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What do Vipers Eat? (Rabbits, Frogs, and 5 More Meals)

Vipers eat a variety of food. They eat almost anything—from lizards to eggs and rats. They also eat small birds and mammals.

Eyelash Viper

Vipers, like many other snakes, are opportunistic hunters. The way they hunt is through envenomation. Once the prey is dead, they swallow the prey whole. 

Disclaimer: This is information for entertainment and educational purposes only. Do not approach a wild animal and keep your distance. Only professionals should handle wild animals. Seek professional help immediately if you have been bitten or otherwise harmedConsult your local wildlife authority for the right advice for your situation and locality.

What do Vipers Eat?

There are many species of viper in the wild. What they eat depends on their habitat. Below is a list of some of the most common food sources for vipers…

1. Rabbits

European Rabbit

Vipers eat rabbits, provided that the viper is big enough to swallow it. All snakes seem to understand that they can only attack prey that they can swallow. The exception, of course, is if they attack in self-defense.

An excellent example is the Gaboon Viper. It can grow to a size big enough to eat a rabbit. In the wild, vipers eat rabbits only if the rabbit is in the habitat. Vipers that live in deserts rarely eat rabbits. 

The rabbit, however, must be a young one. In captivity, many pet owners do not feed their vipers rabbits. The rabbits are too big. 

2. Frogs

Green Tree Frog

Frogs are part of a vipers diet, especially viper species that live in rainforests.

Vipers live in deserts and wet rainforests. Frogs, however, are not widely available in deserts. One example of a desert-dwelling frog is the desert rain frog. It lives in the deserts of South Africa and Namibia. 

The desert rain frog is a burrowing animal. It eats different types of insects. Its natural viper prey is the horned adder, a venomous viper that thrives in the arid region of southwest Africa, particularly in the Kalahari desert.

3. Lizards

lizard

Vipers eat small lizards and other reptiles, especially desert-dwelling vipers, who live in areas where lizards are an easy food source.

Millions of years of evolution taught the viper tricks to survive, especially in the desert. Some of them can travel in a side-winding action in loose sand, making it easy to hunt lizards that live in the desert.

Since lizards are quicker than vipers, vipers dig into the sand to bury themselves, with only the head and tail partially sticking out. The viper wags its tail in the sand, getting the lizard’s attraction. 

4. Insects

A lot of snakes eat insects. However, only the small snakes do this, including the viper. Baby snakes are too small to swallow any mammal, so they have to make do with bugs.

All snakes eat insects when they are young. Sea snakes, of course, are an exception to this rule. Since sea snakes spend most of their time in the water, they eat small fish when they are young.  

5. Snakes

Vipers eat snakes, too. However, they mostly eat snakes smaller than their size. In the wild, vipers eat their kind. There is not much information about why vipers do this, but it is not unusual for snakes to eat other snakes. 

Read More: Snakes That Eat Other Snakes

6. Birds and Bats

Northern Mockingbird

Vipers may eat birds and bats if they are able to catch them. Vipers have even been known to catch birds mid-flight by launching themselves off trees.

In the wild, National Geographic managed to capture footage of a viper catching a bat. In it, the viper was perched in a tree branch. The particular species is the eyelash palm pit viper. 

At night, the viper waits in ambush. As a bat comes near it and hangs on a branch, the viper lunges and bites the bat without immediately letting go. 

What makes the eyelash pit viper different is that it does not detach from its prey. Usually, venomous snakes bite and let go. This one doesn’t. It bites and holds on.  

7. Rats and Mice

Dormouse

Rats, mice, and other rodents are a staple of most snake species, including vipers. They are abundant, and they multiply quickly. 

Rats reach sexual maturity in just nine weeks. After that, a female rat can give birth to a litter of up to 12 pups. The rats can do this six times a year. As such, a rat population can easily hit 1,200 in one year.

In captivity, snake pet owners also prefer feeding their vipers with rats and mice. Between the two, mice are better. 

Mice have more fat than rats. Since rats are leaner. What this means is that rats have more protein. In terms of vitamins and minerals, they are similar in content. However, mice are easier to breed and are safer. 

In the wild, rats carry pathogens that can make snakes ill. Mice are bred and captivity. What this means is that there is an adequate supply, and they are free from harmful bacteria and viruses. 

FAQs

Do Vipers Eat Rattlesnake?

Yes, a rattlesnake is a type of viper. Vipers eat their kind of they have an opportunity. They also eat other snakes. In a video online, it is clearly visible that a green viper would eat another snake. In this video, the viper was eating a cave racer snake

Do Vipers Eat Plants?

No, vipers are carnivores. They cannot process plants. The only way they get plant material in their diet is through the prey. No snake actively eats plants. 

Do Vipers Eat Animals?

Yes, vipers eat animals. They eat many types of animals like reptiles, amphibians, birds, and small mammals. Baby vipers eat insects. Vipers also eat their kind. 

Do Vipers Eat Sand?

No, vipers do not eat sand. Some of them live in the sand in arid deserts. Since it is where they hunt, it is not unusual that they swallow sand as they attempt to eat their prey. However, they do not actively eat sand.  

Conclusion: What Do Vipers Eat?

Vipers are obligate carnivores, just like all other snakes. They eat almost anything, and their diet depends on what is available in their habitat. 

Vipers are opportunistic hunters, and they hunt via envenomation. First, they deliver potent toxins that kill the prey. Then, once the target is dead, they swallow it whole from the head down.

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