Are Black Snakes Poisonous or Dangerous?

Where Do Snakes Live
© Realest Nature/

Written by Taiwo Victor

Updated: February 14, 2024

Share on:


Black snakes are not only excellent at guarding farms and hunting pests, but they are also a gentle species. The size of black snakes, which can reach eight feet in length, is their only intimidating characteristic. If you see black snakes around, they are most likely North American rat snakes or black racers, and they prey primarily on rodents and other small animals.

So, are black snakes poisonous or dangerous? They are not poisonous or dangerous, but they may bite as a last option if confronted or trapped. Black snakes can also swim very well, so their first choice is to flee at the first sign of danger. These exquisite creatures are unlikely to attack upon human contact. Still, wildlife should always be left alone so that they may accomplish their primary task of helping to maintain the balance of our ecosystem.

Black Snake Bites

A black rat snake, also called a chicken snake, swallows a chicken egg in the nest in North Caroliana. The snake has a wedge-shaped head that's larger than its body.

A black rat snake, also called a chicken snake, swallows a chicken egg in the nest in North Carolina. The snake has a wedge-shaped head that’s larger than its body.


While the most common black snakes or Western rat snakes are not venomous, all black snakes can bite in self-defense or if stepped on. The black snake’s bite may not be fatal, but it can still hurt a lot. Black snake bites are also full of bacteria that can cause infection. While these snakes do not have venom, they can get quite enormous. A snakebite from an eight-foot-long snake sure can’t be pleasant!

The black snake’s dark black color allows it to blend in with the forest floor or close surroundings while remaining extremely calm. When threatened, the black snake will most likely remain motionless. Yet, it can become aggressive when provoked and inflict numerous bites. Black snakes do not have fangs as they do not need them to deliver venom, so the bite marks resemble human teeth when they bite. Do not be too comfortable, though, because they have razor-sharp teeth! Their back teeth are curved, which adds to their bite’s impact. However, black snakes won’t typically go out of their way to bite you.

Are Black Snakes Dangerous to Humans?

Where Do Snakes Live

Black snakes may bite but are not dangerous to humans.

©Realest Nature/

Humans shouldn’t be afraid of black snakes as they are not dangerous. They may bite, but only when provoked or cornered. The black snake is a popular breed of snake to be kept as a petWestern rat snakes are calm, shy, and docile when handled from a young age. As non-venomous snakes, they rely on constriction when attacking their prey, but since humans are not part of their natural diet, there is no reason to fear getting attacked.

Nonetheless, if you happen to come across a black snake in the wild, make sure to give it some space. While a black snake is unlikely to bite you, it might become aggressive if it feels threatened. If they are uncomfortable, they coil up or bend at unusual, acute angles. They may also emit a foul-smelling scent when touched by a predator or picked up by a person, which they disperse around them with their tail.

Black snakes are relatively harmless. Frankly, they are incredibly beneficial to farmers since they eat rats and other creatures that otherwise ruin grains and harvests. As a result, black snakes are excellent pest controllers and can even be pets! However, given their climbing skills, make sure to keep the lid of their enclosure tight. They fear humans more than we need to be of them but always remember to respect their own space.

Are Black Snakes Poisonous?

Where Do Snakes Live

Black snakes are non-venomous.

©Kyla Metzker/

Black snakes are not venomous. Black snakes are known to bite, but only in extreme circumstances. Western rat snakes are large, powerful, non-venomous snakes that feed on a range of prey that they constrict and consume. However, keep watch on your cats or dogs while they’re outside. These snakes may not have venom but can become quite large, overpowering larger animals.

If you notice black snakes in your area, they are most likely eastern or western rat snakes or black racers. Both are non-venomous, have white or grayish bellies, and feed primarily on rodents and other small animals. Neither of them is out to harm you. They’re just here because there’s food nearby, which isn’t you. In addition, examining a snake’s pupils is one way to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes. Venomous pit vipers have vertical, cat-eye pupils, while rat snakes have round ones.

What Do Black Snakes Eat in the Wild?

Adult black snakes frequently eat rodents. Their diet includes micechipmunksvolesshrews, and even full-grown squirrels. Because of their climbing skills and time spent in trees, these snakes are likely to prey on birds and bird eggs too. It could be because eggs are much easier to eat, and it’s even more plausible because red-tailed hawks are one of the most dangerous predators of western rat snakes.

Frogs, particularly treefrogs, lizards, and baby mice, are among the food sources for the young. Given that black snakes can swim, it’s only logical to think that black snakes have eaten their fair share of frogs, as well as the occasional fish or other aquatic species. For the most part, black snakes aren’t particularly hostile toward humans. They are, however, opportunistic eaters, which means they will consume any small mammal or bird that crosses their path!

How to Avoid Black Snake Bites

Black snakes will not bite humans unless they perceive a threat. Hence, the easiest way to avoid a bite is to leave them alone. Black snakes may bite you for a few reasons, including when you incorrectly handle or catch them or when the scent of their last prey is still on your hand. You can usually tell if it’s preparing to strike if you look at the snake’s tail. The tail’s position will eventually provide them with leverage and additional lunging force. They’ll gradually tighten it, and they might even put it up against something nearby to give the tail more traction. If you see that, stay as far away as you can from the snake.

Do Black Snakes Make Good Pets?

Since black snakes are a gentle type of snake, they have become one of the most common and popular pet snakes in the United States, along with the corn snake and the ball python. Black rat snakes aren’t as popular as their cousins the corn snake as pets, but they are kept by some people. Besides their easy-going temperament, they have less demanding temperature requirements compared to many other snakes. They are shy and won’t be cuddly, but they can become accustomed to being handled.

The purchase price for such a pet is $50 and up for a rat snake or corn snake. Also, an escape-proof aquarium or terrarium is needed to prevent any harm to your snake. The aquarium should be a 30-40 gallon tank at a minimum since these snakes love to climb. The upkeep for the snake is not much more than just cleaning the enclosure, keeping the water bowls clean, and feeding your pet snake.

Discover the "Monster" Snake 5X Bigger than an Anaconda

Every day A-Z Animals sends out some of the most incredible facts in the world from our free newsletter. Want to discover the 10 most beautiful snakes in the world, a "snake island" where you're never more than 3 feet from danger, or a "monster" snake 5X larger than an anaconda? Then sign up right now and you'll start receiving our daily newsletter absolutely free.

Share this post on:
About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.