Ophiophagous snakes #306049 - Ask Extension


Ophiophagous snakes #306049

Asked March 10, 2016, 5:17 AM EST

I know that some snake species are ophiophagous, that is, they feed on other snakes. Are there examples of reciprocal predation between two ophiophagous species? For example, king snakes and cottonmouths are both ophiophagous, and live in the same geographical region. Do king snakes ever feed on cottonmouths and cottonmouths on king snakes? Similarly, do milk snakes ever feed on coral snakes and coral snakes on milk snakes, and do king cobras ever feed on banded kraits and banded kraits on king cobras? Thank you.

Delaware County Outside United States

Expert Response

Thank you for your question.  Kingsnakes definitely feed on cottonmouths, but not exclusively.  They feed on other snakes, venomous and non-venomous species, as well.  I could not find any documented cases of cottonmouths feeding on kingsnakes, but I would not be surprised if they did from time to time.  I suspect it would be a case of a larger cottonmouth feeding on a juvenile or small kingsnakes.  Milksnakes also feed on other snakes, and, as they are opportunistic feeders, I assume they include coral snakes in their diet if they both occur in the same area.  I could not find any reports of coral snakes eating milksnakes, but, again, I would not be surprised if it occurs occasionally.   I was able to find reports of cobras and banded kraits feeding on each other.

Hope this answers your question, and thank you for using Ask an Expert.

Jim Burke Replied March 13, 2016, 1:52 PM EDT
Thank you very much for your answer. That's most helpful.

After an online search, I've found this photograph of a coral snake feeding on a milk snake, which surprised me because I thought milk snakes were notorious for holding their own against other snakes.


The model eats the mimic!
The Question Asker Replied March 14, 2016, 8:16 AM EDT
Thank you for the information.  That's a nice photo.

Jim Burke Replied March 15, 2016, 6:29 PM EDT

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