– THREE LAYERS
The first and clear outer layer of skin is
shed (molted) as the snake grows.
The second layer is composed of many
overlapping, protective “keeled” scales.
The third layer of skin is thick and
contains the pigment that gives the
snake its pattern.
Prior to shedding, the snake will look very dull or grey due to a milky
liquid between the old and new layers of skin. This appearance is most
noticeable as a grey or whitish colour in the spectacle scales that
cover the eyes. The snake will begin shedding by rubbing its head
against hard objects until the
dead skin splits. As the snake moves, the skin is gradually peeled from
the body. The old skin will be left behind after shedding. Once the
shedding process has finished, the snake will appear shiny and clean.
Massasaugas may shed their skin one to three times yearly, depending on
various factors affecting their growth (age, food availability, and
A keeled scale is one that
has a raised ridge along the scale’s mid-line, giving the snake a rough
or textured appearance.
Snakes often begin to shed their skin by
rubbing their face against a hard surface. As
the snake moves along the ground or hard
object, the skin will be pulled off.