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May 21, 2013  |  Kerby Ross

I believe that the reptile phase of taxidermy is the least understood. Sure we can go on the computer and “google” reptile images, but how you interpret those pictures will determine the difference in your reptile mounts.  As with any mount the focus starts with the eyes. Unfortunately the taxidermy supply catalogs offer very few accurate reptile eyes.

Snake eyes vary from species to species and are very unique. We have been taught some misnomers like venomous snakes have slit pupils and non-venomous snakes have round pupils.  That is not the case at all. Rattlesnake pupils dilate much like human pupils.  At night rattlesnake pupils expand to allow light in so they can see.  The darker the night the more round their pupil becomes.  During daylight the pupils are trying to restrict the amount of light and therefore the pupils constrict to a slit shape.  And there are 

Snake Eyes - Reference

numerous species of non-venomous snakes that have slit pupils.  Here in Arizona the lyre (pronounced “liar”) snake, the sonoran night snake and the rosy boa all have slit pupils.   The venomous coral snake has round pupils.


On most species of rattlesnakes their eye color is the same color as their ocular stripe color, the stripe that goes through the eye.  Snake eyes can move independently but rarely do,  so symmetry is important.  Rattlesnake pupils are closer to the top of the eye orbit and can be covered by the supra ocular scale but rarely ever touch the bottom of the eye orbit. When a rattlesnake lifts its head the pupils will remain perpendicular to the ground.  There is an obvious limit to this. Snakes do not have eye lids instead they have a scale (brille scale) that covers the eye.  When a snake sheds this scale is sloughed along with the rest of the skin.

The supra ocular scale on rattlesnakes differ between species.  The northern blacktail rattlesnake has a small supra ocular scale whereas the sidewinder has a pronounced supra ocular scale, almost making it look like horns.

Rattlesnake eyes are not sunken in but should be quite visible when viewed from the side and the top.  The white part of the eye can be seen either in the front or the rear of the eye depending upon what the snake is doing.  Some species of snakes like the gray band king snake have eyes that stick out quite a bit.  Some species of snakes have eyes that are closer to the top of their head with the eyes looking upward.  There is no tear duct, eye lid or nictitating membrane on snakes. Other reptiles do though.

The UTA grew from the need for unity and professionalism within the taxidermy industry.  In art, unity occurs when all of the elements combine to make a balanced, harmonious, complete whole.  The UTA creates that unity, a place for all individuals to come together for the betterment of the industry and those that support it.

It’s no coincidence that the UTA starts with You!  Be a part of the most positive new force in taxidermy.  Join the United Taxidermist Association today.  www.unitedtaxidermyassociation.com