The Fearless Mongoose: Why They’re Not Afraid of Snakes

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

A mongoose is fighting with snake
A mongoose is fighting with snake / Mieke Suharini via Istock

There are more than 3,000 species of snakes that inhabit the planet. You may think most snakes are deadly, but there are only about 600 species that are venomous.

Only around 200 of those have venom strong enough to severely wound a human.

While snakes are feared reptiles not only by humans but other animals, the mongoose is one animal that is not afraid of snakes.

Snakes are just snakes said by the mongoose
Snakes are just snakes said by the mongoose | Byronsdad via iStock

They are often symbols that represent adventure, fearlessness, and adaptability.

Even when standing across extremely deadly snakes like the cobra or rattlesnake, the mongoose is not easily shaken.

You may wonder why the mongoose is so fearless against snakes, and it’s not just because of their sharp claws and teeth.

As adversaries in the wild, they face off with snakes often.

Let’s take a look at why they have such a fearless attitude toward snakes, and how these two animals interact in the wild.

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Why Are Mongooses Not Afraid of Snakes?

Photo: Utopia_88 via Getty Images

Mongooses are not afraid of snakes because they have no reason to be.

They are one of the few smaller mammals equipped with the proper defensive and offensive capabilities to easily fight off snakes.

Not only are they not scared of snakes, but they actively hunt them down in the wild.

Being covered in thick fur helps protect the mongoose from the sharp fangs of snakes.

They are able to move up to speeds of 20 mph. (32 kph). Their sleek bodies make it very difficult in general for a snake to land a successful bite.

Mongoose vs Snake
Mongoose vs Snake | tronand via iStock

When fighting a snake the mongoose aims for its head and can neutralize it by cracking its skull.

They have 28 sharp teeth, and a bite force strong enough to crack bones.

The strongest defense that a mongoose has against a snake is their resistance to their venom.

They are able to tolerate a bite from the most venomous of snake species like the cobra, puff adder, or rattlesnake.

Being resistant to a snake’s venom, and having the best tools to kill one is why mongooses are not afraid of snakes.

Why Are Mongooses Resistant To Snake Venom?

A mongoose enjoying its lunch
A mongoose enjoying its lunch | Wirestock via Getty Images

One of the main reasons mongooses are not afraid of snakes is because of their venom resistance, but what is it that gives them this superpower?

The immunity a mongoose has to snake venom is because of their acetylcholine receptor, which causes the snake venom not to bind to their muscles but bounce off.

Just because a mongoose has some resistance, that does not mean they are completely immune.

While able to tolerate bites from the deadliest of snakes, if bitten enough they will succumb to venom’s effects, and can die.

Other Animals Resistant To Snake Venom

Dominantly White Skunk at night
Dominantly White Skunk at night | Jack Bulmer via Unsplash

The mongoose is not the only animal that is able to take a bite from a deadly snake.

Mongooses are a type of ophiophagous mammal, which are animals that are specialized to eat snakes.

Other ophiophaguous animals like skunks, badgers, hedgehogs and opossums are also resistant to snake venom.

Their venom resistance helps them prey on snakes easier in the wild.

It is not just these snake-hunting animals that have higher immunity to snake venom.

There are a variety of animals that have  a natural resistance to venom, helping them defend themselves in the wild.

A curious ground squirrel
A curious ground squirrel | possum1961 via Getty Images

Ground squirrels, pigs, and wood rats are other examples of animals with resistance to snake venom.

It may surprise you that many animals have managed to evolve to build a natural tolerance to resistant snake venoms’ deadly effects.

Predators of snakes are more likely to have this trait, but snakes themselves are immune to their own venom since bites occur so often from other members of their species.

Diet of the Mongoose

Mongoose | ePhotocorp via Getty Images

Since mongooses are not afraid of snakes and are immune to their venom these noodle-shaped reptiles are a staple food in their diet.

The mongoose is an opportunistic feeder, eating the food available to them most in their habitat. They are omnivores, feeding on both plant, and animal life.

Some of the foods that mongooses eat include:

  • Small birds
  • Reptiles
  • Insects
  • Plants
  • Fruits
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crabs
  • Rodents
  • Frogs

Mongooses are fearless hunters, using their agility to find food in odd places.

Their days are spent foraging for food, and at night they rest in a den they either dig or find.

They feed on a variety of foods, but when born they primarily feed on their mother’s milk until around 6 weeks of age.

