Poisonous Snakes in the USA — Don’t get Bit
When you want to plan an adventurous camping in the great outdoors, don’t forget what could lerking in the bushes, trees and under the rocks. There could be poisonous snakes just waiting to strike. That’s why I am going tell you about poisonous snakes in the USA.
I am going to tell you what they look like, where in the USA you can find each species, where they like to hide, what to do if you happen to get bitten.
There are 20 species in the United States of America, 16 of them are different types of rattlesnakes, 2 of them are coral snakes, 1 is a cottonmouth (also known as a water moccasin), and the copperhead species. There is one type of poisonous snake in each of the states except Hawaii and Alaska.
Rattlesnakes, a species of the Pit Viper, are the most widely dispersed with different varieties that can be found throughout most of the US. The Coral snake, is related to the Cobra, is found in southern states as far west as Texas.
The Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin occupies waterways and wetlands throughout the southern part of the US as far west as Texas. The copperhead is found in most of the eastern and mid-western states.
Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)
Rattlesnakes adapt to their environment very easily, which means they can live in a variety of habitats. They can be found in North and South America, but they’re mostly found in the southwestern parts of the U.S. and the northern parts of Mexico.
Rattlesnakes are easy to distinguish, and their size can range from 1-8 feet, depending on the species. They have thick bodies with ridged scales. Their colors and patterns can be different, but are quite distinct. Most have dark diamond, rhombus or hexagon patterns on lighter backgrounds. They are usually black, olive, brown or gray in color. They camouflage into their surroundings to hide from predators in plain sight. They have some of the same characteristics as the pit viper like: heat sensing pit, hinged fangs, triangular head, vertical pupils (cat eyes) and they have live births. Young rattlesnakes don’t have rattlers, but they are just as venomous as the adults. Which makes them just as dangerous!
These snakes make dens inside rocky crevices, and spend their time in their dens when they’re not hunting.The ones that live in cold climates will hibernate in their dens during the harsh winter. Many generations will use the same den, sometimes more than a hundred years. When they come out of their dens, they will bask in the sun on warm rocks and in open areas. That’s pretty much why they love desert climates. They aren’t completly nocturnal animals, but they rather hunt at night – especially in the hot summer.
Like all other pit vipers, they are known as meat eaters (carnivores). They love to eat lizards, small rodents and other small creatures. Rattlesnakes will stalk their prey and wait for them to come by them and than strike at lightning speed, approximately 5 tenths of a second.
Rattlesnakes inject their venom when they strike, which paralyzes the victim. Once subdued, the snake will swallow its food whole. Some species of rattlesnakes will wait until their prey is dead before eating it. It could take several days for them to digest their food. All that eating makes the snake feel tired, so it will go in its den to hide until it starts to feel normal again. Rattlesnakes can live up to 10-25 years in the wild.
Rattlesnakes mate in the spring and summer months, depending on the species. Males will fight each other to win the chance to mate. Like other snakes, females excrete pheromones that leave a trail for the males’ to follow. Once males’ find a female, they’ll spend days following her around, touching and rubbing her. Females can store sperm in their bodies for months before the eggs are fertilized. Female snakes only carry their young for three months before giving birth. Female rattlesnakes give live birth, with babies encased in a thin membrane. Babies puncture the membrane and go about their separate ways. Most moms give birth to about 10 babies at a time. Rattlesnakes only give birth every two years.
Rattlesnakes may be venomous and have painful bites, but they really have no intention of hurting humans – unless they are provoked. Many people get bit by them because they accidentally stepped on one. If you’re hiking or walking a trail, please watch your step. While they are almost never fatal, a rattlesnake’s bite is something to be feared – they can be dangerous. If you get to the doctor fast enough and get the proper antivenom, a rattlesnake’s bite won’t be too serious. Studies have found that hemotoxic venom is becoming less common, and more of them are evolving to have neurotoxic venom. Their venom is very potent, and typically contains hemotoxins. In some species, their venom contains neurotoxins, which can cause:
- Vision Problems
- Trouble Speaking
- Muscle Weakness
- Trouble Breathing and Swallowing
- Respitory Failure
If left untreated, a bite can cause:
- Tissue and muscle damage (temporary or permanent)
- Loss of limbs
- Internal bleeding
Most people will experience extreme pain at the injection site. Fatalities from their bites are rare as long as they’re treated in time.
