Venomous Snakes of North America
Before I begin this project, I would like to distinguish the difference between something that is poisonous and something that is venomous. It is a common misperception that particular species of snakes are poisonous. To my current knowledge, this is not the case. There are, however, many species ofvenomous snakes in North America.
Something which is venomous possesses a gland that secretes venom. Venom is injected into the prey and used to disable it (the prey) in order that it may be consumed. Poison, on the other hand, is usually taken in orally (though sometimes injected as well, notably nicotine).
Snakes are venomous rather than poisonous.
This hub covers the North American Vipers with some information about them. Later I will also be covering the Coral Snakes in another hub. Most venomous snakes in North America are Vipers, which include the following snakes:
Copperheads are a common variety of venomous snake and have a very vast range in North America, spanning the following states:
Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, The Carolinas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia
Copperhead bites are not usually fatal in adults, but will cause very intense pain and should be treated immediately! If you suspect that you have been bitten by a copperhead, please dial 911 immediately and seek treatment!
These snakes are also known as Water Moccasins and are commonly found in the Southeastern United States. These aquatic snakes are usually found near lakes and rivers and can sometimes be found in residential pools.
Cottonmouths are generally larger than their copperhead cousins, and are also more dangerous. These snakes can reach lengths of six feet and are known for their aggressive behavior. Whereas many species of water snakes are likely to flee when confronted, a cottonmouth is more likely to strike. Please exercise caution when dealing with these snakes!
Cottonmouth venom is stronger than their copperhead cousins. If you suspect that you have been bitten by a cottonmouth, please dial 911 immediately!
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake in North America and may reach lengths of 8 feet! These snakes are rapidly disappearing from the landscape due to our lack of understanding of their behavior. Many are being killed simply for being snakes!
The Eastern Diamondback can be found in the Southeastern United States from Florida to Louisiana.
Unlike Cottonmouths, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes are highly averse to humans and will usually flee rather than attack. They will, however, attack when they are cornered.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake venom can be fatal in adult humans, and the bites are incredibly painful. Luckily, antivenin is widely available throughout the snake's range and bites rarely result in death. As with any suspected bite, please dial 911!
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake is another large breed of rattlesnake, growing to a potential 7 feet in length. These snakes are indiginous to Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Like other vipers, this is a snake to be avoided. Western Diamondbacks are very venomous. If you encounter a Western Diamondback, you might notice (as with other rattlesnakes), the distincitve hissing sound of the rattle at the end of the tail. This, along with the distinctive S-curve of the spine, indicates an impending strike. If bitten, please dial 911.
The Lower California Rattlesnake
The Lower California Rattlesnake is located only in Baja California. Like all rattlesnakes, this is a highly venomous species and should be avoided.
I had a great deal of difficulty finding any real details about this species, probably because of it's very restricted range. If you happen to see one of these snakes, please avoid it as you would with any viper and seek medical attention if bitten!
Timber Rattlesnakes are a large species of rattlesnake that inhabit the southeastern United States and up through Minnesota. Like all rattlesnakes, Timber Rattlesnakes are highly venomous and should be avoided if possible.
If you encounter a Timber Rattlesnake in the wild, it is very likely to avoid you by staying very still in an attempt to not be seen by a predator (you). If you approach the snake, it is very likely to slither away.
As with all vipers, if you are bitten, please dial 911!
The Rock Rattlesnake
The Rock Rattlesnake is a highly camoflaged snake that is non-aggressive and relies heavily on it's camoflage for protection from predators. This snake has a range of Arizona, southern New Mexico, south western Texas, and northern central Mexico.
The venom of these snakes mainly works on the blood but has been known to cause nerve issues as well. If bitten, please call 911.
There are many, many other types of rattlesnake in the United States alone. Above, I have listed some of the more common and well-known species. To the right of this segment you will be able to see pictures of many other types of rattlesnakes. All of these snakes are dangerous to humans and should be left in peace by anyone who doesn't have experience with venomous snakes.
The most important thing that I should note in this space, then, is that if you encounter one of these snakes, please leave it alone. All too often these beautiful creatures are killed simply for being snakes. Most of the time they would prefer to avoid you rather than attack you, and when they do attack the reason is generally because they feel cornered or under attack themselves. In general, these animals aren't looking to make you their next meal.
While most species of venomous snakes are not endangered, they are rapidly disappearing. Let us please ensure that the future has these remarkable creatures in it!
Below I have included some additional resources for those who are interested in learning more about (Pit) Vipers. Please continue to scroll down the page as there are two more types of vipers I would like to show you.
Warning: This video of a pygmy rattlesnake eating may be disturbing to some!
Pygmy Rattlesnakes can be found in Georgia and South Carolina and are, as their name would suggest, quite small by comparison to their larger cousins. In spite of their small size, however, these snakes can be highly aggressive and any person encountering one should be very careful and simply leave the snake alone.
The good news is that because of their very small venom glands, there are no reports of a human dying from a pygmy bite. Nevertheless, please dial 911.
Milking a Rattlesnake for Venom
© 2009 Becki Rizzuti