Do Non-Venomous Snakes Have Fangs?

Do Non-Venomous Snakes Have Fangs?

Wanting to know, how can you tell if a snake is poisonous? Do non-venomous snakes’ bite hurt? Are all fanged snakes venomous? If not, what’s the difference between snakes’ fangs and teeth? Moreover, does a non-venomous snake bite hurt? Do non Venomous Snake Species have fangs?

I am Pourandokht Mazaheri and I identify myself as a snake enthusiast, and a member of Herpetologist research team- specializing in snake oriented studies. I am also a writer for the Snake Store Team. with over 3000 registered species of snakes, only a small percentage are proved fatal to human beings. Here, I want to discuss one of the most subtle differences between venomous species from non venomous varieties; the snake fangs. 

Non venomous species do not have fangs as they have no production of toxins. Fangs are enlarged teeth and specialized for venom injection. While venomous species are equipped with these advanced organs, non- venomous species benefit from a comparatively harmless row of teeth to bite for defense or hunting.  

This article takes a thorough look at these topics;

  • Categorizing a snake as non venomous by definition
  • Key differences between venomous and non-venomous species
  • Physical characteristics of a non-venomous snake 

The following article clears all your doubts on identifying a non venomous species;

1- What Does Non-Venomous Mean?

When speaking of snakes, the most common word to describe some of them that come to mind is 'poisonous'. The word is technically incorrect, as most species of snakes are venomous. Although both poisonous and venomous animals are toxic, the difference between the two terms is quite simple.

Venomous snake with open mouth, showing his fangs

Venomous organisms are those that bite or sting their victims intentionally to release their toxins into the victim's system. However, poisonous animals (or plants) are those that transfer their toxins into you when you eat them. When it comes to snakes, their venom is usually transferred through bites. Therefore, it becomes clear that very few species of snakes are actually poisonous.

2- The Difference Between Venomous and Non-Venomous Snakes

Snakebites are usually the result of handling snakes incorrectly or attempting to kill them. Although professional help is always the ideal assistance, it is not always available. There are over 3000 species of snakes on the planet at the moment, and only 7% have lethal bites. Despite this, knowing how to differentiate between venomous and non-venomous snakes could save your life in an encounter with a snake.

Non Venomous Snake with open mouth

a) Snake behavior

    The first thing to look for is how the snake is behaving, as each species behaves differently. Although remembering each of them can be a hassle, it is an important observation to make. Especially when you are at a distance from the snake and want to identify as venomous or non-venomous. If you encounter a snake, observe if it is around water or a swamp-like area. Cottonmouth snakes live near water, while copperhead snakes live in wetlands near forests. Both these species are venomous, so it is wise to be on the watch for them if you are traveling in wild areas near water. Rattlesnakes are known to shake the rattles on their tails to ward off predators. This behavior creates a loud, rattling noise that scares away most animals. The tactic is also special to rattlesnakes, which makes them easier to spot.

    Beautiful brown Rattlesnake

    b) Snake Color

    Venomous and Non-Venomous snakes differ in colors. However, this may not always be the most reasonable way to spot them. From Terminix:

    "While there are only four types of venomous snakes in the U.S., each type contains many subspecies with size and color variations that help them blend in with their environments. Therefore, trying to identify a snake by its color may not always be a good idea. For example, venomous coral snakes and non-venomous scarlet king snakes both have a banded pattern of yellow, brown, and black on their scales."

    Apart from this, venomous snakes usually have more sharply colored scales. So, if you are not a trained expert, it is better to stay away from any snake you see that has a brightly colored hide.

    c) Shape of the snake head

      When it comes to the shape of the head, venomous snakes often have triangular and broadheads. This shape is meant to be threatening and may successfully protect the snake from protectors. As for non-venomous snakes, they also have the ability to change the shape of their heads in a manner similar to venomous snakes.

      Blue Viper Snake

      Although non-venomous snakes usually have round or elongated heads, they can flatten them when predators are nearby. This is an important bit of information to remember, as snakes have the ability to sense predators from miles away. So, non-venomous snakes might flatten their heads and make you think they are venomous if you seem threatening to them.

      d) Snake eyes

        One other differing feature of the two types of snakes is the pupils of their eyes. Venomous snakes have vertical pupils, similar to cats, with light-colored, yellowish, or green irises. This is a fairly distinguishing feature but it can not be usually observed from a safe distance. Non-venomous snakes tend to have more rounded pupils. Other features you can use to distinguish between the two snakes are the scales on their body. Non-venomous snakes usually have small scales on their belly region. However, if the scales are broad and cover the entire width of the belly, the snake can be both venomous or non-venomous.

