While many people love snakes and even keep them as pets, others are flat-out terrified of them. Fear of snakes is so ubiquitous that snakes are traditionally used to symbolize evil in mythology, literature, and film.
Of course, snakes are not evil, and many of them are quite docile, even friendly. But a number of species can be quite dangerous if you cross them in nature, especially if they feel threatened. Even snakes that are generally friendly can kill you with their venom if you take them by surprise. Here are 10 of the most dangerous snakes on the planet.
1. Belcher’s Sea Snake
These slender, striped snakes may be familiar to you, perhaps even from personal experience. Sea snakes are typically pretty passive and won’t harm you unless they feel threatened. A threatened sea snake may bite you, releasing its venom. Only about a quarter of sea snake bites contain venom, but the sea snake is the most venomous snake on the planet. A few milligrams of Belcher’s Sea Snake venom is enough to kill a thousand people, making the sea snake the most dangerous snake in the world in terms of venomousness—even though it is typically harmless.
The rattlesnake is one of the most recognizable snakes in the Americas. It’s hard to miss the rattle at the end of the tail which gives this snake its name. The rattlesnake is actually a type of viper, and is quite venomous. The most dangerous snakes in this species are the young Eastern Diamondbacks. When treated promptly, fewer than 4% of rattlesnake bites are fatal, but when left untreated, all bites are potentially lethal. Rattlesnake venom can damage organs and prevent blood from clotting, leading to paralysis, breathing problems and massive bleeding. Losing a limb is not uncommon.
3. Death Adder
Everyone knows the story about how Cleopatra killed herself with the aid of an adder. This type of adder is found in Australia and New Guinea and looks a lot like a viper. Death adders are so dangerous that they hunt down other snakes, hiding in wait before leaping out and attacking their prey. Venom from a death adder will cause paralysis, respiratory failure, and death within just six hours. Around half of all untreated patients will die from Death Adder bites. With prompt treatment however, death is unlikely.
4. Inland Taipan
The venom from a single bite of an Inland Taipan can kill as many as 100 people. That may seem like nothing compared to the Belcher’s Sea Snake, but it’s still pretty impressive! While the rattlesnake is the most dangerous snake in the Americas, this snake is ten times more venomous. It is fairly passive however and keeps to itself; encounters with the Inland Taipan are relatively rare.
5. Eastern Brown Snake
The Eastern Brown Snake is not only very venomous, but also very aggressive, which makes it one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. This snake is native to Australia, and will often make its home in populous locations. Furthermore, it will actually chase down a person it perceives as a threat. It prefers not to bite, but will do so repeatedly if it decides to attack. Less than half of the bites are poisonous, but they do contain neurotoxins which cause paralysis and can be lethal.
6. Blue Krait
This species, native to South East Asia and Indonesia, has venom 16 times stronger than a cobra’s. Unfortunately, antivenin is not as effective against Blue Krait bites as it is against other types of snake bites. This makes it one of the most dangerous snakes, but fortunately the Blue Krait is nocturnal, so if you don’t roam around at night in the underbrush, you will probably avoid a Blue Krait encounter.
7. Black Mamba
The Black Mamba is native to Africa. While it may not be the most venomous snake in the world (one bite may only deliver enough venom to kill 10 people), it is still arguably the most dangerous snake in the world for other reasons. It is the fastest snake on earth, able to travel as fast as 20 km/h. A Black Mamba may strike its target a dozen times in a row. Without prompt treatment, a Black Mamba bite is almost always fatal.
8. Tiger Snake
The Tiger Snake is yet another dangerous snake native to Australia. This wide, yellow-banded snake is feared for the accuracy of its strikes. Without treatment, the fatality rate is generally around 70%. Like most other snake venoms, Tiger Snake venom causes paralysis, which may lead to respiratory failure and death.
9. Philippine Cobra
Cobras are highly recognizable because of their wide neck collars, but most species of cobra aren’t among the most dangerous snakes in the world. The most deadly cobra is the Philippine Cobra. It can spit its venom as far as 3 meters to reach its target. A bite from the Philippine Cobra can lead to death from paralysis within a half hour.
10. Saw Scaled Viper
This is one of the most dangerous vipers, along with the Chain Viper. This type of viper can be found in the Middle East and Far East, and is usually most active during nighttime following rain storms. Vipers are very fast, but their venom is relatively slow-acting. With antivenin, death is rare, but if you do not receive medical assistance, you can die a slow painful death over the course of 2 to 4 weeks.
As you can see, there are a number of different factors which can make any given snake deadly: the toxicity of its venom, the speed of attack, the aggression, and the likelihood that you would encounter that snake at all. The good news is that most snakes will only target you if they believe that you are a threat to their lives or to their young, and most bites can be treated effectively with antivenin, but you need to be fast.