When talking about snakes, we often use the terms “venomous” and “poisonous” interchangeably, but if we’re being honest about it, there’s a world of difference between the two.
It’s important to note, before we go any further, that these are two distinct words that define two different concepts. Poisonous snakes are usually not venomous, and vice-versa. But let’s take a more in-depth look at why there’s a difference, as well as what you can do if you come into contact with a snake (venomous, poisonous, or harmless!).
First, a word on toxins.
One thing that venomous and poisonous animals have in common is that they both use highly destructive toxins, even in very small amounts, as a protective measure to keep predators away.
Though the amount of toxins each animal carries will differ, it’s likely that even in small doses, these toxins can cause quite serious damage if you come into contact with them. Obviously, since they are both normally used to stave off predators, they need to be strong, otherwise, a predator would dismiss them.
It’s also interesting to note that while poisonous animals release their poison as a passive, defensive measure, venomous creatures might also use it to debilitate potential victims and make them more pliable. So that’s another difference. Between venomous and poisonous snakes.
Now, let’s talk about wording.
The key difference between venomous and poisonous snakes is in the names, themselves. Venomous snakes use venom, while poisonous snakes use poison. One is active, the other is passive.
Venomous snakes usually administer their toxic toxin cocktail by means of biting their victim, or a predator. They famously lash out and snip you, administering venomous toxins through their bite.
Poisonous snakes, on the other hand, eliminate poison through their body and only administer it through contact or ingestion. This means that while these snakes won’t bite you, if you kill and eat them, you are likely to severely suffer or even die.
If you suspect there’s a snake on your property…
If you think you might be harboring a snake on your property, we suggest that you don’t play about, and call a professional like District Wildlife Solutions.
That being said, let us get back to our poisonous and venomous snakes…
Are there venomous snakes?
Yes! At present, of the 3,500 different species of snake known to man, roughly 600 are venomous. These include well-known snakes like the King Cobra, or the Black Mamba. While some of these snakes prefer not to bite, and only use it as a warning (many venomous snakes actually administer an initial “warning bite” without venom), some can be highly aggressive, and lash out without reason.
This is why you should never approach a snake on your property, regardless of whether you think it’s venomous or not. Some venomous snakes, like the coastal or the inland taipan, can kill very quickly, and have a very low survival rate.
Are there poisonous snakes?
Okay, so we knew there were venomous snakes out there that could harm you with a single bite. But what about poisonous snakes? Well, the answer can be both yes and no. While there are no poisonous snakes per se, the garter snake can kill you, if ingested.
This is because the garter snake – which is a very common and harmless snake – feeds on plenty of newts and salamanders, which are, in turn, poisonous, and the garter snake absorbs that.