Mole Snake

Pseudaspis cana

Last updated: April 22, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Dewald Kirsten/Shutterstock.com

“The mole snake can reach a length of 6.8 feet”

Mole Snake Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Pseudaspididae
Genus
Pseudaspis
Scientific Name
Pseudaspis cana

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Mole Snake Conservation Status

Mole Snake Locations

Mole Snake Locations

Mole Snake Facts

Prey
Rodents, bird eggs
Fun Fact
“The mole snake can reach a length of 6.8 feet”
Diet
Carnivore
Average Litter Size
25-95 eggs
Common Name
Mole snake

Mole Snake Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Red
  • Black
Lifespan
8-10 years
Length
6.8 feet
Venomous
No
Aggression
Medium

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“The mole snake can reach a length of 6.8 feet”

The mole snake lives in the grasslands, deserts, savannas, and shrublands of South Africa. This snake is an expert at burrowing into the ground for shelter and in pursuit of prey. It feeds mainly on rodents and bird eggs. Though it’s not venomous, this snake has curved, sharp teeth and a bite that can require a person to get stitches.

4 Mole Snake Amazing Facts

• A baby mole snake is eight to nine inches long.
• A female mole snake can lay up to 95 eggs.
Honey badger are predators of this snake.
• Its pointed snout helps it to burrow underground with ease.

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Where to Find Mole Snakes

The mole snake is native to the southern part of Africa. It’s found in Lesotho, Botswana, Angola, Tanzania, and Zambia. They live in grasslands, shrublands, deserts and savannas.

This African snake is an expert at burrowing in dirt and sand especially when in pursuit of prey. They are active during breeding season in late spring. Late spring occurs in the month of October in South Africa.

Mole Snake Scientific Name

Pseudaspis cana is the scientific name of a mole snake. It’s named the mole snake because the golden mole is a main component in its diet. It’s in the Pseudaspididae family and the class Reptilia.



The Pseudaspididae family contains four species. As a note, the mole snake is the only member of its genus.

The three other species in its family include:

• Western keeled snake
• Spotted mock viper
• Common mock viper

Mole Snake Population & Conservation Status

The population of the mole snake is not known. But biologists have noted a decrease in this snake’s numbers in the area of Lake Naivasha where it was once plentiful. This is due to the expansion of farmland.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species doesn’t display a population trend for this African snake. However, the IUCN Redlist categorizes the mole snake as Least Concern.

How to Identify a Mole Snake: Appearance and Description

The body of this snake can be black, dark brown, or light brown. Some of them have a reddish tone. Its scales are lighter in color on its belly.

This reptile has a thick body with smooth, shiny scales. Its snout is pointed and there’s little difference in the width between its head and its body. This snake can be as long as 6.8 feet.

A baby or juvenile mole snake has gray or brown scales with a dark pattern of zigzags as well as with white spots on its back. This pattern fades as a baby mole snake grows into adulthood.

Mole Snakes and Cape Cobras

Mole snakes are sometimes mistaken for Cape cobras. This may seem strange because a mole snake doesn’t rear up and expand a hood like a Cape cobra. But, when a Cape cobra is slithering through its grassland habitat in South Africa, its dark brown or black scales can easily fool someone into thinking it’s a mole snake.

One notable difference between the two snakes is the mole snake has a pointed snout whereas a Cape cobra has more of a squarish-shaped one.

Mole Snakes and Bibron’s Mole Vipers

Another lookalike snake is the Bibron’s mole viper. The Bibron’s mole viper lives in South Africa, burrows in the ground, and has dark brown or black scales. It shares all of these features with a mole snake.

One of the biggest differences between the Bibron’s mole viper and the mole snake is a Bibron’s mole viper has rotating fangs. Its fangs stick out of the side of its mouth. These fangs allow it to strike head-on as well as from the side. Not surprisingly, it’s dangerous to hold this snake even by gripping it behind its head. It can whip its head to the side to strike with its fangs!

How to identify a mole snake:

• Black, dark brown, light brown or reddish body
• Lighter colored belly scales
• A thick body
• Smooth, shiny scales
• A pointed snout
• Head and body blend into one another without a notable difference in width

Mole Snake: How Dangerous Are They?

The mole snake is not venomous, but that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. This snake has curved teeth with a sharp edge on the back of each one. So, when this snake goes to bite its prey, it sinks its teeth in with a knife-like sharpness. Furthermore, this snake is known to bob its head after issuing a bite. This motion allows it to cut even deeper into its prey. Some biologists compare this African reptile’s teeth to a can opener!

Though you don’t have to worry about a venomous bite from a mole snake, it is going to be painful if you are bitten. The first step to take if you’re bitten is to remain still and try to stay calm. Next, go to a hospital for medical treatment. Put a cloth over the bite to slow the bleeding. A mole snake’s bite can be very deep and require stitches. Plus, it needs to be given proper care by a medical professional in order to avoid the development of infection.

Mole Snake Behavior and Humans

Mole snakes are not aggressive unless they are threatened or cornered. Generally, they take cover in a burrow underground or beneath dry vegetation if they see a threat.

If someone were to step on a mole snake or reach into a burrow where one is hiding, they are likely to receive a painful bite. The snake bites as a means of self-protection and not because of an aggressive nature.

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

Mole Snake FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are mole snakes poisonous?

No. Mole snakes are not poisonous/venomous.

How do mole snakes hunt?

Mole snakes move swiftly through their dry shrubland or grassland habitat in search of moles and other rodents. When it finds a rodent, the snake will pursue it all the way into an underground burrow if necessary. A mole snake’s pointed snout enables it to slip into a narrow burrow without a problem.

Once the snake catches up to its prey it bites into it and bobs its head until the rodent stops moving. They swallow their prey whole. A snake may eat every five days or so depending on the size of the prey it captures.

Are mole snakes aggressive?

No. Mole snakes avoid encounters with humans and predators if possible.

Where do mole snakes live?

Mole snakes live in South Africa in places such as Lesotho, Angola, Botswana, Tanzania, and Zambia. They live in grasslands, savannas, deserts, and shrublands.

In terms of shelter, they spend most of their time underground in burrows they’ve created, or burrows abandoned by other animals.

What do mole snakes eat?

Golden moles are the main source of food for this snake. They eat other types of rodents and bird eggs, too.

Can you keep a mole snake as a pet?

Yes. Some people keep mole snakes as pets. But, since this snake has such as painful bite, it requires special attention and care. The type of care required for this snake is best given by a person who has experience owning snakes.

How do you identify a mole snake?

A mole snake has black, dark brown, light brown, or red scales. Its body is bulky, and its scales are shiny and smooth. It has a pointed snout and can be as long as 6.8 feet.

Are mole snakes deadly?

No, they are not venomous. But these snakes have a strong bite and can cause an injury severe enough to require stitches.

What are the differences between a stiletto snake and a mole snake?

The major difference between a stiletto snake and a mole snake is their size.

Sources
  1. , Available here: https://www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com/snake/mole-snake/
  2. , Available here: https://capesnakeconservation.com/mole-snake/
  3. , Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mole_snake
  4. , Available here: https://seasonsyear.com/South-Africa
  5. , Available here: http://www.wild-facts.com/2013/golden-mole/
  6. , Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_cobra
  7. , Available here: https://www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com/snake/bibrons-stiletto-snake/

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