Animals that are immune to snake venom include: some snakes, hedgehogs, honey badgers, opossums, mongooses, California squirrels, and garden dormice.
The above listed animals are not immune to all types of snake venom. Snakes have different venom toxicity. While some animals are immune to some venom, they do not develop immunity to all kinds of venom.
Generally, an animal will develop higher immunity to the venom of snakes that live in the same area. If the animal were transported to a new part of the world, it would unlikely be immune to the species of snakes in that area.
Animals that are Immune to Snake Venom
Are Kingsnakes Immune to Snake Venom?
Yes, kingsnakes are immune to some sname venoms. Kingsnakes eat other snakes, including venomous snakes. They’re immune to the venom of some of their victims, like the rattlesnake. This gives them a huge advantage over their prey whose main line of defence (envenomation) is neutralized.
As a result, even though kingsnakes themselves are not venomous, they can still kill and eat other venomous snakes.
Are Horses Immune to Snake Venom?
No, horses are not naturally immune to snake venom. However, they’re widely used in the production of antivenom. Often, retired racehorses, who are still strong and healthy horses, will be used for this process.
Scientists and veternarians inject small and safe amounts of snake venom into the horses. The horses’ immune systems then go to work creating antibodies. After 8 – 10 weeks, scientists begin extracting the horse blood and using the antivenom in the blood to create antivenoms for huam use.
Throughout the process, veternarians ensure the horses are safe and healthy.
Are Sheep Immune to Snake Venom?
Some sheep are immune to pit viper venom. Nevertheless, they are still killed by snakes in many parts in the world because they’re not immune to all snake venom. Furthermore, there can be complications involved in any snake bite.
Like horses, sheep are used in the production of antivenom, following the same procedures outlined above for horses.
Are Opossums Immune to Snake Venom?
Opossums in Texas are immune to rattlesnake venom. They have a protein in their blood that naturally binds to venom to neutralize it. Unlike horses and sheep, opossums are born with this antivenom protein. Possums in other parts of the world, like Australia, are still susceptible to being killed by snakes.
Are Mongoose Immune to Snake Venom?
Yes, mongoose are immune to snake venom. Mongoose are regularly seen fighting with snakes, and in particular cobras. They are bold enough to get into these fights (and even eat the snake afterwards) because they know they will not be killed by a snake bite.
Are Dogs and Cats Immune to Snake Venom?
Neither cats or dogs have properties in their blood that make them naturally immune to snake venom. However, cats are more likely to survive snake bites than dogs and sometimes even humans!
This is because cat blood seems to be more resistant to the thinning effect of venom.
Most dogs die from snake bites because the venom thins their blood and prevents it from clotting. This causes the dogs to bleed out rather than the wound healing.
Cat blood is remarkably resistant to this thinning effect, giving them twice as much of a chance of surviving a snake bite than dogs.
Nevertheless, neither actually has any blood properties that make them immune to venom and both can die from snake bites.
Are Birds Immune to Snake Venom?
No bird is immune to snake venom. Although there are many videos showing birds fighting against snakes, their bodies do not possess anti-venom qualities. They’re just gutsy birds!
What birds do is fight the snake with agility. Some birds like the owl and crow have powerful beaks. They are also agile in that they can anticipate the trajectory of a snake’s bite and then go out of the way.
The birds peck through the snake’s skull, crushing it. Once the snake is dead, it becomes a meal. In essence, a bird uses the rapid-fire technique in attacking. As such, the snake does not even get a chance to bite at times, and then it dies.
Birds are powerful. Eagles can peck wood off a tree. If they have the power to do that, then they certainly have the power to crush a snake’s skull.
Eagles also have feet covered in scales. Their feet have nerves, but the scales are thick enough to protect them. Because of this, the snake’s bite can be futile.
Add to that the fact that some powerful birds have talons that can deliver 500 psi of power. With this power, an eagle or an owl can easily crush the snake with its grip.
Related: Do Snakes Eat Birds?
Are Honey Badgers Immune to Snake Venom?
This allows honey badgers to fight snakes, and indeed they do. Snakes are key prey for honey badgers, who don’t eat them out of desperation but because they love the taste of snake!
Are Hedgehogs Immune to Snake Venom?
Yes, hedgehogs have a toxin-neutralizing serum that makes them immune to snake and scorpion venom. This allows hedgehogs to prey on many venomous snakes in their habitat.