Coral snakes are small, brightly colored, highly venomous snakes. They have the second-strongest venom of any snake, but they are considered less dangerous than rattlesnakes because coral snakes have a less effective poison-delivery system. Coral snakes are separated into two groups: the Old World coral snakes that are found in Asia and the New World coral snakes are found in the in North and South America.
Coral snakes are slender and small, typically between 18 and 20 inches long, with some species reaching 3 feet. The Western coral snake can be as skinny as a pencil. They have bulbous, almost neckless heads, rounded noses and similar-looking tails, meaning that it can be hard to tell a snake’s head from its tail.
They use this characteristic to fool attackers by burying their heads in their coiled bodies and raising their tails — which look quite similar to their heads. “The idea for this behavior is that it’s always better to lose your tail than your head,” Viernum said.
When provoked, coral snakes will sometimes make a popping sound by expelling air from their cloaca, a single opening for the urinary, reproductive and intestinal tract, to startle the threat.
The most distinctive physical characteristics of coral snakes are their brightly colored and patterned bodies, short, fixed fangs and potent venom. While only some species have elements of coral coloring, all species have eye-catching patterns and colors: red bands flanked by yellow bands.
Red and yellow, can kill a fellow;
Red and black, friend of Jack.
The rhyme fairly accurate for snakes in the U.S. but it fails with the Old World coral snakes and many New World species found in Central and South America. In other parts of the world, coral snakes may have red bands touching black bands, have pink and blue banding, or have no banding at all.
The best way to identify a coral snake is by its head, which is blunt and black to behind the eyes, and its bands that completely circle the body instead of breaking at the belly. Coral snakes are in the Elapidae family, as are cobras, sea snakes and black mambas. There are about 70 species of New World coral snakes and about 15 species of Old World coral snakes.
Cottonmouth Snakes (Water Moccasins)
Cottonmouth snakes go by many names, but most people call them water moccasins. Its scientific name is Agkistrodon piscivorus. They are very dangerous and venomous, this species of pit viper lives in the southeastern part of the United States. Their bite is fatal, that’s why outdoor adventures fear them.
The water moccasin is the only venomous water snake on the continent of North America, and they aren’t hard to distinguish from other snakes. The people that are unlucky to live in the southeastern U.S. have been told since they were little kids to watch out for these slithering killers. The only good thing about these snakes is that they rarely bite humans. Like most other wild animals, they just want to eat and stay to themselves.
But they will attack if they feel threatened. If you’re paying attention to your surroundings, you may very well cross one’s path and wind up in a very dangerous situation. We know this snake is dangerous, but where does it get its name? The nickname “cottonmouth” Comes from the white interior of their mouth.
Cottonmouths are large snakes. Adults can range between 2 and 4 feet long. Females are usually smaller than males’. They have pupils that are up and down just like cats do and their jowls are large because of their venom glands.
The water moccasin has a distinctively triangular and block like head, which helps people passing by to identify them. Their necks are thin, and they have thick and muscular bodies. Their scales are ridged, and they can be black, olive or dark brown in color. A cottonmouth’s belly is lighter than their back. Young snakes have an easy to see appearance with bold patterns, but their markings fade as they get older. Young snakes also have bright yellow tips on their tails, which they are used to lure in prey and strike.
Unfortunately, cottonmouths are often confused with harmless water snakes, like the northern water snake and the brown water snake. But if you pay attention to their appearance, making sure you don’t get to close! You will notice some striking differences.
- Cottonmouths have vertical pupils. Non-venomous snakes have round pupils.
- Water moccasins have a triangular head. Harmless water snakes have elliptical-shaped, slender heads.
