they can’t grip onto anything with their body as they move up, and they can’t use their tail to help them grip like lizards can.

The only way a snake can climb a tree is if it’s very small and the bark is very smooth. Even then, it would be difficult for the snake to move up the tree because of its lack of toe pads or claws.

What about fences? Can Snakes climb fences?

Some snakes can climb fences, but most can’t. Fences present less of a challenge for snakes because they can wrap around the stakes and slats.

The only snakes that can climb fences are thin-bodied, quick hunters. These include rat snakes, kingsnakes, milk snakes, garter snakes, and racers.

Even then, not all snakes in these groups can climb a fence. Snakes can’t go up smooth or vertical surfaces, like walls.

Snakes can’t climb roofs. Most can’t climb trees either, because the bark is too smooth and they don’t have any claws to grip with.

Can snakes go up toilets?

No, it’s impossible for a snake to go up a toilet without breaking it first. The slats on the toilet are too close together for a snake to get through.

Plus, snakes can’t climb up smooth surfaces. Even if they could fit through the slats, they wouldn’t be able to make it up the slippery sides.

What about down drains?

It’s possible for a snake to go down a drain, but it’s unlikely.

Drainpipes are usually too small for a snake to fit through and they can’t climb up smooth surfaces.

However, there have been cases of snakes getting stuck in drains. If a snake does get stuck, the best thing to do is call a professional to remove it.

Can Snakes climb cement walls?

Snakes can climb cement walls, but it’s very difficult.

The easiest way for a snake to climb up a wall is by using its body and pushing against the block of the wall with its muscles.

A snake can only push itself up if there are enough gaps in between each block. If they can’t get any leverage on the blocks, they can’t climb the wall.

In most cases, snakes won’t bother trying to climb a cement wall because it’s too difficult and takes a lot of energy. They would rather find an easier way up, like using trees or fences.

Helpful Resources

Effects of perch diameter and incline on the kinematics, performance and modes of arboreal locomotion of corn snakes (Elaphe guttata) 

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