If snakes are predators, do they also prey on others of their kind?
What does it mean for a snake to be ophiophagic?
Eating your own species is unusual to think about, but it’s not unheard of in the wild, even with snakes.
Which may lead you to wonder:
What snake eats other snakes?
When snakes eat other snakes, they’re called ophiophagic snakes. King snakes, king cobras, black-headed pythons, mussuranas, and indigo snakes are notable ophiophagic snakes. Ophiophagic snakes are not limited by region or habitat but occur all over the world.
Table of Contents
What Is Ophiophagy?
Ophiophagy is the behavior of eating snakes.
This refers to all animals which eat snakes, including birds, lizards, and mammals.
Most snakes eat other snakes, even smaller species of snakes.
Snakes don’t seek to eat their own kind; they do so opportunistically.
This means snakes may be the only readily available prey in their location or a particular season.
Snakes may also not be the favored prey of some snakes.
Still, an opportunistic hunter will often choose prey easier for them to catch.
Like all their prey, snakes swallow and digest other snakes whole.
What Are Some Ophiophagic Snakes?
There are certain types of snakes recognized as being primarily ophiophagic.
Ophiophagic snakes live all around the world in various climates and habitats.
This section deals with those snakes who actively hunt other, smaller snakes.
Eastern indigo snakes, found in the Eastern United States, are known for eating small rattlesnakes.
Indigo snakes are the longest native snake species in the United States.
Males may grow to 8′ feet (2.4 m) long, while females reach 6.5′ feet (1.8 m) in length.
They are usually dark in color, sometimes displaying bright red details on the scales around their mouths.
They also have powerful jaws.
Eastern indigo snakes are immune to the venom of American rattlesnakes.
They have an interesting method of subduing their prey: they will sometimes press their captured prey against a nearby surface.
Eastern indigo snakes are listed as a threatened species due to habitat loss.
Most members of the genus Lampropeltis, which includes milk snakes, are known to eat other snakes.
The Honduran milk snake, a nonvenomous constrictor native to tropical areas of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, is known for eating venomous snakes.
Honduran milk snakes are bright red with smaller black and orange stripes and grow to about 5′ feet (1.5 m) in length.
Kingsnakes are also members of Lampropeltis.
The multiple subspecies of this group are commonly called king snakes because of their opportunistic ophiophagic habits.
The different subspecies come in multiple colors and stripe patterns.
Kingsnakes are colubrid constrictors endemic to the Americas, and they are widespread among numerous habitats across those continents.
Like most ophiophagic snakes, they are immune to the venom of the snakes they eat and are often observed eating rattlesnakes in the deserts of the United States.
Mussuranas are a group of snakes found from Southern Mexico to Brazil.
The term mainly refers to snakes in the genus Clelia.
Adults grow from 5-8′ feet (2.4 m) in length.
They are usually black.
In many farming regions, these snakes are kept as pets to protect livestock from pit vipers’ deadly bites.
Mussuranas have also been extremely helpful in developing antivenoms.
Due to loss of prey, these snakes, which have provided so much help to humanity, are under threatened status.
King cobras have a scientific name which reveals they eat other snakes: Ophiophagus hannah.
King cobras are found from India into South China, through the Malay Peninsula, East to West Indonesia and in the Philippines.
Adults grow to up to 18′ feet (5.5 m) long.
A king cobra primarily eats other cold-blooded animals, especially other snakes.
Notable prey of the king cobra includes Asian rat snakes, dhamans, and pythons up to 10′ feet (3 m) in length.
Some king cobras will eat only one species of snake for their entire lives.
They are the world’s longest venomous snake.
King cobras have been listed as a vulnerable species since 2010.
Other snake species of Southeast Asia which eat snakes are kraits, such as the many banded krait and the banded krait.
These are found in the Indian subcontinent and throughout Southeast Asia.
The banded krait mainly eats other snakes, along with fish, frogs, skinks, and eggs.
Banded kraits are usually about 6′ feet (1.8 m) in length with black and gold “ring” stripes along its body.
The Chinese cobra, found in Southern China, Taiwan, and some other adjoining islands, also feeds on other snakes, though its diet varies as it ages.
Like the king cobra, it is also venomous.
However, it is much smaller in size.
Adults reach lengths of 4-5′ feet (1.2 m).
Chinese cobras have a distinctive white-on-black pattern on the back of their hoods, which may look like eyeglasses.
Chinese cobras are also a vulnerable species of snake.
Lastly, the black-headed python, an extremely muscular snake, lives primarily in Australia’s desert habitats.
Adult snakes may grow to 11′ feet (3.4 m) in length.
As is suggested by their name, they have a black head, with the rest of their body tending more towards brown.
Black-headed pythons are nonvenomous, with a diet consisting mainly of reptiles.
What If My Pet Snake Eats Snakes?
You may be wondering with all this information if there is a way to feed your captive King snake a smaller snake as a treat.
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee a snake packaged as a pet food source is free of parasites which could harm your pet.
Most captive snakes survive fine on a rodent-based diet.
We hope this article has helped you learn which snakes eat other snakes.
Ophiophagy is common behavior for many species of large snakes.
Snakes are often opportunistic predators and will hunt any available prey.
In the case of mussuranas, their tendency to eat snakes makes them perfect livestock protectors for humans.
Ophiophagic snakes are found all over the world in different types of habitats.