Are Red-Belly Snakes Dangerous?

By Simon Foden

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

In nature, red means danger . But nature is clever. In some cases, creatures develop red coloration to mimic more dangerous animals whose bright coloring warns off potential predators. Two snake species have red bellies. One is tiny and harmless, the other is potentially deadly. Since they live on opposite sides of the world, confusion between the two is unlikely.

Red Belly Snake Bite

The red belly snake (Storeria occipitomaculata), native to all of North America south of Ontario, has a set of fangs but rarely bites, even when scared. The only time a red belly snake will bite is when hunting food. When the red belly snake is startled or feels threatened, he will flatten his body. Even if you coaxed a red belly snake to bite you, this nonvenomous and tiny snake would do very little harm to a human.

Red-Bellied Black Snake Bite

Although red-bellied black snakes (Pseudechis porphyriacus) are potentially fatal, only one death from a bite has been recorded -- a baby in Australia, the only country where this snake is native. The snake's shyness and lack of contact with humans makes bites rare. However, the red-bellied black snake does have sufficiently toxic venom to cause severe tissue damage.

Red Belly Snake Prey

To slugs and earthworms, the red belly snake is highly dangerous -- they are the snake's prey. The red belly snake will also feed on insect larvae, small salamanders and even snails, which he can extract from their shells using specially adapted teeth.

Red-Bellied Black Snake Prey

The red-bellied black snake, despite being one of the largest of Australia’s venomous snakes, feeds on frogs and occasionally small lizards and small snakes. They kill their prey by biting with their front fangs. Their venom paralyzes their prey, which they swallow whole.

Red Belly Snake Behavior

Red belly snakes are not only harmless, they’re also reclusive. They favor rocks and undergrowth, and they even spend a lot of time burrowing underground. They are active during day and night, although during the summer months they become nocturnal.

Red-Bellied Black Snake Behavior

Although timid, red-bellied black snakes will bite if cornered. Despite their lack of a threat to humans, these snakes are a menace to the Eastern brown snake, whom they will chase and kill if one enters their territory. Since Eastern brown snakes pose a much higher threat to humans and are responsible for more than two-thirds of fatal snake bites in Australia, red-bellied black snakes are actually beneficial to people.

Photo Credits

  • Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Author

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.