I have good news for you. Contrary to what you might have heard, there’s no such thing as a “poisonous” snake. (Well, almost no such thing. We’ll get back to this.*)
But here’s the bad news, this doesn’t make your next romp through leaf piles in the woods any safer.
- “Poisonous” means something that causes illness or death if eaten, touched, or inhaled.
- “Venomous” means something that injects venom into another creature, most commonly through a bite or a sting.
The key difference here is that idea of injection. Snakes aren’t poisonous to the touch, if eaten (um… yikes?), or if inhaled (yeah, no clue why you’re sniffing snakes). It’s their venom that is dangerous. Hence, snakes can be venomous, not generally poisonous.
Admittedly, only ten percent of snakes are venomous, so maybe we all shouldn’t be as nervous around the slithering, fork-tongued creatures as we often are—though, if you ask me, I’ll still be steering clear of any that come across my path—whether or not they’re poisonous, whether or not they’re venomous, whether or not they’re offering apples, whether or not their bites are actually exacting (or extracting?) revenge. Too far? Honestly, I’m not sure you can convince me otherwise.
***Update: It’s been brought to my attention that there are indeed a rare few species of snake in the world (perhaps 2 or 3 total) that are indeed “poisonous.” These species, such as the Red Necked Keelback native to Asia, consume poisonous animals such as frogs and toads to obtain the poison for themselves and then secrete the poison from their skin. Gross? Perhaps. Fascinating? Absolutely. Now to keep things complicated, the Red Necked Keelback is also venomous (though rear-fanged). Just Mother Nature keeping us on our linguistic toes, I suppose! (Thank you to the reader who informed me of the few species who break this venomous/poisonous distinction!)***