By some estimates, between one and five million people are bitten by poisonous snakes around the world every year, and around one-fifth of them end up dying. That number is definitely a lot lower than most of our history – as snakes have always been dangerous for our species – though it’s still uncomfortably high. Despite modern medicine and anti-venom, bites from particularly deadly snake species still have a worryingly high death rate.
Of course, most snakes aren’t poisonous, and you’d find many harmless garden varieties living in urban areas around the world. The ones that are poisonous, though, are especially good at what they do. The deadliest snake species in the world are equipped with a diverse array of venoms that can kill you in a surprisingly wide variety of ways, depending on the species you encounter. Quite a few of them live in, or nearby, densely-populated human settlements, too, making them even more lethal in terms of the number of casualties.
In terms of the potency of its venom, the boomslang is by far the most poisonous snake found in Africa. The venom itself is a type of hemotoxin, which attacks the blood-clotting mechanism of the body and could potentially cause a horrible kind of death by uncontrolled internal and external bleeding. It takes a minuscule amount to kill a human, too, making it – drop by drop – the deadliest snake venom in Africa.
Thankfully, the boomslang isn’t responsible for a lot of deaths for a variety of reasons. For one, it stays on trees, minimizing its chances of being stepped on. More importantly, its venom can take a long time to start affecting the body, and the victims usually have ample time to get to the anti-venom before it can turn fatal. The snake isn’t known to be particularly aggressive, either, and only about two to three bites per year are attributed to it across Africa.
9. Faint-Banded Sea Snake
The Faint-Banded Sea Snake – also commonly known as the Belcher’s sea snake – is perhaps the most poisonous sea snake species we know of. It’s found in a large area stretching from the Indian Ocean all the way to Australia and Solomon Islands. Its venom is often compared to the taipan – an infamously poisonous family of snakes that we’d obviously discuss in a bit – as it’s lethal and potent. Once bitten, the venom works rapidly, too. If left untreated, a bite could kill a fully healthy human adult in less than thirty minutes.
Fortunately, it’s not a very aggressive species, and it’s rare for one to actually bite a person unless provoked. When it does bite, too, it usually injects a small dose of the venom that’s not enough to kill someone.
8. Death Adder
Death adders are found across Australia and Papua New Guinea, and have been a consistent threat to people living in close proximity with them for a long time. By some estimates, before their anti-venom was developed in 1958, death adder bites resulted in death in almost 60% of the cases.
Death adders are ambush predators, unlike most other species found in the region. They inject a high amount of venom in one bite, which can cause paralysis and death within hours. They’re also some of the fastest striking snakes we know of, and encounters with humans aren’t as uncommon as we’d like. While they’re not aggressive enough to, say, go out of their way to hunt you down, the death adder can still be pretty aggressive when confronted.
Apart from the obvious danger they pose to humans, death adders are also particularly dangerous for dogs. In some high risk regions, dog owners intuitively look out for death adders in the bushes when they’re out for a walk.
7. Indian Krait
The Indian krait isn’t a particularly large or intimidating snake, though when you look at the numbers, it’s easily one of the deadliest in the world. One of the ‘Big Four’ of venomous snakes found in India, it’s responsible for a large percentage of the roughly 50,000 deaths caused by snake bites in the country every year.
The Indian Krait’s venom is also unique in the way that it causes little to no discomfort around the area of the bite, and it’s often impossible to know that you’re bitten until it’s too late. The venom is also a potent mix of various potent toxins, one of which is a powerful neurotoxin that could paralyze the entire body within hours.
Making the problem worse is their proximity to densely populated human settlements, as the Indian krait’s habitat lies in some of the most highly populated areas in the world. As a result, it kills more people than any other snake species found in the region.
6. Tiger Snake
The tiger snake is one of the deadliest snakes found in Australia. Its venom contains everything from neurotoxins, myotoxins and procoagulants, potentially resulting in a rather horrible death from paralysis and internal damage if left untreated. You’d find many types of tiger snakes spread out across the country, though most experts consider all of them to be one species with a variety of different adaptations instead of various distinct species.
While most people would never encounter one of these in the wild, they’re still responsible for a considerable number of bites in Australia. If left untreated, by some estimates, the mortality rate of a tiger snake bite could be as high as 40-50%.
5. Black Mamba
If we just take its venom into account, the black mamba doesn’t come across as a particularly deadly species, especially compared to some of the other entries on this list. However, it makes up for all of its shortcomings by its aggressive nature and mind-boggling speed (at least for a snake). Easily the fastest poisonous snake in the world, the black mamba can move at speeds of over 12 miles-per-hour. That’s not enough to be a problem for some people, but still fast enough for you to have to sprint to outrun it.
Moreover, its venom is nothing to scoff at, either. Before an anti-venom was developed for its bite, an encounter with the black mamba almost always turned out to be fatal. That may still be the case in many parts of Africa, as anti-venom remains difficult to procure in many rural regions. Because of a combination of all these factors, casualties from black mamba bites remain high and frequent across the continent.
4. King Cobra
The king cobra isn’t just one of the deadliest snakes in the world, it’s also perhaps the most intimidating. It’s easily the longest of all the known poisonous snake species in the world, as a fully grown king cobra can reach up to 18 feet in length. It could also lift up around one-third of its body to sort of “stand,” which gets even more terrifying with its signature flaring hood.
The king cobra is found in the densely populated regions of south and southeast Asia, and it’s common for people to encounter it in its natural habitats. It lives in a wide variety of terrains, too – from the tropical rainforests of Philippines to the colder regions of lower Himalayas.
While its venom isn’t among the deadliest, the king cobra can deliver a surprising amount of it in one bite – enough to kill around 20 people, easily making it one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.
3. Eastern Brown Snake
As you can guess, Australia has its fair share of venomous snakes. The deadliest of them, by far, is the eastern brown snake. Responsible for around 60% of all snake bites and a majority of snake-bite related casualties in the country, the eastern brown is the second most venomous snake in the world after the inland taipan. Its venom is a mix of many types of toxins, too, including neurotoxins that could paralyze crucial organs and suffocate the victim to death within a few hours.
What makes it even deadlier is its vast geographical reach. With the exception of rainforests, the eastern brown has adapted well to nearly every type of terrain across Australia and parts of Papua New Guinea, which includes populated urban areas.
2. Inland Taipan
While there will always be debate around the deadliest snakes in the world – as ‘deadly’ means different things depending on different parameters – when it comes to venom potency, we know the clear winner: the inland taipan. It’s so deadly that one victim in New South Wales, Australia made news by surviving its bite. By some estimates, one drop of its venom is enough to kill around 100 people, putting it around the top of any list of the deadliest snakes in the world.
Like a lot of other dangerous animals, the inland taipan is native to Australia. Unlike a lot of other dangerous Australian animals, though, the inland taipan has never caused a fatality, as it likes to spend a major part of the day chilling underground and rarely bites.
1. Saw-Scaled Viper
It’s almost impossible to objectively make a list of the deadliest snakes in the world, as ‘deadly’ can mean different things depending on various factors. While some snakes produce venom that works rapidly and kill in horrifying ways, they live in remote, under-populated countries and don’t cause as many casualties. Others may not be that venomous, but manage to have a much higher kill count due to being aggressive or living in close proximity to people.
The saw-scaled viper is one such snake. Found in countries across Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, it’s by far the deadliest snake in the world in terms of kill count. Living in some of the most densely populated countries in the world, the saw-scaled viper kills more people than any other snake species we know of. It could be identified by its small size, aggressive posture and loud, raspy warning sounds. Its anti-venom can be difficult to find, too, as it lives across such a widely spread territory.