Do Snakes Strike Above the Knee? Here’s Your Answer

Movies feed our misconceptions that snakes can lunge through the air and land painful strikes anywhere on our bodies. In reality, snakes have a limited striking range that doesn’t go beyond the knees of an adult person. When talking about the knees, it is not uncalled to wonder: do snakes strike above the knee or is that also a myth?

Your worry is relevant and understandable because I have met several unfortunate victims – foresters and hikers – bitten by aggressive adult snakes between the knees and thighs.

That’s why I thought I should dedicate this post to popular striking zones of snakes to help you know what parts you should aim to protect. So, let’s get to the business without further delay. Hopefully, you will have no more misconceptions after finishing this article.

Where do Snakes Strike the Most?

Whether a snake can strike above the knee depends on several factors: a). The size of that serpent. b). The size of the person in the vicinity. c). The position of that person – whether he is standing or crouching.

It is a known observation that most snakes have a striking range of 1/3 to 1/2 of their entire length. That makes the part of your body between the knee and ankle the most common snakebite zone.

In normal circumstances where the person isn’t deliberately messing with the snake, around 80% of the strikes usually occur below the knees, i.e. around the ankle or mid-calf. However, in the U.S.A., a higher percentage (approximately over 60%) of snakebites is recorded in the arms and hands. A study revealed that nearly 40% of those bites on the upper limbs took place because the victims were antagonising the snakes in one way or another. They were either trying to catch the serpent or sticking their hands in places they should have avoided. Some common instances of such careless behaviour are prying in the bushes, rocks and firewood piles or sticking hands in holes – possible hideouts of snakes.

As far as the area above your knees is concerned, you should worry about that in the presence of a grownup Eastern Diamondback or Timber rattlesnake. These pit vipers are some of the most vicious venomous species abundantly found in North America and can inflict a mean bite in a flash. A scary fact about pit vipers is that the adults can reach 2/3rd of the length of their size. That means they can conveniently strike above the knee if the victim is a small kid or a normal-height adult.

What to Wear to Protect from Snakebites?

The facts and figures show that snake strikes mostly land around the ankle, mid-calf and below the elbow – on the wrist, hand or fingers. Although rare, the second most common strike zone is between the knee and thigh. Therefore, you should wear clothing that shields these bite zones.

Your attire must consist of:

Snake Gaiters or Chaps

Invest your money in a reliable pair of snake gaiters or snake chaps. Both these gears are made of anti-snake materials, such as heavy-duty denim, canvas, leather, Cordura or synthetic, to prevent fangs from reaching your skin.

All professional hikers, hunters and foresters are advocates of these protective gears because they can save you from weeks of pain and recovery, not to mention hospital bills.

A Tip:  If you are cruising through fields and woods infested with rattlesnakes or other pit vipers, wearing snake chaps is better than gaiters.

Anti-Snake Gloves

Ideally, it is better not to tempt fate and invite trouble by messing with a snake, especially when you could smoothly go about without touching or capturing it. However, if you are a forester, hiker, hunter or on a snake-collecting mission, you must put on snakeproof gloves that reach above the elbows. Heavy-duty denim gloves are a popular choice of protective clothing because the fabric can withhold approximately 60% to 70% of the venom from reaching your flesh. And these are results revealed after experimenting on live rattlesnakes, not my assumptions.

Snake Boot

Going on expeditions wearing sandals or regular shoes is sheer folly. A snake usually bites on your feet when you unknowingly step on or near it. So, if you don’t enclose your feet in anti-snake boots, you are exposing them to the danger of painful fang strikes. Wear maximum-coverage snakeproof boots on outdoor expeditions to prevent snakes from inflicting bites.

Other Preventive Measures

Alongside protective clothing, there are several other preventive measures to protect yourself from piercing snakebites.

  • Don’t stomp around places where you cannot see clearly, i.e. dark areas, dense vegetation etc.
  • Don’t try to tackle snakes unless unavoidable.
  • Don’t insert your hand in holes or sketchy narrow spaces – snakes usually take cover in such hidden spots.
  • Get adequate education about emergency snakebite treatment and bite prevention.
  • Carry a first aid kit, flashlight and a walking stick whenever going on an expedition.


The shreds of evidence and statistics show that snakebites mainly occur between the ankle and knee and elbow and fingers. However, there are instances where certain snakes, such as adult copperheads and rattlers, have struck above the knees too. Therefore, to play safe and be practical, you better cover your entire lower and upper limbs in snakeproof clothing. In addition, you must also know how to prevent snakebites to avoid suffering and bank-breaking medical expenditure.


About the author

Clinton Newman

Clinton Newman is a herpetologist and part-time blogger who loves to study snakes and their behavior. He is always called by neighbors to help them catch or get rid of snakes in their houses. . He's a passionate traveler and does a lot of Hiking and Hunting Adventures. His favorite places are Forests, Deserts, and Mountains. Now, he's guiding other Hikers to hike safely through this blog by reviewing the top best picks gears for safety and also guiding on Snakes and ways to deal with them.