Snakes in Mexico: The Good, The Bad & The Deadly

Mexico is revered for many things – delicious foods, beautiful beaches, and of course, it’s wildlife. Every year tourists flock to this incredible country to spot sea turtles, whale sharks, and even jaguars. On the other hand, Mexico has some less popular wildlife, that you’d perhaps choose not to spot in the wild…such as snakes. Yes, there are snakes in Mexico, and roughly 381 species to be (almost) exact.

Whether this fact has you planning to scratch Mexico off your bucket list or leaning in with intrigue, we think the snakes in Mexico are worth getting to know. These fascinating – slightly creepy – creatures are a huge part of the diverse wildlife in the country. A lot of the snakes in Mexico are surprisingly harmless to humans – but what about the venomous ones?

Well, if you want to know more about the snakes in Mexico – and how to identify them – we’re going to give you the full rundown. From the terrifyingly deadly, to the rare and the wonderful, let’s take a closer look these Mexican reptiles!

Snakes in Mexico: The Good, The Bad, & The Deadly

Planning a holiday to Mexico at some point? Well, don’t let the snakes put you off! Once you’ve finished this article you’ll have an eye trained for spotting the deadly from the harmless – or you’ll at least know the places to avoid!

What Kind of Snakes Are in Mexico?

Snakes in Mexico - snake face close up
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Mexico is home to hundreds of species of snakes, including some of the most venomous snakes in South America. Whilst that might not bring you much comfort if you’re planning to travel to Mexico, it’s actually a really good idea to get to know the snakes in Mexico. That way, if you spot a snake, you will know whether or not it could be dangerous.

The most common snake in Mexico is a family of snakes called Colubrids. These are relatively harmless to humans, and of the 1000+ species of Colubrids that inhabit the earth, very few have the ability to do us any harm. There are a couple, however, that can have a particularly nasty bite. But we’ll take a closer look at the deadly colubrids later in the article!

Another famous family of Mexican snakes is the viper. This species is particularly deadly and includes some of Mexicos most dangerous reptiles. We’re talking Mexican rattlesnakes and the infamous Fer de Lance. These are two creatures to avoid but don’t worry, we’ll tell you where they lurk!

Other snakes you might come across in Mexico, are the coral snake, a particularly small, brightly coloured snake, and the milk snake. Both of these are worth keeping an eye out for – but the question is where?

Well, let’s learn more about the snakes in Mexico, and find out just how dangerous they really are!

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Mexico desert
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Mexican Black Kingsnake

Part of the Colubrid family, the Mexican Black Kingsnake is one of the larger members of this subspecies. They have bluish-black scales that give off a shimmering effect a little like the inside of an oyster shell. These creatures are usually found in rocky areas, or places with rich vegetation such as green deserts and wild spaces. This is often in Northern Mexico and Sinaloa. Despite the name, Mexican Black Kingsnakes aren’t only found in Mexico. In fact, they are also found in Arizona, South West of the United States.

The Mexican Black Kingsnake is a constrictor, and so they kill by using their power and strength to constrict the airways of their prey. Their diet consists of rodents and other small mammals, but they are also known to eat other snakes such as rattlesnakes.

So, are Mexican Black Kingsnakes harmful to humans? Well, despite their sinister look, these snakes aren’t venomous. Whilst they have been known to bite, they won’t do you any immediate harm. In fact, Mexican Black Kingsnakes are frequently kept as pets due to their generally docile nature!

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One of the deadliest snakes in all of South America is the Fer-de-Lance snake. This venomous species belongs to the family of pit vipers found in Mexico, and across other countries of South America. With a name that translates in french to ‘Spearhead’, this particular snake species should be treated with extreme caution. It is most commonly found in forest areas and along riverbanks. However, it is known to slither into areas inhabited by humans.

So, what does a Fer-de-Lance look like? Well, generally these snakes are an olive green colour with dark markings. Although the colour does vary depending on their habitat. They have a ‘V’ shaped head (think spearhead), and can grow to be anywhere between 5ft to a huge 9ft long!

Fer-de-lance snakes in Mexico
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The venom of a Fer-de-Lance snake is incredibly harmful to humans and can be fatal. In fact, a typical bite from one of these deadly creatures contains a massive 105mg of venom. The scary part? Well, a 50mg dose would be enough to kill a human!

Despite its ability to kill humans in one swift bite, we’re not generally on the menu for the Fer-de-Lance. They typically eat rodents, lizards, and birds. But seeing as it’s one of the deadliest snakes in Mexico, we’d advise steering clear just in case!

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Yucatan Neotropical Rattlesnake

Another snake that belongs to the Pit Viper family, is the Yucatan Neotropical Rattlesnake. This species is found in Central America, Mexico and across the Yucatan Peninsula right up to northern Guatemala. This rattlesnake thrives in dry habitats. So you will usually find it in dry forests, tropical woodlands, and any dry open space where it can hunt.

As its name suggests, this snake is famous for its rattle when threatened, but why does it rattle? Well, the Yucatan Neotropical rattlesnake is covered in rough-looking scales. These are produced by keratin in the same way our fingernails are. When the snake becomes aggressive, it shakes it’s tail quickly from side-to-side, causing the scales to click against each other. It is this movement that creates the famous sound of the rattlesnake.

