Venomous snakes are reptiles that produces a toxin in a specialized gland and possesses a specific venom delivery system, typically injected through fangs upon biting prey.
Many of the world's venomous snakes have venom that is straightforward and “easy” to treat effectively with the proper antivenoms - Mamba bites, for example. Other species may cause a clinical explosion of problems for which antivenoms are not very effective - some rattlesnake bites are this way.
Most Deadly vs. Most Dangerous
It is important to keep in mind when discussing venomous snakes that the "most deadly" snake and the "most dangerous" snake are two entirely different concepts.
Some of the snakes with the most toxic venom – in other words, more deadly - rarely bite people. For instance, the deadliest sea snakes are generally quite docile. The Inland Taipan, the snake with the deadliest venom, has never killed anyone on record. On the other hand, the snakes that kill the most people (most dangerous) have “mild” venoms compared to other venomous snakes.
The Cottonmouth and Copperhead
Many people believe the Cottonmouth and the Copperhead to be very deadly. Legends aside, they are not really very deadly at all. The maximum amount of venom a Cottonmouth can deliver is just barely enough to kill a single person.
The Copperhead is less deadly still; even if untreated, a Copperhead bite causes death in considerably less than 1% of bites. There is even some question as to whether there have been any deaths at all from Copperhead venom.
100 Pace Snakes
Travelers and servicemen who have been to Southeast Asia frequently ask us about the "100 pace snakes" (or 2 pacers, or 50 pacers or 1000 pacers, etc.).
For the most part, snakes belonging to the genus Trimeresurus, most notably Trimeresurus wagleri, are given this moniker. Their reputed deadliness, however, is just a folk tale. These snakes have very mild venom and deaths from their bites are virtually unknown.
- Snorklenose Viper
- Banded Krait
- Common Krait
To be fair, the Snorkle-nosed Viper (Deinagkistrodon acutus) has caused some deaths and is occasionally referred to by these terms as well. Kraits are also given this name in other parts of the world and, although they are indeed deadly, they do not kill within any small number of paces.
Read about the deadliest snakes »