Snakes are some of the most fascinating animals on our dear planet. There are over 3000 snake species, known to humans so far, and each one of those species differs and varies in size, color, and sometimes even shape. From cobras, pythons, to rattlesnakes and black mambas; some of the snakes we’re familiar with, and some of them not.
Either way, humans generally differentiate between snakes as venomous and non-venomous. In some cultures, snakes are worshipped and considered royalty or heavenly. In other cultures, snakes are generally feared and loathed. Being considered dangerous, snakes are often killed, while in some countries they are even consumed as a delicacy.
But, when we observe the animal kingdom, every animal seems to not only hunt for food but also is hunted to be food for some other animal. The same goes for snakes. Regardless of how incredible we think would be to eat snakes, some animals depend on them for survival. This is a common feeding form, which also has its own name; opiophagy, or ‘snake eating’ translated from the Greek language. This form of feeding comprises hunting and eating snakes by other animals.
So, in the following paragraphs, we’ll take a look at the animals that like to eat snakes for lunch (but also breakfast and dinner). Let’s get started!
Animals Eating Snakes – Which Animals Do This?
Mongooses are omnivores. They live in burrows and eat small mammals, birds, eggs, and fruits when really necessary. Despite their appearance, mongooses can be rather aggressive and bloodthirsty animals. However, never in my life would I have thought mongooses eat snakes, but here we are.
The word in the animal kingdom is that mongooses specialize in eating poisonous snakes like king cobras, which is a piece of incredible information. But, how does an animal eat another poisonous animal and survive?
Well, mongooses have a specific defense system, in the form of unique acetylcholine receptors. These receptors provide the necessary immune system essential for protection against poisons and venoms. Therefore, when a mongoose eats a king cobra, the snake’s venom doesn’t enter the mongoose’s bloodstream. Mongooses are one of few animals with such unique receptors, which are believed to have mutated over time, enabling protection against the venom.
Brown Snake Eagle
The brown snake eagle is one of the best-known snake-eating birds of prey. The eagle lives in the western, eastern, and southern regions of Africa, where it leads a solitary life, hunting and eating snakes. Eagles are generally known to enjoy snakes for lunch, but the brown snake eagle is the best at it. Regardless of the snake, whether poisonous or not, the eagle dedicates all of its time to observing the area, looking for snakes, hunting, and eating them.
The brown snake eagle is known to hunt for snakes when flying, but also when relaxing on the trees. The eagle’s vision is impeccable, so it can spot a snake four or five times farther than we humans can. So, how does the eagle eat and survive eating a snake?
First of all, the eagle eats the snake by decapitating it and swallowing it as a whole in only one bite. By acting fast, and by getting rid of the head first, the eagle is minimizing the risk of a bite from the snake. Furthermore, the eagle is immune to snake venom, thanks to the natural protection against the bites, in form of thick-skinned legs with scales.
The brown snake eagle generally decapitates the snake first, sometimes eats it right away, or brings it to the nest to tear it apart or to feed the baby eagles. Rarely does this eagle hunt during flight; it generally hunts on the ground when it comes to snakes, especially the bigger ones. A brown snake eagle can kill and carry a snake up to 9ft in length.
We, humans, considered hedgehogs to be these cute, helpless little forest animals. However, thanks to the cruelty of the animal kingdom, hedgehogs had to become strong and resourceful to survive. This means, they do not only eat plants and live hidden in the bushes; they also hunt other animals and fight to protect themselves, using the incredible set of spikes or quills on their bodies.
In the wilderness, hedgehogs will eat almost anything on their way; from plants and insects to veggies and other, generally smaller animals, like snakes. Now, how does a hedgehog hunt, kill, and eat snakes.
Generally speaking, the hedgehog will attack the snake using the quills to wound it. After the attack, the hedgehog curls up into a spikey ball, protecting itself from the snake, and inflicting more wounds toward the snake every time the snake tries to attack. At one point, the snake simply has too many wounds to fight or attack, which is the moment when the hedgehog bites the snake in its neck and eats its head.
But, how do hedgehogs survive eating a venomous snake? Well, they do so thanks to their incredible immune system. It is believed that hedgehogs purify the venomous compounds coming from the snake, neutralize them and prevent the venom’s hemorrhagic effect. According to the research of European hedgehogs, it is believed that they have antibodies against venom and other dangerous toxins.
No, we’re not talking about the Marvel character; we’re talking about wolverine, the powerful weasel, resembling more a small bear, rather than a weasel. Now, wolverines, are solitary animals that generally live in northern Europe, Asia, and North America. They tend to eat almost anything, especially when they go for a long time without food.
Although in favor of vegetables, plants, and berries, during the winter wolverines rely on meat for survival. Alongside rabbits, lizards, and rodents, wolverines tend to hunt down and eat snakes as well. Alongside hunting, wolverines are also opportunistic animals.
This means they will not shy away from eating corpses of larger animals, like caribou or deer. They will eat simply anything that will help them survive, especially during winter. Now, when it comes to snakes, wolverines are known for eating cobras. It is believed that wolverines are immune to snake venom, just like a mongoose. Moreover, their coat as well as thicker skin further protect them against snake bites.
Ever heard of a snake that eats other snakes? Well, now you have; the California kingsnake is known for its cannibalistic feeding tendencies, where it attacks other snakes and eats them, for survival. This kind of feeding form is pretty uncommon among the snakes, but the kingsnake is obviously an exception. Sure, the kingsnake eats other animals too, like lizards, rodents, birds, and eggs. But, eating snakes, especially the venomous ones, is surely the kingsnake’s forte.
