In this blog post, we will answer the following question: Are snakes afraid of humans? We will talk about the defensive behaviour of snakes and about our fear of snakes: where does it come from and how to react if you encounter a snake.
Are snakes afraid of humans?
Snakes are no more afraid of humans than any other animal in the ecosystem. This fear is, in fact, a defensive mechanism because snakes (like many other animals) do not want to be killed.
If we talk about the snake as a pet, it can gradually get used to your presence, so it will not consider you a possible danger. And if you know how to behave with it, your relationship can be (as much as possible) harmonious.
But never forget that snakes are and will remain wild animals, predators, even those that were born in captivity. They do not recognize their “owner”, they just learn not to be aggressive when you decide to hold it, for example. It can gradually learn to tell the difference between when you feed it and when you want to socialize with it.
You should know that the most important thing when handling a snake is to be calm but alert. All unknown snakes must be treated as if they were poisonous, you must never handle an unknown snake with your bare hands. Better to use a snake pit or stick and keep your hands away.
The most critical moment is to grab them inside the terrarium. You always have to take them with both hands, offering 2 support points to distribute the weight and make them feel safe. Use some tricks for their manipulation to avoid any surprise.
For example, always try to put your hand slowly on it and always make sure that the animal’s head is facing the opposite side. Once you grab it and lift it, you are almost done.
When it comes to giant snakes things can be different, you always have to be alert, since an angry animal of this size can be dangerous. A giant snake is understood to be anything that exceeds 3 meters.
With these sizes, you will always have to manipulate the animal between two people and give it some good support points, so that the animal does not believe that it is going to fall and tries to hold on to us strongly.
The defensive behaviour of snakes
In snakes, we can appreciate various defensive or alert behaviours when they do not want to be disturbed, in cases where they feel threatened.
Snakes generally prefer to flee from danger, taking advantage of their fast and elusive movements, but they can also fight, either by using their muscular strength, their teeth or their venom-inoculating fangs, when it comes to poisonous species.
Some species defend themselves by inflating their neck (Spilotes pullatus = Tigra huntress) like Cobras or threatening with their mouth open hugely, for example, Leptophis ahaetulla = Verde Giallo, opens its mouth in a quite intimidating way but seldom throws at the bite, like the snake vine.
The large constrictor boas usually emit a very strong sound in the form of a syceus that is nothing but air expelled through the mouth, this air does not have any hypnotism effect as it is believed in some towns, this syceus is typical defensive behaviour of boas and other snakes.
However, one of the most important defensive characteristics is its colouration since it provides camouflage to defend itself from predators and go unnoticed, as in the case of false corals such as Erythrolamprus and false mapanares such as Leptodeira, whose colouration protects them from predators. The green colouration of many arboreal snakes makes them blend in with their natural environment: Lora, Verdigris, Emerald Boa, Green Mapanare, etc.
Another super-effective means that snakes have in the case of poisonous ones is
their venom inoculating apparatus, since, with a simple bite they can defend themselves without any problem, there are poisonous snakes such as the South African cobra (Naja nigricollis), which can spit poison into the eyes of their enemies when they disturb them, or the rattlesnake that waves its tail producing a characteristic sound.
Our fear of snakes
A recent study shows that not all primates fear snakes as much as chimpanzees or as we humans. That ancestral panic has been key to developing our visual acuity.
The snake is one of the most decisive symbolic animals in our religious tradition and even more profoundly, in our collective unconscious, but now it turns out that it can also be so in our evolution as a species. Why do so many of us feel such an instinctive rejection of snakes, such an irrational and powerful fear?
In a recent study, the anthropologist Lynne Isbell recounts an experiment that a pair of British biologists observed at the beginning of the 20th century:
In the room of a zoo, there were caged the three varieties of monkeys that exist in the world – the monkeys from Africa and Asia, the monkeys of America and the lemurs of the island of Madagascar – in a terrarium with poisonous snakes.
