Do Coyotes Eat Snakes? Yes! Which Ones, and How They Kill Them


Wondering if coyotes eat snakes? That’s what we’re tackling in this article. Having already written lots of facts about coyotes, including a video which you can see below. I’m answering the question – do coyotes eat snakes?

Here we go, starting with the quick answer…

Yes, coyotes will eat snakes. In fact, snakes form part of the coyote’s standard diet in the wild. This is because coyotes are opportunistic feeders and will take advantage of whatever prey is available to them, including snakes. But they do discern which snakes they can and can’t eat.

That said, coyotes typically prefer to hunt and eat small mammals such as rodents, rabbits, and hares. They will also scavenge opportunities whenever they can – which means that carrion (dead animals) is often on the menu too.

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Do Coyotes Eat Snakes – What Type of snake?

Now we know that coyotes do eat snakes, the next question is what kind of snakes do they eat?

The vast majority of snakes that coyotes eat are small to medium-sized. This is because those are the kind of snakes that they’re able to catch and kill most easily. Large snakes are more difficult for coyotes to take down, so they tend to avoid them if possible.



Snake availability depends on location

Snake populations differ across the coyote’s range, so the type of snakes that they eat also differs depending on location.

In some areas, garter snakes and ground snakes are common prey, while in others, rattlesnakes or water snakes may be more prevalent. So the types of snakes a coyote is likely to encounter will change depending on the state.

Snakes in general are more prevalent in states like Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, so coyotes in those areas have more opportunities to eat them.

To further highlight territorial differences, It’s believed that coyotes in the southwestern United States eat more venomous snakes than any other predator.

The number of species of snake in North America is large, with around 150 species found in the US and Canada combined. With around 90% of those being non-venomous. This means that there are plenty of different types of snakes for coyotes to feast on if they so choose!

do coyotes eat snakes

Find out if coyotes eat foxes here!

Do coyotes eat snakes – Location and climate factors

According to journals.pros, The most common reptilian prey items were large snakes such as gopher snakes Pituophis catenifer. Gopher snakes have a reduction in activity levels during cooler months of the year.

Plus, coyotes encounter larger snake species less frequently during the wet season as temperatures are generally cooler.

Do all coyotes eat snakes?

It’s not clear how often coyotes eat snakes, as there is limited research on the subject.

However, it’s safe to say that not all coyotes will eat snakes. Some coyotes may never have the opportunity to do so, while others may eat them regularly, or simply not be interested in them.

Aside from the territorial and climate differences mentioned earlier, there are a variety of factors that could influence whether or not a coyote would want to eat a snake, such as the size of the snake and how easy it would be to catch.

For example, a coyote is more likely to eat a small snake than a large one. And may not bother with snakes at all if most other prey is regularly available. They can also discern between the highly venomous snakes and the more harmless snakes.

Which Snakes do Coyotes Eat?

Generally speaking, coyotes will eat just about any type of snake that they come across. However, there are some types of snakes that are more popular prey items than others. Here are some of the most common snakes that coyotes eat.

Garter snakes

Garter snakes are common in North America, and they’re one of the most frequently eaten snakes by coyotes. They’re small and slender, which makes them easy for coyotes to catch and kill.

garter snake

Rattlesnakes

Rattlesnakes are another type of snake that coyotes will eat on occasion. These snakes are usually a little bit larger than garter snakes, but they’re still relatively easy for coyotes to take down.

rattlesnake

Gopher snake

Gopher snakes are a type of snake that’s found in the western United States. They’re a little bit larger than rattlesnakes, but they’re still within the size range that coyotes can take down.

gopher snake

Cottonmouths

Cottonmouths are a type of snake that is found in wetland areas. These snakes can be fairly large, but they’re not as agile as some of the other types of snakes that coyotes eat. Coyotes will typically eat these snakes if they’re able to catch them.

cottonmouth snake

Rat snakes

Rat snakes are so named because, as the name suggests, they’re known to eat rats. These snakes can grow to be quite large, and they’re not quite as common as some of the other types of snakes that coyotes eat. However, if a coyote discovers one on its travels, it will potentially catch it and eat it.

