There are no universal distinguishing features that separate venomous from non-venomous snakes. People must learn to identify the dangerous species of snakes in their areas or the areas they plan on visiting.
Non-venomous snakes have teeth, just like the venomous variety. So even in the case of a bite from a non-venomous snake, care should be given to watch for infections, as with any small injury. Bites from large non-venomous snakes can also be devastating - some large python and boas are able to cause massive lacerations requiring urgent medical care.
Our advice: It’s best to leave all snakes alone, just like any wildlife. They have their place in nature and would certainly prefer to leave us alone as well.
How They Kill
Many non-venomous snakes constrict their prey. Constriction is not a bone breaking experience like we often see in the movies. A snake will strike out to bite its prey, throw a couple of coils around it and begin to squeeze. Two things generally happen: every time the animal (prey) exhales, the snake will squeeze tighter. Eventually, the animal will not be able to inhale.
However, there is so much power behind the coils that most animals typically die from heart failure because so much pressure is being applied to the chest cavity that the heart doesn’t have any room to continue beating. Death is very rapid, and in most cases takes less than a minute.
- Coiled Ball Python
- Rattle in Motion
All snakes possess teeth that can be used in defensive bites. Most snakes rely on camouflage to avoid being seen, others coil up in a tight ball with the head in the middle, some rattle the tail, and a few rub their scales together to produce a rasping “leave me alone” sound, but almost all will flee if given even the slightest opportunity.
Types of Non-Venomous Snakes
- Garter Snake
- Red Rat Snake
- Emerald Tree Boa
- Western Hognose
- California Kingsnake
Most of the world’s snakes are what are referred to as clinically non-venomous. This means they do not produce a toxin that is clinically significant to people. However, many harmless-to-humans snakes, like Hognose snakes, Garter snakes and Rat snakes for example, do produce toxins that are scientifically or technically venomous.
Boas, pythons, bullsnakes and kingsnakes are examples of truly non-venomous snake species.
Learn more about Burmese Pythons
Photo taken circa 1955 at Reptile Gardens - a huge reticulated python