The Yucatan Neotropical Rattlesnake is yet another venomous species on our list. And, whilst it’s not quite as deadly as the Fer-de-Lance, this rattlesnake is certainly one to look out for in Mexico. Its bite can cause severe pain, blistering, swelling, and in some cases can result in amputation. Luckily, it tends to feast on small mammals and rodents, but keep your eyes peeled just in case!

Rattlesnake about to strike
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So, how can you spot the Yucatan Neotropical Rattlesnake? Well, unfortunately, there isn’t one particular pattern to look out for on this species. In fact, this rattlesnake can vary greatly in colour. The main variations to look out for are light grey, ash, olive green, and sometimes even black. What you can spot, however, is the diamond pattern that goes from the bottom of its head, right down to the tail. It also has two distinguishable stripes that start at the top of the head, leading down to its body. But, if all else fails, listen out for the famous rattle of an angry rattlesnake!

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Coral Snake

A small, brightly coloured snake, you’d be forgiven for thinking this little reptile was, well, kind of cute? And whilst some species of Coral Snake might be small and harmless, others truly aren’t. Mexico is home to over 60 species of Coral Snakes, but thankfully, not all of them are venomous species. The issue with that is, it’s very hard to tell which ones are, and which ones aren’t.

The vast majority of Coral Snakes are brightly coloured, with red bands and yellow bands running down the length of their body. On average, these snakes are between 10 to 20-inches long and can be pencil slim. This might make them tough to spot – but that’s where the bright colours come in useful!

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So, how venomous are Coral Snakes? Well, the ones that actually have venom can be extremely dangerous. In fact, they are thought to be one of the most venomous snakes in Mexico!

A bite from a Coral Snake can cause paralysis and respiratory problems for prey, and muscular paralysis in humans. Luckily, the small size of a Coral Snake means their fangs are also relatively small. So, it does make it hard for them to bite us. Most bites occur when humans try to handle a Coral Snake, so if you see one of these little snakes, don’t try to pick it up!

Snake on tree branch
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Coral Snakes tend to live in forests and woodland areas where they burrow underground. It is in these habitats that they hunt prey including lizards, insects, and occasionally other small snakes. Of course, their tendency to live in wooded areas gives them plenty of cover underneath leaves and debris. So, if you go trekking into the Mexican jungle, be sure to watch where you stand!

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Milk Snake

The Lampropeltis Triangulum Sinaloa, also known as the Sinaloan Milk Snake, is one of the less deadly snakes in Mexico. Another species of Colubrid snakes, it is most commonly found rocky, dry areas of the country. Particularly in Sinaloa, Southwest Chihuahua, and Sonora. This species of Milk Snake tends to hunt small mammals for prey. This includes mice, birds, and smaller reptiles frequently found in its habitat.

The Sinaloan Milk Snake is extremely distinctive in colour. It has a blood-red body, with bright white and black bands. The colouring of this snake does give off an air of danger, however, it is a surprisingly docile species of snake. Interestingly, the Sinaloan Milk Snake is one of the most popular species of snake to keep as a pet. In fact, it rarely bites, and at most will excrete strong-smelling milk as a warning when threatened.

A full-grown milk snake can reach up to almost 50-inches long, which when combined with its deadly colours can look a little threatening. Fortunately, it isn’t, and it is one of the least poisonous snakes in Mexico!

Milk snake - snakes in Mexico
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What is the Most Poisonous Snake in Mexico?

Of all the snakes in Mexico, the most poisonous has to be the Fer-de-Lance. A bite from this deadly snake can cause swelling, bruising, paralysis, tissue damage, and even bleeding from the mouth and gums. If left untreated it could even prove to be fatal.

Luckily, victims can be treated, but a bite from a Fer-de-Lance needs to be treated quickly for a smooth recovery.

How Many Poisonous Snakes are in Mexico?

In this article, we’ve looked at some of the most deadly – and docile – snakes in Mexico. But how many poisonous snakes are there in Mexico? Well, of all the snakes in Mexico, 7 species are venomous, which include species from the Colubrid and Viper families. Of course, it’s worth noting here that not all venomous snakes are fatal to humans. Naturally, a snake bite would be unpleasant and isn’t a souvenir you want to bring home from Mexico. But, the chances of you encountering any of these snakes are relatively slim!

Snake out in the jungle
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Is Mexico Still on Your Bucket List?

So, now you’re more clued up on the snakes in Mexico – do you still want to visit? We certainly hope so! Mexico is a country full of rich history and lively, unique culture. It’s home to some of the rarest and most fascinating wildlife too. Of course, you’d probably rather see a green sea turtle on your visit than a Fer-de-Lance, but the deadly snakes of Mexico are all part of its wild and diverse landscape.

If you want to learn more about the wildlife, why don’t you check out the other deadly creatures that are found in Mexico? Or if it’s snakes that interest you, find out all about the deadliest snakes on the tropic island of Hawaii!

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James Ardimento has spent the last 12 years journeying around the globe ! With its precious experiences and tips he gained around Asia, South America, Europe and the US he is a precious asset for this blog and for its readers