Take a moment to learn about these six and incredibly deadly snakes.
The copperhead snake is first. Due to their shape and coloration, copperhead snakes will tend to blend in with their environment and although their venom is not very toxic, the consequences can still be severe if young children or the elderly are the victim of its bite. Step lightly when you are hiking or enjoying the great outdoors and before you venture further, find out if snakes like the Copperhead are common in the area.
COPPERHEAD (Agkistrodon contortrix). Length usually 2-3 feet. Common where it occurs, the copperhead is probably the most abundant poisonous snake in eastern Kansas. It is most frequently found in the vicinity of rocky ledges in oak-hickory-walnut woods, but it ranges widely, so that individuals may be found in almost any habitat during summer months. Although generally nocturnal during most of its active season, its habit of lying in the open during the daytime among dried leaves in patches of sunlight and shadow causes the pattern to blend perfectly with the background. Any hiker through this habitat should be alert. Because of the rather small size, usually inoffensive disposition, and the low toxicity of its venom this snake should be placed on the nonfatal list for adults. Elderly persons, those in poor health, or small children could find the copperhead bite fatal, however.
One snake you should definitely stay away from, should you encounter it is the cottonmouth. These snakes are incredibly venomous, so make sure you memorize what it looks like and if you see one you can run for the hills.
COTTONMOUTH (Agkistrodon piscivorus). Length 3-4 feet. Young cottonmouths are patterned quite like a wide-banded copperhead, but the colors are not so reddish. These snakes are always found in the vicinity of water. When approached they quite often hold their ground and open their mouths widely, revealing the white lining of the mouth, a habit which gives them their common name. This heavybodied snake is dangerously poisonous and, contrary to popular belief, can bite underwater.
Whereas the copperhead is a rather mild-mannered snake, the cottonmouth has a vicious disposition. Although nocturnal, it likes to sun-bathe, and it is frequently seen basking along shorelines, stretched out on low branches or upon the bank. Where this snake occurs, it is usually common.
Compared to other snakes, the massasauga snake is relatively small, and this make it harder to spot. Actually, this rattler is on the endangered species list in some states, so you’ll rarely come across one. But despite its small size, it is incredibly deadly.
According to Wikipedia:
The Eastern Massasauga is listed as an endangered species in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri (also considered extirpated), New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Michigan, the only state in which it is not considered endangered, lists it as “special concern.”
MASSASAUGA (Sistrurus catenatus). Length 24-27 inches. This snake belongs to a group of small rattlesnakes called “ground” or “pygmy” rattlers, which are differentiated from the larger rattlers by having paired scales on top of the head, as have the copperhead, cottonmouth, and non-poisonous snakes. The massasauga occurs in open fields and rocky outcroppings. It is particularly common in the Flint Hills. This is the “prairie rattler” of eastern Kansas, often found under hay bales in fields. Its food consists primarily of small rodents. The small size and usually docile disposition of this snake tend to place it upon the nondangerous list, but its venom is extremely toxic, and any bite from a poisonous snake is dangerous. When aroused, these small snakes strike with a fury not seen in the larger snakes. The rattling of this small snake is hardly louder than the buzz of a grasshopper.
The western diamond-backed rattlesnake is a larger one. So it can be easier to spot, but that doesn’t mean it is safe to get close to one. Similar to its relatives, this rattler blends in with its surroundings and is mostly encountered around late summer and early fall
WESTERN DIAMOND-BACKED RATTLESNAKE (Crotalus atrox). Length 4-5 feet, although some are larger. In the United States, probably more deaths are caused by this snake than by any other. A combination of large size, wide distribution, abundance, and touchy temperament give this distinction to this snake. It is rather common in Oklahoma, just south of this region. The diamond-back prefers dry open plains and canyons, where it feeds upon small rodents, young rabbits, and occasionally, birds. The ground color varies somewhat from buff to gray; the snake generally has a faded appearance. The black and white tail bands are distinctive.
About ten young are born in late summer or early fall. Larger litters have been recorded. The young are fully capable of inflicting a dangerous bite as soon as they are born – and quite willing to do so!
The timber rattlesnake enjoys hanging out near houses and can sometimes be spotted crossing familiar roads. If you happen to spot a snake by your home it may be it.
Take time to familiarize yourself with its distinctive appearance. The color varies from light gray to yellow, and black chevron-shaped blotches will hopefully make it stand out more if you ever encounter one.
TIMBER RATTLESNAKE (Crotalus horridus). Length 3-4 feet, occasionally longer. The timber rattler occurs only in eastern Kansas and is only locally common, at scattered localities. It prefers the deciduous forest where Iimestone rock cutcrops as ledges, but may wander into cultivated fields and open areas during late spring and summer. The food consists primarily of small rodents and young rabbits. Ordinarily, it is a mild-mannered snake, one which will seek to escape direct contact with man, but its size and habit of living close to human habitations necessitate considering this rattler dangerous. Ground color may vary from a light gray to yellow, with the black chevron-shaped blotches of the back uniting with lateral blotches to form crossbands. Another common name for the timber rattler is banded rattlesnake. Some individuals may be almost all black. The tail is characteristically velvet black in adults; banded in young.
During the spring and summer the timber rattler is quite often encountered crossing roads, where its large size and slow movement often make it a victim of modern transportation.
The timber rattler has a habit of frequently spending daylight time just beneath the edge of overhanging rocks. A hiker should always look beneath any rocks of this sort before using the rock as a resting place.
Most venomous snakes are nocturnal, but the prairie rattlesnake is commonly active during the daytime. It has similar features to a massasauga rattler, but the difference is in the scales. Watch for paired plates on the massasauga’s head, whereas there are small scales on the prairie rattlesnake’s head that will help to tell them apart.
PRAIRIE RATTLESNAKE (Crotalus viridis). Length 3-4 feet. The habit of denning in large groups is well-known. Several hundred have been found in hibernation in a single den. The food of the prairie rattler is warm-blooded, mostly rodents and small rabbits. It appears to be active in the daytime, whereas the other poisonous snakes are mainly nocturnal. The ground color varies from a light gray to green, and the pattern of dorsal blotches with alternating rows of lateral blotches may cause it to be confused with the smaller massasauga, but the scales on top of the head are all small on the prairie rattler, whereas paired plates are present on the massasauga.
This snake has a wide range over western United States, where it is probably the most common rattlesnake. It is frequently found in prairie dog villages. The burrows of these animals are utilized as shelter and the young are used as food items.
Now that you know about a variety of venomous snakes make sure to check with your state’s Fish and Wildlife organization to see which venomous snakes (if any) inhabit your state or region. Whether you discover one while camping, hiking, or just working out in your backyard as my dad was doing, knowing how to identify dangerous snakes like the ones on this list may save your life!