Predators of the Mongoose

Monitor Lizard
Monitor Lizard | John Thomas via Unsplash

Snakes may not be on the list of animals that a mongoose is afraid of, but in their respective habitats there are plenty of predators they must look out for.

Their predators include animals like large raptors, cats, and other larger predatory mammals.

Even snakes are able to kill a mongoose if they are lucky enough, but on average they take victory over snakes around 80% of the time.

The predators that they face largely depend on the natural predators in their habitats.

Some mongoose may face animals like the monitor lizard, or jaguars, while others may have no natural predators if they become invasive to an area.

They have plenty of animals to look out for, and their excellent hearing, sight, and smell not only help them hunt but avoid incoming predators.

Where Do Mongooses live

Mongoose enjoying the scenery
Mongoose enjoying the scenery | Subhankar Biswas via Getty Images

Mongooses are split into two families, which are the Herpestinae, and the Mungotinae families.

There are around 23 species classified within the Herpestidae family, and these mongooses are native to southern Europe, Africa, and Asia.

In the Mungotinae family, there are around 11 members, all of which are native to Africa.

Small and terrestrial, mongooses are most common in woodlands, and semi-arid habitats.

While most spend their time with all fours on the ground, you can find some species that are excellent climbers, or swimmers.

Some Mongoose species may live in large groups like the banded mongoose, while others are solitary animals.

Africa is where most mongooses live, but it is common for them to become invasive to different areas they are introduced to.

How Many Species of Mongoose Are There?

A fellow mongoose, the alert meerkat
A fellow mongoose, the alert meerkat | EcoPic via Getty Images

In total there are around 33 species of mongoose with 14 genera, and all of them are infamous for their ability to combat deadly snakes.

Each mongoose species is different, and their diets, sizes, habitats, predators, and food sources will vary between them.

Some of the types of mongoose species include:

  • Banded Mongoose
  • Meerkat
  • White-tailed Mongoose
  • Common Slender Mongoose
  • Black Mongoose
  • Mungos
  • Meller’s Mongoose
  • Egyptian Mongoose
  • Yellow Mongoose
  • Common Kusimanse

Across the globe, most mongoose species are threatened, mainly affected by habitat loss.

Their populations are also affected by pesticides, and in some countries are captured by humans to put on shows where they are forced to fight against snakes.

The Invasive Mongoose

Photo: Lensalot via Unsplash

The adaptability, and ability to fight off natural predators like snakes are why some mongoose species may become invasive.

The small Indian mongoose is one of the types of mongoose that has become invasive in many regions around the globe.

One area this species has become invasive to is Hawaii, but they are also found in other U.S. territories like Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

The small Indian mongoose and other invasive species are dangerous to the habitats they live in since they destroy the natural balance of the ecosystems they find themselves in.

Indian grey mongoose looking directly in curiosity
Indian grey mongoose looking directly in curiosity | Ninaada Bellippady via iStock

Invasive mongooses are a major threat to animals like ground-nesting birds and are a cause of why some species have gone extinct.

Originally mongoose were brought to places like Hawaii to reduce the number of pests found in cane fields.

Due to the lack of predators in Hawaii, mongoose built a stable habitat and became one of the many invasive animals in the state.

Because of their destructive and invasive nature, many regions have banned the import of mongoose.

Are Mongooses Dangerous To Humans

A veterinarian feeds a baby meerkat
A veterinarian feeds a baby meerkat | Darya Komarova via Getty Images

They are not aggressive to humans, and typically pose no threat to use.

Bites typically occur from a mongoose if they are cornered, or feels threatened. When spotting a human, their first instinct is not to bite but run.

Even with their smaller size, they still pose some threat to humans. The bite from a mongoose, while rare, can cause infections like sepsis.

Rabies is a very common illness for them, and if infected they may be prone to attack humans.

Medical treatment is required if attacked or bitten by them as the illnesses they pass on can be fatal.

Mongoose As Pets

Pet meerkat
My pet meerkat (Suricata suricatta) | sandipruel via iStock

Despite their ferocious reputation, in many parts of the world like Asia, Africa, southern Europe, and the Carribeans mongoose are kept as pets.

They are easily domesticated, and can even be taught simple tricks.

The main benefit of keeping a mongoose as a pet is its ability to hunt vermin and kill venomous snakes that may live in the area.

In most parts of the world like the United States or Australia, it is illegal to own or bring an animal into the country.


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