If you’ve ever wondered if there are snakes that won’t bite you, you’re not alone. Many people have a fear of snakes due to their potential to inflict painful and even deadly bites. However, not all snakes are dangerous to humans.

In fact, there are many snake species that are harmless and won’t bite even if provoked.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: There are many nonvenomous snake species that do not bite humans, such as garter snakes, rat snakes, and hognose snakes. Venomous snakes can also be reluctant to bite, like ball pythons and anacondas.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various types of snakes that don’t bite and explain why they tend to avoid biting. We’ll also provide tips on how to identify these docile serpent species and safely interact with them.

Snakes That Lack Venom

Garter Snakes

Garter snakes are one of the most common and widespread nonvenomous snakes in North America. They can be found in a variety of habitats including forests, grasslands, and suburban gardens. There are over 30 different species of garter snakes, but they all share some common characteristics like their slender bodies, small heads, and the distinctive stripes that run the length of their bodies.

Garter snakes are not dangerous to humans and mostly feed on small animals like frogs, fish, worms, and rodents. They kill their prey through constriction and are not venomous. Some cool facts about garter snakes are:

  • They are able to emit a foul-smelling musk from their cloaca to deter predators.
  • They can live communally together in large groups and hibernate together over the winter.
  • Though nonvenomous, some garter snake species can mimic the threatening behaviors of venomous snakes like puffing up their heads and vibrating their tails.

Garter snakes play an important role in controlling pests and are a key component of many ecosystems they inhabit. Their lack of venom makes them harmless to humans, so if you spot one in your yard or garden, simply let it be and appreciate these fascinating reptiles!

Rat Snakes

Rat snakes are nonvenomous constrictors found throughout much of North America. There are several different species, but some of the most common include the black rat snake, the Texas rat snake, and the yellow rat snake. Here are some cool facts about these docile serpents:

  • They get the name “rat snake” because rats and mice make up the bulk of their diet. They help control rodent populations, which makes them beneficial to humans.
  • Rat snakes are excellent climbers and can scale trees, bushes, and buildings with ease.
  • Though not venomous, rat snakes will sometimes shake their tails rapidly amongst dry leaves to mimic the warning sound of a rattlesnake when threatened.
  • The longest rat snake ever recorded was a black rat snake that measured 8.8 feet long!
  • Rat snakes are constrictors that squeeze their prey to death before swallowing them whole.

Though they may sometimes startle people, rat snakes are harmless and unlikely to bite. Their lack of venom coupled with their appetite for disease-carrying rodents makes rat snakes an ally for humans. If you find one, consider relocating it safely away from your home instead of killing it.

Hognose Snakes

Hognose snakes are harmless colubrids that are excellent diggers and have upturned snouts used for rooting around in loose soil. There are three different species: eastern, plains, and western hognose snakes. Some interesting facts about these nonvenomous serpents include:

  • When threatened, hognose snakes will flatten their necks like cobras, hiss loudly, and even strike. However, this is mostly an elaborate bluffing display.
  • If the threat persists, they’ll go as far as rolling over and convincingly playing dead, going limp and mouth agape with their tongue hanging out!
  • Hognose snakes have rear fangs that produce a harmless, mild venom mostly used to sedate amphibian prey.
  • Their common diet includes frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and small mammals. They are immune to the toxins carried by many of their prey animals.
  • Some cool defensive adaptations hognose snakes possess include the ability to hiss and flatten their necks, emit foul musk, and play dead.

Hognose snakes deserve respect, but their fearsome displays are mostly for show. Their lack of potent venom means they present virtually no danger to humans. If you see one in the wild, admire its amusing bluffing behaviors from a distance and let it be!

Venomous Snakes That Rarely Bite

Ball Pythons

Ball pythons, one of the most popular pet snakes, are known for their friendly and docile temperament. Despite being venomous, these snakes rarely ever bite humans. Their venom is relatively mild and not considered medically significant to humans.

Some key things to know about ball pythons:

  • They get their name from their tendency to curl up into a ball when stressed or frightened.
  • Native to Central and Western Africa in grasslands and shrublands.
  • Typically grow 3-5 feet long.
  • Nocturnal and spend most of their time tucked away in burrows, root cavities, or termite mounds.
  • Their docile nature, combined with their manageable size, makes them great pet snakes for beginners.
  • Their bite is generally not worse than a pin prick for humans, even if they do bite.

Ball pythons use their venom primarily to subdue prey rather than defense. They have tiny fangs and venom that targets prey species specifically. Their venom causes rapid loss of coordination in rodents leading to an easier kill and meal for the snakes.

But don’t let their venom scare you. These snakes are extremely unlikely to bite people. Out of the 4.5 million ball pythons kept as pets in homes, only around a dozen minor bites get reported each year. So if you want a snake that doesn’t bite, a ball python is a wonderful choice!


Anacondas are very large, non-venomous constrictor snakes found in South America. There are four species of anaconda, but the green anaconda is the largest and can grow over 20 feet long!