        Viper Snake Eyes

        3- Some Common Characteristics of Non-Venomous Snakes

        It is always advisable to check out what species of snakes live near your area, as there are no defining features of venomous and non-venomous snakes. Both types of snakes have teeth that are known to give lethal bites. This goes true for bites from non-venomous snakes as they are still wounds that need to be attended to. In some cases, they can also get infected with moisture and bacteria. Non-venomous snakes that are large in size such as some species of pythons and boas, can leave disastrous bites that can cause major lacerations. Therefore, it is wise to be on your guard around non-venomous snakes.

        python snake in a river

        a) Non-venomous snake attack

        Non-venomous snakes are known to hunt their prey through constriction. However, this is not the bone-breaking kind that is commonly shown to people. Instead, the non-venomous snake will bite its prey once or twice, and then wrap itself around the animal entirely. The process is relatively quick and it takes under a minute for the animal to die. The snake wraps tighter every time the animal exhales, until the animal can eventually, not inhale and dies of exhaustion. Simultaneously, a large amount of pressure is applied to the animal's chest and the heart stops beating because there is no room for it to continue beating. 

        b) Non-venomous snake defense

          Non-venomous snakes are cautious of danger and will go to any length to defend themselves. Although they possess teeth that can be used to bite their predators, they mostly rely on camouflaging themselves and hiding in their surroundings. Other defensive tactics include wrapping themselves into a tight ball, with their head on the top, and rattling the tail. Some snakes may also rub their scales together in an attempt to ward off predators. However, these are all the last choices that the snake will make. Once threatened, they will most likely flee.

          Coiled Serpent Ring Presentation

          4- What Kind of Teeth do Non-Venomous Snakes Have?

          Snakes are known to have the deadliest bites among all animals. This phenomenon is due to the special teeth that venomous snakes possess, known as fangs. Snakes are known to have sharp fangs that are usually located on their upper jaws. The fangs are also in close contact with the glands that produce the venom. However, this is only true for venomous snakes. The snakes which do not produce venom only have rows of normal teeth in their mouths, much like humans. These non-venomous snakes also include pythons. 

          Non Venomous snake teeth

          Non-venomous snakes also have a different growing process for their teeth, it is much similar to humans. The process for venomous snakes starts at their embryo stages, where their upper jaws undergo quick growth and the fangs are also developed. However, the fangs at the back of the snake’s mouth remain where they are. As you can guess, this process is very unlike the ones humans go through. For humans and other snakes that do not produce venom, the teeth are grown from only one tissue.  Unlike venomous snakes, non-venomous snakes do not have sharp fangs. Instead, they have rows of teeth that are equally sharp.

          5- Are Non-Venomous Snakes Less Dangerous Than Venomous Snakes?

          Generally, snakes are not considered aggressive, whether they are venomous and non-venomous. However, this can change drastically if the snakes are threatened or cornered. Some species of snakes are more likely to turn to bite instead of trying other methods to ward off predators. As all snakes possess sharp teeth, they are all capable of inflicting wounds and breaking the skin. This can lead to potential infections if not treated immediately. This explains that even non-venomous snakes can be dangerous to humans if not treated with caution.

          Snake bite on the hand

          Snakes are reptiles, which means they are cold-blooded. They are important organisms for the ecosystem, and they obtain their body heat from their surroundings. Snakes tend to be more active during the day in spring and fall, and more active early morning and evening during the heat of summer. Bites from venomous snakes that have not been provoked are very rare. Venomous snakes usually have a sensory area, or pit on the sides of their heads, which helps them find their prey. This is another distinguishing feature that sets them apart from non-venomous snakes.

          Snake Leather Bag Presentation

          The size of the non-venomous snake matters when taking into account how much threat it poses. This is because some non-venomous snakes can grow up to six feet long, and they all are from varying species. They range from harmless garter snakes to large, and deadly python snakes that can cause fatal damage if they are harassed. Not all bites by venomous snakes inject venom into the skin, some are 'dry bites', which only puncture the skin. Dry bites can be done by both venomous and non-venomous snakes. Whether a snake is dangerous or not depends on where it is found and how it is handled. Of course, snake behavior changes from species to species, and it can be greatly helpful to remember the characteristics of some common ones.


          6- Snake Fangs; an Emblem of Dangerous Beauty

          After reading this article, you have gained the knowledge of scientific categorizing of a non-venomous snake. You have also learned to differentiate between the venomous and non-venomous snake species, and pinpoint to the key differences between a venomous and non-venomous species. If you deal with snakes in any way, living close to their habitat, or often take hikes amid the wilderness, this information can help you to ensure the wellbeing of your own as well as other people’s.

          An emblem of perilous beauty, serpentine fangs have inspired many artists to capture the audacious allure of these creatures in different forms.

          Click here to uncover the Ambient Threat T-Shirt representing a serpent showcasing its fangs at the moment of strike 👇🏼

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