The Difference Between Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Snakes
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The Difference Between Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Snakes

The Difference Between Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Snakes. Most people do not like snakes. In fact many people just kill them on sight. The attitude that the only good snake is a dead snake just means that the person saying it knows nothing about snakes.

The Difference Between Poisonous and Non-Poisonous Snakes

      Most people do not like snakes. In fact many people just kill them on sight. The attitude that “the only good snake is a dead snake” just means that the person saying it knows nothing about snakes or reptiles. There are parts of the world that this creed may very well be true. Australia has many very deadly snakes as does Africa. The locals kill them on site to protect their families and livestock. North American snakes are a different story. There are precious few snakes here that can kill you with a single bite. The coral snake and the Mojave Green rattlesnake are two of them. For the most part even bites from poisonous snakes are not fatal. An average adult can withstand several bites from rattlesnakes with few lasting affects given they get immediate medical attention. More people die every year crashing their car rushing to the emergency room in a panic after being bit than from the bites themselves. Some people might be allergic to the hemotoxins in the venom, they same way one might be allergic to bee stings, but that is rare. The very young or very old are more susceptible to snake bite but snake venom is very biologically expensive for a snake to produce and chances are you won’t be injected with venom on a defensive bite as the snake saves its precious venom for prey. that being said, upon being bit by a venomous snake you should get to the hospital immediatly. Its also a good idea to be on the phone with them to make sure they have anti-venom or that they can get a hold of some right away.

By the way, there is no such thing as a poisonous snake, the term is venomous. Snakes are not poisonous, but they do inject venom making them venomous, there is a difference. 

      But still, no one wants a copperhead or rattlesnakes anywhere near their kids or pets. That is fair enough but the majority of North American snakes are harmless, even beneficial, to have in your area. Non venomous snakes carry no disease and they eat rats and mice that do carry disease. Rats and mice get into your food stores and leave very toxic urine and fecal matter in your cereal boxes. Non poisonous snakes cannot hurt you or your kids or your pets. Being struck at or bit by any snake can be a traumatizing experience. We have a genetic memory that invokes fear at the very sight of a snake but if you take a minute to realize that their heads and teeth are very small and the worst they can do is give you the smallest of surface scratches you might begin to remember the benefits of having them around. King snakes, for the areas of the country that are lucky to have them (mostly out west), eat not only rats and mice but they will eat rattlesnakes as well, that’s why they are king. So let’s take a look at how to tell the difference and the possible benefits of just a little education where snakes are concerned.

     The shape of the head is the biggest and most easily recognizable feature that can be used to determine the difference between venomous and non venomous snakes. Figure #1 shows the difference in head shape.

     The head of a venomous snake looks like your hand balled into a fist on the end of your arm. As the body of the snake tapers toward the head, the jowls flare out making a very distinctive head shape. The exception is the Brown water snake on the central east coast. It has a vaguely flared head but it is not venomous. As for the non venomous snake, its head shape is roughly the same size as the rest of its body, the exception being the coral snake of the south east regions of the country. The Coral snake is worth discussion further as it possess a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system of whatever it might bite. There is no anti-venom and no cure. If you get injected by a coral snake, it’s time to sit down and write letters to your loved ones because you have had it. Fortunately Coral snakes are pretty small and their fangs are further back in their mouths so it has to get you in a soft spot like between your toes or on your lip.

      Identifing Coral snakes from scarlet king snakes or milk snakes can often be confusing, they have the same colored bands (they are both quite beautiful by the way) and similar appearance. There is a simple limerick that helps to tell them apart.

Red touches black, OK for Jack.

Red touches yellow, kill a fellow.

     Set next to each other like they are in the picture, they are easy to tell apart, but in the wild, or in your backyard it could be a different story.

rattle snakes can be a bit of an enigma. 50% of rattle snake bites are dry bites meaning that the rattlesnake doesn't inject any venom. This has created a great deal of home remedies and myths concerning rattlesnake bites that just are not true. The old slash the wound and suck the poison out technique is terrible idea. Just go to the emergency room for treatment. A snake bite that is left untreated can end up looking like this.


In conclusion just remember, not all snakes are bad. They are even helpful. So take a minute to identify the snake you are looking at before you hack it to death with a hoe.

Ever dream about snakes? Check out my article on the

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Comments (11)

good info... thank you.

Ranked #6 in Biology

Very interesting and helpful, since we have copperheads and water moccasins just south of us.


Snakes are venomous not poisonous. Poisonous and Venomous are two different things. -.-


Snakes are venomous not poisonous. Poisonous and Venomous are two different things. -.-

Ranked #5 in Biology

Yes danielle, as you can see by the second paragraph, I make that distinction. Most people think of snakes as Poisonous so I use the term in the title to help with the searchability of the article.

Prishender kumar

This topic contain good information.

Thanks a lot.

jyoti jee

ya , its very interesting article,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but if some body suddenly see a snake infront,,,,,,,,,,,hoe it wll immediately know whether it is poisonous or not,,,,,,,,,it is not possible the head type ever,,,,,,,,,


Please keep in mind that the limerick concerning coral snakes and milk snakes is only applicable in southern Florida!

Ranked #3 in Biology

This is highly useful information on snakes. I sure learned something here.

Please redo this info. One can not just identify if a snake is venomous or not through the shape of the head then you say that the mamba family is non venomouse. Due to the head shape. Goodluck in africa son.
thnx 4 nyce n helpfull information smith . but how can i identify n recognize if i see suddenly a snake.