What happened then was so striking that biologists recorded it in a report: the lemurs of Madagascar showed a perfect indifference to snakes; the monkeys of South America watched them with curiosity, but without much nervousness; but the African and Asian monkeys seemed to go mad with panic: they screamed, they crouched for shelter in the corners of the cages, they banged their heads against the bars.
In Madagascar, Lynne Isbell observes, there are no poisonous snakes. But it is also true that, of all primates, the Madagascar lemurs are the ones with the least developed visual system.
The primates with a more acute vision capacity – humans, among them – are also those who have lived closest to poisonous snakes. What if our eyes had evolved so much precisely to distinguish them?
Nothing arouses our attention as much as the fear of danger; but it turns out that among primates the brain’s mechanisms of reaction to danger are more closely linked to the sense of sight than among any other group, not just mammals, but even vertebrates.
We have mediocre hearing and a rudimentary smell, but our pupils and our brains allow us to see the world in a luxury inaccessible to most of the animal kingdom: the most vibrant colours, the sharpest and most subtle details, the most diverse degrees of depth.
For a long time, it was argued that this acuity was necessary for our ancestors and our cousins who had to move between the dense treetops: but squirrels also move this way and their vision is much poorer than ours. We needed eyes capable of guiding our hands in the task of gathering fruits and grasping branches.
But it turns out, according to recent studies, that the part of the primate brain related to the visual system that has expanded the most throughout evolution is not the one specialized in picking up and grasping, but the one that serves to distinguish more sharply between the nearby things and the background and to find objects or camouflaged presences.
How to react if you find a snake?
Although it is unlikely, we can find some kind of poisonous snakes and in this type of situation, we must know how to react so that the encounter does not pose any problem.
The fear of snakes is known as ophidiophobia and those who suffer from it not only feel fear when facing a real snake, they also panic when they see toy snakes or simply think about them.
When we are faced with this type of reptile, we tend to move away or even run away. But snakes are not as dangerous as the fear that some people have.
Before attacking, the snakes send us a message, they remain almost immobile, waiting for us to continue on our way, so we must calmly walk away. Besides, when we find ourselves in front of a viper we must remain calm, we want to slowly back on our way about 4 or 5 meters.
The reptile experts advise that in the case of having an encounter with snakes inside our house, we should call the emergency number so that experts can take care of their capture.
FAQ on Are snakes afraid of humans?
Do snakes run away from humans?
No, snakes don’t usually run away from humans. Most snakes rely on their camouflage to avoid any possible danger. But some snakes may hiss or even attack if they feel threatened.
What snakes are afraid of?
Snakes are afraid of their predators. Such as foxes, racoons, owls and other bigger birds, even pigs and cats.
Why are snakes afraid of humans?
The snakes are afraid that humans will kill them. This is why you have to be careful around a snake and know how to behave. The snake is a predator, even if it was born in captivity.
How do Snakes see humans?
Snakes see humans through their pit organs, which helps them detect infrared radiation from warm bodies up to one metre away. The pot organs also help the snakes see during the night their predator or prey as an infrared camera does.
Do snakes follow you?
Some snakes may follow you if they still consider you a possible danger. Although there is no scientific proof, it is said that if you kill a snake its mate will follow you to take revenge.
Does Salt keep snakes away?
No, salt does not keep snakes away, this is a myth. What does keep snakes away is fox urine or a “scarecrow” that imitates a large owl.
In this blog post, we answered the following question: Are snakes afraid of humans? We also talked about the defensive behaviour of snakes and about our fear of snakes: where does it come from and how to react if you encounter a snake.
Remember that snakes are no more afraid of humans than any other animal in the ecosystem. This fear is, in fact, a defensive mechanism because snakes (like many other animals) do not want to be killed.
When we are faced with this type of reptile, we tend to move away or even run away. But snakes are not as dangerous as the fear that some people have. Before attacking, the snakes send us a message, they remain almost immobile, waiting for us to continue on our way, so we must calmly walk away.
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Live Science – Why we fear snakes
National Geographic – Snakes, facts and information
Pet Place – How snakes behave