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What Are the Different Types of Venomous Snakes?

Vicki Hogue-Davies
Vicki Hogue-Davies

There are dozens of species of venomous snakes throughout the world. Some of the most venomous snakes include the black mamba, king cobra and inland taipan. Other types of venomous snakes include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, coral snakes, bushmasters, common adders, boomslangs and yellow-bellied sea snakes.

The black mamba, named for the color of the inside of its mouth, is found in southern and eastern Africa and can grow as long as 14 feet (4.5 m). King cobras live in India and Southeast Asia and can deliver enough venom in a bite to kill 20 people, and although they generally avoid contact with humans, they will strike when cornered. Found in Australia, the inland taipan, also called a fierce snake, generally are considered the most toxic snake in the world.

The Northern Pacific rattlesnake is venomous.
The Northern Pacific rattlesnake is venomous.

Just a few other types of venomous snakes include the bushmaster, common adder and boomslang. The bushmaster is found in Central and South America. Common adders live throughout Europe and are the only venomous snakes in the United Kingdom. The boomslang is a tree snake found in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the United States, there are four species of venomous snakes. They include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths and coral snakes. Among these venomous snakes, rattlesnakes are the most common. There are multiple species of rattlesnakes throughout the country. The largest is the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, which can get up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) in length.

Some cottonmouths, a type of venomous snake, are found in wetland areas.
Some cottonmouths, a type of venomous snake, are found in wetland areas.

Copperheads, named for the reddish-brown color on the top of their heads, are found in the eastern and central U.S., usually in forested or rocky areas or near water. Cottonmouths, also called water moccasins, are found in or around rivers, lakes, marshes and wetland areas in the southeastern U.S. Coral snakes live in the southern U.S. and can be confused with harmless king snakes because of the colored bands on their bodies; when red and yellow bands touch, it is a coral snake.

Cobras are venomous snakes.
Cobras are venomous snakes.

Venomous snakes aren't found only on land. They also can be found at sea. Yellow-bellied sea snakes are the most common of the venomous sea snakes. Inhabiting a wide range in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, they can grow up to 45 inches (114 cm) in length. There are dozens of other species of sea snakes; most are venomous, and all are found in the Indian or Pacific oceans.

Venomous snakes have heart or diamond shaped heads.
Venomous snakes have heart or diamond shaped heads.

There are many venomous snakes in the world, but with modern antivenin treatments, human death by snakebite is not common. For example, in the United States, approximately 7,000 to 8,000 people in the country are bitten by venomous snakes each year. Out of those, five die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main families of venomous snakes?

There are primarily four families of venomous snakes: Elapidae, which includes cobras, mambas, and coral snakes; Viperidae, encompassing vipers and rattlesnakes; Hydrophiidae, or sea snakes; and Colubridae, which contains a smaller number of venomous species like the boomslang. Each family has distinct characteristics and venom compositions that are adapted to their environments and prey.

How does venom vary among different snake species?

Venom composition varies significantly among snake species, reflecting their hunting and defense strategies. Elapids typically have neurotoxic venom that attacks the nervous system, while viperids possess hemotoxic venom that disrupts blood clotting and tissue. Some species may have a combination of toxins, leading to complex symptoms and requiring specific antivenoms for effective treatment.

Which venomous snakes are considered the most dangerous to humans?

The Inland Taipan is often cited as the most venomous snake to humans due to its potent venom, but it's rarely encountered. The Saw-scaled viper, on the other hand, is considered one of the deadliest because of its aggressive nature, prevalence in populated areas, and significant contribution to snakebite fatalities, particularly in Africa and Asia.

Are there venomous snakes in every continent?

Every continent except Antarctica has native venomous snakes. Africa, Asia, and Australia are particularly known for having a high diversity of venomous species. North America, Europe, and South America have fewer species, but still pose risks to humans and animals through encounters with native venomous snakes like rattlesnakes in North America and Bothrops in South America.

How can you identify a venomous snake in the wild?

Identifying a venomous snake can be challenging, as it requires knowledge of local species and their distinctive features. Many venomous snakes have triangular heads, elliptical pupils, and heat-sensing pits, but these traits are not universal. It's crucial to learn about the specific characteristics of venomous snakes in your region and to always maintain a safe distance from any unidentified snake.

What should you do if bitten by a venomous snake?

If bitten by a venomous snake, it's vital to seek immediate medical attention. Remain calm to slow the spread of venom, immobilize the bitten area, and keep it at or below heart level. Do not apply a tourniquet, cut the wound, or attempt to suck out the venom. Rapid administration of the correct antivenom is often crucial for survival.

Discussion Comments


@clintflint - While I agree that people should leave snakes alone as much as possible, the only exception to that is if someone has already been bitten.

In that case, you need to be able to identify the snake, and that might be easiest by killing it and bringing along the body to the hospital. This is not trivial. The doctors need to know exactly what kind of snake bit the person in order to treat the bite properly. The venom isn't often deadly, but even if their life isn't in danger, there is a possibility of nerve damage or gangrene if the correct antidote isn't administered as soon as possible.

If you can get a photo or if you know snakes well enough to be completely sure of identifying it, then that's better than risking someone else on trapping the snake. And, of course, don't take any risks at all. But if you can, it's better to bring the snake's body and call ahead to the hospital to let them know what's happening.


@croydon - I think it's just good sense to never move a snake unless you absolutely have to, whether you think it's venomous or not. Wild snakes aren't going to appreciate being held and they are actually really fragile.

And non-venomous snakes are a vital part of the ecosystem, so hurting or killing them is only going to increase your danger from rats and vermin.


I lived in West Africa for a while and the idea of deadly poisonous snakes under every rock really made me nervous. At first I was unconcerned about it, because I actually don't mind snakes in general. They don't seem that unpredictable to me, even if they aren't something I necessarily want sharing my home.

Also, I thought I would be able to identify any snake that I came across. But I found out I was wrong one day. I discovered a little snake in a shed and told my friends that it was not dangerous and that they should just ignore it.

It turned out to be one of the most dangerous kind of snake in the region and could easily have killed me or someone else. Thankfully I didn't pick it up to try and get it out of the way, which was my original impulse.

After that I was a lot more cautious about snakes.

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    • The Northern Pacific rattlesnake is venomous.
      By: fivespots
      The Northern Pacific rattlesnake is venomous.
    • Some cottonmouths, a type of venomous snake, are found in wetland areas.
      By: Elenathewise
      Some cottonmouths, a type of venomous snake, are found in wetland areas.
    • Cobras are venomous snakes.
      By: Matthew Cole
      Cobras are venomous snakes.
    • Venomous snakes have heart or diamond shaped heads.
      By: S.Külcü
      Venomous snakes have heart or diamond shaped heads.