Nigeria is not left out from the list of countries infested with poisonous snakes. In this article, I’ll reveal the top 10 most dangerous snakes in Nigeria.
You’ll also get to see the most dangerous snakes in West Africa, the most dangerous snakes in Africa, and the snake death toll on humans.
The Federal Republic of Nigeria popularly referred to as the “Giant of Africa,” stands as the most populous country on the African continent. It also has the most extensive infrastructural development in Africa and is Africa’s economic capital.
Nigeria boasts of diverse landscapes, open fields, rural, sub-rural, and urban environs, and climatic conditions, from deserts to rainforests, coastal plains, mangroves, and vast savannahs.
These diverse habitats hold some of Nigeria’s vast array of flora and fauna, including snakes. The Bible says that God made man and serpent enemies. There are over 250 species of snakes found in Nigeria.
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Top 10 Most Deadly Snakes In Nigeria
Some snakes have been notorious and have earned a bad reputation, such as the Black Mamba, and other snakes are harmless, like the Spotted Bush Snake (Philothamnus semi variegates).
Don’t let your fear of snakes stop you from exploring Africa’s breathtaking scenery and checking out some of the most beautiful places in Nigeria.
Not everyone is a big fan of snakes. Some prefer to kill them or eat them, and a handful of Nigerians keep snakes for a pet, but whichever way you prefer these snakes, these are by far the most dangerous snakes found in Nigeria.
1. West African Carpet Viper
The West African Carpet Viper, also known as the Ocellated carpet viper (Echis Ocellatus), is a venomous serpent endemic to the countries of West Africa is responsible highest number of snakebite-related fatalities in Africa.
This Carpet Viper stands as the most dangerous snake in Nigeria. This snake accounts for 69% of snake bite-related death in Nigeria, causing over 1,450 deaths nationwide.
The carpet viper usually forms coils and rubs itself together to create a loud sizzling sound to alert predators of its presence.
The West African carpet viper is a very small snake, approximately 20 inches in length. Carpet Vipers are typically yellowish-brown in color with dark spots along the side of their bodies. These spots are designed to confuse potential predators.
The carpet viper is found in Northern Nigeria, where it attacks farmers who come to harvest crops. The natural habitat of the West African Carpet Viper has been greatly reduced due to human expansion, which has caused many snakes to seek shelter near human settlements. Thus, attacks are much more likely near villages and farms than in other areas.
The West African Carpet Viper is responsible for the highest number of snakebite-related fatalities in Africa and is largely responsible for the high mortality rate found in rural Nigeria and Senegal. The snake’s venom causes severe internal bleeding and destroys the circulatory system, and death occurs in days.
The West African Carpet Viper ranges widely throughout Nigeria and other countries such as Cameroun, Senegal, and Ghana. This snake species prefers to reside in moist areas such as riverbanks, swamps, and semi-aquatic environments, where they hunt for food at night. One can easily encounter these snakes while traveling through rural areas during dusk or dawn hours when they are most active hunting for prey. The diet of the Echis Ocellatus consists of lizards, rodents, birds, and other small mammals, which it kills with a potent bite.
2. African Rock Python
The Python Sebae, also called African Rock Python, is a very large non-venomous snake native to Nigeria and found across the African continent. Like all pythons, the African Rock python kills its prey by constriction and swallowing them whole. As with other pythons, this snake will wrap around its prey until it stops struggling. It then swallows it slowly, head first, so it does not tear its mouth or throat on sharp bones or teeth.
Although it rarely kills humans, this snake is usually feared for its enormous body and strength. The African Rock Python is a giant non-venomous snake found in the wild. They have brown, black, or grey coloration and are typically 3 to 4 meters long, but they can reach up to 6 meters. These giant pythons are found throughout Africa, America, and Asia. Depending on the snake’s size, it would have no problem eating a fully grown man.
African Rock Pythons prey on large and small mammals, birds, and eggs of birds. There have been occasional reports of them preying on humans, but this is very rare. African rock pythons are ambush predators that wait for their prey to come to them rather than actively hunting for them. Python has been sited all over Nigeria from Lagos, Abuja, Ondo, Benin, Port Harcourt, Anambra, and Benue states. this is one of the most popular snakes in Nigeria.
That notwithstanding, the African Rock Python is worshiped/respected in some parts of Nigeria, Kenya, and other Sub-Saharan Africa Countries. In contrast, others see them like wild games as a good source of protein. This snake is called the rock python because it lives on rocky hillsides in west Africa.
