Snakes are often thought of as predators, especially venomous species. These animals slink about hunting for meals and strike hard and fast. That doesn’t mean they are at the top of the food chain. There are many animals that kill snakes for food and others that kill them in self-defense. This article will detail which animals kill snakes and why.
10 Animals That Kill Snakes
1. Honey Badger
Scientific name: Mellivora capensis
This species is found in Africa, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Western Asia. Honey badgers are omnivores, but their favorite food is honey and honeybee larvae. They also eat fruits, bulbs, insects, birds, small mammals, and snakes.
The honey badger is immune to snake venom, so attacking venomous snakes is no threat. They often hunt for snakes, killing and eating them quickly with their sharp teeth and long foreclaws.
Scientific name: Herpestidae
Mongooses belong to the Herpestidae family, which includes thirty-four mongoose species. They have long, slender bodies and are carnivores, meaning their diet consists of meat. Most species are brown or grayish and have big mouths with sharp teeth.
Mongooses are small but fierce hunters. Snakes are a main source of food, so they can often be seen hunting and killing snakes, even venomous ones. In fact, the Indian gray mongoose is known for hunting and killing the extremely venomous King cobra, which is what the tale “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is about.
3. Great Horned Owl
Scientific name: Bubo virginianus
Great Horned Owls have tufts of feathers protruding from the head, giving them the appearance of horns. These fierce predators can swiftly take down prey, even if it is larger than them.
The sharp talons have a grip strength of 28 pounds, making it difficult for any prey to get away. This owl hunts rodents, frogs, and scorpions in addition to larger prey such as falcons and other owls. They also hunt and kill snakes.
This owl’s diet includes about thirteen different species of snake, including venomous ones. The owls are not immune to venom, but their attacks are usually so fast, the snake doesn’t have the chance to fight back.
4. Red-Tail Hawk
Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
The red-tail hawk is the most common hawk species in North America. The feathers can range in color from blackish to reddish brown to white. However, the adults will still have the tell-tale reddish-brown tail feathers.
These predators perch on telephone poles, trees, and other high-up places to watch for prey. When they spot something, they swoop down quickly and grip it in their strong, sharp talons.
One particularly favorite meal is a rattlesnake, which is full of nutrients. The red-tailed hawk can easily track a rattlesnake as it moves along the ground and can swoop down and grab it before the snake even knows a predator is nearby.
Scientific name: Meleagris gallopavo
When you think of a turkey, you may think of a large, harmless bird popular for Thanksgiving dinner, but it can be aggressive when necessary. Turkeys are omnivorous, meaning they eat a mixture of meat, vegetables, seeds, and more.
Turkeys usually live in groups and have been known to hunt snakes. Thick skin on the feet and thick layers of feathers on the body help protect them from venomous snake bites.
When the group sees a snake that isn’t too big for them to handle, they will peck at it, kill it, and eat it. If the snake is too big, the flock will attack with the goal of running the snake off rather than killing it.
6. Wild Hog
Scientific name: Sus scrofa
Wild hogs are large animals growing over 200 lbs, up to three feet tall at the shoulder and up to five feet in length. The males are larger and grow two long tusks from both the upper and lower jaw, totaling four.
These omnivores will eat pretty much anything, including snakes. They are particularly fond of hunting and killing rattlesnakes and are believed to have fewer adverse effects from the venom if bitten.
Scientific name: Procyon lotor
Raccoons are nocturnal mammals that spend their nights hunting and scavenging for food. They are omnivores and eat fruits, veggies, insects, fish, frogs, small animals, and more. They have also been known to kill and eat snakes, but they use a unique method.
Raccoons cannot usually kill a snake with their bare paws, but they are highly intelligent creatures and have come up with a different way: they grab a rock or other heavy object and crush the snake’s head with it. Once the snake is dead, the raccoon eats it. The snake is a great source of protein for the raccoon.
Scientific name: Canis latrans
Coyotes are members of the canine family. They have a strong sense of smell and very good vision. Their size ranges from 32 to 37 inches tall and 20 to 50 pounds.
Coyotes are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they will eat almost anything they can find, from mammals to frogs to fruit and grass. They often eat snakes, killing them by biting and crushing their heads, after which the coyote eats the entire snake whole.
Scientific name: Vulpes
Foxes are members of the Canidae family, and there are twelve species that are considered to be “true foxes.” Foxes have triangle-shaped ears, a pointy snout, and a tell-tale bushy tail. These creatures are scavengers but also hunters.
They are omnivores, preferring meat, but settling for nuts and seeds when prey is scarce. Foxes are known to hunt snakes, though they tend to only hunt non-venomous snakes like garter snakes.
Scientific name: Equus ferus caballus
These large, hooved mammals are herbivores, choosing to eat grass, hay, and vegetables. You might be surprised to see horses on this list, but horses can and do kill snakes.
If a horse or group of horses feels threatened by a snake, they will trample and kill the snake with their hooves. This can be dangerous though, because if the snake is venomous, the horse risks serious injury.