- Cottonmouths also have one row of scales after the anal plate, non-venomous water snakes have two.
Even if you can tell the difference between these 2 kinds of snakes you shouldn’t mess around with any snake.
Just like the copperhead snake, rattlesnake and other pit vipers, the cottonmouth snake has pits in between their nostrils and they have eyes that can sense heat. These pits allow the snake to pick up on subtle changes in temperatures, so they can track their prey and strike.
Water moccasins can be seen anytime of year and anytime of day, but they rather hunt at night.
Cottonmouths will eat just about anything that comes near their watery home, it doesn’t matter what it is, including their own kind. When hunting frogs, the cottonmouth’s potent venom can cause complete lung collapse. Cottonmouths prefer to ambush their land prey, inject them with venom, and chase them down. Most cottonmouths feed on fish. They corner their prey in shallow water, and corner them against something.
Water moccasins are a type of water snake, so they naturally spend time in and around water. They can swim pretty well. Cottonmouths like to stay close to the water’s surface with their heads out.
These snakes are found primarily in the southeastern part of the United States. Their habitat stretches from Virginia to Florida and even the eastern parts of Texas. These snakes like to hang out in marshes, lakes, ponds, streams, and even in swamps. When they’re not in the water, they can be found sunning themselves in fields, on top of rocks to keep their body temperature up.
Cottonmouth snakes mate in the spring months. Males show off by waving their tails around trying to lure females away from other potential mates. Males will fight each other for mating rights. But this is normal behavior for any species. When females mate with a male, they carry their eggs inside their bodies until they’re ready to hatch so their bodies can incubate the eggs. The gestation period lasts three to four months. A female gives birth to live babies every two to three years. Most litters have between 10 and 20 babies. Baby cottonmouths are brightly colored and independent from the moment come into the world like most other snakes, the adults play no role in raising or caring for their young.
The habitat of cottonmouths range from Virginia down to sunny Florida. But for the snakes in Virginia, winter time is usually hibernation time. Cottonmouths hibernate for months in colder climates. But hibernation is known to be deadly for these creatures, albeit necessary. A lot of cottonmouths die during hibernation, and its believed to be the reason why they never migrate north of Virginia. They just aren’t cut out for the cold. Water moccasins will hibernate in wooded hillsides, and they’ll stay in these hills until warmer weather comes around. Even though they aren’t made for the cold, water moccasins are never in a hurry to go into hibernation. They’re usually one of the last creatures to settle in for the winter and will often wait until the first heavy frost to hibernate.
Cottonmouth snakes somehow developed a reputation for being an aggressive snake, but they rarely attack humans. But there is one difference between this species and non-venomous snakes: they will stand their ground. Water moccasins have a distinct defensive behavior, which will let you know that it’s time to leave. They coil their bodies and open their mouths wide to expose their white mouths. Water moccasin’s have striking inner mouths because of their dark body colors. The bright white color serves as a warning to leave or face the consequences of their deadly bites.
They have an unmarked copper-colored head and reddish-brown, coppery bodies with chestnut brown cross bands that constrict towards the mid line. Copperheads have a thick body, and have keeled scales. They have a temperature sensitive pit organ on each side of their heads between the eye and the nostril. Sometimes when touched, they emit a musk that smells like cucumbers.
The average length of adult copperheads is 30 inches. Males have longer tails than females, and females grow to greater lengths. Copperheads have grooved fangs that can be 0.3 inches long. The length of the snake relates to the length of the fangs; the longer the snake, the longer their fangs are.
Northern copperheads live in the United States from the Florida panhandle, north to Massachusetts and west to Nebraska. Of the five different subspecies, the northern copperhead has the largest range. It inhabits northern Georgia and Alabama north to Massachusetts and west to Illinois.
Copperheads prefer terrestrial to semi-aquatic habitats, which include rocky-forested hillsides and various wetlands. They have also been known to occupy abandoned and rotting wood or sawdust piles.
