Are Pythons Poisonous or Dangerous?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: February 1, 2022
Image Credit viper345/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

Whenever you think of snakes, the first thing that comes into mind is “fangs.” Snakes are well-known for their fangs and venom that easily kill their prey. But did you know that pythons do not have fangs? Pythons are non-venomous snakes, which means they do not possess venom and therefore do not have fangs. Because of their lack of fangs and venom to kill prey and attack humans, pythons are not poisonous or dangerous. However, in the wild, pythons are fierce hunters and can squeeze animals way larger than them, such as crocodilesdeer, and even leopards. Without venom, pythons use their flexible bodies to coil around their prey, squeezing them until they are crushed and dismembered. 

Do Pythons Bite?

Green tree python (Morelia viridis) snake, native to New Guinea and Indonesia. Green tree pythons have over 100 long, sharp, backward-pointing teeth designed to bite into prey and hang on.
Green tree pythons have over 100 long, sharp, backward-pointing teeth designed to bite into prey.

iStock.com/venemama

Because pythons lack fangs doesn’t mean pythons do not have teeth. They still have teeth that they use in eating their prey and biting attackers for self-defense. Pythons are generally not known as “biters,” but they tend to bite or constrict when threatened. These snakes only bite humans in self-defense but are mostly docile, timid, and non-aggressive. In some cases, pythons will bite a human hand when they mistake it for food.

There are different types of pythons, but all species are constrictors. As constrictors, pythons rely on their strength and ability to coil around their prey (even huge ones) and squeeze them tight until they lose breath. All python species do not have fangs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t bite. Since most pythons do not have enough body length and strength to coil around humans, the biggest risk that pythons pose is their bite. Despite not having fangs that deliver venom, the python’s mouth still hosts lines of about a hundred razor-sharp teeth on both jaws that grab and hold their prey. 

The python’s teeth are sloped inward and sharp enough to pierce human skin deeply. Biting is also possible when pythons are being hand-held, as this position exposes the wrist. Pythons can also strike on the face, which happens very rarely. Although python bites only leave puncture wounds and scratches, they can still be infected. Unlike most venomous snake bites, a python bite won’t leave two fang marks but several curved teeth marks. The python’s bite is reported to feel like tiny pinpricks across the bite wound.

Are Pythons Dangerous to Humans?

Blood Python in grass
Though a python only bites when threatened, its bite isn’t dangerous to humans.

dwi putra stock/Shutterstock.com

Since pythons do not deliver a deadly venom, they are normally not dangerous to humans. There are only two potential risks of hazard from pythons – getting bitten by their razor-sharp teeth and getting constricted. However, any two of these risks are not fatal either. Since most pythons are not big enough to constrict humans, the risk of getting coiled around is unlikely. Yet, there are species of pythons that are big enough to squeeze an adult human body, such as the Reticulated python, Burmese python, Indian python, and African rock python. A python only bites humans when threatened – its bite is often not intended to kill.

Contrary to popular belief, most pythons cannot eat humans or even swallow them whole. Most python species only grow up to 10 feet, which is not long enough to constrict an adult person. However, some species of pythons can grow up to 30 feet long and can easily constrict a human body. But since humans are not normally included in a python’s diet, these giant pythons will only squeeze humans, causing mild to fatal injuries. 

Pythons are one of the most popular snakes to turn into pets. The ball python is fairly docile and can be safely handled. But like other snakes, ball pythons will bite in self-defense or when they mistake your hand for food. In general, pythons do not attack humans, but when they bite, it can be so tight that you need to pry the python’s jaws open and loosen its grip on your skin. Often, a python’s self-defense bite is quick, and they release their grip quickly. This serves as a warning to adversaries, especially predators in the wild. Due to its sharp teeth and strong jaws, a python’s bite is painful, especially during the bite and as the wound fades. The common results of a python’s bite include puncture marks, bruising, and scratches. But sometimes, the bite can become infected. Infections from a python’s bite often stem from the bacteria in their mouth that penetrates the bloodstream underneath the skin. Antibiotics can solve these infections, but severe ones may need medical attention.

Are Pythons Poisonous?

close up of African rock python
Since pythons are non-venomous, they are not poisonous to humans.

Uwe Bergwitz/Shutterstock.com

Pythons are just one of many non-venomous snakes on the planet, making them non-poisonous to humans. There are 41 species of python snakes, and none of them are poisonous. Most snakes pose a threat to humans because of their venom, but since pythons lack these toxins, the only risk you can have from handling or encountering a python is getting bitten. A few species of pythons are equipped with fangs, like the green tree python, but these fangs are used only to grab and hold onto their prey. 

It is safer to keep smaller pythons as pets, such as the ball python, children’s python, and blood python. The risk of getting bitten and constricted with these smaller species is less than the bigger ones. 

How to Avoid Python Bites

Pythons are mostly made of muscle, which makes their grip very strong. If you are not an expert snake handler, you may want to avoid wrapping pythons around your neck. When startled or threatened, there is a tendency that they will tighten their grip around your neck, strangling you. There are several reasons why a python may bite you, like when they are improperly handled or grabbed or when your hand still has the scent of its last prey. However, it is easy to sense if a python is about to bite. It pokes up its neck and curls it into an “S.” When you see this, you should leave the python alone. 

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