Types of Snakes & Identification

It is rare to see snakes in the U.S. but there are some signs that you can look out for if you are concerned that they are venomous

If you do spot one, it will usually be one of the following:

Copperhead Snake

(Agkistrodon contortrix)

Copperhead Snake Species

Appearance

  • Adults 24 -36 inches long.
  • Newly borns 7.8 inches long.
  • Chestnut with dark brown / greenish bands.
  • Coppery colored head and neck.
  • Thick, heavy bodies.
  • Newly borns have a bright yellow tip to their tail, approximately the last inch.

Lifecycle

  • Breed from Spring to Fall, but not every year.
  • Give birth from late Summer to early Fall.
  • Produce typically 4-7 snakes, but can be anything from 1 to 20.
  • Hibernates mid Fall, reappears early Spring.

Habitat

  • Feeding - Small rodents, birds, lizards, snakes, amphibians, and insects.
  • Location - rocky areas with thick underbrush, vines, vegetation and/or debris even in heavily populated regions. Can be unnoticed when lying on dead leaves or red clay. In suburban areas they hide in stone walls, compost piles, under decaying stumps, abandoned building debris and flat stones.
  • Visibility – Can be seen during the day but in the heat of summer will stay hidden during the day and only be active at night.

Common Garter Snake

(Thamnophis sirtalis)

Common Garter Snake

Appearance

  • Roughly 46-137 cm long.
  • Color is varied - can be olive, black, grey or brown
  • Often have 3 light-colored stripes on back. 
  • Head wider than neck
  • Females are typically larger than males 
  • Males typically have longer tails than females

Lifecycle

  • Garter snakes will begin to reproduce as soon as they emerge from hibernation. 
  • Most female snakes give birth between August and October
  • Gestation period is roughly 2-3 months. 
  • In the wild, the average garter snakes lives 2 years.

Habits

  • Primarily active during daylight
  • Can survive in many different temperatures 

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

Crotalus adamanteus

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes

Appearance

  • This is the largest rattlesnake and the heaviest venomous snake in the Americas.
  • Average adult size is 91-183 cm, but it has been reported to be as big as 244cm.
  • Body is a brown/yellow color with dark brown/black diamonds outlined by yellowish scales.
  • Tail is a brownish or grey color which ends in a rattle.
  • Head has a dark stripe that runs diagonally through the eye.

Lifecycle

  • They mate in late summer and fall.
  • Females usually give birth to on average a dozen young in their shelters.
  • Young are born approx 30-36 cm long with markings similar to adults except they have a button at the end of the tail in place of the rattle.
  • The young only stay with the mother for a couple of days before they go off to hunt for themselves and find their own shelter. This means that their mortality rate is fairly high.
  • They can however live to over 20 years.

Habits

  • They favor dry pine forests, sand pine scrub areas and coastal barrier islands as well as wet prairies during dry periods.
  • Often inhabit gopher tortoise burrows as their shelters.
  • They are strong swimmers and have been seen crossing water between islands and mainland.
  • They feed on small mammals including mice, birds and rabbits.

Rattlesnakes

Genus: Crotalus and Sistrurus (More than 50 different species)

Rattlesnakes

Appearance

  • Two enlarged venom fangs fixed to the front of the mouth.
  • Solid teeth in both jaws.
  • Different species of rattlesnake vary significantly in size and markings.
  • Larger species can be as long as 8 feet.
  • Common feature is the ‘rattle’ on the end of their tails.
  • Rattlesnakes shed their skin several times a year and each time they shed a new segment is added to their ‘rattle.’

Lifecycle

  • Rattlesnakes give live birth rather than lay eggs
  • Young rattlesnakes are independent and self-sufficient from birth.
  • Most rattlesnakes mate in the spring.
  • Newborn rattlesnakes do not have ‘working rattles’.  It is only after their first skin shedding that their rattles function.

Habits

  • Typically live in dry savannah.
  • Rattlesnakes will, generally, move away from humans they encounter – but not always!  Generally they only attack if cornered or provoked.
  • Diet consists largely of small animals such as rabbits, rats, mice etc.,
  • Rattlesnakes kill their prey by injecting them with venom rather than constricting them.
  • Unusually, these snakes can strike without pulling themselves into the ‘S’ shape that most snakes do.  They also attack as far as two thirds of their length away from them.
  • Rattlesnakes are often found in and under boulders and logs as well as sunning themselves in the middle of trails.

Water Moccasin

(Agkistrodon piscivorus)

Water Moccasins

Appearance

  • Roughly 2 ft. 8" long.
  • Large body.
  • The back is dark olive or black, the belly is paler.
  • Body has crossbands with a distinct border extending all the way around and across the stomach.
  • Triangular head with slit-shaped pupils and fangs.
  • Has a white lining in its mouth, hence often called ‘Cotton Mouth’.

Lifecycle

  • Breed in Spring and Fall.
  • Gestation period can be 3-4 months
  • Produce a litter of up to 12 young.
  • Hibernate over Winter along hillsides above streams.

Habits

  • Location - Water Moccasins are semi-aquatic. Spend most of their time close to permanent water sources.
  • Visibility - Primarily active at night, but they bask in the sun during the day, often on branches overhanging the water.
  • Feeding - fish, frogs, lizards, birds, small mammals, and other snakes.