If you’re ever walking in the park by yourself after it’s dark and suddenly come across a slithering creature, what’s the first emotion that crosses your mind? Most people would be terrified out of their wits because that’s how dangerous snakes are.
These reptiles are obligate carnivores, which means that they only eat meat. Another threat that snakes pose to other animals, including humans, is the venom in their fangs.
However, while snakes are lethal, they’re not apex predators. There are many animals that prey on snakes and love eating them. Some of the most common predators of snakes are the birds of prey, mongooses, honey badgers, coyotes, and the larger members of the feline family.
In many cases, larger snakes are also seen preying on the smaller species. Lastly, we must not forget that in some parts of the world humans also eat snakes.
Here are 12 animals that eat snakes:
- Red-tailed Hawk
- Snake Eagle
- Laughing Falcon
- Snapping Turtles
- Secretary Bird
- Honey Badger
The Enemies Of Snakes In The Wild
As all of us already know, snakes are reptiles that have a home in the wild. It is here that they often hunt for prey. The birds, rodents, and smaller mammals who have inhabited the forests live in the fear of these slithering reptiles. But what about the snakes themselves?
Can they roam freely in the wild or do they have reasons to be afraid as well? Well, a forest full of wild animals is a dangerous place, even for snakes.
There are many animals and birds that can kill and eat them if their paths were to cross. Let’s talk about some of the enemies of snake in the wild:
Mongooses are small, carnivorous mammals that might appear harmless to humans (since they usually avoid conflict with larger mammals like us), but they are the worst nightmares of snakes.
Although these little guys can eat lizards, rodents, crabs, insects, small birds, and mammals, their favorite meal always includes snakes.
Many people tend to believe that mongoose and snakes are natural enemies. This, however, is not true. The true battle between them is not of species, but of survival. Mongoose, like all other small mammals, is basically food for the snakes.
Therefore, they attack snakes in order to save themselves from being killed. However, mongooses also happen to have a genetic mutation that prevents their blood from any adverse effect of the venom of all snake species, even the most venomous snakes; this gives them an edge over the snakes.
Recognized by their rounded wings and long tail, hawks are one of the most lethal birds of prey in the world. These raptors have a remarkable vision that allows them to locate their prey from high in the sky, where they soar.
Once they’ve locked a prey, they will slowly lower themselves until they’re right above their prey, and then pounce on them all of a sudden, taking them by surprise. They kill the prey using their sharp talons and then eat them.
Although most of the hawk species can be seen killing and eating snakes, there is one particular species that enjoy eating these reptiles the most: the Red-tailed Hawk.
This North American hawk species are quite fond of preying on snakes and have included these reptiles in their regular diet. While they can easily eat all small-to-medium-sized snakes, they have a special preference for Gopher Snakes and Rattlesnakes.
Known for their ambush predation technique, the crocodiles are one of the deadliest reptile species. All reptiles, including snakes, are a part of their diet.
Due to their thick skin, they do not stand the risk of being poisoned by their bite (there’s no chance a snake’s fangs can pierce a crocodile’s skin).
The Saltwater Crocodiles, which are known for being the largest extant reptile species, are particularly fond of eating sea snakes and hunt them aggressively.
Very much similar to the vultures in their built (except their bald heads) and flight skills, eagles are large and powerful raptors that are often referred to as the “King of all birds”. Just like all the birds of prey, eagles, too, have a large, hooked beak and strong talons, two of their deadliest weapons which they use to kill their prey.
Although many eagle species can easily kill snakes, there are some species that specialize in hunting them, along with other reptiles. These eagles are together known as the “Snake Eagles” or “Serpent Eagles”. Following are the names of all the snake eagles:
- Western Banded Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinerascens)
- Congo Serpent Eagle (Circaetus spectabilis)
- Brown Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinereus)
- Southern Banded Snake Eagle or Fascinated Snake Eagle (Circaetus fasciolatus)
- Black-chested Snake Eagle (Circaetus pectoralis)
- Short-toed Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus)
- Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle (Circaetus beaudouini)
Foxes are medium-sized wild animals belonging to the canine family. These animals are omnivorous, and mostly eat plant-based food during the summers. It is only during winters, when the vegetation is scarce, that the foxes are fully dependent on other animals for their diet.
A large part of their diet consists of small mammals like rabbits, a variety of rodents, and birds. They are also found eating large insects occasionally.
Although snakes are not a part of their natural diet, if they’re too hungry and happen to cross paths with one, they will certainly eat them.
Falcons fall under the family of hawks and are characterized by their diurnal nature and long, pointed wings. The main diet of the falcons mainly consists of smaller birds, although they can also eat small mammals and fish occasionally.
While these birds of prey can eat snakes, it is quite uncommon. When they do, they always prey on smaller snakes, using their beaks to clip the spine of the snake so that it cannot bite them.
There is one particular falcon species that is known for killing snakes: the Laughing Falcon. While these falcons have a calm temperament and rarely attack smaller birds, they have a reputation for killing and eating even the most poisonous snakes.
Although there is no scientific data to back it up yet, some Mexican tribes believe that these birds are healers; according to their beliefs, the laughing falcons can kill poisonous snakes because they can cure themselves of their bite.
