Are kingsnakes harmful to humans?

Table of Contents

Kingsnakes, according to their name, are like the king of the snakes, the predators of the other snakes, including the venomous snakes. Their mode of feeding is carnivorous, but not by biting and releasing venom into their prey but by killing their prey by an act known as constriction. Constriction of the prey causes asphyxiation (suffocation). Although they may bite people, their venom is not powerful enough to kill. As you read further, you will learn more about this species of snakes.

Are kingsnakes harmful to humans
Are kingsnakes harmful to humans

More About King Snakes

The size of the kingsnake varies, as kingsnakes come in different sizes, and as for their length, they can grow from 16 to 120 inches, even sometimes as long as 5 feet, this makes it impossible for a kingsnake to constrict a full-fledged human being and cause asphyxiation.   For a kingsnake to constrict a human being, it has to be the size and length of a python. The aforementioned makes kingsnakes harmless to humans. However, it is said that kingsnakes bite sometimes; still, it is scientifically proven that the bite of a kingsnake cannot cause potential harm to human life, unlike the bites of venomous snakes. This also makes the kingsnake harmless and makes it less of a threat to humans. It can even be considered as a helper to humans, being that it feeds on other snakes, including the venomous ones. No matter how much it devours a venomous snake, it cannot be hurt by its venom because of its body makeup. Although, they can be hurt by the venom of certain venomous snakes of a different locality. Unlike venomous snakes, a kingsnake can be tamed; this makes it almost like every other harmless household pet. Although not completely harmless, because it might be a threat to your pets. Still, it does not pose any harm to human beings.

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Kingsnakes practice what is known as ophiophagy. Ophiophagy is a form of feeding in animals, which involves the hunting and killing of snakes. Kingsnakes do not just eat other snakes; they eat a wide range of animals, from geckos to every type of rodent, birds, lizards, and even things as small as eggs. These kingsnakes are immune to most venom in venomous snakes but not all venomous snakes. This means a kingsnake can still be killed by the venom of a rare species of venomous snake. It cannot be guaranteed that a kingsnake would not bite, but its bite is harmless. According to Savitsky, a kingsnake biting you depends on the temperament of the kingsnake. This means not all kingsnakes are of cool temperament. Hence, they would tend to bite more than the others. Kingsnakes, just like other snakes, are wary of humans, but once they’re familiar with you, they can become really social animals. 

Kingsnakes are opportunistic in their diet because they eat almost everything. They are daylight animals; they come out in the day time and find shelter in open places like grasslands, abandoned farms, and abandoned shelters. They have a very strong sense of smell; this makes them able to sense rattlesnakes for their meal. Kingsnakes are immune to the venom of rattlesnakes; this is a safe diet for them. Their sense of smell can be a good thing for people who keep them as pets because they’d be able to recognise their owner whenever he/she is around. When it feels threatened, just like a rattlesnake, it will lash out with its tail. The kingsnake rarely bites, as it’s not its way of killing; even when it bites, the wound is not threatening. 

Snakes, including the venomous and non-venomous ones, are carnivores. They feed on other animals, including other snakes. Snakes are ectotherms, so they tend to avoid extreme temperatures. Snakes are not social animals, and this makes them dislike physical contact with humans. Both types of snakes have fangs, but the fangs of the venomous snakes are more developed, either long and sharp or grooved and sharp. The bite of a venomous snake is likely to give a deathly blow or sentence to the victim. Venomous snakes, just as the name implies, are snakes that bite and release venom from their fangs when they bite. The non-venomous snakes do not bite to release venom to kill. However, it is said that non-venomous snakes still have lingering pseudogenes in venom production, or they even produce venom in small quantities that can only incapacitate their small prey but not cause any major harm to larger animals and human beings. 

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A bite from a non-venomous snake would not need immediate medical attention because there is insufficient venom to cause harm to human life. Venomous snakes are known to be more aggressive than non-venomous snakes. The kingsnakes, as well as the venomous ones, do not see; they can sense their environments by tasting the air. The bite of a non-venomous snake can cause only minor swelling or wounds, nothing more. On the other hand, the bite of a venomous snake needs immediate medical attention because the venom in venomous snakes can cause a wide range of things like dizziness, swelling, severe damage to the nervous and muscular system, and in untreated cases, death. This being said, it is possible to get antivenom treatment as soon as you’re bitten by one.

