Humans have been fearful of snakes for centuries. For some of us, this fear can be hard to overcome even if we really want to have a good relationship with snakes. You may find yourself wondering whether your snake can tell that you are afraid.
It is a myth that snakes can sense fear in humans. However, since snakes have an extraordinary sense of smell, they might be able to sense a difference between a relaxed human and a fearful human. Snakes do not respond to fear in humans unless they feel threatened by unpredictable human movements.
Here’s what you need to know about whether snakes can tell that you are scared and how they are likely to react to your fear.
Table of Contents
Can Snakes Tell That You Are Afraid?
Snakes May be Able to Smell Fear
Snakes have an exceedingly good sense of smell. They have nostrils through which they can smell in a way similar to how humans smell. More importantly, they have a tongue that is designed to collect odor molecules in an incredibly effective way.
Snakes seem to use smell to understand their environment more than any other sense. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that snakes are able to detect smells that humans can’t.
Since other animals, such as dogs, can smell fear, it stands to reason that perhaps snakes can smell fear as well. If they can, your snake may be able to smell when you are afraid.
While your snake may be unable to smell your fear through the glass of their tank, when they are close to you without the glass wall between you, they may be more likely to smell fear.
If your snake is able to flick their tongues on your skin, they are even more likely to be able to smell your anxiety.
Snakes May Respond to Your Fearful Behavior
When people are afraid, they tend to move more unpredictably, often with jerky motions. Your snake will certainly notice this kind of behavior. Fast movements and unpredictable behavior are often tied to predators.
Therefore, your snake may interpret your fearful behavior as being threatening. They may think that you are moving more like how an animal that is about to attack them would move. This can have consequences on your snake’s behavior as well, causing them to be more fearful.
This can result in a negative chain of behavior, in which your fearful motions make your snake more afraid, which causes them to behave more fearfully, which in turn makes you more frightened.
Snakes May be More Cautious of Strangers Than Their Owner, Especially if They’re Scared
Snakes seem to show a preference for some snakes over others. This behavior may even be described as forming a friendship.
Many snake owners find that their snakes respond differently to them than they do to other people. A snake may come to the front of the enclosure and be very easy to handle with their owner but shyer with newcomers.
Since snakes may already have a predisposition to being a little more anxious around new people, they may be even more likely to pick up on fear from somebody new.
If you have a friend who is scared of snakes and they are trying to interact with your snake, your snake may pick up on their anxiety and be more fearful of them as a result.
The most likely way your snake will respond to your fear is by being fearful themselves. It is very unlikely that your fearfulness will cause a snake to become aggressive. This is even true in very large snakes that may potentially see something your size as a source of food.
How do Snakes Respond to Your Fear?
On the other hand, if you behave in a very jerky, quick way, some snakes may view you as a food source. Snakes are triggered to eat by jerky, prey-like movements.
If you move in a jerky way like a prey item because of your fear, your snake may be more likely to view you as a potential source of food, assuming your snake is big enough to perceive you in that way.
If you are trying to pick your snake up and you tend to jerk your hand a lot, your hand may also be perceived as a prey animal.
However, your snake is unlikely to view you as a food source if you hide your fear and keep your movements calm and steady. Simply smelling fear on you is unlikely to trigger this kind of response.
Even if you do move in a jerky way, most snakes are more likely to interpret the behavior as threatening than prey-like.
Do You Need to Worry About Your Snake Attacking You Because You Are Afraid?
As long as you keep your movements calm, steady, and smooth, you don’t need to worry about your snake attacking you due to your fear. While they may smell your fear and become a bit more anxious as a result, they are much more likely to retreat or hide than they are to attack.
This is also true for anybody else who you would like to interact with your snake. Whether it be just a friend or a pet sitter.
How to Overcome a Fear of Snakes
If you are fascinated by snakes but nonetheless frightened of them, you may wonder whether having a pet snake can help you overcome your fear. In fact, repeated exposure to something you are afraid of is a great way to overcome fear.
However, it is essential that you make sure each interaction is positive. The best way to overcome your fear of snakes is to be around a snake in pleasant, positive situations repeatedly. Keep increasing exposure until you are comfortable touching and finally picking up the snake.
Don’t be too Concerned About Your Snake Sensing Your Fear
While it is certainly possible that your snake can sense your fear, it is unlikely to have many consequences for your relationship with your snake. Your snake may have a little more anxiety around you when you are fearful, but they are unlikely to become aggressive.