The Black Mamba is an extremely poisonous snake in Africa. If you are bitten by a Black Mamba, anti-venom is the only effective treatment. This snake is described as shy, but if it feels threatened, it will chase and strike at its victims. Black Mambas are responsible for many snake bite fatalities because they frequent human settlements where they can easily find food and shelter.
Learn why the Black mamba is the most venomous snake with a look into its habitat, behavior, and highly toxic venom.
The color of the Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) ranges from dark brown to gray or olive with a lighter underbelly. The mouth of a Black Mamba is pitch black, which is how this snake got its name. Related species include the Green Mamba and Jameson’s Mamba, but it is the Black Mamba that is the most poisonous. Black Mambas have a slender body and can reach up to 9 ft with some large specimens surpassing 14 ft. These terrestrial snakes have light gray or brown eyes, slender heads, and fangs of 6 to 7 mm.
The Black Mamba is found in Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa. These snakes prefer to hide in tree hollows, crevices, burrows, and rocks but often retreat to abandoned termite mounds. They are arboreal and terrestrial but spend most of their time moving across open ground and grasslands. This species is diurnal, as it is most active during the day, using the sun to help regulate its body temperature. Adult snakes are not found at high altitudes but on rocky hills and wooded areas where they easily camouflage.
Black Mambas prefer to hide and will only come out to hunt for food or during the breeding season. Despite being evasive snakes, they will attack when they feel threatened. The Black Mamba moves at around 7 to 10 mph over short distances and is known to chase humans who confront it. The average running speed for humans is between 6 and 8 mph, so many people would not be able to outrun a mamba. A Black Mamba will open its mouth, hiss, and rear its head to warn of an impending strike.
Diet and Life Cycle
Mamba snakes are carnivores and hunt their prey by delivering a paralyzing bite. The diet of these deadly snakes includes small animals such as rodents, birds, dassies, and bats. Black Mambas are known to eat other snakes, such as juvenile Forest Cobras.
The breeding season for Black Mambas is in the spring and summer when males come out of their hiding spots to look for females. They are at their most aggressive during this period. Female mambas are oviparous and can lay up to 20 eggs in leaf matter or burrows to keep the eggs warm. The young will hatch within 3 months and are just as venomous as the adult snakes. Young mambas are approximately 19 inches in length and reach adult size by 2 years old. The lifespan of a Black Mamba snake is 11 years in the wild.
Black Mamba Snake Bite
The Black Mamba is Africa’s most feared snake because it has a highly neurotoxic venom. The fast-acting venom affects the normal functioning of the central nervous system, including the heart. A bite from a Black Mamba will cause slurred speech and collapse after 20 to 45 minutes due to muscle paralysis. If antivenom is not sought within 6 hours, respiratory failure occurs. Two drops of venom are powerful enough to cause fatalities in adults, and a single bite can contain 10 to 20 drops of venom. These deadly snakes can strike multiple times at a rate of 11 mph, delivering a potent amount of venom to their victims. It is no wonder that the Black Mamba is one of the most venomous snakes in the world.
Black Mamba Facts
The Black Mamba has very few natural predators apart from the African Brown Snake Eagle which can easily swallow an adult snake. The Black Mamba is one of the longest venomous snakes in the world, after the King Cobra. It can strike in rapid succession if provoked and can raise its head and body to over 40 inches in height. The dangerous African snake prefers to retreat from humans by hiding, but it will not hesitate to strike when threatened. Black Mambas can perceive people as a threat from over 130 ft away, particularly while they are hunting prey or during the breeding season.
The Black Mamba is the most feared snake in Africa because it has a fast strike rate, can be aggressive, and possesses powerful venom. If mambas feel threatened or are encountered during the breeding season, these snakes will hiss, flash the inside of their mouths, and strike. They will not back down if provoked, and they should be respected in their natural habitat.