Snakes are revered and feared across the world. In Africa, snakes are considered unclean, and in many areas of the continent, people do not eat them but don’t fear them any less. In some parts of Nigeria, especially the East, Kenya, and other Sub-Saharan Africa Countries, the African Rock Python is worshiped and respected. Although it rarely kills humans, this snake is usually feared for its enormous body and strength. Giant pythons usually found in Western Africa & India are so large that they “would have no difficulty eating adult humans.”
The African Rock Python is one of the six largest snake species (Green Anaconda, Reticulated Python, Burmese Python, Indian Python, And Amethystine Python), found in mangroves and rainforests across the world.
3. Puff Adder
The Bites Arietans, commonly known as the Puff Adder, is one of Africa’s deadliest snakes and among the most venomous snakes in the world. Puff Adders hold the highest human fatalities from snakebite in Africa.
This is a common snake species in Nigeria but is usually found in populated rural communities. Most commonly found in Northern Nigeria, these snakes are in populated rural communities. The Puff Adder, like all vipers, has a very short tail tipped by a single horn-like scale. This snake is named for its thick body, usually as thick as a man’s thumb. When threatened, this snake will flatten its head against its body and puff out its neck to appear larger and more threatening. The puff adder is gray or brown with darker crossbands along the body and tail. Puff adders stretch 1-2 meters in length and have a distinctive face and nose.
They are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa; these snakes can blend into any environment as their color patterns vary depending on where they live. Its usual coloration is a brown/grey/olive green background with darker zigzag lines running down its back and sides to aid in camouflage. It is found in rural areas and contraction sites all around Nigeria.
The Puff Adder’s diet consists of other reptiles, which it detects by scent trails, mice and other small mammals attracted to crops or livestock by night, frogs, and lizards. This snake will often hide at the base of trees until an unsuspecting animal passes by and then strikes quickly, injecting a large amount of highly potent venom into its prey using two long fangs at the front of its prey mouth.
Puff adders use their exceptional camouflage ability for protection and remain still instead of fleeing predators and danger. Because of this, people are bitten after accidentally stepping on them. The venom of the Puff Adder is cytotoxic, which causes a tissue breakdown, leading to internal bleeding, necrosis, and sometimes secondary infection. The bite of a Puff Adder can result in tissue damage to muscle and bone.
4. Gaboon Viper
The Gaboon vipers (Bitis Gabonica) are one of the most dangerous snakes in Nigeria. This snake is famous in the eastern part of Nigeria and is also found across East and West Africa, where its camouflage ability makes it also invincible and attacks farmers who step too close.
Gaboon Vipers are popular in the Anambra and other Eastern states and have frequent encounters with farmers. The Gaboon Viper lies on the forest floor, where its brown skin blends with dry grass.
The most distinctive features of the Gaboon Viper are the horns slightly above its nose, leaf shape head, a fat short body between 4 to 6 feet, triangular scale patterns, and long fangs. The Gaboon vipers are large and heavy-bodied with short, massive heads and somewhat rounded snouts. They range from light tan to dark brown above and have several darker brown or black crossbands bordered in white that may disappear when the snake matures. The underbelly is often lighter in color than the upper part of the body and is usually marked with irregular rows of dark brown spots or blotches. The tail ends in a sizeable knoblike scale with a sharp ridge inside its edge. The scales on the top of the head are raised into small plates that form a “crest.” These plates may be smaller or even absent in younger specimens.
The Gaboon vipers possess the longest fangs in the serpent world. Each fang can grow up to 2 inches long, the length of your pinkie finger. The Gaboon viper is responsible for over 200 snakebites related to death in Nigeria each year. Their venom is highly toxic because it has hemotoxic properties that lead to blood clots; any place the victim is bitten will start developing bruises that spread rapidly throughout his body organs, thus leading to death.
Bites from this snake are usually from stepping on it, but this snake is also known to be aggressive when disturbed. This snake is not very large, but it has a very big mouth and venomous fangs, injecting a neurotoxin 25 times more potent than the venom of Russell’s viper! Its bite could result in death within half an hour if medical treatment was not sought immediately after the bite. The Gaboon viper tends to feed on small mammals and birds. However, deforestation has forced it closer to human settlements, where it sometimes feeds on domestic animals and humans.
5. Egyptian Cobra
The Egyptian cobra (Naja haje) is one of the world’s largest species of venomous snakes, with lengths between 6-8 feet. It is found in North Africa above the Sahara and some parts of West and East Africa. There have also been frequent sightings in Lagos, Ondo, Benin, and the eastern parts of Nigeria.
