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Black Mamba

Updated on February 25, 2016

Scientific Name: Dendroaspis polylepis

Photo taken by TimVickers
Photo taken by TimVickers


When you evaluate the length of snakes the Black Mamba is at the top of the list. They can grow to a size of about 14 feet. However, they are light weight with a size of about 3 ½ pounds. That makes it very easy for them to stay in the trees. They are found in areas of Africa and considered to be one of the deadliest of all species. With that in mind it is no wonder that many people living in these areas see them as evil creatures they want to destroy.

They are very strong snakes too even though they aren’t very big around. They are the fastest movers of all snakes in the world too. They can travel up to 12 miles per hour for a long distance. The secret to doing so is that they lift up a large part of the body as they move across areas.

When you see photos of the Black Mamba the first thing you will notice is that the aren’t black. Many people think they will be when they hear the name. This can also cause people to get too close to one as they don’t realize what they are dealing with. The colors are green, yellow, or gray. It will depend on the habitat that is around them as the coloration allows them to blend into their surroundings and avoid detection.

They have black on the head but they name comes from them having a black coloration inside of the mouth. That is something you won’t find any other snake featuring. This is part of where the cultural connection of them being a force of evil stems from. It started hundreds of years ago and continues to be widely distributed still today.


They are well know for being aggressive and that is why people can be bitten by them. They also are repeat strikers so they likely won’t stop with just one bite. They can give of several in a few seconds. Each one will be very painful and inject very powerful venom.

They aren’t always aggressive though as they have been known to slither off quickly when they feel that there is danger. Yet you never know what other factors play into the equation. For example when a female is about to deposit eggs she will be very aggressive. When males are traveling to find a mate they too will become more aggressive due to being in unfamiliar territory.

Due to the unpredictable nature of this snake and the dangerous toxins in the venom it has proven to be very difficult to observe them in their natural habitat. As a result there are many unanswered questions about them. They have been seen hissing  though and opening the mouth very wide in the moments before they strike.

Habitat and Distribution

Africa is the location of the Black Mamba but they are all over the place. Huge numbers of them have been reported around the Republic of Congo. They are also found throughout Somalia, Ethiopia, and into Kenya. They continue to be identified in new regions due to humans taking away their natural habitat. They are often in the trees and can be up to 5,900 feet.

They can turn just about any region into a home for themselves. As long as they have food and shelter you aren’t going to get them out there easily. This has made them a threat and a nuisance to humans in many areas. The Black Mamba can be found along the swamps, in the forests, in wooded areas, and in the dry savannah. They do prefer humid areas but they will take the dry heat too.

Author  Fcbaum, Frank-Christian Baum
Author Fcbaum, Frank-Christian Baum

Diet and Feeding Habits

One of the reasons that  this snake spends so much time in the trees is that it offers them a place to find food. They remain well hidden there too so they have the element of surprise. They can wait in plain sight for their prey to come along. When it doesn’t they will bite and the venom will soon make the prey immobile. For larger prey they make strike rapidly several times. They swallow their food whole and the digestion process is very slow.


The temperatures around the environment trigger when the Black Mamba is going to mate. The temperatures usually get high enough around late spring or in the early part of the summer. The males will try to impress the females so she will mate with them. She may or may not with a given one though. When she does mate she will make the male leave afterwards and go back to being isolated.

She will create from 10 to 25 eggs in her body. Her search for a place of warm vegetation begins. She is very careful about where she places her eggs. They need plenty of heat in order to be able to continue growing inside of the eggs. She won’t return to that location once the eggs are in place. The young have to emerge and take on the world. Many of them will immediately become a source of food for various predators.

Black Mamba Video


The Mongoose is the largest natural predator of this snake. It is amazing that they aren’t affected by the bites or the dangerous venom. They have an immunity to it so they can continue to pursue the Black Mamba without fear. They usually will eat the young and the smaller ones though versus consuming the full grown adults. They are also known to consume eggs when they come across them.

Snakes can be predators too and one that is well known for dining on the Black Mamba is the Cape File Snake. It is found in many locations around Africa as well. It is no secret that humans aren’t happy with this type of snake being around. They will trap it to kill it.

Sometimes they trap them to sell on the black market. As crazy as it sounds some people want this type of snake as a pet in their home. Even though this snake is illegal to have in many locations people continue to buy it. In some instances the poor people will consume meat from this snake in order to survive.

Black Mamba Video

Venomous Bite or Danger to Humans

Africa is a well known place for sugar cane to be grown. There is a huge demand for it around the world. They have to take care of these fields by hand. The Black Mamba is known to lurk in these fields. They blend in well so they often are stepped on or grabbed by humans by accident. This is where the majority of bites from this species of snake occur.

There is a powerful anti venom offered but there is only a window of about 20 minutes to administer it. Today many of the workers carry it with them in the sugar cane fields. They are able to use it quickly and that has significantly reduced the number of deaths. Medical facilities around Africa also have this anti venom in stock. Failure to get the anti venom quickly though will most likely result in death. 


Submit a Comment

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    Alita 5 years ago

    I want to see the black mamba spider

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    Hey There 5 years ago

    Great work with the Hub. To answer your question Hayden, survival would be unlikely regardless of the age of the snake. Unless of course one received a "dry bite", or in other words a bite in which no venom is injected. Young venomous snakes are no less venomous than adults and often lack the ability to control how much venom is released from their venom glands, sometimes making them more dangerous.

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    Hayden 6 years ago

    Is it possible for a person to survive a Black Mamba bite without anti-venom? For instance, if the snake is not yet fully grown or only bites once or not hard. Thanks, Hayden.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

    Brilliant hub and I learned so much from it.