The copperhead is a carnivore, as an adult eating mostly mice but also small birds, lizards, small snakes, amphibians and insects‐especially cicadas. Copperheads have fangs that inject its prey with venom that causes red blood cells to break down. This causes its prey to be subdued, so the prey is easy for the snake to swallow whole.
The copperhead looks for its prey by using its heat-sensitive pits to detect things that are warmer than its environment. The pits also allow them to find nocturnal prey. Adult copperheads are primarily ambushers. When attacking large prey, the copperhead bites than releases immediately to allow the venom to take effect; than the snake tracks its prey. They will hold smaller prey in their mouth until it dies.
The copperhead is the cause of many snakebites yearly but they are rarely fatal. Bites occur by accidentally stepping on or touching the snake, which is camouflaged within its surroundings. When touched, the copperhead quickly strikes or remains quiet and tries to crawl away. Sometimes when touched, they release a musk that smells like cucumbers. Young copperheads mainly eat insects, especially caterpillars, and use their yellow tipped tails to act as a worm-like lure to attract prey.
These snakes are social, which means that they will usually use a den with other copperheads or other species of snakes including timber rattlesnakes and black rat snakes. They usually return to the same den every year. Copperheads can be found close to one another while they are in their den, sunning, courting, mating, eating and drinking. They migrate late in the spring to reach summer feeding territories and reverse this migration in early fall. Males are aggressive during the spring and autumn mating seasons. They will try to fight each other and even pin the other’s body to the ground. They will usually do this in front of females but not always. These interactions can include elevating their bodies, swaying side to side, hooking necks and eventually intertwining their entire body length.
Both sexes reach their maturity level at 4 years old when they are about 2 feet long. The breeding season is from February to May and from August to October. Males seek out sexually active females using their tongue to detect pheromones in the air. Once they have located a female, the male will begin moving his head or rubbing his chin on the ground. Eventually, the male aligns his body with hers. This may last for an hour or more if the female does not respond. After being sufficiently stimulated, the female lifts and arches her tail and lowers the scale that covers her cloaca. Then the male arches his body and tail, inserting one of his two hemipenes and mates with the female. Mating can range anywhere from 3 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours. The long mating time could correlate with the fact that females usually only mate with one male per year. During the mating period, males’ produce a pheromone that makes the female unattractive to other males’ who pay little or no attention to mating or just mated females. Females also have little interest in mating after a long, successfully mating for the first time.
A female who breeds in autumn can store the males’ sperm until after she emerges their hibernating site. The length of time that the sperm can be stored appears to differ depending on where it is being stored. If the sperm is stored in the cloaca, it lasts a relatively short time, whereas if it is stored in the upper end of the oviducts in vascular tissues specialized as seminal receptacles, it seems to last much longer. Copperheads have a gestation period anywhere from 3 to 9 months. They are a live-bearing snake, they usually produce 2 to 10 young. Larger females produce larger broods. After birth, the adults do not give any type of care.
They produce large, yolk-filled eggs and store the eggs in the reproductive tract for development. When carrying young, some females will not eat at all because the embryos occupy so much of the body cavity. The embryo, during this time, receives no nourishment from the female, only from the yolk. The young are expelled in a membranous sac and weigh less than an ounce.
Young copperheads range anywhere from 7 to 10 inches long and are gray in color. They have a yellow tipped tail, which fades with age and is lost by age 3 or 4. Even newborn copperheads have fully functional fangs capable of injecting venom. These newborns have venom that is just as toxic as adults’ venom. Their fangs are replaced periodically, with each snake having at least five to seven replacement fangs in their gums behind and above the current functional fang.
Copperheads are most active April through late October; diurnal in the spring and fall, and nocturnal during the summer. The life span of the copperhead is around 18 years.
To sum this all up each one of these snakes are very dangerous. All but one of the species in this group are hard to find or see if you are going on a nature walk through the woods. So make sure you study these snakes that way you know what to look for while you are enjoying the great outdoors, whether your camping, hiking or just hanging out having a picnic in the woods. If you have any questions, comments or opinions just leave them in the comment section below and I will get back you as soon as possible.