At some level, we all have a fear of snakes. Truth be told, snakes are one of the scariest animals. But that’s not all you need to know about snakes. In fact, since these creatures are considered to be quite creepy, most people tend to ignore other facts about snakes. Well, this
article is set to give you an in-depth understanding about snakes.
Currently, there are over 2,700 species of snakes in the world. And what’s more, there’s at least one type of snake in essentially every continent except Antarctica. As much as snakes are known for being pesky pests, they are often helpful and sometimes excellent pets. Let’s take a look at some of the fascinating features of snakes.
Snakes are legless, elongated, and are mostly carnivorous reptiles. They have a cylindrical body with scaly skin and a forked tongue. These animals also have lidless eyes. In most cases, snakes are non-venomous. On the other hand, other types of snakes are mildly venomous, while others are dangerously venomous.
All snakes are cold-blooded. Meaning, their body temperature is mostly determined by their environment instead of being regulated by internal functions. Typically, snakes bask in the sun when they feel cold and hide in the shade to cool their body temperature. Since these creatures are ectotherms, cold-blooded, they can be found in the temperate and tropical regions. It’s rare to spot a snake in cold climatic areas such as the Arctic or Antarctica.
Basically, snakes have over two thousand, seven hundred species falling into three super-families. They include:
- Scolecophidia which comprise of blind-snakes
- Boidae comprising of the boas and pythons
- Colubroidea consists of the harmless king snakes, venomous cobra, and the pit vipers. This family is huge and comprises of over 1,400 species.
The USA alone is home to over twenty-one different snake species. Two-thirds of these snakes in the US are venomous and will likely be dangerous to adults. But the most known species and poisonous snakes in the US include:
- Western Coral Snake
- The Copperhead Snake
- Yellow belly sea snake
- The Cottonmouth
Snakes will typically prefer marsh and grassland areas and are rarely seen in mountainous environments. Some will mostly go for dark places as they wait for their prey. While other snakes will produce a warning sound to deter prey from coming close to it.
Since snakes have no limbs, they will leave an interesting trail on the soil. When snakes move, they’ll basically leave wavy or straight lines. That’s because snakes move in an S-motion, bending their head and tail and pushing against the soil.
In some cases, you will find burrows in the ground. The trenches are about half an inch wide or more. Some snakes can swim, and they will hunt underwater. These aquatic snakes can easily stay submerged in water for over ten minutes.
Typically, some snakes hiss. However, snakes like rattlesnakes produce a rattling noise using their tail. On the other hand, some scientists believe that garter snakes have a squeaky yelp. All in all, the most dominant and wildly known sound made by snakes is a hissing sound.
Though with intense research, you will quickly realize that snakes have different sounds depending on what they are doing. When attacking prey, snakes may even growl.
All snakes are carnivorous. Snakes will feed on birds, mammals, rodents, other reptiles, eggs, insects, and fish-did, I mention mammals? Meaning humans can sometimes be on the menu. Venomous snakes use poison to paralyze their prey before injecting them.
The venom of the snake attacks the nervous system and causes heart and lung failure. It will also lead to internal bleeding of the prey. On the other hand, snakes like the Boa and the famous Anaconda kill their prey by squeezing them to death. Generally, the squeezing doesn’t kill the victim but it prevents the prey from breathing, hence leading to suffocation.
More importantly, snakes do not chew their food, but they swallow their prey whole. After eating a huge meal, the snake will remain inactive for a while as they digest the food. That’s because digestion is an intensive exercise, especially after eating a huge meal.
Snakes can remain full for days without hunting for any food. Species such as the Anaconda can go up to one year after having a big meal without looking for another meal. The process of digesting such meals is so intense that if you attack a snake after having such a meal, it will have to regurgitate the prey in order to escape. But if the snake remains undisturbed, digestion is very efficient, and snakes typically digest almost everything.
There are a few things that snakes are not able to digest, and these materials come out as droppings. Snake droppings are just like any other animal waste. And of course, it smells and has a brown color. In most cases, snake droppings can be mistaken as bird droppings. But bird droppings have a much higher concentration of urea. With that in mind, bird droppings tend to be whiter in color when compared to that of snakes.
Additionally, snake droppings will also have hair, scales, bones, and other solids pieces that were left over during digestion. The poop will be mostly wet and soft. Generally, snakes will only excrete as often as they eat. Some snakes could even go for weeks without food. Meaning they could go for that same amount of time without defecating. So, if you are seeing regular poop around your farm or home, the chances are that it’s not a snake’s droppings. That’s because seeing snake droppings in such a frequency is highly abnormal.
Snakes are not social animals, so it’s almost impossible to have several snakes in your home. But in some rare cases, a fertile female will attract potential suitors. Therefore, experts would advise that you try your best to identify snake poop as fast as possible before potential suitors invade your home if you have a female snake around.
