Wondering if Pet Snakes are dangerous? This guide is for you!
From ancient times, humans have had an uneasy relationship with snakes. These reptiles have been viewed as evil, cunning creatures out to bring the downfall of humanity.
Snakes are associated with sorcery and dark magic in many cultures. In the Bible, the snake is seen as the symbol of Lucifer, God’s fallen angel, who brought about the downfall of the First Man.
In some cases, however, snake stands for healing and recovery.
For example, during the exodus in the Bible, Moses lifted an image of a snake so that anyone who looked at it could be healed of their afflictions.
So, what do we make of snakes as pets? Those who keep snakes will tell you these lovely creatures are nowhere near evil or malicious. However, as with all pets, you should know how to handle your snake pet to avoid any dangers associated with keeping it.
Some snake species are suitable for professional handlers only. Beginners, too, have a wide range of snakes they can choose to keep.
To have a good experience with your snake pet, choose the right one for your expertise.
Are Snake Pets Dangerous?
Because of the negative image imprinted in our minds about snakes, most people don’t realize that not all snakes are dangerous.
Actually, most pet snakes are docile.
However, this does not mean you should get all cuddly with the first snake you come across. Some snake species can be quite dangerous if not handled well.
You should be extra cautious if you consider adopting a large species member.
Statistics indicate that snakes are not the most dangerous pets to keep. For example, did you know that dogs are responsible for more bites than snakes in the US?
Although some snakes can be quite dangerous as pets, they don’t cause more injuries yearly than bees and wasps.
Most nasty encounters with dangerous snakes happen in the wild – not in the relative safety of home enclosures.
You can minimize the danger of keeping snakes by having a species many snake keepers enjoy housing.
What Are the Dangers of Keeping a Snake?
#1 – Non-Venomous Bites
The size and severity of a snake’s bite depend on its teeth. Contrary to popular belief, big snakes don’t necessarily have a nastier bite than small ones.
Take the reticulated python, for example. Although this reptile grows to 16ft long, it has small teeth and is non-venous.
Its bite will barely scratch your skin. However, this does not mean that this non-venomous snake is not dangerous.
It kills by wrapping its body around the victim and constricting it. If you know this, you’ll learn how to handle this snake better.
The teeth of non-venous snakes are designed for two things. One, they bite in defense when the reptile is threatened.
Two, they face backward. This is to hold the prey in place for ease of swallowing. So, although non-venous snakes do bite, they don’t inflict much damage.
A non-venous snake bites you to express its displeasure and to keep you at bay. But, perhaps, it is uncomfortable with your handling.
Because of the rear angle of its teeth, don’t pull this snake off when it latches on you. Instead, remove it gently not to cause additional damage to the bite area.
#2 – Venomous Snakes
While non-venous snakes use their teeth primarily for defense, venomous snakes use them for an attack.
The teeth of venous snakes act as needles to deliver venom to the victims. The snake then holds back and waits for the poison to take effect and paralyze the victim.
Some snakes are only mildly venomous. This means that their venom does not take effect immediately.
And when it does, the impact is not harmful and can either go away on its own, or requires some mild medical intervention.
However, other snakes deliver much more lethal venom. Take the Inland Taipan snake, a native of Australia.
One bite from this snake delivers up to 110mg of venom, enough to kill up to 100 people. As a result, most keepers generally shy away from keeping these kinds of snakes.
As such, you can find these snakes in the wild and research centers, but rarely in private collections.
Many keepers find it okay to house mildly venous snakes like the Garter snake. However, if you plan to take this route, you must understand the type and strength of venom your pet produces.
For example, venom produced by the Garter Snake is relatively mild. For years, it was believed that this snake’s bite was non-toxic.
Recent studies have shown that the Garter snake produces a neurotoxin that doesn’t significantly impact humans.
Ask yourself these questions if you plan to keep a venomous snake. Does it deliver venom to humans? How dangerous is the toxin? Is the antidote readily available?
#3 – Equipment Malfunctions
You need to understand the specific housing needs of your snake pet before you bring it home. Snakes do not live in the same environment, even in the wild.
