Watersnake With Possible Retained Eye Cap

June 27, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

I came across a Watersnake with a possible retained eye cap while at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma. I had no idea what was wrong with this snakes eye and had to do some research when I got home. I read that snakes do not have eyelids like we have but instead they have specially adapted scales over their eyes called eye caps (also known as spectacles) to protect their eyes. These eye caps are normally shed off along with the skin of a snake during their normal shed cycle, but sometimes the caps do not come off properly and snakes get retained eye caps. The retained eye caps can cause problems for the snake.

I also read that snake mites or infections of the eye or surrounding tissues may contribute to retained eye caps.

I was able to get very close to this Watersnake as long as I stayed on the side with the bad eye. As soon as I moved around to the other side the snake took off quickly into the brush.

Watersnake - 052117-3573Watersnake - 052117-3573Watersnake - Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge - Oklahoma


Snake Skin Facts

  • The shedding of scales is called ecdysis (or in normal usage, molting or sloughing). In the case of snakes, the complete outer layer of skin is shed in one layer.
  • Snake scales are not discrete, but extensions of the epidermis—hence they are not shed separately but as a complete outer layer during each molt, akin to a sock being turned inside out.
  • Snakes’ eyes are covered by their clear scales (the brille) rather than movable eyelids. Their eyes are always open, and for sleeping, the retina can be closed or the face buried among the folds of the body.


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