Venomous snakes are of many types, families, and classes. Most of the venomous snakes are brightly coloured, so as to ward off predators and warn prey not to come close. Some venomous snakes are:

Sea snakes (over 70 snakes belong to this species)

Tiger snakes

Mambas (the black and the green African mamba)



Tiger snakes

Stiletto snakes



Mole vipers

All types of vipers (pit vipers, true vipers, copperheads, and cottonmouth)

All these mentioned are highly venomous because they release their venom in high quantities. There’s almost no way to differentiate between venomous snakes and non-venomous ones because they both sometimes come in highly coloured patterns. Sea snakes, although venomous, have very short fangs that do not penetrate deep into human skin. Even when they come across humans, they scurry away. Non-venomous snakes are not threatening to human life and are of various types. Some are;

● Ball python

● Burmese Python

● Kingsnake

● Green anaconda

● Coin snake

● Green tree python

● Colombian rainbow boa

● Large whip snake

● Brazilian rainbow boa

● Reticulated python

● Milk snake

● Corn snake

● Boa constrictor

These snakes mentioned above are not completely harmless. Most of them strangle or constrict their prey till dead before swallowing. Among the abovementioned, the milk snakes and the kingsnakes are the safest to humans. Despite the fact that the Pythons are Boas and are non-venomous, they are still very life-threatening snakes whenever a human comes across them. Unlike other non-venomous snakes, which aren’t immune to the venom of venomous snakes, the kingsnake is different, and that is why it earned its name. The kingsnake possesses certain specific enzymes, which help in breaking down the toxins in the venom released by some of the venomous snakes, for example, the rattlesnakes. 

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Are King Snakes Good To Have Around?

The answer is yes. Why chase them away when they’re of significant importance? Just like farmers keep pigs because pigs are immune to the venom of snakes, that is how safe it is to have kingsnakes around. Although the temperament of kingsnakes differs in the wild, still, they can become calm and docile when properly tamed. They don’t only pass for good pets when you don’t have any tiny pets around; they can also protect you from the harmful snakes. These beautiful coloured snakes can live up to 20 years under great care; this means you have 20 years of protection from rattlesnakes if you have them around, it’s a fair deal. They are shy animals, so you wouldn’t see them slithering into your house every now and then. Kingsnakes eat a wide range of things, so you could trust them to eat all the rodents in your hood if you have rodent problems. Their fangs are located behind; you would barely see them bite, except when they feel threatened. Even when they bite, their bite does not have venom potent enough to cause harm. It might cause slight irritation or redness, but that’s all it can do. Kingsnakes are not big in size; in fact, they are considered medium-sized snakes. This means that a kingsnake is not going to take up a large space in your house or in your yard. Kingsnakes, just like other snakes, don’t like petting, so you can rest assured that it wouldn’t eat you if you neglect it. If you’re a farmer that has birds and other tiny animals disturbing your crops then, a kingsnake could help you keep the birds, rodents, and lizards away, nevertheless, still keep it away from babies.

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Will A King Snake Bite You? 

The chances of a kingsnake biting you is very low. If a king snake feels threatened, it behaves like a rattlesnake; it lashes out with its tail and hisses. If it goes as far as biting you, do not worry, it is not harmful. Although a kingsnake would not bite you immediately if it feels threatened, it can only bite you in extreme cases. Kingsnakes are of a cool temperament most of the time. It depends on the kingsnake, though, because some kingsnakes in the wild are hot-tempered. A coral snake can always be mistaken for a kingsnake, and they are venomous and aggressive. A kingsnake bite would not cause any problems; if it causes you any problems, it will amount to a little itching, redness, and irritation that every normal bite can cause. Although some kingsnakes found in certain regions bite more, still, before they’d bite you, there’d be warning signs like releasing a musky smell and lashing out their tails. The fact that their bites are not venomous has made them popular pets of human beings. As a member of the Colubridae family, its main mode of killing is by constriction of its prey. That means it will only exact so much force when it wants to constrict prey. It doesn’t exact that much force when it wants to bite a human. The bite would mainly be to scare you off because it felt threatened by your presence. The answer is yes, a kingsnake might bite you if you disturb it. Remember, snakes aren’t social, and they dislike constant human contact. If you come across a king snake, you might want to leave it alone so it doesn’t get scared and bite.

