Do You Know if These Snakes Are Venomous?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Nature is smart. Snakes have evolved with poisonous bites, lethal squeezes and jaws that can unhinge to eat something bigger than themselves. No life-loving human or animal is going to mess with a snake. Which is why other snakes have evolved look-alike patterns to fool others and hide the fact they don't have a venomous bite. So it makes sense to note the detailed differences of a serpentine creature to decide whether to step around or run away at top speed. 

For instance, the non-venomous milk snake tends to resemble the venomous coral snake, with its red-black-yellow or white-black-red bands. However, in the coral snake, the red and yellow bands touch, leading to the mnemonic phrase, "Red on yellow kills a fellow." But don't get too close identifying these small serpents. The cottonmouth, which refers to more than one species, is venomous. What these dangerous species have in common is the pale white interior of their mouths, hence the name.  Make your motto, "Identify at a distance."

But it's not easy, since snakes can use camouflage. The twig snake is named for its brown coloration and slender size. It's easily mistaken for a twig. Now it's time to test your snake I.Q. We prefer you test it here with our trivia quiz and not in the wild. It's a bit ssssssafer. 


Black mamba

"Black" is a misnomer here. The black mamba is a brown or gray color. Fun fact: Uma Thurman's killer bride character in "Kill Bill" was codenamed Black Mamba.

Green mamba

We're not sure why the black mamba gets all the bad press -- the Eastern and Western green mambas are deadly as well. Possibly it's because the green mamba is a "shy" snake, avoiding conflict with humans.

Puff adder

This species is found through sub-Saharan Africa. It takes its name from threat displays in which it inflates and deflates its body.

Garter snake

Surprised? Probably many people were, especially those who grew up in the U.S. and were taught not to fear garter snakes. Which you shouldn't -- they only have a mild venom and are harmless to humans.

Boa constrictor

As the name implies, this species kills prey by constriction, not with venom. They've been known to kill prey as large as the ocelot (a kind of small leopard).

Mud snake

You'll find these snakes in the southeastern United States. They are black on top, but have red or pink bellies, with those red or pink markings branching up to be visible on their sides, making for a striking (no pun intended) appearance.

Ball python

These are very popular as pets. Like many pythons, they constrict their prey rather than using venom to kill.

King cobra

Oddly, the king cobra is not part of the "Naja" genus to which the other cobras belong. It is, however, as dangerous. King cobras appear in the myths and legends of India and other South Asian countries where it is found.

King snake

King snakes are constrictors, and have been known to eat other snakes, including venomous ones. That's why they're considered generally beneficial to humans.

Russell's viper

This name might not be too familiar to you if you live outside India. Russell's viper is primarily found in India, and to a small extent over its borders in Pakistan, Nepal and China.

Milk snake

These tend to resemble the coral snake, with their red-black-yellow or white-black-red bands. However, in the coral snake, the red and yellow bands touch, leading to the mnemonic phrase "Red on yellow kills a fellow." (We recommend just steering clear no matter what).

Twig snake

But they sound so harmless! Indeed, this snake is named for its brown coloration and slender size; it's easily mistaken for a twig.

Whipsnake

Whipsnakes are small, slender snakes without venom. Apparently they survive in the wild by impressing other animals with their cool names, like the "Western coachwhip."

Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth refers to more than one species. What they have in common is the pale white interior of their mouths, hence the name.

Coastal taipan

It's mostly Australians who have to watch out for this highly venomous snake. It can also grow to great lengths, with one coastal taipan being measured at nearly ten feet long.

Boomslang

Boomslangs are tree snakes, and their skin is a gorgeous green color. Their venom can be fatal. Fun fact: Readers of the "Harry Potter" series might remember that boomslang skin was sometimes an ingredient in Professor Snape's potions class.

Bushmaster

There are three kinds of bushmaster snake: Black-headed, Central American and South American. All are venomous, and share a cool genus name: Lachesis, after the second of the Three Fates in Greek mythology.

American copperhead

The American copperhead is part of the Crotalinae subfamily, better known as pit vipers. It is found in the southeastern United States.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnake

Think rattlesnakes are only in the West? Think again. Another name for this species is the Florida diamondback, meaning that back when Major League Baseball was expanding, we could have had the "Florida Diamondbacks" instead of the Arizona ones!

Water moccasin

If you knew that this is one of the "cottonmouths," good for you! But it's important to know that no matter what it's called, the water moccasin is just plain dangerous!

Northern water snake

Don't be confused by the existence of a "water moccasin," which is venomous. The Northern Water Snake is part of the Colubridae family, none of which produce venom.

Bull snake

This is a North American breed. It can be mistaken for the Western diamondback rattler, which it resembles.

Rhinoceros viper

The Rhinoceros viper is named for the sharp little horns on its nose. It also has such a sharp ridge along its underbelly that humans have been known to sustain cuts when picking one up.

Horned adder

This snake is related to the puff adder. It can be found in southwestern Africa, especially the Kalahari desert.

Burmese python

These snakes can grow to be huge -- easily 10 or 12 feet long. That's why they're not recommended as pets, despite their docile nature.

Coral snake

Coral snakes are found in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres, with a common lineage going back to Asia. They produce venom, but tend to be reclusive, rarely striking humans.

Corn snake

These snakes are popular as pets because of their bright coloration and easygoing nature. They get their name from the fact that they used to be found near barns and granaries, where they hunted rodents that came to eat the grain.

Blood python

Don't worry: This species gets its name from the dark-red patches on its body. Despite not being venomous, it has a reputation as a bad-tempered snake and shouldn't be provoked.

Common ribbon snake

These snakes get their names from their very slender bodies. Get one to wrap around your upper arm a few times, and you'd have the living equivalent of a goth upper-arm bracelet.

Gray ratsnake

It probably won't surprise you that these feed mostly on rodents. For this reason, they live near barns and granaries, and may strike a human if surprised there, but their bite is harmless.

Gray rattlesnake

You certainly wouldn't want to mistake this for the gray ratsnake. Syllables matter. Enunciate, people!

The Krait

Kraits are a dangerous group of snakes found in Asia. They eat other snakes -- in fact, they will even eat other kraits. We're guessing that it's only a matter of time before Marvel rolls out a supervillain named "The Krait."

San Francisco garter snake

Like other garter snakes, the San Francisco garter produces a mild venom and doesn't deliver very much in a bite. It is on the endangered list -- probably because it's been priced out of the SF housing market like everyone else.

Hoop snake

The "hoop snake" is a myth -- a snake that can form itself into a wheel, nose-to-tail, and roll after its prey faster than it could crawl. If you've ever seen an "Amazing Animals!" special on TV, this story might not sound so strange in comparison -- but no snake has ever been observed doing this.

Bonus question: Approximately what percentage of snakes are venomous?

This number might seem low to you. But the majority of snakes kill by biting or constricting their prey, with some swallowing the prey animal while it is still alive.

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