It is not true that baby snakes are more dangerous than adult snakes.
Most people have a false notion that a baby snake is deadlier than an adult snake because its venom is concentrated, and baby snakes can’t control the amount of venom they inject on a victim.
But in reality, snakes tend to be deadlier the bigger they get. This is because adult snakes produce more venom than baby snakes and, therefore, have a larger capacity to cause serious injuries. Even so, many factors determine the deadliness of a snake apart from age.
If you have been bitten by a snake, seek instant medical care immediately, no matter the size or age of the snake.
Related: Baby Snake Facts
Are Baby Snakes More Dangerous Than Adult Snakes?
Most people believe that baby snakes are more lethal than adult snakes for two reasons.
One of the reasons is that their venom is more concentrated. The second is that they have not mastered the art of controlling the amount of venom they inject into a victim.
Therefore, it follows that a single bite from a baby snake would be more detrimental than that of an adult snake.
However, these claims are unfounded, and scientists are yet to confirm them. They are only as good as myths, which have been passed down from generation to generation.
The allegation that juvenile snakes do not know how to control the amount of venom to excrete is known as the venom metering hypothesis.
According to the venom metering hypotheses, snakes learn to control the amount of venom they inject as they mature. So far, there is nothing to prove that snakes actually learn venom metering as they grow up.
For one, that would require undergoing a negative experience as a result of using all their venom in one go. Whichever the case, it is not true that baby snakes use up all their venom in one bite.
Furthermore, baby snakes are said to be feistier and quicker to react than adult snakes. Therefore, they wouldn’t hesitate to strike in the act of self-defense whenever someone gets too close. This thesis also holds that adult snakes do not always attack unless there is a clear altercation or are stepped on.
Usually, they will send a warning before actually attacking. For example, rattlesnakes will hiss and rattle their tales to warn a perpetrator before they strike. In this sense, baby snakes are more dangerous than adult snakes.
Why Adult Snakes Are More Dangerous Than Baby Snakes
Despite popular belief, the truth is that adult snakes are more dangerous than baby snakes. This is primarily because adult snakes have bigger venom sacs and thus make and release more venom than juvenile snakes.
Adult snakes produce 20 to 50 times the amount of venom baby snakes produce. Therefore, they inject more venom into a victim compared to a baby snake. This is to say that all of the venom produced and injected by a baby venom is only a small percentage of the venom produced by an adult snake.
Therefore, getting bitten by an adult venomous snake will have more severe repercussions than the bite of a baby snake, mostly because the latter’s venom would not be enough to cause significant damage.
Even so, it also depends on the size of the victim. If the victim is relatively small, then the bite of a venomous baby snake will be more effective than if the victim is big-bodied. This is why children will suffer more if bitten by a small snake compared to an adult.
It is imperative for people who been bitten by a snake to seek instant medical care, no matter the size or age of the snake. When it’s all said and done, venom is still venom.
Where non-venomous snakes are concerned, it still stands that adult snakes are more dangerous than baby snakes. Most of these snakes are constrictors, and obviously, adult snakes have more body mass and muscle compared to baby snakes.
A full-grown python has the capacity to crush a whole human. On the other hand, a human can easily handle a baby python.
Factors That Determine the Deadliness of a Snake
Different snakes pose different degrees of danger to humans. While one snake could be totally harmless, the bite of another could be fatal.
Thus far, we have established that adult snakes are more dangerous than baby snakes. The following are the factors that determine how deadly a snake can be:
Research has shown that the size of a snake determines the amount of venom it produces. The bigger the snake, the more venom it makes, and the more venom it injects in a victim. This means that a bigger snake is deadlier than a smaller one.
2. Composition of the Venom
Venom is made up of over 100 active components, depending on the snake species. Generally, venom proteins are grouped into two major categories: low molecular mass (LMM) neurotoxins and high molecular mass (HMM) enzymes.
These venom proteins tear through the soft tissues and blood of the victim, causing pain, bleeding, and even death. A bite from a snake with potent LMM neurotoxins leads to respiratory arrest and eventual death.
This type of venom is deadlier than venom that only destroys body tissues. The composition of venom within a single species of snakes varies according to diet, age, and geographic location.
Adult snakes generally have a large severity in their venom compared to baby snakes. It is safe to say that people should stay away from big snakes that are venomous. Each snake has its warning mechanism from hissing and rattling. If you are in any snake habitats, you need to be careful at all times.
The venom produced depends on the environment and the type of threat the snake faces in its habitat. Whether large or small, all venomous snakes will try to camouflage and defend themselves against any threat. If the snake is poked or disturbed multiple times, it will flee or bite incessantly on the attacker.
5. Type of Snake
Some snakes are extremely dangerous, while others are fairly dangerous, depending on the type of snake. This is because venom composition varies from snake to snake. Some of the deadliest snakes include mambas, cobras, and coral snakes, and their bite can cause death if medical care is not administered instantly.
6. Quantity of the Venom
The quantity of venom that a snake produces and releases primarily depends on the size of the snake and the circumstances surrounding the bite. A snake biting to subdue prey will release more venom than a snake biting to scare away a predator.
Baby snakes are not more dangerous than adult snakes. Contrary to popular belief, juvenile snakes do not produce more concentrated venom, nor is there proof that they lack venom metering capabilities.
Bigger snakes are deadlier because they have bigger venom sacs and, as a result, produce more venom, meaning that they also inject higher quantities of venom in their victims. Apart from size, factors that determine the deadliness of a snake include the venom composition, venom quantity, environment, and type of snake.
Joe is a freelance writer for FaunaFacts. Joe has written extensively about snakes for the site, but also contributes content about a range of animals.