Red belly snakes are small, distinctive snakes that are found throughout North America, including much of the United States and southern Canada.
DigbyDalton, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Regularly found inhabiting abandoned and hills and other small burrows, these snakes are known for their vividly colored crimson bellies which contrast with the rest of their scales. But the million dollar question is this: are red-bellied snakes poisonous?
No, red-bellied snakes are not poisonous. They consume their typical prey, slugs and earthworms, whole and are completely harmless.
Red-bellied snakes are tiny, easy to miss, and completely harmless to people. Even if they did bite you, they are far too small and slight of build to do any real harm. You can learn more about these petite but interesting snakes below.
Physical Description of the Red-Bellied Snake
Red-bellied snakes are a small species, with adults rarely growing beyond one foot in length.
Thin, wiry and agile, these snakes usually range from a brown to light tan color, but gray and black variations do exist. Thin, faint and similarly colored stripes of scales go down the entire back on the dorsal side of the snake.
But as you might expect, these snakes have a vividly colored underside as the name suggests.
The characteristic red belly of the red-bellied snake ranges in color from a coral or salmon red to a fiery crimson or vermilion color.
Is the Red-Bellied Snake Poisonous?
No, the red-bellied snake is not venomous or poisonous in any way. Its typical prey items, earthworms, slugs and other small, slow creatures can barely fight back and it doesn’t even need to constrict them in order to feed.
Not to Be Confused With…
For clarity, it is worth pointing out that the North American red-bellied snake, Storeria occipitomaculata, sometimes called the redbelly, is it not venomous and indeed is completely harmless to people.
However, there is a similarly named snake, the red-bellied black snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus, that is indigenous to Australia.
The latter snake is much larger and indeed highly venomous, injecting a nasty but survivable combination of neurotoxins and mycotoxins.
The red-bellied black snake averages at least 4 ft in length, has a much more athletic build, and is it glossy black in color with reddish orange sides dimming down to a dull, brick red ventral side.
Very common and it’s range along the eastern coast of Australia, this is one you’ll have to watch out for if you visit the land down under, as it is responsible for most venomous snake bites.
You need not worry about a dangerous red-bellied snake in North America, but if you are in Australia or elsewhere in the world it might be an entirely different story!
Habitat of the Red Bellied Snake
In their range, red-bellied snakes are typically found and moist and easy to traverse soils, commonly in woodlands and forests, in and near wetlands and closer to people in gardens, compost piles, flower beds, planters and the like.
Red-bellied snakes are tiny and comparatively weak, and are incapable of digging their own burrows which they still rely on to survive.
Accordingly, they appropriate other but abandoned holes in the ground, usually anthills or other animal burrows, or occasionally holes left by human activity such as the driving of spikes and other such things.
Will Red-Bellies Bite?
Rarely if ever in defense. If handled roughly or otherwise threatened, red-bellied snakes will release the typical melodious musk from their anal cavity, flatten out their body and then squirm like their life depends on it.
If this gross counter measure does not convince the predator to drop them, they have the curious habit of curling their lips very much like a dog, exposing their teeth. Even so, they will rarely bite in defense.
Does the Bite of the Red-Bellied Snake Hurt?
Maybe a little bit. These snakes have sharp teeth, but they are so tiny and weak it is not thought that their bite could do very much damage at all aside from some scratching or a very small cut in the skin.
Recorded bites are quite rare even when the snakes are handled, so there is not much data concerning the severity of their bites.
How Likely are Red-Bellied Snakes to Attack People?
Extremely unlikely. As detailed above, even in the gravest extreme these snakes are unlikely to bite and self-defense.
They are so small, and their teeth so tiny, they cannot rely upon biting even for desperate self-defense from any mammal or larger creature.
Are Red-Bellies Dangerous to Pets and Other Animals?
No. Red-bellied snakes pose absolutely no threat to pets or any livestock, unless you are keeping worms, slugs or little bitty insects as pets!
Should You Kill Red-Bellied Snakes?
No, and there is no need whatsoever. These snakes are as harmless as any creature can be, posing no risk to you, your family, your pets, your livestock or any other creature except their usual prey items, consisting of slugs, worms and other crawling things.
No they might seem insignificant, these snakes like all others do you have their part to play in the environment, and serve as prey items for other snakes and other animals, so you shouldn’t kill them out of hand.
If, for whatever reason, a red-bellied snake is posing a nuisance, you can simply shoo it away or scoop it up into a box or other container for relocation.
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