The Deadliest Snake on Every Continent in the World

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: January 30, 2023
© reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points:

  • Earth is home to over 3,000 snake species that thrive in a wide range of environments, inhabiting every major landmass in the world except one.
  • The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the deadliest venomous snake in North America, while the Fer-de-Lance is the most dangerous in South America.
  • The saw-scaled viper not only causes the most human deaths in Asia–it’s responsible for the most human deaths in the world.

Snakes are one of the earth’s creatures you either love or hate. Some are fascinated with their behavior and movements, while others run in fear at the sight (or sound). Regardless of your opinion on these reptiles, some species are hazardous to humans, and you must take the utmost caution in their territory.

All snakes are cold-blooded reptiles, so they must regulate their body temperature using outside means. Most snakes are covered in scales that allow for ease of movement and are sometimes used to trap moisture. Our planet is home to more than 3,000 species of snakes. They come in all sizes, can thrive in a wide range of environmental conditions, and make themselves at home on every major landmass in the world (except one)!

Discover the deadliest snake on every continent in the world, including their habitats and fatality rates. Also, can you guess which continent doesn’t have any snakes? 

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North America

Large eastern diamondback rattlesnake
The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the deadliest snake in North America.

©Chase D’animulls/Shutterstock.com

The Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake is the most venomous snake in North America. Its venom is highly potent and delivers its toxins in significant amounts. Between 7,000 and 8,000 people are bitten yearly by snakes in the US, and nearly 2,000 of those are from rattlesnakes. If left untreated, a diamondback rattlesnake bite has a 10% to 30% mortality rate (depending on which study you cite). 

Eastern rattlesnake bites are treatable with anti-venom, and only 1% of bites are fatal. However, rattlesnakes cause disabilities and permanent injuries in 10% to 44%. You will mainly find these snakes in the southeastern United States, from North Carolina to the Florida Keys and west along the Gulf Coast. They inhabit many habitats, from pine forests, Flatwoods, sandhills, marshes, swamps, and woodlands. They like to take over burrows, so don’t stick your hand in gopher holes during the summer and winter! 

South America

Fer-de-lance
The Fer-De-Lance is the deadliest snake in South America.

©David Havel/Shutterstock.com

The Fer-De-Lance is the deadliest snake in South America. Its venom is hemotoxic and highly potent, with enough injected in each bite to kill at least 32 people. This snake causes more deaths than any other in the Americas.

 Symptoms from their bites begin within 15 minutes, causing severe pain, swelling, numbness, nausea, vomiting, and necrosis. If left untreated, the mortality rate is up to 9% and can cause the loss of limbs from severe necrosis.

Anti-venom is available, but time is of the essence with this incredibly deadly snake. This species likes wet environments, often inhabiting tropical rainforests and deciduous forests. 

Europe

An aggressive male nose-horned viper on a rock ( Vipera ammodytes ). Males have a background of gray or brown scales with a pattern of dark brown or black zigzags running down its back.
The nose-horned viper is the deadliest snake in Europe.

©iStock.com/taviphoto

The nose-horned viper is the most dangerous snake in Europe. This venomous viper has long, giant fangs and high toxicity; it is a significant medical risk in some areas.

Its venom contains proteolytic, neurotoxin, and hemotoxin properties, similar to and as powerful as the pit viper species. When bitten, humans develop immediate symptoms, such as pain, swelling, discoloration, dizziness, and tingling. Fortunately, a nose-horned viper bite is rarely fatal with proper (and prompt) medical care. 

You can find this viper in southern Europe, mainly northern Italy, the Balkans, and the Middle East. People often call this snake a “sand viper,” but it primarily inhabits dry, rocky hillsides with little vegetation. It’s rare to find them near human habitations, but occasionally one can hide under rubble near railways, farmlands, and vineyards. 

Africa

puff adder with tongue out
The puff adder is the deadliest snake in Africa.

©iStock.com/S_Lew

The puff adder is the deadliest snake in Africa, causing the most snakebite fatalities on the continent. Its venom is potent enough to kill four to five men and has a 52% mortality rate if left untreated. Its large hinged front fangs deeply penetrate the skin, injecting the toxins deep into your body, causing immediate pain and swelling.

