INTRODUCTION TO THE VENOMOUS SNAKES AREA
When I was a child, I remember my father catching milk snakes, garter snakes, and other harmless snakes that were common in the area. He would catch them in the woods behind our house, in the fields by my grandmother's house, or in our back yard. He used to let us kids handle the snakes, and he taught us about the beneficial part that snakes play as one of nature's many forms of pest control. He also taught us that if we saw a snake and didn't know what it was, that we should not pick it up, and we should leave it alone. That is a great rule for everyone to follow. Generally, if you leave a snake alone, it will leave you alone.
Many people have an acute fear of snakes. As a result of this fear, many venomous and non-venomous snakes are needlessly killed. Thousands of rattlesnakes are taken out of their natural environments during rattlesnake roundups, and are often wrongly portrayed as aggressive, menacing killers. Although there are several venomous species of snakes throughout the United States, none of them are truly aggressive. Generally, they strike as a defensive measure when they feel threatened or trapped.
In a report on Venomous Snake bites created by the Palm Beach Herpetological Society in cooperation with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida.
- 7000 venomous snake bites are reported annually in the United States.
- 15 fatalities result, placing the chance of survival at roughly 499 out of 500.
- Approximately 3000 are classed as "illegitimate," meaning these bites occurred while the victim was handling or molesting the snake.
- 85% of the natural bites are below the knee.
- 50% are dry. Squeezing the venom glands to inject is a voluntary reflex. In that strikes against humans are generally defensive actions, it is estimated that no venom is purposely injected about half the time. This holds true with the pit vipers. With the Coral Snake the amount of venom injected is directly related to the size of the snake and the length of time it holds on to the victim.
The statistics from that report in no way quantify the bad reputation given to the venomous snakes of the US.
Many snakes are bright and colorful and can spark the interest of a child or adult, and a lot of snakebites occur when children and adults attempt to pick a snake up. Personally, I've always thought that Copperheads were magnificently colored/patterned snakes. Fortunately, I never came across one as a young child, because despite what my father told me about picking up unknown snakes, I probably would have attempted to catch it anyways so that I could have asked my father what kind of snake it was. I'd heard of copperheads when I was a child, and knew that they were native to the area that we lived in. I also knew that they were venomous, but I honestly had no idea what one looked liked.
They say a picture is worth 1000 words, and I think that is very true when it comes to recognizing venomous snakes. It is my hope to have photographs of every snake listed on this site. If you are a herpetologist or photographer, and have photographs that could be used on this site, or linked to, please let me know.
I would like to thank everyone who has allowed me to use his or her photographs. Please be sure to visit my credits page for a list. Please note that all photographs are copyrighted as noted. Please respect the copyrights of the photograph owners.
While some people might be familiar with the venomous species of snakes found in their areas, I know that not all of them are. I hope that these pages, and the links on them, can help educate adults and kids alike about these venomous snakes. I hope that it will help them be able to identify a venomous snake, should they ever encounter one, and prevent any dangerous situation that might arise from not recognizing a venomous snake.
There are only four groups of venomous snakes in the United States - copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. The copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes are all pit vipers. The coral snakes are not pit vipers, and are in a group of snakes called elapids, which also includes old world cobras, kraits, and mambas.
In the following pages is information on venomous snakes. The various pages include:
- Venomous Snakes of the U.S. by Common Name
- Venomous Snakes of the U.S. by Scientific Name
- Venomous Snakes of the U.S. by State
- Venomous Snakes of Florida