Do you know what ophiophagy is?
It’s the term for the eating of snakes. Believe it or not, there are quite a few animals that eat snakes as part of their regular diet.
What is ophiophagy?
Ophiophagy is a specialized form of feeding or alimentary behavior of animals that hunt and eat snakes.
The word comes from the Greek “ophis” meaning snake, and “phagein” meaning to eat. While most people think of snakes as slimy, dangerous creatures, many animals consider them a tasty treat.
Many ophiophagus animals appear to be immune to certain snake venoms. Opossums from Virginia are found to have the most resistance to snake venom.
Why do animals eat snakes?
There are a few reasons why animals might choose to eat snakes. The most common reason is that snakes are an easy source of food and a good source of protein, which is why they are often eaten by larger predators.
Another reason why animals might eat or kill snakes is that they are trying to get rid of a potential competitor. Snakes can be very dangerous to other animals, so by eating them, animals can reduce the number of snakes in their area and make it safer for themselves and their young.
Examples of Animals that Eat Snakes
There are quite a few animals that eat snakes, including some that you might not expect. Some of the most common snake-eating animals are:
Wolverines are one of the most common snake-eating animals. They are a type of large weasel that is found in North America, Europe, and Asia. Wolverines are known for their ferocious temperament and voracious appetite. They will eat pretty much anything they can get their paws on, including small mammals, birds, insects, and, of course, snakes.
One of the reasons wolverines like to eat snakes is because they are an easy source of protein. Wolverines will typically kill a snake by biting it in half or crushing it with their powerful jaws.
Mongooses are another common type of snake-eating animal. These small carnivores are found in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Mongooses are known for their quick reflexes and sharp teeth.
They use these features to their advantage when hunting snakes. Mongooses will typically kill a snake by biting it on the back of the head.
The secretary bird is a large, predatory bird that is found in Africa. These birds are known for their long legs and sharp claws. They use these features to their advantage when hunting snakes.
Secretary birds will typically kill a snake by stomping on it or hitting it with their powerful wings. Once the snake is stunned, the secretary bird will then use its sharp beak to rip the snake apart.
The harpy eagle is a large, predatory bird that is found in Central and South America. These birds are known for their sharp talons and powerful beaks. They use these features to their advantage when hunting snakes.
Harpy eagles will typically kill a snake by grabbing it with their talons and then tearing it apart with their beaks.
Crocodiles are large, carnivorous reptiles that are found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Crocodiles are known for their powerful jaws and sharp teeth. They use these features to their advantage when hunting snakes.
Crocodiles will typically kill a snake by biting it in half or crushing it with their powerful jaws. They will then swallow the snake whole or tear it apart with their sharp teeth.
Long Eared Owl
The long-eared owl is a type of owl that is found in North America, Europe, and Asia. These owls are known for their long ears and sharp talons.
Long eared owls have a wide diet, eating small mammals, birds, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians and fish. Their most common prey is small mammals, like rodents, which they get most of their energy from. They are known to primarily hunt voles, and even help to control vole populations in some countries.
While long-eared owls do not feed on birds very often, they have been known to take house sparrows, Eurasian tree sparrows, starlings and blackbirds. Snakes, lizards, frogs, toads, carp and arachnids are further prey occasionally taken by this species.
The American badger is a type of badger that is found in North America. The American badger is similar in appearance to the European badger, although not closely related, and can be found in the western, central, and northeastern United States, northern Mexico, and south-central Canada to certain areas of southwestern British Columbia.
These badgers are known for their long claws and sharp teeth. They are omnivores and mostly eat pocket gophers, ground squirrels, moles, marmots, woodrats, prairie dogs, deer mice, voles and kangaroo rats. They will also eat lizards, rattlesnakes, amphibians, carrion, fish, hibernating skunks, ground nesting birds, such as bank swallows and burrowing owls, and some plant foods, such as corn and sunflower seeds.
Badgers do not stalk their prey, but instead prey by digging. They can dig very quickly, as their forelimbs allow them to power through soil and even harder surfaces such as concrete! They use their strength to tunnel after ground dwelling animals. They have also been known to store and hoard food.
The King Cobra Snake (Ophiophagus hannah) is the largest venomous snake in the world. The King Cobra snake is also perhaps the most dangerous snake in the world where humans are concerned. Under conditions of high prey availability, they can reach a length of 18.5 feet. Several people die from the bite of the King Cobra each year.
The King Cobra snakes diet is mainly composed of other snakes. The King Cobra snake prefers non-venomous snakes, however, it will also eat other venomous snakes including kraits and Indian Cobras. Cannibalism is not rare.
When food is scarce, King Cobras will also feed on other small vertebrates such as lizards. Like all snakes, they swallow the prey whole, head first. The top and bottom jaws are attached with stretchy ligaments, which let the snake swallow animals wider than itself. Snakes cannot chew their prey. Food is digested by very strong acids in the snake’s stomach. After a large meal, the snake may live for many months without another meal due to a very slow metabolic rate. King Cobras can hunt at all times of day, although it is rarely seen at night, leading some to debate whether it is a diurnal species.
Of course, many other animals will eat snakes if given the chance. Even some species of primates have been known to eat snakes on occasion.