While many people are terrified of snakes, these shy creatures actually consider humans a threat rather than prey. For a snake to consider a human as prey, it has to be very big.
The only snakes capable of swallowing a person include; the African rock python, Burmese pythons, green anacondas, and reticulated pythons.
These snakes still have immense difficulty with this. Cases of snakes eating humans are sporadic, and only a few have been proven.
Snakes are not able to chew. Instead, they have to swallow prey whole, and as such, they carefully weigh the risk of injury with large prey. The widest part of their prey cannot be wider than the broadest part of the snake’s stomach.
A person taller than 5′5′’ and weighing over forty-five kgs would pose a problem because of the limitations of the snake’s ability to widen its jaw. They can, however, easily constrict and kill a human.
List Of Snakes That Can Eat Humans
1. African Rock Pythons
In 2002, a 10-year-old boy was eaten by an African Rock Python in Durban, South Africa. He and his friends were fruit picking at the time. His friends hid up a tree, afraid to flee, and saw him being consumed.
African rock pythons are native to sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike other snakes restricted to specific habitats, rock pythons can survive in different environments, from savanna grasslands to woodlands.
They are also good swimmers and may be found in locations with permanent water, such as the borders of lakes, rivers, and swamps.
These snakes can adapt well to disturbed environments; therefore, they are frequently seen around human civilization.
The body of an African rock python is covered in colorful spots that often link up in an uneven, wide stripe. Body markings vary between yellow, olive, chestnut, and brown but fade to white on the underside. The head is triangular, with a buffy yellow outline of a dark brown spearhead. A distinctive triangle marking can be found above and below the eye.
The African rock python is huge. An adult African rock python reaches up to ten to fifteen feet in total length. As for the weight, they’re thickly-built snakes with heavy bodies. They officially range around 90 – 120 pounds; however, some reports have put them to about 200 pounds or more.
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2. Burmese Pythons
A 2008 incident in Venezuela revealed a Burmese python killed a Caracas zookeeper and was in the process of eating him when other zookeepers interfered.
Burmese pythons are primarily found in Southeast Asia’s rainforests and green wetlands. They spend most of their time in trees when they’re young. However, as they mature, they become mostly ground dwellers as their size and weight make it difficult to climb trees.
They are also good swimmers and can stay fully submerged for up to thirty minutes.
They have dark brown markings along their backs and flanks. The blotches vary in size and form and are surrounded by a black lining. The backdrop’s hue between the blotches is commonly tan, tannish yellow, or cream.
In most cases, the head of a Burmese python is black, with a bright stripe on both sides that runs across the eye and converges on the nose to produce a dark V-pattern. The color pattern of juveniles is identical to that of adults, except that the color is more vibrant.
Burmese pythons are among the world’s biggest snakes. The majority of mature Burmese Pythons are 10-16 feet (3-5 m) long and weigh up to 200 pounds.
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3. Green Anacondas
Anacondas are capable of eating large animals such as cows and, theoretically, humans. There’s no documented evidence for an anaconda actually eating humans, although one man attempted to feed himself to an anaconda, before calling off the attempt.
Green anacondas are mostly found in South America. They are semiaquatic and are known for their swimming abilities. They usually live in tropical rainforests and prefer shallow, slow-moving waters, such as rivers, flooded grasslands, and streams.
Green anacondas are olive-green, with big alternating black oval patterns down their vertebra and smaller identical dots with yellow centers down their flanks. Their belly scales are yellow and black.
They are stocky, muscular snakes and have thick necks and slender but big heads. They have eyes and nostrils perched on top of their heads, allowing them to breathe and see their prey above the water while remaining submerged. From the eye to the mouth, they feature a thick black line.
They are the heaviest snakes globally and can averagely weigh between 550 pounds (250kg). Females are considerably larger than males. The maximum length tends to be thirty feet (9 meters), but on average, the females grow to about fifteen feet (4.5 meters) and about nine feet (2.7 meters) for males. They are the heaviest snakes globally and can averagely weigh between 550 pounds (250kg).
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4. Reticulated Pythons
Studies show that least six hunter-gatherers were killed by the reticulated python in Indonesia, where it roams wild, in the period 1934 to 1973.
A report in 2018 also revealed that a 54 year old Indonesian woman was eaten by a reticulated python while tending to her vegetable garden.
Reticulated pythons range from South and Southeast Asia. Even though these tropical snakes are often linked with lowland rainforests and wetlands, they have demonstrated their ability to adapt to habitat change. They can be found in agricultural locations and suburban and urban settings.
They are slow-moving snakes that can swim quite well. Therefore, they are frequently spotted hanging around water bodies.
The reticulated python’s striking net-like skin design is either gold or black, with gray splotches edging the back and sides. Between the gray splotches on the sides, there are white triangular patterns. The head is gray with a black stripe down the top that ends in a circular pattern on the neck. The entire body has an iridescent gloss to it.
It is the world’s longest snake, and just like the anaconda, females tend to be bigger. They regularly grow to lengths of over 30 feet or longer and weigh roughly 250 pounds.
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Adaptations That Allow These Snakes To Eat Humans
1. Constricting Ability
These snakes are nonvenomous, so they kill or subdue their prey by constricting. The snake initially uses the momentum of its strike to coil around its victim’s body- then, it squeezes. With the help of their curved teeth, they are able to restrain the prey. The snake tightens its grip on the victim with each exhalation until it cannot breathe.
2. Structured Jaws
Super-sized meals do not intimidate these snakes. The lower jaw bones or mandibles of snakes are not connected like those of mammals. An elastic ligament connects each mandible at the front. As a result, the mandibles may widen and move independently of one another, extending the width of the mouth.
The mandibles are also loosely attached to the skull at the back. However, they articulate with the skull at one end and are freely moving. This allows for much greater rotation- as the prey is yanked backward, the prey’s head goes forward.
Thus snake may consume prey considerably larger than its head by opening its mouth wider than its body. This, together with the snake’s backward-curved fangs, makes swallowing prey easier.
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3. Digestive System
Once the prey is secured and they are ready to feed, these snakes can strengthen their cardiac muscles and circulatory systems. This allows them to pump more blood and increase their metabolism by almost three times.
As soon as the prey gets in the stomach, the organ produces acids and digesting enzymes. The PH of the stomach lowers from 7.5 to 2 and then 1.5 in a matter of hours. Since the stomach is very acidic, snakes can digest everything, including bones and skin.
All of this is digestible by the snake because it keeps its food in its stomach for several days, unlike many other animals. However, this depends on the size of the prey. For instance, if an anaconda were to swallow a human, it would take up to two weeks before being fully digested.
Note: Pythons use up to half the energy they get from food for digestion.
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The snakes mentioned above do not consider humans as prey regardless of their size. If they were to feed on people, it would most likely be children. For instance, the largest snake in the world (the anaconda) cannot swallow prey weighing more than 45kgs.
However, while they might be able to swallow a fully grown adult, they have the power to kill someone easily. This is because they have incredibly strong muscles and powerful jaws.
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.