The answer appears to be that a coyote (and probably most any animal) can eat a rattlesnake without being poisoned because the venom must enter the bloodstream to be effective. So the animal could be poisoned if it has any internal cuts but otherwise the venom will breakdown in the digestive system. Also, it may be unlikely that a coyote would eat the venom glands of the snake to begin with, even if it managed to kill a rattlesnake. Coyote instincts will most likely tell them that it's not edible. For the same reason they don't eat poisonous toads, natural selection has removed the animals that do.

Assuming all this is true. Can anyone point me to sources verifying (or contradicting) this?

  • 2
    From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coyote: "Coyotes kill rattlesnakes mostly for food (but also to protect their pups at their dens)..." so, yes, they kill and eat rattlesnakes.
    – Jon Custer
    Oct 28, 2020 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


What you have here is a language problem - a poison is a toxin which you ingest/breath in/absorb through skin, a venom is a toxin that is injected (e.g. bee sting) or added through wounding (many snakes have channels in the fangs, not a hole, the venom is not actively injected, but rather just runs down the channel into the wound).

Snakes, scorpions, spiders, wasps, bees, stingrays, jellyfish etc all are venomous NOT poisonous. Rarely some animals are venomous and poisonous, such as the Asian Tiger Snake (see entry 10 in link), but the venom and poison are usually from different sources - in the case of the linked Asian Tiger Snake, the poison comes from its diet of poisonous toad species, but the venom is produced by the snake itself.

Most snake venoms are enzymes (proteins that facilitate a chemical reaction). Rattlesnakes (as per OP's question) have an enzymatic venom. One thing that our (and coyote) digestive systems are good at is digesting protein - breaking it down into its component amino-acids for us to use as building blocks for our bodies to use. This means that you can actually drink rattlesnake venom with no side-effects so long as you don't have something like an ulcer or other wound in your mouth, esophagus or stomach, which could result in accidental envenomation.

  • 3
    It should be noted that not all languages make the venom/poison distinction. Actually, I only know of English that does. Oct 30, 2020 at 8:47

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