This snake comes in various colors, from brown to black and sometimes copper-red. The Egyptian cobra is known for its deadly neurotoxin venom and large hollow fangs that cause death due to respiratory failure once bitten. The Egyptian Cobra’s habitat includes savannah, scrub lands, and forest edges. It often hides in abandoned rodent holes or under rocks during the daytime.
The Egyptian cobra is identified by its large hood, which can be flared to a greater or lesser extent depending on its mood. It has a blunt head that tapers towards its tail. The eyes are small with round pupils that are golden yellow. Its scales are highly polished, giving it a glossy look.
The color pattern of this species ranges from brown to grey, with dark-edged pale crossbands covering their body, separated by narrow dark bands. Its belly is yellowish white to pale greenish blue, while its scales are usually darker than those on its back. The juveniles have a more contrasting color pattern than adults.
The Egyptian cobra will eat any kind of animal it can overpower, including rodents, lizards, and other snakes. Though not usually aggressive, it will attack if provoked or threatened when it feels cornered or unable to escape; otherwise, it will adopt an intimidating and upright posture and spread its characteristic cobra hood as a warning before striking and living close to human settlements where they hunt for their favorite meal, rats.
Dispholidus Typus, famously known as the Boomslang, Green Snake in Green Grass in Nigeria, and tree snake in Afrikaans, also stand as one of the most dangerous snakes in Nigeria.
The Boomslang is native to sub-Saharan Africa and is known as one of the most venomous snakes on the continent. This snake has exceptionally large eyes and measures between 5 to 6 feet. The males are usually green with black scales, and the females are brown. It is one of the most venomous snakes on the continent. It is a member of the Colubridae family. The snake gets its name from its habit of perching over trees, with its head facing down as if it were “booming” out (as in “beware”) its presence to potential prey and is also called the ‘tree snake.’ It is easily identified by its green body and darker green dorsal blotches. Boomslangs are often confused with the African tree snake because of their similar appearance.
Like most snakes native to Africa, the Boomslang is not naturally aggressive. However, it will defend itself if threatened. These snakes are unique in that they possess a fleshy projection on each side of the head. The purpose of these protrusions is to hold the snake’s prey in place while it bites and releases venom into the victim. The Boomslang is generally nocturnal, but it will become active during the day when conditions are favorable.
Its venom is haemotoxic and disturbs the body’s natural blood-clotting mechanism causing uncontrollable external and internal bleeding if not treated immediately. This species is responsible for many human deaths each year.
The Boomslang lives in holes located in fences, on the floor, and on trees’ tops, where it hunts for lizards, rats, poultry, and other small birds.
7. Black-Necked Spitting Cobra
The Black-Necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis) is a highly venomous snake responsible for many human fatalities resulting from snakebite every year in its range from Nigeria to Namibia.
This olive-brown-colored snake displays its dark-colored hood when it feels threatened and usually spits when provoked. The black-necked spitting cobra is not a giant snake; adult specimens average 1.5 m (4.92 ft) in length, although larger ones are sometimes reported. The body is slender and cylindrical, with a short blunt tail. The head is small and flat, with a sharp snout.
The most dangerous feature of this species is the two hollow fangs at the front of the upper jaw, which it uses to inject venom into its prey or enemies. These fangs are hinged (hooked), and the snake can open them outwards and spray the contents of its mouth over an enemy at a distance of several feet The venom, which may be almost white, is modified saliva containing enzymes that digest tissue and cause hemorrhaging, necrosis, and paralysis. It is highly potent; a single bite can kill a human being within 60 minutes if no anti-venom is available.
The black-necked spitting cobra is not aggressive unless provoked or threatened. When threatened, it opens its large mouth and displays fangs on its upper and lower jaws.
8. Mali Cobra
The Mali cobra (Naja Katiensis), also called the Katian spitting cobra, is a species of spitting cobra found in West Africa. This snake is closely related to the Black-Necked spitting cobra (Naja Nigricollis).
This snake is an invasive species smuggled into the country by a foreign herbalist and is one of the most dangerous snakes in Nigeria.
It is a medium-sized snake with a typical length of between 1.7 and 2 meters. However, the Mali cobra is not very well known. Furthermore, it tends to be very aggressive and attacks people quite frequently.
The Mali cobra is also one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa due to its aggression. To avoid an attack, you should always wear boots while walking through tall grass or where you suspect these snakes are present.
The Mali cobra is found in tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and scrublands from Northern Ghana, to Cameroon, with recorded sightings in Nigeria, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Togo, Southwestern Niger, and Senegal.
9. Horned Adder
The horned adder (Bitis Caudalis) is a small venomous viper species that have also been spotted in Nigeria. The horned adder is known for its scaly eyelashes and venomous kiss.
