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What is the most venomous snake in the world?

Kid Zach really wishes an answer to the most venomous snake question would have existed in his childhood when library books could not answer the question.

Inland taipan
Meet the most venomous snake that you have never heard of, the inland taipan.

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Deadliest vs. most venomous snake

The first thing we need to do when answering this question is to distinguish between the mostly deadly vs. the most venomous. When we read deadly, this term refers to how many deaths are caused by the snake species, whereas most venomous means the snake venom has the most potency for each milligram of venom per kilogram of the prey item.

This article will cover both terms based on the most updated research and data available. Some studies may be a few decades old, as they sufficiently answered the venom potency question with their initial work. Envenomation deaths are not well-tracked, as most snakebite deaths occur in countries where data may not be regularly collected or tracked. Southeast Asia, South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and many tropical countries experience the greatest number of snake-caused deaths. This is both due to populations near highly venomous species and a lack of healthcare available to snakebite victims.


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Deadliest snake in the world

This question is quite difficult to answer when compared to the next question. However, it is estimated that either the monocled cobra or the saw-scaled viper kills more humans every year than any other snake species. This makes either a cobra or saw-scaled viper the deadliest snake in the world. The tracking of envenomation deaths is not accurately tracked in the countries where the most snake bite deaths likely occur.

monocled cobra
This is the monocled cobra, a venomous snake that has frequent interactions with humans.

Most venomous snake in the US

The United States does not experience many deaths due to snakebite. However, our most venomous and possibly most dangerous snake is the eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus). Its rank versus the other global venomous snakes places it in the mid-20s. However, it has one of the greatest venom yields. So, while this rattlesnake is quite dangerous, its true danger lies in the amount of venom it can dispense into predators or prey. For humans, only a lack of medical care would pose the greatest risk from this species.

Some may argue, with good cause, that timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus), Mojave rattlesnakes (Crotalus scutulatus), and eastern coral snakes (Micrurus fulvius) are all equally or more venomous than the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. However, different forms of venom tests can produce varying results. All four species are extremely dangerous and should be avoided at great lengths.

One note of caution, depending upon location, some snakes of the same species can vary in venom composition and toxicity. Timber Rattlesnakes in the southern extent of their range are more likely to have neurotoxic venom than their northern counterparts. The same goes for the Mojave Rattlesnake, which has far more neurotoxic venom in the southern part of its range than in the United States portion of its range.


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43 inch snake hook

Most venomous snake in the world

While many in North America are familiar with the eastern diamondback, they might be surprised to know the most venomous snake in the world is about 45,000% more venomous than the eastern diamondback rattlesnake. What is it? The most venomous snake in the world is the inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus). It is a species of elapid snake native to Australia. The inland taipan is known by many names, including the fierce snake, the small-scaled snake, and simply the taipan.

Range of the inland taipan.
Range of the inland taipan.

Even though this species is extremely dangerous, it has a very limited range where there is minimal opportunity for human and snake interaction. Additionally, this snake is not known to be overly aggressive. These two factors explain why this highly venomous snake rarely creates problems for humans.

While this species is almost unanimously considered the "most venomous," there are some lists that instead list a viper or sea snake. Please, disregard these lists, as they are based on a book from 1996 that used flaw comparison techniques. The inland taipan has the most potent venom, based on consistent methods. Period. (Of course, there are always unique factors that can create variability. Science, eh?)

inland taipan
Inland taipan smells the air

Learn the venomous snakes of the US!

Zach holding a guide to finding venomous snakes in north america

How many snake bites occur each year?

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5.4 million people are bitten each year by snakes. This is an estimation, as most of the bites likely occur in countries where reporting is not reliable. Of those 5.4 million people bitten, only about 2.7 million are envenomated. Many snake bites result from nonvenomous snakes, and not every venomous snake will use venom when striking in defense.

How many snake bites occur in the US each year?

Annually approximately 10,000 people are bitten by snakes each year in the United States. However, less than 1/3 of those bites result in envenomation, meaning the majority of bites are due to nonvenomous snakes or 'dry bites.' This fact, combined with an advanced and prepared healthcare system, prevents serious injury and death from being a constant.

How many deaths due to snakebites occur each year?

Between 81,000 to 138,000 people die each year because of venomous snake bites, and around three times those numbers have some morbidity or permanent disability as a result.

Learn about the reptiles and amphibians of Eastern and Central North America!

peterson guide to reptiles and amphibians of eastern and central north america

Want to learn about reptiles and amphibians of western North America? Click here!


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