Learn the 6 Safest Snakes to Keep

Written by Colby Maxwell
Updated: June 29, 2022
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Think You Know Snakes?

Key Points

  • Less than 7% of snakes in the world have the potential to cause harm, and of those, most are not living near the average human.
  • There are plenty of snakes that don’t generally bite (or the bite is very trivial), are easy to handle, and whose size is not intimidating.
  • Corn snakes are some of the safest on the planet, being very friendly in nature, easy to handle, small in size, and beautiful to look at.
  • Ball pythons move slowly, possess a calm demeanor, and are even considered cuddly.

Snakes carry a stigma with them wherever they go. For the “non-hobbyists,” as we’ll call them, snakes are usually met with screams of terror and fear for life. In reality, these beautiful creatures can make some truly amazing pets. If you are looking to get a snake but are still a bit worried, or live with someone else who is, rest assured that there are perfectly safe snakes for you. This article will give a list of our top 6 safest snakes to keep as pets. Let’s get started!

Can A Snake Be Safe?

Learn the 6 Safest Snakes to Keep
Only a small percentage of snakes are actually dangerous to humans.

Marcum Havens/Shutterstock.com

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of snakes are totally harmless. Of the over 3,000 species of snakes that live on the earth, only a small percentage (less than 7%) have the potential to cause harm. Of those snakes, most don’t live anywhere near the average human.

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When we narrow the scope even further to pet snakes, the percentage becomes smaller. In short, normal people don’t keep highly dangerous snakes in their homes. Almost all pet snakes are harmless, and most of them can be handled without fear.

What Makes A Snake Safe?

While our math may not be reassuring to some, let’s go over some of the things that qualify a snake to be safe.

First and foremost is venom. There are venomous snakes in the world (rattlesnakes, copperheads, and vipers), but they aren’t kept as pets. Many states outright ban them, while others have strict rules in place. If a snake isn’t venomous, then the only other thing you have to worry about is…

Size! If a snake is massive, it could hurt you. However, considering just how large a snake would have to be to harm you, it provides some perspective. To seriously injure or kill a human, a snake would likely have to be upwards of 15-20 feet with a diameter of at least a foot or two. In short, it would take a 600 lb anaconda from the jungle to threaten an adult human based on size alone.

Still, it’s important to know that all snakes can bite (just like all cats, dogs, and humans). However, it doesn’t mean that all snake bites hurt. For instance, if a corn snake nips at you, you would only know if you happened to be looking at it when it happened. Otherwise, you would likely miss that it even happened at all.

The Safest Pet Snake Breeds

For our list, we decided to examine the snakes that have a few common characteristics:

  • they are reluctant to bite
  • if they bite, it is incredibly trivial
  • they are easy and safe to handle, even for beginners
  • their size isn’t intimidating.

Let’s go over some of our top picks for the safest pet snakes. Keep in mind that there are a lot more out there, but this list is a great start!

Corn Snakes

close up of a corn snake
Corn snakes are incredibly popular and are some of the safest snakes around.

Kurit afshen/Shutterstock.com

Corn snakes may just be the safest pet snakes in the world. These snakes are famous for their calm demeanor, wide availability, small size, and incredible beauty.

Part of what makes these snakes so safe is their relaxed nature. Since they have been bred for so long, breeders have been selecting workable and docile snake genetics for generations (the same thing we did with wolves to make dogs). They are really easy to handle and aren’t a bitey snake. Even if they hit you with a strike, it would feel like a small pinch and wouldn’t draw blood.

A bonus for corn snakes is that they are often so beautiful that people forget to be scared!

Ball Pythons

Learn the 6 Safest Snakes to Keep
Ball pythons can be very “cuddly” and are reluctant to bite.

Krisda Ponchaipulltawee/Shutterstock.com

There is a reason that ball pythons are so popular! When people first get interested in snakes, ball pythons are usually the first they interact with.

Ball pythons are famous for their calm demeanor, slow movements, and affinity to being held. One might even call the ball python “cuddly.” When a science popularizer goes to a school or event, you can pretty much guarantee he is going to have a ball python on his wrist. These snakes are gentle, not bitey, and they couldn’t seriously harm a human if they tried.

Rubber Boas

Boa snake in the United States
Rubber boas are known for their reluctance to bite.

Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

The rubber boa is a native North American snake that is famous for its reluctance to bite. In fact, rubber boas are often used in therapy programs for people who are really afraid of snakes.

Part of what makes rubber boas so cute is that they are incredibly friendly. They will nose up to a human or predator in the wild simply because they are curious. Sadly, this often gets them killed in the wild but makes them perfect for captivity.

Kenyan Sand Boas

kenyan sand boa
Kenyan sand boas are adorable snakes that are harmless.

NatalieJean/Shutterstock.com

The Kenyan sand boa may just be the cutest snake on our list. This snake hails from the eastern deserts of Africa and spends its days hiding under the sand.

One of the more mental aspects of Kenyan sand boas is their stunted faces, essentially, “something this cute can’t be dangerous.” They are short snakes that don’t grow large, are reluctant to strike (and can’t hurt you if they do), and don’t mind being handled at all. These are great snakes for people afraid of snakes.

Rosy Boas

Learn the 6 Safest Snakes to Keep
Rosy boas are small and easy to handle snakes from the deserts of North America.

Jason Mintzer/Shutterstock.com

The rosy boa is another North American native closely related to the Kenyan sand boa. It has a similar temperament but different colors and patterns to the Kenyan sand boa. Many rosy boas are light in color with three thin rose or salmon colored stripes that run down their backs. They are typically found in California and Arizona

Rosy boas are inexpensive, can be found on most breeder websites, and don’t mind being handled. Additionally, they don’t bite, and if they did, they couldn’t hurt you with how small they are.

California Kingsnakes

Learn the 6 Safest Snakes to Keep
Kingsnakes are good beginner snakes that don’t bite when bred in captivity.

iStock.com/RobinOlimb

California kingsnakes are another great snake for anyone who doesn’t want to get bit. They are social snakes that don’t mind being handled by humans, with some even preferring it!

These snakes are non-venomous (like all snakes on our list) and only grow to be 3-4 feet long at max. Additionally, their colorations are beautiful, and they make great snakes for beginners. Even your kids will be safe with them, and they are among the top five recommendations for snakes that make great pets.

Summary of the 6 Safest Snakes to Keep

Here’s a review of the 6 snakes you can rest assured you’ll be safe around:

RankSnakeTraits
1Corn SnakeCalm demeanor/small size/easy to handle/beautiful
2Ball PythonGentle & calm/not bitey/slow moving
3Rubber BoaReluctant to bite/used in therapy programs/cute & friendly
4Kenyan Sand BoaCute/reluctant to strike/don’t grow large
5Rosy BoaDon’t bite/don’t mind being handled/like Kenyan sand boa w/different markings
6California KingsnakeSocial snakes/enjoy handling/only grow 3-4 ft long/beautiful colors

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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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