A Short Overview of the Red Belly Snake’s Poison

are red bellied snakes poisonous

The red-bellied snake is a small, thin snake that is found in North America. It is a nonvenomous snake that is typically less than two feet in length. The red-bellied snake gets its name from the reddish hue that is found on its belly; this coloration can also be found on the snake’s sides. So, are red bellied snakes poisonous?
The red-bellied snake is a timid creature that will often flee when confronted by a human. If cornered, the red-bellied snake may strike and release a foul-smelling odor from its vent. The red-bellied snake feeds primarily on slugs and earthworms.

The Traits of Their Venom

  • The venom of a red-belly snake is not fatal to humans; however, it can cause swelling and bruise at the site of the bite. In extremely rare cases, an allergic reaction to the venom could occur, which could potentially be fatal.
  • The venom of a red-belly snake is hemotoxic, meaning it causes damage to blood cells and tissue. When injected into prey, the venom prevents blood clotting and causes internal bleeding. This ultimately leads to death by blood loss or organ failure.
  • In small prey items, such as earthworms, death may occur within minutes of being bitten. Larger prey items may take several hours to die.
  • Despite its potency, the venom of a red-belly snake poses little threat to humans due to its small size and lack of readily accessible fangs.

Distinguishing Features

  • The red-bellied snake has a small head that is barely wider than its neck. It has round pupils and lacks heat-sensitive pit organs.
  • The scales on the upper side of the body are smooth, while the belly scales are keeled (ridged).
  • Adults typically measure 12 to 20 inches (30 to 50 cm) in total length, with males being slightly smaller than females.
  • Newborn snakes are about 6 inches (15 cm) long. Sexual dimorphism is pronounced, with adult females averaging 50% longer and 60% heavier than adult males.
  • Snakes In terms of coloring, the upper side of the body is brown or gray, while the belly is reddish-orange (hence the name).
  • There are two dark stripes that run the length of the body on each side; these stripes may be connected along the back to form a single stripe.
  • Juveniles have bright yellow ventral coloration, which fades to orange or red as they mature.

Breeding and habitats

  • Red-belly snakes are relatively common throughout their range and are not considered endangered or threatened. They are found in a variety of habitats, including forests, swamps, marshes, and fields.
  • These snakes are active during daylight hours and spend most of their time hiding under rocks or leaves in search of food items.
  • Mating pairs remain together for several days, during which time copulation occurs multiple times (sometimes up to 100 times per day).
  • Females give birth approximately two months after copulation takes place; births usually occur in July or August. After giving birth, females abandon their litters and provide no parental care whatsoever.


Despite their small size and timid nature, red-belly snakes play an important role in their ecosystems by keeping populations of slugs and earthworms in check. Overall, red-bellied snakes are beneficial creatures that should be respected and left alone if encountered in the wild.