While some snakes do well in sandy areas, others prefer a lush green environment. Unfortunately, some have evolved to live in the harsh hot deserts of the Namib and Sahara.
Others are at home in the cold deserts of Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica. With over 3,000 species of snakes worldwide, what may be suitable for one may not be recommended for another.
Your housing setup should be designed with this in mind. Understand the environmental variable that works best for the type of snake you want to bring home.
Consider the lighting, humidity, and heating equipment you need to install. But, at the same time, don’t compromise on quality.
Poor equipment and workmanship are a recipe for trouble. An equipment malfunction could lead to the untimely death of your snake pet.
At the same time, an equipment malfunction can lead to an outbreak of fires in the enclosure and adjacent structures.
#4 – Constrictions
As noted earlier, some big snakes – such as the reticulated python – do not kill by injecting venom into the victim.
Instead, they use their powerful muscles to constrict the prey. The snake coils itself around the victim and starts squeezing.
Every time the victim breathes out, the snake squeezes harder until the victim can no longer breathe. Then, finally, the heart stops, and the victim dies.
Snakes as long as 15 to 20 feet can be quite heavy and powerful and can easily overpower a human.
As such, you shouldn’t keep such big constrictors unless you have experience with medium-sized snakes.
#5 – Parasitic Attacks
As with all pets, snakes can act as hosts for parasites. Usually, you’ll come into contact with the parasites when you mishandle the snake’s urine and feces.
From these parasites, you can get a zoonotic disease and other infections. Your other pets may suffer, as well.
Some of the more dangerous parasites carried by snake pets include leptospirosis, salmonella, campylobacteriosis, and botulism.
To avoid cross-infection, keep your snake’s enclosure clean at all times. At the same time, don’t encourage your snake to roam to your other pets’ areas.
6 – Family Pets
What does your pet snake feed on? Some snakes can get really large, and enjoy feeding on small animals such as cats and dogs.
If you’re bringing home a snake that can grow really big, consider the fate of your other family pets.
This means you need to have a well-secured enclosure for your snake pet. In the US alone, over 1 million family pets are attacked by snakes.
Although most of these attacks are perpetrated by wild snakes, domestic snakes have a fair share of the blame to carry.
As you secure your snake pet’s enclosure, remember they are super escape artists. They will do anything to get their fangs on a meal – especially if they notice the other pets running around freely.
#7 – Food Hazards
As we said earlier, it’s crucial that you clean your snake pet’s enclosure regularly. Target to get rid of any food leftovers, as these are excellent breeding grounds for bacteria.
Any food you give your snake has the potential to attract dangerous bacteria. Actually, some of the food comes loaded with parasites already.
For example, rodents are a favorite snack for your snake pet. But did you know that rodents naturally have leptospirosis, tularemia, Hantavirus, salmonella, and lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis?
As such, you should be very careful when handling live or frozen rodents. Hold your snake’s food with tongs to protect your family and other pets in the house.
What Are the Safest Pet Snakes for Kinds and Beginners?
These snakes are non-venous and are unlikely to inflict much damage if they bite. The safest snakes are also thought to be of good temperament and won’t cause much of a problem if handled.
However, they should be appropriately handled.
Rough Green Snake
This harmless reptile grows to about 2.5ft long. Advise your child not to handle this snake too much, as this may stress him and send him into hiding.
This snake grows to about 4ft long. It has a calm temperament and rarely bites. However, it disappears from sight into hiding places when mishandled.
Although this reptile has mild venom, its teeth are too small and weak to pierce human skin. The Ringneck grows to about 1ft long.
It gets agitated when handled for long.
This is a docile snake that has grown to about 2ft. It’s a good snake for beginners because it rarely bites and doesn’t have venom.
However, it can try to bite when stressed – though its teeth are too small to penetrate human skin.
African Brown House Snake
This reptile grows to about 4ft long. It is a harmless, venom-free snake for kids and beginners.
The garter snake grows to about 2ft long. Its small teeth are incapable of inflicting any real damage on human skin.
This snake is harmless and can be a great companion for your kids or beginners.
