Do you know what ophiophagy means?
It means ‘the eating of snakes’.
There are many ophiophagous animals. The mongoose is perhaps the most famous.
But there are also a number of snakes that eat other snakes.
Among those, the king snake and the mussurana are perhaps the most specialized snake meat connoisseurs.
But there are plenty of other species that are not above eating their own kind.
Keep reading for a list of snake species that eat other snakes. In some cases, they even eat other snakes of the same species. A meal is a meal, I suppose.
Table of Contents
- 1 Snakes That Eat Other Snakes
- 2 Do King Snakes Eat Other Snakes?
- 3 What Snakes Eat Other Snakes: Final Thoughts
Snakes That Eat Other Snakes
The following snake species have all developed a taste for snake meat. In truth, they will simply eat anything they can get their mouths on and that includes other snakes.
King Cobras originate from China, India and Southeast Asia. They are carnivorous predators that feast on rodents, birds, lizards and other small animals, as well as other snakes.
Breeds of snake that a King Cobra will eat most often are the Asian rat snake, the dhaman (aka the Indian or Oriental rat snake) and various pythons. If they’re given the chance, they may also eat Indian cobras, kraits, vipers and wolf snakes.
King Cobras are the world’s most venomous snake. It’s their potent venom that allows them to overpower other snakes and rule the snake kingdom.
Eastern Coral Snake
There are over 100 different species of coral snake, and they range from one foot in length to 4 feet. Eastern coral snakes mainly reside in the southeastern United States.
You can distinguish them by the red, black, yellow and white rings running across their bodies, though there are coral snake mimics with similar, but slightly different, markings.
Their venomous bite will paralyze their prey, allowing them to eat whatever they like, including other snakes! A common snake that the eastern coral snake will eat is the eastern ribbon snake.
Eastern Rat Snake
Also known as the Black rat snake, this is a non-venomous snake that can be as long as seven feet. You can recognize these snakes from their black scales on the top of their body and a lighter-colored underbelly. They are commonly found in the eastern United States.
Even though they aren’t venomous, these snakes have still been known to eat smaller snakes such as garter snakes. While their diet mainly consists of amphibians and rodents, they aren’t afraid to prey on another snake if the opportunity arises.
Mussurana snakes start life with a vibrant reddish orange color, that turns a gray or brown color as the snake ages. It originates from South America, particularly Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
A special trait that this species has is that they are immune to the venom of dangerous vipers. If anything, that makes them even more fearsome.
They prey on many different snake species including dangerous pit vipers. Mussarana have a unique way of killing their snake prey.
These snakes have fangs at both the front and back of their jaw, which helps them to firmly grip and bite down on a snake’s head before they swallow the prey whole.
King Brown Snake
These snakes are commonly found in Australia and are also known as mulga snakes. They can reach up to a huge eleven feet, making them very scary snakes and not one you’d want to come across.
Species of snakes they eat include whip snakes, brown snakes and brown tree snakes. Along with their diet being heavily snake-based, a King Brown snake may also prey on amphibians, reptiles and other small animals such as rodents.
The Banded Krait can be distinguished by the black and yellow bands running down its body, making it look almost wasp-like. It’s a highly venomous species of snake that’s found in India and Southeast Asia.
They mainly prey on other snakes such as the sunbeam Snake, the rainbow water snake and the Indo-Chinese rat snake. The Banded Krait will kill any snake with its venom and then devour the snake whole, starting with its head.
Other animals this snake may prey on include fish and frogs. The snake also doesn’t mind a snake egg every now and then.
Common King Snake
The common king snake, scientifically known as Lampropeltis elapsoides, is a non-venomous snake species native to North America. King snakes are known for their striking appearance, often featuring a red body with white or black rings.
When they have that coloration, they can be confused with coral snakes and milk snakes. It helps to know the differences between king snakes, coral snakes and milk snakes.
These snakes are non-venomous. They kill their prey by restricting it. They are not affected by the venom from vipers, so they have no problem swallowing even venomous snakes whole.
While common king snakes have a varied diet that includes rodents, birds, and reptiles, they are perhaps most famous for their inclination to eat other snakes, particularly venomous ones. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and other dangerous snake species are among their prey.
Eastern Indigo Snake
The Eastern Indigo Snake, is a large, non-venomous snake native to the southeastern United States, particularly states like Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
It is the longest snake species in North America, known for its striking appearance, iridescent blue-black coloration, and ecological significance. The diet of an Eastern Indigo snake consists of many prey animals. They are also known to eat other snakes, including venomous species.
Eastern Indigo Snakes can exhibit cannibalistic behavior, which means they may eat other snakes, including those of their own species. Cannibalism in Eastern Indigo Snakes may occur for various reasons, such as territorial disputes.
The Coachwhip Snake, also known as Masticophis flagellum, is a non-venomous snake native to North and Central America. These slender and fast-moving snakes are known for their distinctive appearance, featuring a long, whip-like body with a pointed head.
They come in a variety of color patterns, such as shades of red, brown, and black. Coachwhip snakes are renowned for their impressive speed and agility and have a diverse diet.
While their primary diet consists of reptiles and small mammals, Coachwhip snakes have been known to eat smaller snakes, including snakes of their own species. They’ll also eat their prey dead or alive.
The Cottonmouth Snake is a venomous pit viper found in the southeastern United States. It is a relatively large and robust snake, characterized by its dark coloration, thick body, and distinctive white mouth lining, which is displayed when the snake feels threatened.
While the primary diet of Cottonmouths consists of fish, amphibians, small mammals, and birds, they have also been known to consume other snakes. Cottonmouths have a primary diet of aquatic prey. They’re also known to eat larger animals, one of these being snakes.
Do King Snakes Eat Other Snakes?
Yes, king snakes do eat other snakes. In fact, they are famous for their ability to prey on and eat other snake species, including venomous snakes like rattlesnakes.
King snakes are generally large, powerful constrictors. They locate and capture other snakes using their highly developed sense of smell.
Once they get ahold of their victim, the king snake will wrap around its prey tightly and constrict it until the prey can no longer breathe or its bones are broken. The king snake is immune to the venom of snakes like rattlesnakes, which is what allows it to safely eat these dangerous snakes.
Eating other snakes gives king snakes an ecological advantage. It removes venomous snakes from the environment, while also providing high-quality protein and calories for the king snake.
Their specialized diet of snakes makes king snakes very effective predators that help control snake populations in their habitats. The ability to safely eat venomous snakes through constriction and venom immunity is a key reason for the king snake’s success as a snake-eating specialist.
What Snakes Eat Other Snakes: Final Thoughts
There are a lot of snakes that eat other snakes when they are hungry and can get their jaws on another snake. But some species actually specialize in hunting and consuming snakes.
Species that regularly indulge in ophiophagy have often evolved an immunity to the venom of snakes that they eat. This allows them to hunt and swallow whole dangerous species, even when they themselves are not venomous.