Owls are another subfamily that belongs to the family of birds of prey. However, these birds look very different from the rest of the raptors. They have a rounded head, with two large, rounded eyes, and follow a strictly nocturnal schedule.
There are over 200 different species of owls in the world. The diet of these birds varies according to their size and species. Some of the larger owls are even seen eating the smaller owl species.
As far as snakes are concerned, the smaller owl species (such as the Screech Owls) are content with eating insects and wouldn’t want to risk being bitten by preying on snakes. However, larger owl species like the Great Horned Owls, Barn Owls, and Barred Owls are among the common predators of medium-sized snakes.
Tigers are the largest members of the cat family and are, therefore, obligate carnivores like all the other cats. They have a varied diet that can range from termites to baby rhinos depending on the availability of food in their surroundings.
However, animals like deer, wild boars, and wild pigs are their most common prey in the wild. When the tigers face a scarcity of food and wander close to human settlements, they can also feed on cattle and farm animals such as sheep, goats, cows, buffaloes, horses, and so on.
Snakes are not a part of the tiger’s usual diet. Tigers generally avoid going after them for two reasons: they have very little meat to offer to the tigers, and there’s always the risk of being bitten. And the bite of a highly venomous snake can even end up killing a tiger.
However, when tigers are facing a severe shortage of animals to eat and are hungry and desperate, eating snakes would not be beyond them if they catch one.
Most people believe that turtles are calm and peaceful reptiles that rarely cause harm to other beings. And while it is true for most of the turtle species, not all turtles are the same. Have you ever heard of Snapping Turtles?
These are large, freshwater turtles that are known for their aggressive nature. Although these turtles are toothless, they do possess a razor-sharp beak that is their main weapon while hunting and killing their prey. As these turtles spend most of their time in the water, they’re swift swimmers and can easily prey on fish, frogs, and water snakes.
There are two extant species of snapping turtles:
- Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)
- Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii)
Out of these two, the Common Snapping Turtles are omnivores and less dangerous than the latter, that are primarily carnivores and have dorsal ridges on their prominently long tail.
Also referred to as “Red Lynx”, Bobcats are medium-sized wild cats (twice as big as the regular house cats) that are endemic to North America. Like the rest of the felines, these cats are also carnivores that can feed on a diverse range of prey including deer, rabbits, hares, chickens, geese, rodents, and large insects.
Although snakes are not a part of a bobcat’s usual diet, if there is a scarcity of food in their surroundings, bobcats would happily take on a snake. They are wild, ferocious, and unafraid, which is why they stand a good chance against all the small-to-medium-sized snake species.
Whenever we hear “birds of prey”, birds like eagles, vultures, hawks, and ospreys come to our minds. But there is another deadly raptor we are missing.
We’re talking about the Secretary Bird, a lethal raptor that is endemic to Africa. These long-legged birds of prey are known for their ability to kill even the most poisonous snakes such as the vipers and cobras.
Secretary birds can eat birds, bird eggs, rodents, amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals. They have a unique and rather terrifying way of killing large prey; they would stamp them to death, and then eat them.
Also referred to as “Ratel”, the Honey Badgers are medium-sized mammals (slightly larger than a house cat) that are endemic to Africa and Southwest Asia.
These mammals actually belong to the family of the weasels and are carnivorous. Although they might seem harmless due to their non-threatening appearance, these little guys are deadly hunters and can eat any animal they can find, ranging from a lizard to a baby alligator.
In the wilds of Africa, the Honey Badgers are often seen messing with highly venomous snakes like the vipers. And surprisingly enough, in the end, they win and end up eating the snake.
Although there is very little data about it, it is claimed that the blood of the honey badgers has an evolutionary ability which is why they grow immune to all kinds of venom over time.
Can snakes eat other snakes?
The reptiles have excellent survival skills, which is how they have managed to exist for millions of years. And since food is the basic necessity for survival, they are willing to go to surprising lengths for it.
Although cannibalism is not very common in the snake community, it does exist. All animals, including snakes themselves, that eat snakes are referred to as “ophiophagic”. Following are the ophiophagic snake species:
- Racer Snakes
- King Cobras
- Eastern Indigo Snake
- Coachwhip Snakes
Can humans eat snakes?
Although it might come as a surprise to many, there are many primitive cultures in the world that hunt snakes for their meat.
To these people, snake meat is a delicacy that cannot be eaten regularly. But why would they want to eat the meat of such a dangerous reptile when they could easily eat lamb, beef, or pork?
It is because eating snake meat is rich in protein, fat, phosphor, and calcium. Below are some health benefits that you can gain from eating their meat:
Snake meat has several benefits for your skin. Not only can it make your skin smooth and glowing, but it can also reduce your blackspots and cure any kind of bruise.
- It can treat rheumatism in the elderly
- It can build up your stamina
- It can cure your obscured vision
- It can fix all kinds of skin diseases, such as ringworm, dermatitis, etc.
Some of the snake species that can safely be consumed by humans are rattlesnakes, coral snakes, and copperhead snakes.