How do you sex snakes?

There is no distinctive difference in coloration which makes it easy to sex snakes, although in certain cases, the shape of the tail provides a useful guide, being thicker and longer in males. Generally though, it is necessary to probe the snake to determine its gender. The snake’s copulatory organs, known as the hemipenes, are evident as a slight swelling behind the opening of the vent, being everted when mating occurs. There is a distinct difference in the length of these organs in the male, compared with the female.

If you have not probed a snake before, get an expert to show you how to do this, because otherwise, you could easily cause serious injury. In the first instance, you need to choose the right diameter of probe. These are available from specialist suppliers, with both synthetic and stainless steel probes available. You will also need a lubricant such as petroleum jelly, to facilitate the passage of the probe into the snake’s body.

Probing requires the snake to be adequately restrained, so the probe can be passed through the vent into the hemipenes, so it is a two-person task. It will extent much further internally into the body of a male compared with a female, typically up to 10 scales rather than just reaching the first two or three from the vent.