Poisonous Snake or Venomous Snake?

Myrtle Beach snake

When we talk about snakes that pose a threat to human lives, such as the Taipan or King Cobra, it is not uncommon for us to hear someone asking if it is 'poisonous.' This term has become related to the snake that is partly due to the influence of mass media. However, using this to describe the danger of the snake may not be technically correct. Strictly speaking, most of the lethal snakes are venomous.

What is a Poisonous Snake?
The term poisonous can be applied to things or organisms that will release poison once you ingest them. Animals that are mostly poisonous are typically amphibians. Some salamanders, toads, and frogs will secret poison on their skin. The toxicity of the chemicals they will release is too strong to be fatal among humans. Therefore, you may have to remove these animals from your menu. Animals use their poison as their defense mechanism to keep them safe from the attack of predators.

When a predator ingested a poison, the toxin will immediately travel to various parts of their body that may cause nausea, vomiting, illness, and even death. The symptoms will depend upon the dose of poison. For instance, one of the most poisonous creatures, the pufferfish, is known for being more toxic compared to cyanide. The Golden Poison Frog of Columbia can secrete a poison that is enough to kill several people.

There are instances that some species of snake have developed poisons on their skin, like the Yamakagashi or the Japanese Grass Snake. However, experts have discovered that the toxin on their snakes' dorsal scales is due to their regular eating of a poisonous frog. Therefore, they are still incapable of producing their own poison since they will only rely upon the toxins found on toads.

What is a Venomous Snake?
Venoms are made by the animals that will use them either by injecting or spitting. They need to deliver the venom into the victim's body directly. Snakes will deliver their deadly venom through their fangs that may affect the circulatory or neurological system of the victim, so technically, they are venomous and not poisonous. However, not all snakes are venomous. In fact, there are only four types of venomous snakes in the US, Copperhead, Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth, and Coral Snakes.

Cottonmouth is armed with a cytotoxic venom. It can dissolve your flesh that may prompt amputation. Luckily, with the availability of antivenom, fatalities related to cottonmouth are relatively low. Rattlesnakes are known for delivering a generous dose of venom to their victim that makes them deadly. Copperhead has a weak venom, but they have an aggressive nature. In fact, they are the most common culprit of snake bites. Coral snakes are reclusive and unpredictable. There are times that it can release venom enough to kill five people, and there are instances when their attack will just be an act of self-defense.

As aforementioned, not all snakes are venomous. They are beneficial to our environment, especially in agricultural settings, where they can control the rodents' population. If you happen to find one on your property and can't identify if it is venomous or non-venomous, look for a trustworthy snake removal expert.

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