African Egg-eating Snake
This snake grows up to 2.5ft long. It is harmless because it lacks teeth and venom. It’s also quite docile and usually puts up with a lot of handling.
Acquaint yourself with this snake’s feeding requirements – it feeds on specific eggs only.
California King Snake
The California King Snake can grow up to 5 feet in length. It has no venom and rarely bites, thus is relatively harmless.
Releases a foul smell when threatened.
Ball pythons grow to a maximum of 5ft and are quite harmless.
Although the ball python may look big and dangerous, a beginner or a child can handle this snake because of its timidity.
This snake has special humidity requirements you need to acquaint yourself with.
The fangs of this reptile are located far into the back of the mouth, and are unlikely to bite you. In case it manages to bite you, its venom is not deadly.
The bite of a hognose is no deadlier than a bee sting. However, this reptile punches with the nose more often than it bites.
Snakes You Should be Careful Around
This category covers snakes that are usually fine, but can get aggressive if pushed to the wall. Again, beginners should be careful to treat these pets ever so gently.
Read the signs to indicate your pet snake does not want to be handled. However, in their right moods, these snakes make for awesome pets for kids and beginners.
This is a curious, adventurous snake that grows to 4ft long. It tolerates most handling, but may bite and cause a minor wound when agitated.
The Gopher Snake grows to be 4.5ft long. It can be trained to be handled regularly from a young age. Bites from this snake are non-venous, although they can be quite painful.
This snake can grow up to 9ft long. Its teeth are not strong enough to pierce the skin although they can make a wound.
The rainbow boa gets defensive when handled for too long. So it strikes as a way of telling you to keep off – though its fangs don’t hold.
This reptile is quite aggressive as a youngster. However, it becomes more docile and agreeable as it grows older.
A full-grown adult of 6.5ft has 80 teeth that can cause lacerations on the human skin.
Kenyan Sand Boa
This is a docile 2ft long snake. Its number one defense mechanism is to flee rather than fight.
However, if push comes to shove, the Kenyan Sand Boa will bite – though the bite is nothing more than a scratch.
This snake requires lots of sand in the enclosure – consider this before bringing him home.
This docile snake grows to about 4ft in length. The name children in Children’s Python refers to the fact that this snake looks more or less like a small python.
This snake is safe to handle if not disturbed unnecessarily.
A Green Anaconda can grow up to 14ft long. It would be a good idea to keep this one only when you are well-versed with snakes because it can get really powerful.
Elephant Trunk Snake
This is an aquatic reptile that is good escape artists. You need to consider this in designing and constructing its enclosure.
These snakes are best for someone with prior knowledge and experience in handling snakes.
This reptile can grow up to 20ft long. Although their bites are not venomous, they may over-power an inexperienced keeper and constrict them.
They also have special housing requirements. At 15-20ft long, this reptile requires considerable space and food.
Which Snakes Are Dangerous to Keep?
Avoid these snakes if you can because they are dangerous and may harm or kill you if you are not an expert handler.
Also, some of these species are illegal to keep in some jurisdictions.
It’s illegal to keep the cobra in most places across the globe. This reptile grows to about 12ft long. The real danger of keeping the cobra comes from its highly toxic venom.
One bite from this snake will kill you within 10-15 minutes.
This 13ft long reptile has a painful bite, though not lethal. However, it can constrict its victim using its powerful muscles and drain their life from them within no time.
The Burmese python grows up to 20ft long. The danger with this animal is that it has been known to eat humans.
It becomes really aggressive when it identifies you as dinner.
African Rock Python
This snake can grow up to 20ft long. It is highly irritable and aggressive, and is likely to strike you if you cross its path.
It’s also known to carry parasites and diseases.
In many jurisdictions, you require special authority to keep a snake at home. This is more so if the snake is big or very dangerous.
Not everyone can handle the really dangerous species of snakes. These ones should be left to the experts or professional handlers.
Rule of the thumb? Avoid keeping super-venomous snakes and huge constrictors.
Fortunately, a beginner or a child can choose from a wide range of safer snakes. We hope this article has opened your eyes to make a more informed decision.