Death from a puff adder bite is rare and usually occurs due to poor medical care or secondary infections. Like most highly venomous snake bites, time is of the essence.

This species is one of the most widespread throughout Africa, inhabiting many countries and habitats, from the Sub-Saharan to the Cape of Good Hope. It is most closely associated with rocky grasslands, but you may find it in any habitat except rainforests, true deserts, and alpine habitats. 

Asia

Coiled saw-scaled viper
The saw-scaled viper is the deadliest snake in Asia and the world.

©Dushan Muthunayake/Shutterstock.com

The saw-scaled viper causes more fatalities than any other snake in Asia. In fact, it causes more deaths than any other snake in the world. It envenomates 75% of all bite victims, with a mortality rate of 20%. Further, it kills around 5,000 people in India each year.

This snake is very aggressive and bites early and often. Thankfully, there are at least nine types of anti-venom for a saw-scaled viper bite, and immediate medical care lessens the death rate to less than ten percent (still very high). 

This small venomous snake inhabits arid regions and dry savannas in southwest Asia, mainly India and Sri Lanka. However, you can also find this deadly snake in parts of Africa and Arabia. Their habitats are wide-ranging, including deserts, rainforests, deciduous forests, grasslands, and scrublands. 

Australia

An Eastern Brown Snake, Coiled For A strike
The Eastern brown snake is the deadliest in Australia.

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

The Eastern brown snake is the deadliest in Australia, accounting for 60% of snakebite fatalities. Their venom is the second most toxic of any land snake on earth, after the inland Taipan and responsible for the most snake bite fatalities on the continent.

Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, kidney injury, and seizures. In severe cases, people can develop hypotension, significant hemorrhage (bleeding), and cardiac arrest. You must seek medical care immediately; collapse can happen in as little as two minutes after being bitten.

You can find the eastern brown snake in many areas and habitats across Australia, including along the east coast, northern, and western regions. Their habitats include forests, coastal ranges, savanna woodlands, grasslands, scrublands, and farmlands. You may come across this species on the outskirts of urban areas, anywhere it can find shelter and food.

Snake Lifespan: Understanding the Life Span of Snakes

timber rattlesnake
The lifespan of a snake is dependent on many factors, including its species, size, diet, and habitat.

©Kristian Bell/Shutterstock.com

Snakes are fascinating creatures that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. One aspect of their biology that is of interest to many is their lifespan. Snakes are long-lived animals, with some species living for well over a decade, while others can live for several decades.

The lifespan of a snake is dependent on many factors, including its species, size, diet, and habitat. For example, larger snake species tend to live longer than smaller species, and snakes that live in the wild have a longer lifespan than those kept in captivity.

In the wild, snakes face many challenges, including predation, disease, and competition for food and mates. Despite these challenges, some species of snakes have been known to live for more than 20 years in the wild.

Captive snakes, on the other hand, typically have a shorter lifespan. This is due to a number of factors, including limited space, lack of natural stimulation, and poor diet. However, with proper care, it is possible to extend the lifespan of captive snakes.

It is important to note that while the lifespan of snakes can vary greatly, they all grow and mature at a much slower pace than mammals. This slow growth rate is a key factor in their longevity, as it allows them to avoid many of the health problems associated with aging.

The lifespan of snakes is a complex issue that is influenced by a number of factors. By understanding the life cycle of snakes, we can better appreciate the unique biology of these fascinating creatures and work to ensure their survival for generations to come.

Antarctica

Antarctica is the only continent without snakes. There are no reptiles on the entire continent. Antarctica gets as cold as -76° Fahrenheit and plunges into months of utter darkness, which is not a suitable environment for snakes. All snake species need heat for their muscular systems to function and digest their food. Because reptiles can’t regulate their body temperatures (they rely on their environment), they would never survive in Antarctica’s harsh climactic zone.

Up Next…

As these snakes show us, the animal world is not always a safe place for everyone. Check out these other predators that know how to strike fear in the potential prey that lives in their environments.

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The Featured Image

Saw-scaled viper / Echis omanensis
Saw-scaled viper / Echis omanensis
© reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer and content creator focusing on nature, wildlife, food, and travel. She graduated Kappa Beta Delta from Florida State College with a business degree before realizing writing was her true passion. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and enjoys hiking, reading, and cooking!

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