7 Snakes that Hunt at Night

Texas night snake on a rock
© Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Updated: September 19, 2023

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Like most living beings, snakes are adaptable creatures, constantly evolving to survive with what resources are available. When snakes first appeared 50-45 million years ago, they were nocturnal hunters with little need for eyesight.

Through evolution and the many changes the Earth has undergone, many snake species have adapted to daytime hunting to survive, while others have remained nocturnal. Here are 7 snakes known for nocturnal hunting.

1. Rattlesnakes

A Black-tailed Rattlesnake, Crotalus molossus, striking at a prey or a threat

Having the element of surprise allows rattlesnake quickly strike their prey with their long and sharp solenoglyphous fangs.

©Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

Although they’re native to the Americas, rattlesnakes are one of the most well-known pit vipers worldwide. Their potent venom and unique tail rattle makes them iconic images of the American West. Although these snakes can be active anytime, they prefer nighttime hunting when many of their nocturnal prey are active.

As pit vipers, they have pit organs that give them infrared sensing abilities, allowing them to sense movements from their prey.

In addition to their infrared abilities, Jacobson’s organs heighten their hunting abilities, allowing them to analyze their surroundings by tasting chemicals in the air. With these abilities, nighttime hunting is very convenient for these snakes.

Rattlesnakes are ambush predators, which means they lay quietly in wait for their prey. They position themselves out of sight and wait for their prey to come close enough for them to attack.

Having the element of surprise allows them to quickly strike their prey with their long and sharp solenoglyphous fangs, which inject deadly venom. The venom immobilizes the prey in no time, and the rattlesnake gobbles it up.

2. Cottonmouths

Western Cottonmouth

Because cottonmouths have pit organs, they can sense movements and analyze their surroundings even without their eyes.

©Psychotic Nature/Shutterstock.com

Cottonmouths are nocturnal pit vipers that prefer to hunt at night. Because they have pit organs, they can sense movements and analyze their surroundings even without their eyes, making them capable nighttime hunters. Cottonmouths are venomous and are even deadlier predators. A cottonmouth’s venom is dangerous to humans and can cause fatalities.

These semi-aquatic snakes prey on mice, rats, frogs, small nocturnal mammals, fish, smaller snakes, and even other cottonmouths, making them cannibalistic. Also known as water moccasins, they kill their prey with a single venomous strike before wrapping themselves around them until the struggle and movement stop. Then they swallow their prey.

Baby cottonmouths, or juveniles, take a different approach. They are born with brightly colored tail tips, which they wiggle pretending to be worms. They use this to lure unsuspecting toads and frogs.

3. Boa Constrictors

boa wrapped around limb of tree

Boas kill their prey through constriction.

©Jan Hejda/Shutterstock.com

Boa constrictors are large constrictors commonly found in Southern America. They are nocturnal creatures that prefer to hunt at night.

Primarily, they feed on medium-sized mammals, rodents, birds, and large lizards. Boa constrictors are even known to feed on monkeys and pigs. These snakes are ambush hunters and lay in wait for their prey to strike. However, they may choose to actively hunt in areas that do not have a lot of prey.

Either way, the boa’s first move is to grab its prey with its teeth before wrapping its body around it. When the prey takes in a breath or inhales, it tightens its hold, making its prey unable to inhale. The pressure exerted by the snake eventually causes heart failure in the prey animal.

This stops the prey’s breathing and renders it unconscious, allowing the boa constrictor to swallow it whole.

4. Gaboon Vipers

gaboon viper fangs

The snake with the longest fangs is the Gaboon viper.


Gaboon vipers are extremely venomous vipers that are slow to agitate, despite their deadly venom. They feed on small and medium-sized mammals, as well as birds and amphibians.

The species has even been known to kill and eat fully-grown royal antelopes. Gaboon vipers may practice ambush hunting or hunt actively, but they only hunt actively in the early hours of the night.

These deadly vipers move sluggishly and may seem slow, but don’t be deceived; they have one of the quickest strikes in the world. In addition to being deadly, their strikes are swift and accurate.

Gaboon vipers have the longest snake fangs of any species and do not let go when they latch on to their prey. They inject their deadly venom into their prey and hold on until the prey dies. Then, they swallow their kill whole.

5. Night Snake

Northern Desert Nightsnake

Snakes can be found hiding beneath plant debris or rocks when they aren’t hunting.

©Jason Mintzer/Shutterstock.com

Night snakes, as their name implies, are nocturnal snakes. However, they are also crepuscular, active at dawn and dusk. They look a lot like rattlesnakes but do not have rattles.

Another major difference between the two species is that female night snakes are often double the length of males and up to three times heavier! Night snakes are rear-fanged colubrids found in the western parts of the US and Mexico.

These snakes are venomous and routinely feed on lizards that they hunt down at night. Night snakes have venom that is specifically tuned to their prey and doesn’t affect humans.