This type of snake is highly aggressive when provoked or threatened. They will often strike wildly at anything that moves within reach of their jaws. If they do not strike at the object or person threatening them, they will hiss loudly to scare away their enemy. They do not make good pets and should be left alone when encountered by humans. When this type of snake bites it will inject its venom into the victim and then quickly retreat into hiding, so it does not get stung back by the victim.
Horned adders are believed to have been smuggled into the county and branded an invasive species. They usually sit in the country’s northern parts in vegetated deserts and farms. The snake has a dark complexion with an intricate pattern that helps it hide from predators. The snake’s skin is smooth and shiny, and once threatened, this species tends to raise its head high, coils tightly around itself, and repeatedly strikes to repel the attacker.
This species of vipers are also found in arid regions of southwest Africa, including Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Mali, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
10. Jameson’s Mamba
Jameson’s mamba is one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa. This snake is responsible for over 1,200 deaths in the African plain. Popular in Benue State, it is known for attacking children and farmers who wander too close.
Unlike other venomous snakes that are small in size, Jameson’s mamba can grow up to 7 feet and are very, very fast when attacking and chasing prey. Jameson’s mambas are excellent tree climbers and swimmers.
This snake has an olive green body with black and white zigzag stripes running from its head through the eye to its tail. It also has a cream-colored belly. The scales are smooth and glossy. The head is narrow and slightly distinct from the neck. The snout is short and blunt with broadly open nostrils. The eyes are medium-sized with round pupils, and the iris is yellow. The average size of this snake is about 8 feet long, with some growing as long as 10 feet. The female Jameson’s mamba is usually larger than their male counterparts.
The Jameson’s mamba can be found in many places like deforested areas, rainforests, woodland, forest-savanna, and rural communities around Central, West, and East Africa.
Jameson’s mamba is a widespread snake in West Africa. In Nigeria, it is popular in the Eastern parts of the nation, where some know it as the sleeping tree snake. It is often found around buildings, parks, farmlands, and plantations.
This snake is often non-aggressive and will not attack unless provoked or threatened. Though it may not come right at you if you approach it, Jameson’s mamba will hiss and spread out its neck and fangs to look as aggressive as possible. If you are close enough to see the Jameson’s mamba’s eyes, it is already too late to run away—the snake will already have struck you.
What to do When You Find a Snake in Your House?
Snakes can be dangerous, particularly in the home. Nigeria’s most common types of snakes are the cobra and puff adder. Puff adders are usually found around waterside and deep in forests, while cobras are found mainly in abandoned buildings and the walls of old houses. In some parts of the country, such as Lagos State, it is not uncommon to see a snake in your house; reports have even been made of people finding them slithering in their beds!
If you have a snake in your home, don’t panic. Just walk away slowly and keep an eye on it from a safe distance. Snakes are less dangerous than other household pests like mosquitoes, cockroaches, houseflies, and geckoes. Most snakes will not attack unless provoked. Snakes prefer to use their venom on prey rather than predators. They usually hiss and alert you of their presence before they attack. Few people die from snake bites yearly, even though more than one million suffer.
If you’re not a snake expert, it’s hard to know whether your house is genuinely infested or if the snake is just passing through. If you think snakes are plaguing you or want to confirm the safety of your household, here are some tips:
- Inspect your property for any holes or unwanted entrances. A snake often takes shelter in abandoned rodent burrows and other dark crevices.
- For any holes, you can use wire mesh or cement to seal them off. You can also use snakeskin glue on the hole’s edges to keep it secure.
- If you have a problem with rats and mice on your property, install proper traps to eliminate them and discourage snakes from moving into your home.
- Be sure to examine areas where pipes enter underground walls or crawl spaces—they provide an easy way for a snake to get inside your house. Cover these entry points with heavy-duty wire mesh.
- If you find a snake inside your home, leave it alone and contact animal experts.
When a snake is found in a house, it is often the result of poor sanitation and unkempt surroundings. Snakes generally live in the outside environment. They are also very common amongst rats and lizards. Keeping your house clean and lizards, rats, and birds out of your home is better. If you want to keep snakes out of your home, make sure you don’t have anything they may want to feel at home in your yard.
According to an article published on NCBI (Snake Bite in Nigeria), only 8.5 percent of snakebite victims in Nigeria seek medical attention in a hospital. Snakes are dangerous animals; a bite can kill at least two people. Do not go around carelessly in areas void of human inhabitation; a snake is probably waiting for you there.
Although the mortality rate for untreated snake bites is unchecked, there have been documented to take between 1 -10 hours due to respiratory failure.
These are some of the most dangerous snake species in Nigeria and Africa.