Can Snakes Really Come Up a Toilet Pipe?

By: Bambi Turner  | 

snake in drain
Some people love snakes, but no doubt anyone would be frightened by finding an unwelcome one in their toilet, or slithering over to the shower drain. Rhoberazzi/Getty Images

Snakes are often high on the list of things adults are most afraid of. So, imagine the reaction to a snake slithering its way up out of your toilet, particularly when you're about to sit down.

If even the thought of toilet snakes sends chills down your spine, take heart; while it's certainly possible for a snake to end up in your toilet, it's extraordinarily unlikely. The very reason that these stories make headlines is that they are so very rare, and so shiver-inducing [source: Wickman].

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In 2010, newspapers devoted column space to the story of a 3-foot (0.9-meter) corn snake found in a 19th-floor toilet in New York City. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, herpetologist – that's a snake expert – Jack Conrad agreed that it was "within the realm of possibility" that the snake made its way up through the pipes. He cited the fact that snakes are good swimmers who can hold their breath for a long time, and are well capable of swimming upward and squeezing through tight spaces if needed [source: El-Ghobashy]. Comforting, right?

Fortunately, there's no guarantee that this snake traveled through the pipes at all. It may have gotten in some other way and simply curled up in the toilet to relax. In 2018, a North Carolina man found a snake in his toilet that he believed came out of a tree and into a ventilation pipe on the roof of his home [source: Inside Edition]. Not exactly a soothing thought, but better than imagining a snake entering through the pipes every time nature calls.

Many of the snakes found in toilets are simply not native to the areas where they were found. It's much more likely that they escaped or were liberated by owners who no longer wanted them then that a nest of nonnative snakes is setting up home in a sewer pipe [source: Vettel].

But what would it take for a snake to enter your home through the toilet? First, it'd have to get in to the sewer pipe, which almost surely means you have a close neighbor who doesn't keep a close eye on his scaly pet, sharing a sewer line with you. Then it'd have to choose to enter the toilet and head for the sewer line. Instead of proceeding straight out of the line and into the sewer main, he's have to randomly choose your sewer pipe to enter by crawling upward, where his journey would end inside your toilet.

If the snake were to skip your sewer pipe and continue into the sewer main, he'd likely die of exposure [source: Vettel]. Thanks to relatively low temperatures below the ground where these pipes are located, most snakes would be unable to survive for long periods, making it extremely unlikely that they could set up homes in the sewers as some alligators have managed to do.

Thought of toilet snakes giving you the heebie-jeebies? Invest in a multi-flap, which fits over your toilet pipe and allows water and waste to exit while keeping critters of all shapes and sizes from entering your space.

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Originally Published: Mar 13, 2019

Snakes Come Up Toilet FAQ

Why do snakes come inside?
Snakes tend to enter a building for one of two reasons: food or temperature. Since they’re cold-blooded, they may enter a house when they’re looking for a cool or damp area during the day or a warm place at night. They may also come inside when they’re on the hunt for prey, such as mice and rats. They typically attempt to enter basements, attics, cellars and crawl spaces.
Do snakes come out of toilets in Australia?
Yes, but it’s not common. Sometimes snakes will swim up through the pipes or enter a bathroom through an open window or door and coil up in a toilet bowl in search of a place to cool down during the hot, dry summers. However, this doesn’t really happen in urban areas.
What are the chances of a snake coming out of the toilet?
The chances of finding a snake in your toilet are extremely low. The rarity of this is the exact reason why these incidents make newspaper headlines.
Can snakes come up drain pipes?
Yes, they can, though it isn’t common. While snakes are good swimmers and can hold their breath for a long time, they don’t often infiltrate your home via the pipes.
What do I do if there's a snake in my toilet?
First, take a deep breath and shut the toilet lid. Keep in mind that flushing is not going to do you any good. Since the snake will need to be removed and relocated, it’s best to call an expert. If you rent, call your landlord immediately. If you own your home, call your local SPCA if they have a wildlife division or a pest control company.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Brewer, Geoffrey. "Snakes Top List of Americans' Fears." Gallup, Inc. March 19, 2001. (Oct. 16, 2014). http://www.gallup.com/poll/1891/snakes-top-list-americans-fears.aspx
  • El-Ghobashy, Tamar. "Snake Pops Up in the Bronx." The Wall Street Journal." Sept. 22, 2010. (Oct. 16, 2014) http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703399404575506362658574270
  • Vettel, Phil "Just When You Thought It Was Safe – A Toilet Snake!" Chicago Tribune. Nov. 16, 1986. (Oct. 16, 2014) http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-11-16/features/8603260180_1_milk-snake-snake-in-the-toilet-python
  • Wickman, Forrest. "A Brief History of Toilet-Based Animal Attacks." Slate. July 16, 2013. (Oct. 16, 2014) http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/07/16/snake_bites_man_s_penis_from_toilet_bowl_a_brief_history_of_when_rats_snakes.html

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