Their venom subdues their prey, allowing them to swallow prey even bigger than their heads. Night snakes can be found hiding beneath plant debris or rocks when they aren’t hunting.

6. Bushmaster

Baby bushmaster

Baby bushmaster

©Patrick K. Campbell/Shutterstock.com

Bushmasters are a venomous pit vipers genus found in Central and South America. These reptiles grow as long as 12 feet and weigh as much as 11 pounds, making them large in addition to being deathly venomous.

Since they are pit vipers, their infrared sensing pits enable them to locate their prey and lie in wait to ambush them. Sometimes, this waiting period can last weeks.

Bushmasters are majorly nocturnal creatures and go after their prey in the evening or early night. They feed mainly on rats and mice but also eat other reptiles and birds. Bushmasters can strike multiple times and inject large amounts of venom into their prey.

7. Egyptian Cobra

Egyptian cobra curled up on brown dirt ground

The Egyptian cobra is the largest snake in



©Julian W/Shutterstock.com

Egyptian cobras are venomous Naja snakes found in North Africa. These snakes are majorly nocturnal but can also be crepuscular. They feed on birds, eggs, small mammals, lizards, and other snake species. Egyptian cobras can locate prey through the help of their Jacobson’s organ.

When they locate their prey, they strike accurately and latch on with their proteroglyphous fangs. Egyptian cobras immobilize their prey by injecting venom and swallowing them whole.

What Type of Habitat Do Snakes Live In?

Snakes can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, deserts, grasslands, and wetlands. Some species are aquatic and live in rivers, lakes, and swamps, while others are terrestrial and live in burrows or rocky crevices.

Some species are arboreal and live in trees, and others are subterranean and live underground. The specific habitat of a snake species depends on the needs of that species, such as food availability, temperature, and humidity.

Are Snakes Really Nocturnal Or Diurnal?

Rattlesnake with Fangs

Rattlesnakes, though active both at night and day, prefer to hunt after dark.


Many snakes, such as the ones we’ve listed, are nocturnal and prefer to hunt at night. Others, such as corn snakes, garter snakes, and eastern indigos, are diurnal and hunt during the day. However, in many cases, this is not explicitly true. California kingsnakes, for example, are known to be nocturnal but are diurnal in southern California.

These parts of southern California are semi-arid or steep climates that get colder at night than during the day. Snakes cannot hunt in colder weather because they are cold-blooded and would freeze to death. 

Consequently, many other species, like the copperhead, are both diurnal and nocturnal. They are diurnal in early spring and late fall and are nocturnal in the summer. In the early spring and late fall, temperatures are cooler, allowing them to come out during the day. However, since summer is so much warmer, the heat would be dangerous for them.

When snakes get too hot, they develop something akin to a fever. And like all fevers, they are extremely uncomfortable and even painful. If a snake cannot reduce its temperature and kill the fever by moving to a cooler location, it will overheat and die.

Other Reptiles That Hunt at Night

Alligator snapping turtle Macrochelys temminckii


snapping turtles are another type of reptile that hunt nocturnally.

©iStock.com/Sista Vongjintanaruks

There are a host of other reptiles that hunt at night. One such is the gecko. While many geckos are diurnal, there are some particular gecko species that are nocturnal, doing their hunting at night. These include the tropical house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia), the gargoyle gecko (Rhacodactylus auriculatus), the Mediterranean house gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), the leopard gecko (Eublepharis macularius), and the mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris). While most of these geckos are insectivores, such as the leopard gecko, which eats crickets, mealworms, and wax worms, some like mourning geckos and Mediterranean house geckos also eat spiders.

Some species of turtles are also nocturnal, like the eastern musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus), alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), and eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum). The omnivorous eastern mud turtle prefers a diet of varied aquatic invertebrates, carrion, and plants. Alligator snapping turtles are carnivorous, not only hunting aquatic invertebrates but also small fish and mammals. the eastern musk turtle prefers insects, crustaceans, and snails. All three of these turtle species are native to North America.

What is Common Prey for Night-Hunting Snakes?

Snakes that hunt at night eat insects, lizards, and other night-loving creatures.

Night-hunting snakes are skilled predators, and their diets typically consist of a range of small animals found in the area. Common prey items for these snakes include small mammals such as rodents, frogs, lizards, salamanders, birds, and insects.

These snakes have excellent night vision, allowing them to hunt and capture prey in the dark. They also use their sense of smell to locate their prey, using their tongue to detect scents in the air and then tracking them to the source.

Some of these snakes have impressive constricting abilities and can quickly subdue their prey by wrapping their bodies around them and squeezing them with immense force. After subduing their prey, they use their sharp teeth to puncture and swallow their victim whole.

Summary of 7 Snakes That Hunt at Night

1RattlesnakesCentral, North, and South America
2CottonmouthsSoutheastern United States
3Boa ConstrictorsSouth America
4Gaboon VipersAfrica
5Night SnakeWestern United States, Mexico
6BushmasterCentral and South America
7Egyptian CobraNorth Africa

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