Can A King Snake Kill A Human?

Although kingsnakes are carnivorous, just like other snakes, this doesn’t mean that a king snake can kill a human. For a king snake to be able to kill a human, it has to be up to 7 feet long in length, so it can roll around a human before constricting. Its size has to be as big as a python in order to be able to swallow after asphyxiation. This makes it impossible for a kingsnake to kill a human. Also, its fangs are located behind its mouth and lack venom. So even when it bites, its fangs that are not grooved do not inject any venom. 

A king snake, even if not so friendly, is not harmful to humans. If it could kill humans, it would not be a pet people love to acquire. As said earlier, a king snake would only bite you if you pose a threat to it. Even so, it would only cause itching, swelling, and redness. In extreme cases for people with allergies, it can cause irritation. Not anything major that needs medical emergency attention. Just with as little as a snake first aid tool kit, it can be treated. It’s less likely for a bite from a king snake to cause bleeding because they do not exert as much force in biting as they do when they want to constrict their prey because of their mode of feeding. If a bite from what looks like a king snake causes dizziness, numbness, and swelling, seek medical help immediately; it could be a coral snake, not a king snake. A king snake is not known to be very aggressive; remember this, so they’re not mistaken for a coral snake and killed.

How Bad Does A King Snake Bite Hurt?

A kingsnake bite would hurt just because it’s a bite. No major pain will be inflicted on you if you are bitten by a kingsnake. The most a king snake’s bite could cause is irritation and itching, that’s the most. The bite of a little king snake, known as a hatchling, causes significantly no pain at all, and it might not even be felt because their teeth are still small and underdeveloped. The adult kingsnake, on the other hand, barely bites; it only bites when wounded or afraid. Still, when it bites, it can draw only a little blood. If you prick your finger with a needle, lancelet, or a pin, the amount of blood that comes out is similar to the amount of blood that might come out if you are bitten by a kingsnake. It is not life-threatening at all; you might not even need to take a dose of paracetamol because it’s just a surface wound. Of course, you’d need to clean the tiny blood on the surface and disinfect it; this doesn’t make it any more painful. The only pain you might feel might be similar to a light sting.

Are King Snakes Aggressive? 

Kingsnakes are not known to be aggressive. If anything, they’re shy animals; they wouldn’t approach you unless you approach them. If they ever become aggressive, it would be because you posed a threat to them and their life. Kingsnakes can only be aggressive when wounded or mishandled, but that’s not something that cannot be dealt with. With good snake management skills, they can be calmed.

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In conclusion, king snakes could be regarded as friendly to humans. They are brightly coloured, with beautiful glossy scales, which makes them easy on the eye. They are long snakes but not long enough to constrict a human. They exhibit a behaviour referred to as Batesian mimicry. The red type of this king snake looks exactly like the very dangerous and venomous coral snake, making them look like predators. This can be a good or bad thing for them. The good thing is that it scares off predators; the bad thing is that humans mistake it for the very deadly coral snake and kill it. They reproduce like other snakes; they lay eggs; up to 20 eggs or more. Their mating is like every other snake; many males struggling to mate with one female. They do not mate in extremely cold or hot seasons. They come out in the daylight, but when the sun is at its hottest, they turn nocturnal, hiding under rocks, woods, and anywhere with shade. 

Kingsnakes can adapt to living almost anywhere. Although, this does not mean they can live in water or in a tree. This is because they are strictly terrestrial. Although their mode of killing is by constriction, they are not big and long enough to cause ischaemia when on a human. They are medium-sized snakes that can be kept as pets because of their non-venomous nature. A popular type of king snake that’s usually kept as a pet is the milk snake. If you ever want to consider having a snake as a pet, king snakes are the best option because they would protect you from other snakes and protect your household items from rodents. Kingsnakes are not venomous or dangerous, so they should be allowed to live.

Hazel Buckley
Hazel Buckley

About Hazel Buckley
Hazel is an animal enthusiast and educator who grew up on a farm which her parents owned in Ingogo, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The farm was situated right under the Majuba Mountains - the site where the Anglo-Boer War was fought. 

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