11 Animals that Hunt Rattlesnakes

Written by August Buck
Updated: June 25, 2022
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Key Points

  • Kingsnakes are resistant to the venom of pit vipers and have powerful bodies that can constrict and incapacitate their prey. They are a formidable enemy for rattlesnakes, and will consume them upon defeat.
  • Red-tailed hawks love to eat rattlesnakes, but consume them in sections because they are not immune to the venom. They choose to reveal themselves to the snake in advance when hunting, aware that snakes can sense birds above them.
  • Coyotes often share territories with rattlesnakes, and will kill them not only to eat, but also to protect their young.

While human beings prefer to avoid rattlesnakes at all costs, there are some animals that hunt rattlesnakes as part of their daily meals or lives. But what might some of these animals be? And how are they capable of taking down such a highly venomous predator without harming themselves?

In this article, we will list eleven animals that are capable of hunting rattlesnakes and eating them, including ones you may not be aware of. We will discuss the ways in which they hunt rattlesnakes, their preferred diet, and how rattlesnakes might best defend themselves from such attacks. Let’s get started!

Animals that Hunt Rattlesnakes- Some May Surprise You!

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
While you may already be aware of this, kingsnakes are one of the most notorious animals that hunt rattlesnakes.

Maria Dryfhout/Shutterstock.com

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Ready to learn all about the different animals that hunt rattlesnakes? Here are some of the top predators of rattlesnakes around the world!

1. Kingsnakes

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Kingsnakes are resistant to all pit viper venom, including rattlesnake venom. This gives them a distinct advantage over rattlesnakes in battle.

iStock.com/JasonOndreicka

While you may already be aware of this, kingsnakes are one of the most notorious animals that hunt rattlesnakes. This is where kingsnakes earn their name- they frequently eat other snakes and have therefore been named king! But why are kingsnakes so good at hunting rattlesnakes? Let’s take a closer look.

Kingsnakes are resistant to all pit viper venom, including rattlesnake venom. This gives them a distinct advantage over rattlesnakes in battle. Rattlesnakes only use their venom to hunt or kill other animals. Kingsnakes have powerful bodies capable of constricting and incapacitating their prey. This includes a variety of different snake species, in addition to rattlesnakes!

2. Eagles

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Using their powerful talons and beaks, they are capable of ripping apart snakes, and rattlesnakes are frequently found in the same territories as eagles.

FloridaStock/Shutterstock.com

One of the primary predators for just about any type of snake is an eagle. Eagles are known for eating a variety of animals, including snakes, fish, and small mammals. Anything that they can carry away to their nest is free game to an eagle, and they don’t bat an eye when it comes time to consume a highly venomous rattlesnake!

Even though eagles are not resistant to snake venom in any way, just about every single species of eagle eats venomous and non venomous snakes. Using their powerful talons and beaks, they rip apart snakes. Rattlesnakes are frequently found in the same territories as eagles.

3. Owls

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Owls are often discouraged by a rattlesnake’s fearsome rattle and defensive positioning; no breed or species of owl enjoys eating snakes as a first choice.

Wang LiQiang/Shutterstock.com

Despite owls being a primarily nocturnal species, they frequently take down snakes. However, only some species of owls feel comfortable attacking and consuming a snake as large as a rattlesnake- and even then, they still prefer to eat adolescent rattlesnakes! 

Owls are discouraged by a rattlesnake’s fearsome rattle and defensive positioning; no breed or species of owl enjoys eating snakes as a first choice. However, owls are completely opportunistic hunters, which is why a rattlesnake may fall victim to a passing owl if it is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

4. Hawks

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Hawks are aware of just how venomous a rattlesnake is, and they also know that rattlesnakes often sense birds from above.

Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

Much like eagles, hawks frequently find and consume rattlesnakes. However, they are also not immune to snake venom, which is why hawks often eat sections of a snake rather than a snake in its entirety. This is particularly true with rattlesnakes, especially since many different hawk species and breeds eat rattlesnakes frequently. 

Red-tailed hawks in particular love eating rattlesnakes. However, they hunt for them in a different way compared to how they hunt any other type of prey. Hawks are aware of just how venomous a rattlesnake is, and they also know that rattlesnakes often sense birds from above. So they choose to reveal themselves to rattlesnakes before attempting to hunt them. This means that they rarely get bitten.

5. Turkeys

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Turkeys rarely hunt rattlesnakes as part of their routine diet- they fight rattlesnakes if they feel as though their flock or young are threatened.

Brent Coulter/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that turkeys are just another animal that hunts rattlesnakes? These large and impressive looking birds may not look like snake killers at first, but their talons and beaks say otherwise. However, turkeys rarely hunt rattlesnakes as part of their routine diet. They fight rattlesnakes if they feel as though their flock or young are threatened.

We all know that turkeys aren’t the most intelligent birds out there, but they know when there is a threat in their midst. Turkeys will claw, peck, and otherwise harm rattlesnakes if a rattlesnake is hunting young turkeys in a flock. Turkeys consume the rattlesnake after it has been killed, avoiding the head and the majority of the rattlesnake’s venom.

