Can You Eat a Venomous Snake or Is the Meat Dangerous?

Snakes aren’t an animal that many Americans would say they’ve eaten. But in a survival situation, you can’t be too picky. 

Snakes are abundant in many areas of the United States and the world. And if you ever get stuck living off-grid without access to the local grocery store, you might find yourself living off the native wildlife – snakes included. But can you eat a venomous snake? 

You can eat a venomous snake as long as you remove the head first, which is where venom is stored. The meat of the snake is safe to eat if it’s cleaned and cooked properly after the head is removed. 

There is a specific way you should prepare a venomous snake to be eaten safely, which we’ll talk about in this article. We’ll also discuss some frequently asked questions about eating venomous snakes. 

Is It Safe To Eat Venomous Snakes?

Yes, venomous snakes are safe to eat under the right conditions. This is because the venom is made and stored in glands and sacks in the head of the snake. In other words, a snake’s venom never touches any part of the snake’s body other than its own head and mouth. So, as long as you remove the entire gland, you’ll be safe. 

The venom gland is located near the back of the head on most snakes. When preparing a venomous snake to eat, cut low enough on the neck to make sure you fully remove the glands. When in doubt, cut about an inch below the head to be completely sure the glands have been fully removed. 

It’s also important to understand that venom is only harmful when it’s injected. Ingesting venom is usually harmless because it’s not designed to go up against your digestive system. If you accidentally swallow some venom, it will be deactivated by the enzymes and acids in your stomach without causing any harm to you.

Are There Risks To Eating a Venomous Snake?

While it’s generally safe to eat venomous snakes, you should take caution if you have cuts or wounds in your mouth or throat. If venom comes into contact with an open wound, it can act in the same way it would if it had been injected into your bloodstream. 

To be absolutely safe, don’t eat a venomous snake if you think you might have a wound that venom could find its way into.

How To Identify a Venomous Snake

While it’s safe to eat venomous snakes, you should know how to identify one for safety. This can be harder than it sounds because not all venomous snakes share common features to set them apart from their non-venomous counterparts. 

The most sure-fire way to identify a venomous snake is to familiarize yourself with the common snakes in your area. That might seem like a huge task, but in North America, there are only four venomous snakes to be aware of.

The Coral Snake

The only venomous snake with round eyes, you can identify this snake by remembering the rhyme, “Red and yellow will kill a fellow. Red and black is a friend of Jack.” If you find a snake with red and yellow bands that touch each other, beware.

The Rattlesnake 

You’ll usually hear these snakes before you see them thanks to their distinctive rattle that’s used to ward off threats. There are several subspecies of the rattlesnake, but you can identify them all by their diamond-shaped, blocky head and stout body along with their tell-tale tail. 

The Copperhead

This snake is one of the most commonly misidentified snakes in the US due to the similarities it shares with other non-venomous snakes. Copperheads are typically a light brown copper color with slightly darker bandings that are thicker down their sides and narrower toward the top. If you’re not sure if it’s a Copperhead, play it safe by assuming it is.

The Cottonmouth 

This snake is also known as a water moccasin thanks to its semi-aquatic nature. Cottonmouths are dark brown with darker bands that are thick on the top of the body and get narrower down the sides. Non-venomous water snakes can look similar, but they will have thinner bands on top that get thicker as they go down the body.

How to Clean a Snake For Eating

Always exercise caution when handling a snake, venomous or not. If there’s a chance the snake is venomous, remove and safely dispose of the head before cleaning. Snakeheads can still bite and inject you with venom, even after they’re dead!

When cleaning a snake for eating, the first thing you should do after removing the head is to remove the guts and skin. The guts are located in a pouch near the middle of the body, and you can remove them by slicing into this area with your knife and pulling them out.

To remove the skin, use a sharp knife to slice from the base of the neck all the way down the belly. Be careful not to cut into the meat while you’re removing the skin. Pull back on the skin while trimming off the connective tissue that attaches the skin to the body until you can remove all the flesh. You can also use your fingers to peel the skin away from the meat.

How to Cook a Snake

When it comes to cooking snake meat, you have a few options. You can put the snake on a spit and roast it over an open fire. You can also cut the meat up and boil it, or fry it in a pan.

No matter how you choose to cook your snake, make sure the meat is cooked all the way through and the juices run clear. Snakes can be great sources of protein in survival situations, but they can also carry parasites and bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella

Make sure you don’t catch any nasty bugs by cooking the snake until it’s well done. If you have a meat thermometer, check that the meat gets up to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before eating your hard-earned dinner.