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:

A juvenile copperhead: Note the Yellow Tail!
A juvenile copperhead: Note the Yellow Tail!
An adult copperhead -- keep your distance!
An adult copperhead -- keep your distance!

Copperheads

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!

A juvenile cottonmouth: Again a yellow tail!
A juvenile cottonmouth: Again a yellow tail!

Cottonmouth

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!

An Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
An Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

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
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

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.

Lower California Rattlesnake
Lower California Rattlesnake

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!

A Timber Rattlesnake
A Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake

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!

Rock Rattlesnake
Rock Rattlesnake

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.

Speckled Rattlesnake
Speckled Rattlesnake
Blacktail Rattlesnake
Blacktail Rattlesnake
Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake
Twin-Spotted Rattlesnake
Red Diamond Rattlesnake
Red Diamond Rattlesnake
Mojave Rattlesnake
Mojave Rattlesnake
Tiger Rattlesnake
Tiger Rattlesnake
Western Rattlesnake
Western Rattlesnake
Ridgenose Rattlesnake
Ridgenose Rattlesnake
Sidewinder
Sidewinder

Other Rattlesnakes

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

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 -- Antivenon comes from the venom!

More by this Author


Comments 31 comments

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

thnaks for this detail info


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

Thank You VERY much for answering my request. Great information and great pictures. I didn't know about the yellow tails in young snakes. I learned much. We have Rattlers up in the high part of the neighborhood and my cat did bring me a baby rattler last year. I guided it into a bucket and I let it go somewhere else in the woods. It always scares me that she does this, because for one she was bitten by sometihng a couple of years ago and had to have medical attention and we had to feed her by syringe for two weeks. She was bitten on the tongue. The other reason is --where is the Mommy and Daddy snake?!! I don't want to see them nor have her bring them up here for us to see. You know what I mean?! I don't like those kinds of surprises in my yard.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

If there are any particular snakes you would like information about, let me know, Lady Guinevere. I am planning on following this up with the other two venomous North American snakes, one of which is quite deadly in large part due to the fact that it has a mimic. The coral snake is very dangerous!


PG 7 years ago

Just in case you weren't aware, that Jimmy Kimmel clip is a staged stunt, not an actual rattlesnake attack. You'll note that the "handler", who is ostensibly wrestling with the strength of the snake doesn't do so when bringing the box out or taking it back after the "attack". It's just a puppet show.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

@PG: When I put it in, I couldn't find that information. I looked for it, because I remember reading that, but I couldn't find it! How frustrating!

Most species of rattler are not nearly so likely to attack in that manner -- they are more afraid of you than you are of them. You're bigger and they can't swallow you, so they aren't looking to you as food (like a giant constrictor might!).


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

There is a black snake in the trees here--well now in my nighbor's trees. I had the fortune (?) of seeing it one day a few years back and well I gave it a wide area so as not to disturb it's sunbathing. I thought it was a tree limb, as there are so many around here, until I saw the head and it wasn't shaped like a tree anything!

Do you have a list of non-venomous Morth american Snakes too?


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Sounds like a black rat, Lady Guinevere! I will do a hub about the non-venomous snakes later this week. It's going to be a *very* long list so it might take more than one hub!


aniketgore profile image

aniketgore 7 years ago from India

Nice to see a snake hub around. Good info Miracle.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 7 years ago from Georgia

This really is a great hub. I was thinking about doing something on around the same topic, but I think you covered everything really well. Your design layout is great too.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Thank you, Whitney! This one gets a lot of Google traffic, and Lady Guin asked me to do the non-vipers as well (which I haven't covered) so if you want to snag it, be my guest! Otherwise I'll try to fit it in somewhere in the challenge -- my hubs are taking so much research though!


W. R. Shaw profile image

W. R. Shaw 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

This is a fun hub!


W. R. Shaw profile image

W. R. Shaw 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

Decided to add one more comment -- I love that you make the clear point about them not being interested in eating humans. A lot of people don't realize that many defensive bites from rattlesnakes are "dry" bites, injecting no venom at all, for exactly that reason. We're too big to eat so why waste venom on us?

I'm new here and had thought about doing some rattlesnake stuff -- would I be stepping on your toes if I did?


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Be my guest! :)


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

A couple of days ago I saw a garder snake just under the lip at the end of the deck. My cats wanted to get at it, but I wouldn't let them. I didn't have a camera ready so I didn't get a picture of it. It was definitely bigger then the babies my cats bring. The head was like a bit bigger than a man's thumb and I think it was about 2 1/2 feet long. I didn't fool with it nd let it alone. Now I wonder if it went under the crawlspace becaseu there is an opening that my cats use to go there.

I know the non venomous snakes aren't poisonous, but their bites are just as nasty with out the venom. I heard someone mention about the time it takes to heal from such and there is a danger of gangrene setting in. Is this true or were they eggagerating?


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Lady Guin, I'm going to have to get back to you on that. I know the answer but I need a visual to answer your question. :)


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Okay, you saw some of the pictures of pit viper teeth in the above Hub, so you know what they look like. I'm going to use the Gaboon Viper's fangs as an example though and keep in mind that these are some of the biggest in the snake world (I believe THE biggest).

It's the last picture on this page:

http://www.azdrybones.com/squamates.htm

The second-to-last picture is of a python skull. You should be able to see the difference in the fang structure, right?