Meeting a snake out in the wild or even inside your own home is no joke and you could end up in trouble if you’re unable to quickly identify what you’re dealing with. Snakes in general tend to be feared for their venomous reputation and the threats they pose against people, as well as, our domesticated pets and livestock. But not all snakes are alike, and many are very timid and harmless; some can even be kept as pets. Below is a comprehensive guide to the key differences (as well as exceptions) between venomous and non-venomous snakes:
One of the fastest and easiest ways to differentiate a potentially dangerous snake from a harmless one is by their overall body shape. Venomous snakes tend to be much larger and fatter than their non-venomous counterparts as they use their venom to subdue and consume very large prey. Non-venomous snakes do not need venom as they tend to feed on smaller creatures that can be consumed with much less resistance.
Aside from the overall body size and length, another key difference between the two types of snakes is the shape of their heads. All snakes have arrow-like heads that start off wide at the bottom and end in a tip where their mouths open. The heads of venomous snakes are much wider to accommodate their poison glands. Non-venomous snakes do not have these glands; therefore their heads are much thinner overall. You must note that despite their differences in head widths, at the end of the day all snakes have arrow-shaped heads. You should be very well aware of the actual size difference between the two types by looking at many comparison images, Google or otherwise. Getting confused and making a mistake in the heat of the moment is the very last thing you want to do when facing a new and sudden threat!
Venomous snakes sometimes have rattles at the ends of their tails, such as the famous rattlesnake. After all, the rattlesnake is named after its body feature. They rattle their tails to produce a sound that is designed to ward off and intimidate threats so you should immediately attempt to leave an area whenever you encounter such a noise. If you do see the snake itself then you should be wary not to turn your back on it as it may strike you on the spot. Snakes tend to be more of the cautious sort and should be willing to let you go unharmed if you return the favor and don’t attempt to attack it.
Another simple way of telling the difference between snakes is through the color. Generally speaking, the more colorful the snake, the more likely it is to be of the venomous variety. Do note that this is not a strict rule by any means and that there are many highly venomous snakes that are not very colorful at all. Therefore while helpful, this is one of the less accurate ways of identifying a venomous snake which is a very important detail to keep in mind!
There seems to be quite a lot of confusion surrounding the matter of snakes. While there are some people out there who love them and even keep pet snakes, many of us harbor a fear of these creatures, while for some, it even qualifies as a downright phobia. But are such worries justified?
Are snakes dangerous?
Some snakes are considered dangerous because their bite contains venom, which is capable of killing you in as little as 20-30 minutes. Out of the 3,000 or so species of snakes that are known to humanity today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has qualified about 600 of them as actually venomous.
For example, the bite of the inland taipan can paralyze and damage muscles, cause hemorrhages and inhibit breathing, all within a matter of minutes. The inland taipan (also called the western taipan) is considered by many the most venomous snake on the planet, and some say one bite contains enough venom to kill 100 men.
And while such facts surely are scary, it’s important to remember that the inland taipan is not the most dangerous snake on the planet. How so? Because he comes into contact with fairly few people, and so the chance of his bites actually leading to human death is fairly low. A moderately venomous snake that lives in an area populated by humans is considered far more dangerous than a very venomous one who lives in a more isolated area.
While his venom is far more potent, the inland taipan takes a backseat to the saw-scaled viper, which is considered by many experts to be the deadliest snake on the planet because it’s a very aggressive snake, meaning that it bites often, so it has a lot more chance to kill. Scientists consider the saw-scaled viper to be deadlier than all other snakes combined.
This is the most important factor when considering the above question: the level of danger of any given snake is directly related to how much contact they’re likely to have with humans and how aggressive they are.
Another important factor in determining how dangerous a snake is, is the area in which it lives. Most snake bites happen in rural, remote areas and are likely to occur while you’re on a hike or on some nature activity.
But consider this, if you were to go on a hike, for example, and get bitten by a snake, how quickly could you get to a hospital and receive medical attention? While roughly 8,000 people in the US are bitten by a snake each year, only 5 of them die, mostly because they were not able to get care in time.
In countries where access to medical aid is restricted or hard to come by, snake bites are far deadlier. In India, for example, around 11,000 people die yearly from snake bites.
So, as you see, the danger level of a snake is greatly impacted by the area you live in.
What can you do to prepare yourself for potential snake attacks?
First of all, you need to research the area you live in or the area you’re going to visit (if you’re planning a hike, trip, etc.). Find out what snakes are most likely to be found in that area and whether they are venomous or not. Do not venture far by foot in areas inhabited by dangerous snakes. Remember, the people who die from venom are those who did not seek medical care fast enough, so you want to make sure that medical aid is always within reach because you will only have a few minutes to act.
Lastly, do not panic. Remember, out of 3,000, only 600 are considered venomous, so 2,400 are harmless. Read up on the venomous ones, with a focus on the ones you’re most likely to encounter. Many people panic when they see snakes (and with good reason), but don’t consider that those snakes might be harmless.