How Do Snakes Protect Themselves?

What animals pose threats to snakes in the wild?

Do snakes attack their predators right away or use camouflage?

When you own a snake or like them, you need to know all about them, and their defense mechanisms are one of their most important traits. 

You need to ask:

How do snakes protect themselves?

Snakes have several protective strategies to avoid confrontations with predators. They will usually bite or attack back only as a last resort. Snakes generally prefer to flee, hide, or scare off predators first.

how do snakes protect themselves

What Predators Attack Snakes?

Though snakes seem at the top of many food chains, larger predators will eat snakes often. 

Birds of prey like owls, hawks, and eagles will hunt and eat snakes when given the opportunity. 

The flag of Mexico depicts an eagle eating a snake. 

Cats, both wild and domestic, will attack and eat snakes as well. 

Wild mammals like mongoose and honey badgers eat snakes as one of the main parts of their diet.

Humans will attack and kill snakes, not usually out of hunger but out of fear. 

Many humans treat snakes as a pest when encountered in homes, garages, and agricultural land. 

Though some snakes are dangerous to humans, many will cause no harm and attempt to flee humans rather than attack.

Alligators and caimans will sometimes eat snakes, but they are not a regular part of these reptiles’ diets.

Some snake species engage in ophiophagy or the behavior of eating other snakes. 

King snakes especially are well known for ophiophagy.

What Do Snakes Do When They Meet A Predator?

Snakes will first hide, escape, or scare off predators before defending themselves through an attack. 

Snakes do have some bodily protection in the form of their scales. 

However, many of their predators have sharp teeth, claws, or talons, making short work of their protective gear. 

Therefore, snakes need other strategies to protect themselves.


Many snakes have tan, brown, grey, or green coloring because they blend in with their surroundings through camouflage. 

A snake in danger will often conceal itself among rocks, shrubs, and dirt. 

It will then wait for the predator to pass or search for a chance to escape.

Other snakes will hide in already-dug burrows in sand or dirt. 

They may even dig their burrows in which to hide.

Hognose snakes, for example, will use their upturned noses to dig burrows.


If a snake sees an opportunity, it will move quickly away from its predator. 

The snakes’ size and shape mean they move through narrow openings and quickly along flat surfaces away from danger. 

Snakes also climb trees and posts, which helps when pursued by a terrestrial or ground predator.

Scaring Predators

Snakes will often make defensive signals and gestures to tell a predator to back off. 

Most snakes hiss, which is a frightening noise to other animals. 

Rattlesnakes are well-known for shaking their tails and making a rattling noise to scare away their predators. 

Since rattlesnakes are so successful at scaring predators by rattling, species like the rat snake will sometimes vibrate their tails in tall grass, imitating the sound of a rattlesnake.

Other behaviors include hooding, seen in cobras. 

When threatened, a cobra will expand its neck’s sides close to its head, forming a distinctive hood. 

This makes the cobra appear bigger and more threatening to a predator. 

Cobras’ hoods may also have distinctive patterns, sometimes mimicking a second set of eyes.

Other Strategies And Features

Some snakes have unique features and defensive strategies. 

The opposite of camouflage, aposematism, uses brightly colored scales to signal danger to all potential predators. 

Coral snakes, some of the most venomous snakes in the world, are brightly colored with horizontal bands of red and yellow. 

In nature, bright colors often signify poison or venom.

Non-venomous snakes often mimic or imitate venomous snakes. 

Like coral snakes, king snakes are banded with brightly colored stripes. 

A predator may not look so closely at the differences between the two and avoid the king snake. 

Other snakes will flatten their heads to appear more triangular. 

This behavior mimics the triangular, flat heads of venomous snakes like rattlesnakes and vipers.

Banded snakes have a particular advantage over their predators. 

When a snake with horizontal stripes moves quickly, the stripes create a blurring effect. 

As it is called, this flicker-fusion confuses a pursuing predator, which may visually lose the snake altogether.

Some snakes will even release a musky scent when pursued. 

Garter snakes and rattlesnakes are just two examples. 

An overwhelming scent will warn a predator or a nearby human and may make them lose their appetite for the snake.


Really, biting or striking a predator is a last resort for a snake. 

Defensive strikes take energy, which could be better spent on finding food. 

Venomous snakes have a limited amount of venom and will generally not bite or spit venom even when confronted with a predator. 

Most snakes do not even want to get to the point of confrontation and will use any or all of the above strategies first.

Some snakes will fake attack or strike a predator before resorting to a real bite. 

Venomous snakes will sometimes spit their venom at a predator. 

The snake will most often aim the venom at the eyes, which may temporarily or permanently blind a pursuing animal.


We hope you have enjoyed learning about how snakes protect themselves.

Snakes face threats from many predators, including birds, cats, other mammals, humans, and even other snakes. 

When pursued, a snake will avoid a confrontation with its predator for as long as possible. 

They may hide from their predator, using camouflage or burrowing in the ground. 

If possible, snakes will escape. Others use their bodies to tell the predator to back off. 

Some snakes have unique protective strategies and features. 

A snake may fake an attack before really striking at a predator.

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