The garter snake that you saw has a jaw more similar to the python. I can't find any good pictures of a garter snake teeth or even colubrid teeth, but the jaw is smaller and houses smaller teeth than the python, but with the same basic structure (the "fangs" are at the back of the mouth, for example).

I have been bitten by a ball python and by a corn snake, and I can attest to the fact that when it happens, you're more surprised than you are hurt. The corn snake bite didn't hurt *at all,* but it did bleed profusely.

I've seen some ludicrous snake claims on various internet sites (including a couple here on Hubpages!). If you get bitten, be smart: clean the wound, use an antiseptic and bandage it. I've never heard of a snake keeper getting gangrene or anything like that from a bite from a constrictor.

Some lizards and venomous snakes, perhaps, but not a constrictor.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

Thanks for the information.  I have a bad picture of a baby garter snake if you want it. 

How big do garter snakes get?


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

The largest I've seen was about three feet, though a quick web search says five feet. That kind of length in a garter snake would seriously surprise me though!

Go ahead and send the picture! When I get some time I want to take a look at the North American Constrictors as well. We have fewer of, for example, the python species but a lot of colubrids (which are gorgeous!).


W. R. Shaw profile image

W. R. Shaw 7 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

I've seen one female common garter about 5 feet, but she was the longest I ever saw. The western terrestrials, which we also have in my area, are stockier, and don't get anywhere near that long.

If you need photos of Pacific NW-ern species, I have some around.


petsnakes profile image

petsnakes 7 years ago from United States

Nicely done. Good information you compiled here.


attagyrl 6 years ago

i'm trying to find out if there is a special test done in an autopsy for snake venum


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 6 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

I'm afraid that I don't know the answer to that question, attagyrl.


guidethem 6 years ago

Yes, snake envenomation leaves a lot of evidence. Not sure what attagyrl might be planning (!), but you cannot die of venom ingestion -- drinking it. Your saliva and stomach enzymes will break it down. It needs to get into the blood stream. There will be bite marks from fangs, and a nice trail of hemotoxic or neurotoxic damage pointing right to the site.


Desirae Hill 6 years ago

i love snakes. my uncle used to have a snake but it died when we had a very bad snow storm. my mom wont let me have a snake bc shes scared its gonna get out of its cage and bite someone. but what she failed to realize is i know a lot about snakes and how to keep them in the cages and what to do so they cant get out.


Mimi 5 years ago

When I was about 10 years old, a boy and I would play with small and large garden snakes, barehanded, and I have since learned how snakes move, crawl, hunt and so forth. I am not afraid of them but I do respect them, venomous or not. You have a nice little site and I think you have done a good job in telling people to be careful. I do not live in any area which has any sorts of vipers or deadly types of snakes but I am preparing to move to an eastern state next year that does have them. Knowing that there is a lot of hype out there about the snakes that you have discussed, I am glad that I was finally able to find a (this) site which has honesty and integrity in giving the details into the "good" and the "bad" ones. I came to your site because I thought I might find some good pictures and I must say that they are, I could even see the true yellow of the tail of the cottonmouth/copperhead. The snakes have beautiful colors and I can see how they would blend in with the terrain. I will make sure to take my walking stick with me and also take my time when moving about because there are lots of large leaves lying on the ground from plenty of trees, a creek that flows across the land and other factors that tell me there will absolutely be venomous species living there. Thank you for the information you have shared and I will remember what to look for.


GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 5 years ago from Northern California

NICE Hub--would love your comments on my Puzzling New Venom Strain Found In Southern pacific Rattlers. Apparently their venom has morphed into something more deadly than ever before; most bites in Southern California are from this snake. I see these Pacific Rattlers often, and have some interesting photos to share. Write on, snake writers!!


328991 4 years ago

this is really good information but i dont like the video of snake eatins a rat


LauraVerderber profile image

LauraVerderber 3 years ago from Mobile, AL

Great hub; I liked the included photos. I'd just like to point out that although coral snakes do have very deadly venom, they are rear-fanged, secretive, somewhat rare, and non-aggressive. I would appreciate it if you could point that out when you write about them. Basically, if you leave a coral snake alone you have nothing to worry about. Also, anti-venom production for coral snakes was recently stopped, but that was because the incidents of bites were so extremely low in America that it wasn't cost effective. Are you adding only venomous snakes that are potentially deadly to humans or are you going to include mildly venomous snakes as well? Hognoses are slightly venomous but would rather play dead than bite and they can make great pets. Their venom only causes a welt like a bee sting but people kill them all the time, which is really sad. :(


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 3 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

I didn't know that information about coral snakes. I'll be sure to add it when I do a round of edits on my hubs.

As far as hognoses, they are sold in Indiana as pets alongside non-venomous species of snakes. They're gorgeous and I've nearly purchased one in the past but generally prefer to keep larger snakes as pets.

If you would like, I can include information on Hognoses, though!


LauraVerderber profile image

LauraVerderber 3 years ago from Mobile, AL

Yeah, it may be worth it because they are so harmless yet many people mistake them for being dangerous. I have a friend who rehabilitated a wild hoggie that can got his skull cracked from a baseball bat. If whoever did that had been educated, that would not have happened to that poor animal. My favorites are the Eastern hogs. I think they are prettier than the common Western hognoses but it is much easier to feed a Western.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 3 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

It happens with non-venomous species as well though. I can't count the number of milk and rat snakes killed at my parents' farm when I was growing up. They're constrictors that help control a pest problem. The hognoses' biggest problem is he fact that they have a venomous *look*.

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