6. Roadrunners

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
While roadrunners have a natural enemy in coyotes, they are also one of the few animals that hunts rattlesnakes regularly.

iStock.com/Frank Fichtmüller

While roadrunners have a natural enemy in coyotes, they are also one of the few animals that hunts rattlesnakes regularly. Found in the deserts of New Mexico and California, roadrunners hunt and kill rattlesnakes without much fear or preamble- it seems like something they were built to do!

Using immense speed and agility, roadrunners peck rattlesnakes through the backs of their heads, often killing them immediately. Given the limited resources and food often found in these desert climates, it makes sense that roadrunners don’t hesitate to kill and consume any rattlesnake they find.

7. Coyotes

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Both rattlesnakes and coyotes occupy similar habitats to one another, and coyotes kill venomous snakes regularly.

Jukka Jantunen/Shutterstock.com

Another animal that hunts rattlesnakes is the coyote. Both rattlesnakes and coyotes occupy similar habitats to one another, and coyotes kill venomous snakes regularly. Not only are they extremely opportunistic eaters, they choose to kill rattlesnakes if they feel as though the snakes are threatening their young.

However, coyotes also consume rattlesnakes and other snakes as part of their regular diet. Many coyote species live in deserts or areas with limited natural food resources, so consuming snakes using their powerful jaws simply comes naturally to them.

8. Black Racers

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Using their powerful bodies, black racers constrict rattlesnakes and swallow them whole, resistant to rattlesnake venom.

iStock.com/Sunshower Shots

Similarly to the kingsnake, black racers regularly eat rattlesnakes. Black racers are fantastic snakes to have in your backyard or suburban neighborhood, as they act as a natural pest control for a wide variety of animals- including other snakes!

You may not want a snake in your yard, period. However, black racers are non venomous and rarely aggressive, capable of controlling rodent and snake populations around your home. Using their powerful bodies, black racers constrict rattlesnakes and swallow them whole, resistant to rattlesnake venom.

9. Bobcats

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
If a bobcat chooses to hunt a rattlesnake, it will likely succeed, given its overwhelming strength and claws compared to the small and relatively defenseless rattlesnake.

Petr Salinger/Shutterstock.com

There’s very few animals capable of escaping a bobcat, and rattlesnakes are not one of them. If a bobcat chooses to hunt a rattlesnake, it will likely succeed, given its overwhelming strength and claws compared to the small and relatively defenseless rattlesnake. Another plus that the bobcat has going for it when hunting rattlesnakes? Its agility.

Large cats are incredibly dexterous, and the bobcat is no exception. Using its silent paws, it is capable of sauntering up to a rattlesnake and taking it down in a single swipe. However, bobcats are still affected by rattlesnake venom, so they must use caution whenever they are choosing to pursue a rattlesnake for a meal.

10. Feral Cats

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Feral cats don’t often consume rattlesnakes unless it is out of necessity.

iStock.com/pum_eva

While feral cats may not have the size advantage that bobcats have, they are still capable of hunting and killing rattlesnakes. However, feral cats need to use additional caution when hunting any type of venomous creature, given their small size. Thankfully, feral cats are extremely fast and lithe, to a point that the average rattlesnake simply can’t keep up. 

Feral cats don’t often consume rattlesnakes unless it is out of necessity. They understand the dangers of fighting a venomous snake, and most cats prioritize their own safety. However, with sharp claws and teeth, rattlesnakes don’t stand a chance against a feral cat- unless they inject them with venom first!

11. Badgers

animals that hunt rattlesnakes
Unless a badger gets bitten directly on the nose, they are otherwise unaffected by rattlesnake venom, making snakes an easy meal for badgers around the world.

Michal Ninger/Shutterstock.com

Did you know that badgers are resistant to snake venom, particularly rattlesnake venom? Unless a badger gets bitten directly on the nose, they are otherwise unaffected by rattlesnake venom, making snakes an easy meal for badgers around the world. The honey badger is well known for its ability to take down snakes, and regular badgers in North America are just as impressive.

Despite their venom resistance, badgers don’t eat rattlesnakes exclusively, nor do they particularly seek them out. Badgers often kill snakes out of necessity, or out of protection. They are fiercely protective of their young, and rattlesnakes are only ever viewed as a threat. That’s why the badger completes our list of some of the top animals that hunt rattlesnakes!

Honorable Mention–The Mongoose

There’s actually one more formidable enemy to the rattlesnake that definitely bears mentioning, so it receives our honorable mention–the ferocious mongoose! The mongoose is a very fast and agile creature, capable of reaching speeds of up to 20 mph. It also has quick reflexes, strong claws and a powerful bite that helps it conquer many types of prey, including venomous snakes like the rattlesnake.

The mongoose is a venom-resistant animal, and preys on venomous snakes, including rattlesnakes. While mongooses are not completely immune, they have thick, protective fur and strong skin. That, paired with their deadly claws and teeth, make them a serious threat to rattlesnakes.

Summary of 11 Animals that Hunt Rattlesnakes

Here’s a summary of the main hunters of rattlesnakes and why:

RankHuntersReason
1KingsnakesConsumption
2EaglesConsumption
3OwlsConsumption
4HawksConsumption
5TurkeysProtection/consumption
6RoadrunnersConsumption
7CoyotesConsumption/protection of young
8Black Racer SnakesConsumption
9BobcatsConsumption
10Feral CatsConsumption
11BadgersProtection/consumption
Honorable MentionMongooseConsumption

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