Myths and Hoaxes
Can Puff Adders strike backwards?
It is a popular myth that it is safe to stand in front of a Puff Adder as they have fangs on the lower jaw and strike backwards. This is, of course, not true as all venomous snakes have fangs on the upper jaw, unlike the venomous Gila Monster and Beaded lizard from the USA and Mexico that have fangs and venom glands on the lower jaw. When confronted, a Puff Adder usually snaps back into a coiled striking position, often with the head facing down, and this movement may have led to the erroneous belief that they strike backwards.
All of our adders, like the American Rattlesnakes, have large moveable fangs in the front of the upper jaw. When not in use, the fangs fold back against the roof of the mouth and when striking, the snake swings both fangs forward and they are virtually darted into their victim. The Puff Adder is one of the fastest striking snakes in the world and, like most venomous snakes, can strike forward or to the sides or it can quickly spin around and strike in the opposite direction. Never attempt to catch a Puff Adder by its tail!
In addition to striking very fast, the Puff Adder also strikes far and the golden rule is to remain further away from the snake as its body length. This also applies to a Puff Adder in a container – if the snake is 1 m in length it can easily strike 1 m high, as can be seen in the accompanying photograph.
Another myth is that it can strike an inflated balloon twice before it pops.