Hedgehogs also have a thick layer of spikes that give them added protection from a snake bite. This makes them bold enough to enter into fights with snakes, and usually they win. They will then feast on their victim!
Are Squirrels Immune to Snake Venom?
Squirrels do have a protein in their blood that makes them immune to rattlesnake venom. However, unlike mongoose, hedgehogs and honey badgers, they don’t hunt and eat snakes. This immunity helps them to survive potential attacks only.
Nevertheless, squirrels still avoid snakes because larger snakes will still eat them. Squirrels therefore rely mostly on their ability to flee snakes and avoid them in the first place rather than relying on their venom toxicity immunity.
Why are Some Animals Immune to Snake Venom?
The answer to this question has not been fully settled. Scientists are still figuring it out. Snake venom contains more than 20 types of compounds. Most of these compounds are proteins, or what scientists call polypeptides.
Some animals, through biochemistry, evolved a way to counter the effects of venom. The most common ways by which an animal can resist the effects of venom are cell mutation, anti-venom blood, and thick skin.
Thick skin, of course, does not make an animal “immune.” An animal like the crocodile is not exactly immune. It is just that the snake’s fangs cannot penetrate its skin. As such, the venom will not find its way into the animal’s bloodstream.
Below are some potential reasons animals can be immune to snake venom.
1. Antivenom Blood
Any compound that can neutralize venom is an anti-venom. It occurs naturally and can often be developed through envenomation.
In animals, anti-venom blood can develop because of mutations in the blood. There are animals that have receptors that block the signal of the venom trying to bind with blood.
Because the venom cannot bind with antivenom blood, it cannot inflict damage.
Related: What Color is Snake Blood?
2. Cell Mutation
Another process by which an animal can resists venom is cell mutation. An example of this is the mongoose.
Because of years of exposure to venomous snakes, the animal is almost entirely immune. In an animal with cell mutation, the venom compound bounces off. It cannot penetrate the cells.
The mongoose is the most fearsome of all animals that can resist snake venom. They are not afraid to attack even a black mamba. Because of their immunity, snakes, regardless of how venomous they are, are on the menu.
What are the 3 Types of Snake Venom?
There are three main types of venom. These are hemotoxic, neurotoxic, and cytotoxic.
Hemotoxic venom means that the venom damages the circulatory system and the muscle tissue. The venom and its chemical power can cause hemorrhage and necrosis. Necrosis refers to the death of muscle tissue. Most of the time, amputation is necessary.
Neurotoxic venom alters how the nervous system works. There are more than 1,000 chemicals found in neurotoxic venoms.
Neurotixins course through the victim’s veins until they reach the brain. Once this happens, the venom constantly attacks the neurons. As a result, the neurons in the brain fire non-stop.
It results in convulsions. Once this attachment happens, the neurons will get depleted. The next phase is paralysis and then death.
Cytotoxic venom is the least dangerous of the three. Its effects are localized in the area of the bite. Cytotoxic venom will cause extreme pain. It will also result in swelling and tissue necrosis.
The worst thing that can happen is for the cytotoxin to spread in other areas of the body. At this point, amputation will become necessary.
Related: 12 Least Venomous Snakes in the USA
Can a Human be Immune to Snake Venom?
Yes, a human can be immune to some types of venom. To do this, doctors inject controlled amounts of venom into a human’s blood to stimulate antibody development.
Since the venom amount is controlled, it is not powerful enough to damage the human. What happens is that the human develops antibodies. Then, more venom is injected until the human body develops full immunity to a type of venom.
The process is the same for developing antibodies for anti-venom serum.
They inject venom into animals like sheep and horses.
There are people who do this like John Ludwin. For about thirty years, he injected himself with snake venom. He did this out of sheer curiosity. Despite receiving warnings from experts, he continued to do it.
Some people do it for a good reason. Once their blood develops antibodies, they donate their blood to an anti-venom manufacturer. The laboratory extracts the antibodies and converts them into a medicine that will be put in a vial.
Many animals are immune to snake venom. However, it does not mean that an animal is immune to all types. The mongoose is the only animal that is immune to almost all kinds of snake venom.
Snake venom immunity can happen for three reasons. The first is tough skin, the second is cell mutation, and the third is the evolution of the blood to develop anti-venom
Humans can develop antibodies to specific kinds of venom by deliberate envenomation. However, it is extremely dangerous and is not worth the risk.