Cannibalism is common with many animal species, but it’s especially dominant with snakes, as there are at least a dozen species of snakes that regularly make a meal of other snakes, sometimes within the same species.
In today’s article, we’ll be taking a look at 15 snakes that eat other snakes.
- King Cobras
- Western Galapagos Snakes
- Lataste’s Vipers
- Montpellier Snakes
- King Brown Snakes
- Black Racers
- Coral Snakes
- Indigo Snakes
- Coachwhip Snakes
Note: The snakes are ranked in no particular order.
Table of Contents
1. King Cobras
Scientific name: Ophiophagus hannah
King cobras are called that because they’re capable of killing and eating every snake species in their natural environment (except for excessively long pythons).
Not only are they capable of doing it, but king cobras actually prefer snakes to any other
They regularly feed on other venomous snakes (some of which are also included on this list), overpowering them physically before injecting the venom.
It has been documented that the cobra will sometimes constrict the prey, just like a python would, while killing it with venom at the same time.
When unable to find snakes, these Asian snakes that eat other snakes will eat lizards or mammals, while they’re also capable of killing monitor lizards, which are known for their ferocity and hardiness.
Aside from tigers and humans, king cobras have no natural enemies in the wild.
Scientific name (genus): Naja
The reason king cobras are mentioned separately is because they feed on snakes almost exclusively.
Other cobra species, while often indulging in cannibalism, will eat anything of the proper size and show no favorability of snakes over other types of prey.
However, unlike king cobras, other cobras won’t actively track other snakes.
King cobras have been documented tracking pit vipers by their odor, while other cobras will kill whatever they find close, following the path of least resistance.
3. Western Galapagos Snakes
Scientific name (genus): Pseudalsophis
This finding was published only recently, determining that snakes of the western Galapagos actively indulge in cannibalism. Snake remains, including teeth and scales, were found in 11 snakes of the same genus.
Galapagos racers, one of the more prominent species of the genus, are mildly venomous snakes that also display constricting abilities.
It is believed that the sudden surge in same-species cannibalism is connected to the lack of
Scientific name (genus): Lampropeltis
As the name suggests, kingsnakes rule over other snakes with their ability to constrict them. This applies to venomous snakes too, as some kingsnake species that share a habitat with rattlesnakes are known for killing and eating them.
With time, they’ve become completely immune to rattlesnake venom, but it’s possible that they’re immune to the venom of other snakes too.
The eastern kingsnake is particularly diverse when it comes to immunity, as they kill copperheads, coral snakes, massasaugas, and rattlesnakes.
Some kingsnakes are actually useful to people. For example, western diamondback rattlesnakes will leave an area if they catch the scent of a desert kingsnake.
5. Lataste’s Vipers
Scientific name: Vipera latastei
Lataste’s vipers usually feed on amphibians and birds, but they will resort to cannibalism when
Females are seemingly ready to kill and eat males of their own species before they give birth.
In the wild, the killing and eating of a smooth snake were documented, but it is believed that they’ll only hunt other snakes if easier prey isn’t available.
Although vipers and venomous snakes aren’t common in Europe, according to the latest research, Lataste’s vipers are not the only European snakes that eat other snakes.
6. Montpellier Snakes
Scientific name: Malpolon monspessulanus
These snakes found in France are slightly venomous (although not dangerous to humans because their means of venom injection are underdeveloped), and in 2021, they’ve been observed cannibalizing their own species.
Specifically, males were found eating females outside of the mating season.
The exact reason behind this behavior is unknown, as males usually won’t harm females unless it’s self-defense, but it’s believed this happened because of a lack of other prey.
7. King Brown Snakes
Scientific name: Pseudechis australis
Spread to almost all corners of Australia, king brown snakes are known as one of the most venomous snakes in Australia.
However, they use their venom for killing other snakes more than they use it for defense against humans.
They often eat whip snakes, brown snakes, brown tree snakes, crowned snakes, Gould’s hooded snakes, and southern shovel-nosed snakes.
These Australian snakes that eat other snakes are opportunistic feeders – they don’t actively look for other snakes to eat, but they simply kill whatever’s close by.
Scientific name (genus): Bungarus
Similar to king cobras, kraits primarily feed on other snakes, often including snakes of their own species. If snakes aren’t available, they’ll feed on small mammals and other small reptiles.
These snakes possess a highly potent neurotoxic venom that kills the other animal quickly, and they’re not immune to their own venom, meaning that a snake can kill another snake of the same species.
9. Black Racers
Scientific name (genus): Coluber
Named after this incredible speed, these snakes primarily feed on other snakes, as well as small amphibians and reptiles. Although they’re formally considered constrictors, they don’t actually constrict the prey they kill.
Black racers pin their prey to the ground and swallow the prey alive.
Although they aren’t dangerous to humans (they’re not venomous and their teeth aren’t long), these American snakes that eat other snakes will bite viciously if handled and are not docile.
Scientific name: Agkistrodon piscivorus
Also known as the water moccasin, cottonmouths are opportunistic predators, killing any animal that comes near. They mostly feed on other snakes, but also small alligators and fish.
Cottonmouths will feed on other cottonmouths if possible.
It was once reported that a captive specimen killed and ate copperheads, which are another species of snake that eats other snakes.
Scientific name: Agkistrodon contortrix
These snakes are generalists, feeding on everything that comes close enough, including other snakes. They’re ambush predators, waiting for favorable prey to come close enough before striking.
Their most common prey includes snakes, lizards, frogs, and small birds, as well as small mammals.
Juvenile copperheads have brightly colored tails that they use to attract prey when hunting, but they also use odor and heat detection to locate prey.
Copperheads usually aren’t dangerous to people – they aren’t aggressive, their venom isn’t highly potent, and they often bite without injecting venom.
12. Coral Snakes
Scientific name (family): Elapidae
There are more than 80 species of coral snakes, and most of them feed on smaller snakes, as well as lizards, frogs, small mammals, and small birds. Their venom is highly potent, but the means of delivering it aren’t.
Because their fangs are small, they have to bite and hold onto the prey to inject venom completely. Coral snakes usually kill and eat smaller snakes with no means of defense, not large or venomous snakes.
13. Indigo Snakes
Scientific name (genus): Drymarchon
Indigo snakes are a nonvenomous genus of snakes found in North, Central, and South America. Similar to kingsnakes, they often feed on snakes, including venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes and cottonmouths.
The eastern indigo snake in particular is completely immune to the venom of rattlesnakes, which means that a rattlesnake is completely defenseless against them.
Scientific name (genus): Clelia
Another genus of snakes that feed almost exclusively on other snakes, mussurana snakes often feed on venomous snakes, including rattlesnakes and lanceheads. Mussuranas are immune to these venoms, but they aren’t immune to coral snake venom.
Although they are venomous, they pose no danger to humans because their venom is mild. Because of this, farmers in South America sometimes release them into the farmyard to keep them free from pit vipers.
There was also an official government plan in Brazil to release these snakes in order to control pit vipers, but it failed.
15. Coachwhip Snakes
Scientific name: Masticophis flagellum
Coachwhips eat snakes, including rattlesnakes, among other prey. They aren’t constrictors – they simply pin the prey to the ground and swallow it whole.
These snakes are very quick for a snake, capable of moving at speeds of 4 MPH, so they can easily catch most other snakes once they spot them.
Cannibalism is very common among snakes, and some snakes base their entire diet on eating other snakes. Kingsnakes and king cobras are especially well known for this, and other snakes will actively avoid them.
Most snakes are opportunistic predators, killing anything they can swallow, and they won’t say no to another snake. However, only a few snakes actually hunt other snakes.