Are snakes dangerous? – How to react when encountering a wild snake

Although snakes have been deviled for centuries, even millennia, they are really not dangerous to us humans….., IF you treat them correctly! We must remember that snakes are wild animals with the instinct to protect themselves. This means that when threatened, it will defend itself by any means possible. The problem here is that we often mistake this defensive behavior for aggression. You have probably crossed paths with many snakes already without even noticing them because when they realized you were there, they hid away. However, sometimes it will not see you coming or there will be no chance to escape for the animal in which case, it will try to defend itself.

Defensive display of a Naja Naja, the spectacle cobra – a snake always communicates through their body language

Snakes are generally very reluctant to bite and will try to scare you away first by acting aggressively. In this manner the cobra will spread its hood and hiss or the rattlesnake will rattle. This is just to tell you “Hey, I am dangerous, but I don’t want any problems, so please stay away!”. It does not want to risk getting injured in a fight or wasting its precious venom, which is why it acts defensively in the first place. Now are snakes dangerous or not? No! If you see a snake, your perfectly fine, just back away from it. No snake will ever chase you!

Now of course, there are some species of snakes we better stay far away from: the venomous ones. How do we distinguish between the venomous and no venomous ones?

This question cannot be answered one way or another because there are simply too many similar species around the world. No, the average grass, rat or milk snakes we have all come across are not venomous or dangerous at all. In most places around the world, the shape of the head is a good indicator; viper mostly have a triangular head shape and are rather short and fat. However, snakes like mambas are just as slender as the average tree snake, which is why we can never be entirely sure. Stay away from anything that hoods like cobras or any type of rattler. Don’t rely on colours as an indicator. Many species of venomous snakes are just as dull and brown as a garter snake or vice versa.

Vipers usually have distinct features that make them easy to indentify, like their trianular head shape.

Still, it is better to assume that every snake you come across is venomous, because you simply cannot be sure what species it is, unless you are an expert. That way, you will never get into any trouble with snakes.

How do I react if there is a snake in my garden?

If you suddenly come across a snake around your property, stay calm, remember that they just want to be left alone. It is not trying to eat your kids or your pets. In most cases, it’s just looking for a safe or warm place to hide.

Always keep an eye on it, but do not approach it. If you live in an area were venomous snakes are common, call either the police or a similar institution. If you know of a person familiar with snakes around, contact them. Please do not try to kill it since that will just scare it and lead it to at defensively, maybe even injuring you in the process.

Generally, remember that snakes are wild animals and just want to be left alone. They do not want to attack you or get into a fight with you. Also remember that they are probably more scared of you than you are of them, so just respect it and back off from it.

2 Replies to “Are snakes dangerous? – How to react when encountering a wild snake”

  1. Hello. Is there a good first snake or starter snake for people with almost 0 experience owning a snake I just viewed your beginners guide and was wondering if with your personal experience what type of snake is easier for a beginner to own/handle and less likely to bite with the first encounter.

    1. I my personal experience, species like Ball Pythons and Corn snakes are the best for beginners. They tend to be very calm and forgiving when it comes to handling and husbandry.

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