Here’s some key facts about green anacondas:

  • The green anaconda is the biggest and heaviest species of snake in the world.
  • They live in swamps, marshes, and slow-moving streams in the tropical rainforests of the Amazon and Orinoco basins.
  • They are nocturnal and ambush prey like birds, pigs, deer, caimans, and even jaguars.
  • They kill prey by constriction – wrapping their bodies around the animal and squeezing tighter each time it breathes out.
  • While they have sharp teeth, they use them only to grip prey and swallow it whole.
  • Anacondas pose little threat to humans and rarely bite people unless severely threatened or provoked.

So while anacondas are apex predators of the Amazon, they are not aggressive toward people. Their strength and size means they can kill large prey with ease. But despite their fearsome capabilities, anacondas tend to flee from humans when encountered.

Rest assured, if you see an anaconda in the wild, it’s likely more afraid of you than you are of it! And the chance it will attack is extremely unlikely. The snakes will not waste their precious energy unless seriously provoked.

Identifying Non-Biting Snakes

Body Shape and Size

Non-venomous snakes that don’t bite humans tend to have slender, streamlined bodies that allow them to slither quickly through vegetation. For example, the common garter snake has a small head and thin neck, with a body length of up to 26 inches.

Rat snakes can grow over 6 feet long but have a lean profile to squeeze into tight spaces. Knowing the native non-biting species’ average adult size can help identify harmless snakes in one’s region.

Head Shape

Compared to viper species with distinctive triangular-shaped heads, non-biting colubrid snakes usually have narrow heads barely wider than their necks. Racers and king snakes have almost identical head width and neck width for speedy mobility through their environments without exposing vulnerability.

One can use the relative head size and shape as clues to differentiate predatory pit vipers from benign colubrids just passing through the yard.

Color Patterns

While some exceptions exist, non-venomous snakes feature more vibrant, contrasting colors and patterns like bands, blotches, or speckles compared to most vipers’ cryptic camouflage markings. For example, the scarlet kingsnake displays alternating bands of bright red and black.

Even highly patterned harmless snakes like milk snakes have distinct markings compared to the muted earth-toned diamonds of a copperhead. Familiarity with regional species’ characteristic colors and patterns enables easier identification.


Non-biting snakes tend to be quite skittish and quick to flee from humans, while venomous snakes often hold their ground and stand poised to strike in defense. For instance, bull snakes and fox snakes exhibit prolific bluffing behaviors like hissing loudly and vibrating their tails when threatened – but they remain unwilling to actually attack humans.

In contrast, water moccasins may advance toward perceived threats while baring their fangs. Understanding these behavioral differences is key to avoid confusion leading to unfortunate snake extermination.

Safe Handling Tips

Approach Calmly

When encountering a snake in the wild, it’s important to remain calm and avoid making sudden movements. Snakes tend to get defensive when they feel threatened, so move slowly and speak in a soft, soothing voice.

Give the snake plenty of space and don’t attempt to touch or handle it unless properly trained. Back away if the snake starts to coil or rattle its tail as these are signs it feels provoked. Staying relaxed and keeping a safe distance are key to preventing a bite.

Support the Body

When handling nonvenomous snakes, properly supporting the body is crucial. Use both hands to gently pick up the snake just behind its head and allow the rest of the body to drape over your forearms. Never dangle a snake or pick it up by the tail as this can injure their spine.

For larger snakes, have a helper assist in supporting the middle portion of the body. Proper body support reduces stress on the snake and minimizes the risk of getting bitten due to the snake feeling unstable. Make sure to wash your hands before and after handling any snake.

Limit Handling Time

Snakes are easily stressed by overhandling. Limit handling sessions to 5-10 minutes at a time, even for docile pet snakes that are used to human contact. Watch for signs of stress like excessive movement or breathing, attempts to flee, or coiling in defense.

Return the snake to its secure enclosure at the first indication it has had enough contact. Excessive handling can compromise a snake’s health over time. Respect the snake’s boundaries and keep handling to a minimum.

Use Proper Equipment

When handling venomous snakes, specialized equipment is an absolute necessity. Thick leather gloves and a snake hook allow you to control the head of an agitated snake from a safe distance. Venomous snakes should never be handled barehanded.

A sturdy bucket or secure carrier should be on hand to safely transport snakes. And anti-venom and other first aid supplies should always be readily available in case of an emergency. Only attempt to handle venomous snakes if you have received proper training and permitting.

The right tools and knowledge reduce the risks of working with dangerous reptiles.


While all snakes can bite if threatened, many species are nonvenomous and reluctant to attack humans. With proper identification and safe handling techniques, even venomous snakes can usually be interacted with safely.

Understanding snake body language and respecting their space is key to avoiding bites.

So if you come across a serpent, don’t immediately assume you’re in danger. Take some time to assess the situation and act responsibly. With knowledge and caution, you can appreciate these fascinating reptiles from a distance without fear of being bitten.

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