When it comes to snakes the old saying “bad news comes in threes” couldn’t be more true. The vast majority of snakes are harmless to humans but the few that are venomous can deliver a potentially fatal bite. So how can you tell a poisonous snake from a harmless one?
There are four main families of poisonous snakes found in the United States: the Crotalidae (pit vipers) Elapidae (coral snakes) Hydrophiidae (sea snakes) and the Colubridae (which includes a few rear-fanged species). Here are some general characteristics of these families:
Crotalidae (Pit Vipers)
Pit vipers have a characteristic pit or heat-sensing organ located between the eye and nostril on each side of the head. These pits are used to detect warm-blooded prey.
Pit vipers include the rattlesnakes copperheads and cottonmouths/water moccasins.
All pit vipers have triangular heads and hinged fangs that fold back against the roof of the mouth when not in use. The fangs are hollow and connected to venom glands.
Pit vipers are generally heavy bodied snakes with thick tails.
All rattlesnakes and some copperheads and cottonmouths have a rattle at the end of their tails.
Crotalids are found throughout the United States with the exception of Alaska.
Elapidae (Coral Snakes)
Coral snakes are small to medium-sized snakes with narrow heads.
They have red yellow and black bands that encircle their bodies. The pattern of these bands can vary depending on the species.
Coral snakes are found in the southeastern United States.
All coral snakes have fixed hollow fangs located at the front of their mouths.
Coral snakes are shy and generally not aggressive but will bite if they feel threatened.
Hydrophiidae (Sea Snakes)
Sea snakes are found in warm ocean waters throughout the world.
They have paddle-shaped tails and small but distinct scales on their bellies that help them move through the water.
Sea snakes generally have narrow heads and long thin bodies.
Most sea snakes are venomous but only a few species have venom that is dangerous to humans.
Colubridae (Rear-Fanged Snakes)
The Colubridae family includes the largest number of snake species in the world.
Most colubrids are harmless to humans but there are a few rear-fanged species that are venomous.
Rear-fanged snakes have fangs located at the back of their mouths. These fangs are not connected to venom glands and are generally not considered dangerous to humans.
Colubrids are found throughout the world.
If you come across a snake and you’re not sure if it’s poisonous or not the best course of action is to leave it alone. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
What are some physical characteristics of a poisonous snake?
Answer: Poisonous snakes usually have a triangular head pits between their eyes and nostrils and elliptical pupils.
How can you tell if a snake is venomous?
Answer: You can usually tell if a snake is venomous by its physical characteristics.
Poisonous snakes usually have a triangular head pits between their eyes and nostrils and elliptical pupils.
What are some signs that a snake has been venomous?
Answer: Some signs that a snake has been venomous are if the person bitten has intense pain swelling and redness around the bite and if there are two puncture wounds from the snake’s fangs.
What should you do if you think you have been bitten by a poisonous snake?
Answer: If you think you have been bitten by a poisonous snake you should seek medical attention immediately.
What should you do if you see a poisonous snake?
Answer: If you see a poisonous snake you should stay away from it and not try to catch or kill it.
What is the best way to avoid being bitten by a poisonous snake?
Answer: The best way to avoid being bitten by a poisonous snake is to avoid them altogether.
If you see a snake stay away from it and do not try to catch or kill it.
What are some common places where poisonous snakes are found?
Answer: Poisonous snakes are usually found in warm humid areas such as forests swamps and fields.
What is the best time of day to avoid poisonous snakes?
Answer: The best time of day to avoid poisonous snakes is during the day when they are less active.
What is the best time of year to avoid poisonous snakes?
Answer: The best time of year to avoid poisonous snakes is during the winter when they are hibernating.
What should you do if you accidentally step on a snake?
Answer: If you accidentally step on a snake move away from it quickly and do not try to kill it.
What should you do if a snake is in your house?
Answer: If a snake is in your house you should try to contain it in one room and then call animal control.
What should you do if you find a snake in your yard?
Answer: If you find a snake in your yard you should stay away from it and call animal control.
Is it safe to handle a snake?
Answer: It is not safe to handle a snake even if you think it is not poisonous.
What should you do if you kill a snake?
Answer: If you kill a snake you should dispose of it properly so that others will not be harmed.
What are some myths about snakes?
Answer: Some myths about snakes are that they can charm people that they can spit venom and that they can turn into other animals.