Snakes

Evaluating Predation by Snakes
Venomous snakes, particularly rattlesnakes, occur on nearly all livestock ranges of the southern and western United States and in many other areas; thus, it is inevitable that substantial numbers of livestock are bitten. Because young animals (colts, calves, lambs and kids) are curious and far less cautious than adults, they are the most common victims of snakebite in livestock. Many of them are bitten on the nose or head as they attempt to investigate snakes.

Snake Predation – Description
Venomous snakes, particularly rattlesnakes, occur on nearly all livestock ranges of the southern and western United States and in many other areas; thus, it is inevitable that substantial numbers of livestock are bitten. Because young animals (colts, calves, lambs and kids) are curious and far less cautious than adults, they are the most common victims of snakebite in livestock. Many of them are bitten on the nose or head as they attempt to investigate snakes.

During summer months, livestock concentrate around streams and ponds for water during the hot, midday hours. This frequently leads to crowding, particularly of sheep, into shady areas during the time snakes must have shade. As a consequence, sheep are frequently bitten on the legs or lower body by being pushed close to snakes.

Typical snakebite injuries include swollen, discolored tissue, lethargy and fever. Animals bitten on the head may have severe swelling of the head and neck. A large percentage of young animals die but some survive, possibly because of greater resistance and/or smaller doses of venom.

Fang punctures and tissue discoloration which follow the major arteries and veins from the bite area are generally evident at necropsy.


This is the carcass of a lamb which died from a rattlesnake bite. The discolored tissue is evident at the point of the arrow.