Are Snakes Carnivores? What Surprising Foods Do They Eat?

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: June 26, 2022
Image Credit Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

Snakes are limbless reptiles and one of the many toxin-producing animals known to man. Because of this, snakes prey on animals that many other animals larger than them cannot prey on. It is commonly said that snakes are carnivores and feed on other animals- but is this true? Are there any snakes that eat plants? What surprising foods do they eat? Find out in this article.

Are Snakes Carnivores?

Snakes, like king cobras and coral snakes, eat other snakes of the same species.

Tom Reichner/Shutterstock.com

A carnivore refers to an animal that eats animals of other species or, in other words, flesh-eating animals. Without a doubt, snakes eat animals of other species, but it would not be exactly correct to call snakes carnivores. This is because some snake species, such as coral snakes, king cobras, and anacondas, eat other snakes of the same species.

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It is not uncommon to find these snakes feeding on smaller snakes of the same species, making them cannibals. Consequently, it would be more accurate to say that some species of snakes are carnivores while others are cannibals.

Are There Any Omnivorous Snakes?

Omnivorous animals feed on animals and plants- just like humans. Currently, no snake is known to feed on plants and animals.

Are There Any Herbivorous Snakes?

Herbivorous animals are animals that feed strictly on plants, such as cows. No snake is known to eat plants or follow a herbivorous diet.

Surprising Foods That Snakes Eat

We’ve established that some snakes are carnivores, while others are cannibals. Most snakes feed on rodents, amphibians such as frogs, toads, and other small mammals. However, snakes eat some pretty unusual things, which we will look at below.

Porcupine

porcupine with long quills in the dirt
The quills of a porcupine can cause the death of a lion.

iStock.com/Pedro Ferreira do Amaral

If you’re thinking of the mammals with sharp and pointy spikes, you’re right; snakes do eat porcupines. Large-sized snakes often attack and eat porcupines. Their stomach acids help break down the sharp quills, and the animal is safely digested.

However, it is important to note that snakes aren’t always successful in this expenditure. If a snake attacks a large-sized porcupine, while it may succeed in killing the porcupine, it might not be able to digest it due to the size of the quills. In many cases, the quills end up piercing the snake’s internal organs and killing it.

One such incident occurred in South Africa in 2015, as reported by NDTV; a large python died trying to swallow a porcupine. Experts stated that it was likely that the porcupine’s spikes had pierced the snake’s digestive tract and killed it.

Monkey

Favorite and Most Popular Animals: Monkeys
Some monkey species, such as the wild capuchin monkey, are known to prey on snakes.

Although snakes aren’t known to specialize in killing any primates, they occasionally catch monkeys. This is shocking, considering that monkeys are smart and can run at a speed of 35 miles per hour. However, some species of monkeys also prey on snakes. The wild capuchin monkey (Sapajus libidinosus), for example, is known to hunt, kill, and eat snakes.

However, on 16 September 2017, a research paper titled “Food or threat? Wild capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus) as both predators and prey of snakes” was published. It showed that wild capuchin monkeys can differentiate between venomous and nonvenomous snakes. They also showed fear of constrictors, showing that they knew just how dangerous various snakes were.

Goats

saanen goat kid grazing
Snakes sometimes prey on goats.

Mircea Costina/Shutterstock.com

Goats are large, plant-eating animals. However, despite how much larger they are than snakes, they are frequent prey for snakes. Both constricting and venomous snakes kill and feed on goats, and they can do this due to their unique anatomies.

Snakes have unique skull bones, ligaments, and mandibles. Each mandible is attached to the back of the skull by a stretchy ligament. This allows them to open their mouths to incredible widths and swallow large animals like goats.

When snakes attack goats, they first weaken them. They do this either by constriction or venom, depending on the snake’s species. Next, they swallow the goats headfirst. Snakes are known to eat all prey headfirst.

Kangaroos

Kangaroo
Kangaroos are preyed upon by snakes.

kimonofish/Shutterstock.com

Snakes eat kangaroos, and this is surprising for several reasons. Firstly, kangaroos are large and muscular animals. Secondly, unlike many other mammals, kangaroos can actually defend themselves in a plethora of ways. For one, they are expert boxers, and some species can run as fast as 70 miles per hour. They are also very good jumpers and can jump as high as 6 feet and cover up to 25 miles with a single jump.

So how exactly do snakes capture kangaroos? Well, many snakes, such as rattlesnakes, are ambush predators. This means that they camouflage into their surroundings and lie in wait until their prey comes close enough to be bitten.

Other snakes are large enough to constrict these animals. In 2016, for example, the Daily Mail reported video evidence of a python swallowing a large kangaroo.

Crocodiles

Cornered crocodile fight five adult lions
Large snakes successfully hunt crocodiles.

iStock.com/AppleZoomZoom

Crocodiles are dangerous and ferocious reptiles, but this doesn’t stop snakes from going after them. Of course, only large snakes that can envenom or constrict these animals go for them. Even then, some snakes die trying. Remember that crocodiles are known to have the strongest bite of any animal.

According to a BBC News report in 2015, a large Burmese python tried to swallow a 3.2ft crocodile but died in the process. However, snakes are often successful in killing crocodiles.

Themselves

No, we do not mean other snakes; we mean themselves. Snakes often eat their own bodies! This usually happens when snakes get disoriented and bite their own tails. They proceed to swallow their own tails and do not notice until their stomach acids start to break down their own tails.

Of course, this causes immense pain and makes the snake frantic. They try to fight and end up damaging their internal organs and killing themselves. Greeks discovered this phenomenon centuries ago and made it a symbol that they named ouroboros. It is represented by a serpent of ancient Greece and Egypt with its tail in its mouth.

Snakes often bite themselves by accident, but more often than not, their injuries aren’t fatal. This is because snakes have a level of resistance to their own venom. However, snakes can indeed kill themselves by biting themselves.

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