The kingsnake is known to be immune to the venom of other snakes. That is why it doesn’t shy away from eating rattlesnakes. It doesn’t also shy away from eating pythons, nonvenomous snakes, which are much larger in size than the kingsnake itself.
So, how does a kingsnake eat other snakes? Well, the answer lies in constriction. By constricting the ‘enemy’ the kingsnake kills other snakes and eats them.
Because of its specific appearance and color scheme, the kingsnake is a famous household pet. the tri-colored pattern seems to be popular among pet owners. Such pet-owners have to feed their snakes with lizards and mouses, rather than other snakes, of course.
Cats are all cute and funny, but the wild cats are far from that. These majestic creatures are fearless predators ready to hunt, kill, and eat anything that comes their way. One such wild cat is the bobcat; an opportunistic eater that will eat any-sized animal, regardless of whether it’s poisonous or not.
Of course, bobcats are bold enough to also eat snakes. Alongside snakes, bobcats eat rabbits, rodents, lizards, birds, eggs, deer, skunks, rattlesnakes, and even domesticated cats. Bobcats hunt by stalking their prey and ambushing it quickly.
During winter, a bobcat will prey on larger animals, like deer, which they kill and eat for a longer period of time. We do have to point out that bobcats don’t feed on snakes specifically; they are omnivores and prefer meat; if it comes from snakes, bobcats won’t mind.
Another snake, alongside the California kingsnake, that eats their own is the king cobra. This magnificent snake can be between 12 and 18 feet long, which makes it the longest poisonous snake in the world. King cobra lives in India, China, and southeastern Asia, in forests, swamps, and bamboo thickets.
When it comes to its diet, a king cobra is a carnivore, which means it eats meat, mainly that of lizards, small rodents, birds, and of course, other snakes. Some king cobras can go their entire lives feeding off other snakes, never having eaten any other animal. When it comes to eating other snakes, it is believed that make king cobras will eat female king cobras as a form of destroying the rival’s progeny.
Of course, there is also hunger as the reason for eating its own. However, scientists believe the reason a male will kill a female king cobra lies in the fact that during the mating seasons, male cobras don’t eat. Then, after the season is finished, they’re so hungry they will even eat their own.
The male king cobra will attack the female, grabbing her by the neck and choking her while simultaneously pumping venom. Once the snake has died, the male king cobra simply starts swallowing the snake.
Though small and adorable, honey badgers are known to be ferocious animals. Honey badgers belong to the Mustelidae family of mammals, which comprises weasels, ferrets, otters, wolverines, and of course, the honey badgers.
Now, honey badgers are small; they can weigh between 13 and 30 lbs., and reach up to 11 inches in height. Nevertheless, honey badgers are strong and muscular compared to their size; they are built for battle. The strong teeth and claws make them a sort of killing machine.
When it comes to their diet, honey badgers are omnivores, which means they will eat almost anything; from fruits and veggies to reptiles and rodents. They can even take on animals like horned antelopes. But, after all, they got their name because of their specific fondness for honey.
Nevertheless, honey badgers don’t shy away from hunting and eating a snake. Snakes, including venomous ones too, are one of the best meat sources for honey badgers. These animals can eat venomous snakes thanks to their special immunity to toxins and snake venom. Honey badgers had undergone genetic mutations that have made them immune to snake venom, which would shut down any other animals.
Well, look who’s here, peacocks? Do peacocks really eat snakes? Well, let’s start by saying that peacocks are omnivores. As we mentioned, this means that will eat almost anything, from fruits to rodents and reptiles. Now, depending on their habitat, peacocks can have a preference for certain kinds of foods. For example, the Indian or Blue peacocks tend to eat insects, worms, reptiles, and amphibians. The Green peacocks tend to hunt down termites and venomous snakes as well.
Now, we do have to point out that peacocks are not immune to venomous snakes. However, they really dislike snakes, so they will fight and eat any snake that enters their territory. They kill the snakes by grabbing them by the necks and shaking them violently until the snake dies.
Fun fact; the Indian name for peacocks in Mayura, which literally means ‘the killer of snakes’. Peacocks will eat cobras, rattlesnakes, and other, smaller snakes too. There is one issue here though; even though peacocks don’t seem to have issues consuming venomous snakes, there can be a health problem in case a snake was contaminated with viruses, parasites, or bacteria. Then, the peacock will suffer the consequences.
Secretary birds are large birds of prey. They are endemic to Africa and usually live in open grassland or the savanna of the sub-Saharan region. These birds are known for their eagle-like body, and crane-like legs, as well as specific feather color combinations. The secretary bird, for example, has an orange around-the-eye area, as well as a distinct black feather protruding from behind the head.
Now, when it comes to food, secretary birds will eat insects, beetles, mice, lizards, eggs, tortoises, and of course, snakes. There have been reports of secretary birds hunting down gazelles and cheetah cubs as well.
But, how do they hunt and kill snakes and large mammals? Well, their famous tactic of hunting and killing includes catching prey from tall grass, chasing the prey, spreading the wings, and stomping onto the prey with legs. If able, the bird will catch the prey, pick it up into the air and then drop it onto the ground, until it’s dead. They do this with snakes, as well as other smaller or bigger mammals.