rat snake

King snakes

Despite the name, king snakes are not actually the biggest type of snake. However, they are one of the most common types of snakes that coyotes eat. These snakes are usually found in dryer areas, and they’re typically not as large as some of the other types of snakes that coyotes might eat.

king snake

Grass snakes

Grass snakes are another common type of snake that coyotes will eat. These snakes are usually found in fields and other areas with long grass. They’re not typically as large as some of the other types of snakes that coyotes might eat, but they can still make a decent meal.

grass snake

Water snakes

Water snakes are another type of snake that coyotes often eat. These snakes are usually found near bodies of water, and they can be quite large.

water snake

Copperhead snakes

Whilst slightly rarer, coyotes will also eat copperhead snakes on occasion. These snakes are larger and more dangerous than the others on this list, so it’s not something that coyotes do all that often.

That being said, if a coyote is feeling particularly hungry or desperate, it may go after a copperhead snake.

copperhead snake

Find out – Can snakes climb walls?

You can also find out 22 interesting facts about coyotes. Or check the whole list of what eats coyotes.

The size of the snake compared to a coyote

Coyotes will typically eat the smaller water snakes where they can find them, but they may also go after the larger ones if they’re feeling particularly hungry or particularly brave. As the video below highlights, by snake standards, this is a pretty large catch.

Catching and eating snakes

Coyotes typically catch snakes by biting them on the back of the head. This is usually enough to kill the snake, and then the coyote can eat it at its leisure.

Snakes are good prey for a coyote as they can usually carry the snake away quite easily without attracting too much attention. They also mostly represent one wholesome meal instead of having to consume it over a number of sittings.

How do coyotes eat snakes?

Coyotes will typically eat snakes whole, including the head, skin, and organs. This can be a messy process, but it’s generally the quickest and most efficient way for a coyote to get all of the nutrients and energy that it needs from its prey.

Coyotes typically kill snakes by biting them on the back of the head. This method is known as “cranial crush.” They will ensure they have a firm hold on the snake.

Once the snake is dead, the coyote will eat it whole. This can be a lengthy process, as snakes are often much longer than coyotes are wide. It’s not uncommon for coyotes to take a few hours to consume their prey in full.

The coyote will start by swallowing the snake’s head. Then, it will work its way down the body, unhinging its jaw to do so.

Coyote snake preferences

While all coyotes will eat snakes if given an opportunity, not all snakes are equally palatable.

The vast majority of coyotes seem to prefer eating garter snakes and rattlesnakes, likely because these snakes are relatively easy to catch and kill compared to some of the others. Again this is dependent on location and availability.

The coyote snake preference follows four simple criteria:

  • Small to medium
  • Easy to disable
  • Non-venomous
  • Widely available
coyote standing in grassland

Find out if coyotes eat foxes.

Do coyotes eat venomous snakes?

Interestingly, coyotes have also been known to eat venomous snakes on occasion. While this might seem like risky behavior, it’s actually not as dangerous as you might think.

Coyotes are very adept at killing and eating snakes, of those snakes they can get a hold of – they will aim to gain a grip on the back of the neck. This means that any venomous fangs are rendered harmless by the time the coyote gets to them.

Additionally, many venomous snakes aren’t large enough to pose a serious threat to an adult coyote anyway.

Of course, the kind of snakes they would avoid are mainly highly fast and venomous snakes like the really big constrictors, which are just too large to handle. Or the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, which is highly venomous and could easily kill them.

Do coyotes eat dead snakes?

Coyotes avoid eating dead snakes. Despite being scavengers and regularly scavenging on larger carrion such as deer and other mammals. A dead snake is not something that attracts a coyote. They may however use them as a tool or to roll on for scent transfer purposes.

do coyotes eat snakes - snakes that coyotes eat
do coyotes eat snakes – snakes that coyotes eat

Do coyotes eat snakes – More help

So, do coyotes eat snakes? Yes, they do! And they’re actually quite good at it.

Be sure to check out my other articles on Ranger Planet, as well as the Ranger Planet Youtube Channel.

Michael

A Certified Ecologist and an Entomologist, Michael has been interested in all aspects of Nature for many years. It's only now he's decided, along with his partner Fran, to begin documenting what he knows.

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