April 16, 2024

When it comes to snakes and all of their many colors of the rainbow, black snakes make up a significant fraction of the total color morphs across all species all around the world.

This is certainly an interesting bit of trivia, but in strictly practical terms this should give you pause as it can be quite difficult to identify snakes based on color alone!

When confronted with a black snake you might have to answer a now difficult question, and you better not get it wrong: are black snakes poisonous?

It depends. Many species like the black kingsnake and western rat snake are entirely black (or nearly so) and harmless to people. Others like the cottonmouth or dreaded fer-de-lance can be a charcoal color to deep black, and both are extremely venomous.

Black is a difficult color when it comes to positively identifying a snake, and when confronted with a snake that is all black in color, or mostly black, you’ll have to rely on other distinguishing characteristics and that might mean you need to get too close for comfort.

You can learn more about various black snake species and how to handle them in this article.

What Do Black Snakes Look Like?

The appearance of any given black snake can vary tremendously. They might be large, long and stocky or very small, short and slim. It all depends on the species.

But beyond this, there’s quite a bit of variation in the basic black coloration of black snakes.

Some are indeed monolithic in color, with a black upper surface and head that ranges anywhere from the color of asphalt dust to the color of spilled motor oil.

Other snakes might actually have a pattern, but they’re unique color morph could have a black base color with secondary colors that are a slightly different shade of black.

This ghostly and sinister appearance might be interesting, but it does not make it any easier to identify the snake in question!

This is all further complicated by the color of the belly. Snakes usually don’t show quite so much variation in the color of their belly and sometimes the color of their head, and, if visible, might be a good way to start narrowing down what sort of species you are dealing with.

Are All Black Snakes Poisonous?

No. Not all black snakes are poisonous. In fact, most black snakes are not poisonous if that brings you any relief.

That being said, what black snakes are poisonous tends to be really, really poisonous so you don’t want to roll the dice and mess with them whenever you encounter one out in the wild.

A close brush with a cottonmouth or a confrontation with a black rattlesnake might be the last mistake you ever make.

Where are Black Snakes Usually Found?

Black snake species are found all over the world, on every continent except Antarctica.

You’ll find them all over the continental United States, Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.

Do All Black Snakes Bite?

Yes. All black snakes can and will bite. Their propensity to bite and the conditions under which they will bite varies greatly depending on the species and the specific circumstances under which you encounter the snake.

Generally speaking, if you try to handle a snake, or provoke it enough, or get too close to it, you can expect it to bite you, whether or not it is poisonous.

Does The Bite of a Black Snake Hurt?

Generally yes, and the amount of pain depends on the kind of snake and whether or not it is venomous.

Small, non-venomous black snakes will struggle to inflict a meaningful bite owing to their tiny size and even tinier teeth.

On the other hand, something like the aforementioned black rattlesnake is impressively large and has large fangs to boot.

Those things will deliver powerful hemorrhagic or neurotoxic venom that can easily kill you, and it will hurt horrendously the entire time you are dying.

Do Black Snakes Show Aggression Toward People?

Once more, this depends entirely upon the species of the snake you are dealing with. Most snakes, of any kind in color, would prefer to avoid people if they are able.

They will stay hidden if they can, and run away if they can’t. Some snakes freeze in place and hope to avoid being noticed or even play dead.

Other snakes, once confronted, cornered or approached will enact one of several defensive postures, often curling themselves into a striking position and feigning a bite or hissing loudly.

But a few snakes are known to become extremely aggressive and rather proactive when they feel the need to defend themselves.

These are among the most dangerous snakes you can encounter if they happen to be venomous.

Will Black Snakes Hurt Pets or Livestock?

Black snakes of any kind generally will not seek to hurt pets or livestock, although there are dangerous conditions that could exist for your animals depending on the species.

For instance, rat snakes might well prey upon young chickens or ducks and have been known to eat eggs.

In the case of venomous snakes, even though they would certainly never seek out larger animals or pets to kill for food, a bite from them might still occur and can easily result in death.

This usually happens when a dog or cat charges the snake out of curiosity or out of a desire to protect their owners.

Larger livestock are often bitten by venomous snakes when they step on them unknowingly or step too close to them.

Even in the case of non-venomous snakes, larger animals might be injured due to panic or overreaction from the sudden appearance of any black snake.

Should You Kill Black Snakes Just to Be on the Safe Side?

No, you shouldn’t, unless you have no other choice or if failing to kill the snake might endanger life or limb.

Most black snakes you will ever encounter will be harmless. Venomous snakes, too, are probably more than happy to get away and leave you and your animals alone.

However, if you cannot positively identify the snake and it will not leave, or if escaping from or bypassing the snake is not possible or put you in greater danger, then you should not hesitate to kill the snake.