Can some venomous animals poison themselves?

by | Aug 3, 2009 02:00 PM ET

You Asked:

Can some venomous animals poison themselves? --- Joel, Pocatello, Idaho

Marshall Brain Answered:

This would be the animal equivalent to an person shooting himself in the foot. Would it be possible, for example, for a rattlesnake to accidentally bite itself and kill itself?

Yes, it is possible. Rattlesnake venom is nasty stuff. If you watch this video...

I Was Bitten: Rattlesnake Venom points out that "the venom contains incredible enzymes that start digesting from the inside out." Those enzymes are going to work on a snake's tissue as it would on any animal's tissue.

As described in this article, "during the course of these experiments, 26 snakes were injected (with the venom of the same species), of which 21 died."

However, it is important to note that rattlesnakes have a safety mechanism. As described in this article, "Some rattlesnake strikes are ‘dry bites', meaning no venom is injected. In fact, rattlesnakes can discharge venom from either fang, both fangs, or neither one." So if a rattlesnake did accidentally bite itself, it could prevent any venom from being released into itself.

See also:

Wouldn't that be a fun place to work... The description says, "Extracting venom From Crotalus atrox for Red Rock Biologics Rattlesnake Vaccines. Visit for more information on vaccine."

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