The speed of a snake depends on the species and size. On average, the fastest a snake moves is between 5 and 8 mph. The world's fastest snake is the Black Mamba, which can reach speeds of 10 to 12 mph in short bursts.
Snakes utilize different forms of movement, depending on their environment. The most common form is lateral undulation, which is used on land and water. The snake flexes its body from left to right and creates a wave-like motion that propels it forward, moving it about two body lengths per second.
Terrestrial lateral undulation uses the same motion, but the snake pushes against small objects in its path, such as rocks, trees or clumps of dirt. At each point where the snake's body touches the objects, it thrusts forward, creating more momentum and faster speeds. This is the fastest way snakes move, gaining up to eight body lengths a second.
Snakes use sidewinding when surfaces are smooth and they lack objects to push against, such as on sand dunes. A sidewinding snake uses the left-right motion of the lateral undulation, but one-half of the body pushes to the ground while the other is lifted into the air. The alternating motion moves the snake forward like a rolling wave.