Snake Pictures in Louisiana
Snakes From Louisiana
Coexisting Peacefully with Snakes
Louisiana has many snakes, and thus many wonderful photo ops present themselves as I go about on our nine-acre habitat along the Tchefuncte River. I have included some of the best of these interesting reptiles for your viewing enjoyment.
My husband has been an amateur herpetologist since he was a young boy. As a child, I was taught to identify poisonous snakes, but my husband expanded my knowledge greatly. Now I can quickly identify the different species of Louisiana snakes. I even handle the nonvenomous varieties. I hope that these pictures will help those who are not familiar with these reptiles to identify harmless snakes, as well as the venomous types.
Snakes are an extremely important part of the food chain and the cycle of life. They help keep the population of vermin (like mice and rats) down, which helps protect our food supply.
In our habitat, we try to coexist peacefully with all species of snakes, even the venomous Cottonmouth and Copperhead. Because we try to keep the natural balance between the larger predators (bobcats and raccoons) intact, we rarely have problems with snakes, except when they are forced to flee to higher ground during high-water periods.
Non-Poisonous Louisiana Snakes
Gentle Speckled Kingsnake
Speckled Kingsnake, Lampropeltis getula holbrooki
One of my favorite snakes of Louisiana is the Speckled Kingsnake. Not only are they beautiful, but they're beneficial to humans. Kingsnakes eat rodents and will often kill and eat poisonous snakes, like the Cottonmouth and Copperhead. We welcome these gentle creatures into our garden and protect them in our habitat.
Black Racer, Coluber constrictor
In Louisiana, we have the Southern Black Racer and four sub-species. Black Racers are very fast snakes. They hunt with their heads up, sensing their prey. They do not constrict, but grab prey and often swallow it whole.
We are blessed to have quite a few of these lovely snakes in our habitat. The very young of the species is speckled. As they mature, they develop the dark, bluish-black coloration of the adults.
Black Racers will sometime swim across our pond, though they are more comfortable on land. From a distance, we have mistaken them for Yellow-Bellied water snakes and vice-versa. Black racers have a cream-colored patch on their throats, but their bellies are gray. Yellow-Bellied water snakes are creamy yellow on the throat and all the way down to their tails.
Young Black Racer
Texas Rat Snake, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimerii
Both the Black Rat Snake and the Texas Rat Snake inhabit Louisiana. In the southeastern part of the state, the Texas Rat Snake is more prevalent. These snakes are amazing climbers and have been known to climb 40 feet in pine trees.
I personally witnessed this one afternoon, when I observed a Pileated Woodpecker which was acting strangely. The woodpecker ended up "herding" the rat snake down the tree to my waiting stick. We then transported the snake down to the river, away from our bluebird houses.
Texas Rat Snake Coiled
Adult Ring-Neck Snake
Ring-Neck Snake, Diadophis punctatus
Ring-Neck snakes are very small. They live in leaf litter and under logs. Their bright yellow and orange undersides are thought to be a defense mechanism. They usually roll over on their backs when in danger, which momentarily confuses the predator, giving them time to quickly escape.
Water Snakes of Louisiana
Diamondback Water Snake
Diamondback Water Snake, Nerodia rhombifer
These large, interesting snakes are often seen in the Tchefuncte River. They eat fish, and will often wrap their tail around a submerged branch and lay motionless until prey comes near. We've captured some pictures of this hunting technique and have even observed these beautiful snakes devouring a meal of fresh catfish. Sadly, Diamondback water snakes are often mistaken for Cottonmouths and are killed.
Yellow-Bellied Water Snake, Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster
Yellow-Bellied water snakes are one of the Plain Bellied Water Snakes. Yellow-Bellies are often found far from water. We sometimes have a pair of the large snakes in our patio and water garden area in spring.
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Poisonous Snakes of Louisiana
There are six species of poisonous snakes that inhabit Louisiana. In our habitat, the most common one is the Cottonmouth, Agkistrodon piscivorus. The Cottonmouth (also called Water Moccasin) is a member of the Pit Viper family. It is venomous and has fangs which inject venom into its prey. They live in and around water and are the only semi-aquatic viper in the world.
The young are very colorful and are often confused with Copperheads.
Its brightly colored 'cousin', the Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix, also inhabits our part of Louisiana. We rarely see Copperheads, because many have been killed and those that remain are very reclusive. We are still hoping to get a picture of one of these beautiful snakes.
When we encounter poisonous snakes on the trails, we use a long stick to flip them away. We try not to kill them.
Copperhead and Cottonmouth Identification
Copperhead or Cottonmouth?
Some comments from readers indicate that they thought the picture below of a young cottonmouth (which found its way onto our porch) was of a young copperhead. Cottonmouths and copperheads belong to the same genus and are close cousins. I have provided two additional photos which may clear this matter up.
The best way to identify these snakes is to look at the markings on the head. Copperheads have a paler face with no dark markings, while cottonmouths have a dark slash mark behind the eye and another dark area under the eye. The markings on the body of cottonmouths do not turn dark until they are over a year old and get darker with age. Also, the pattern of the young snakes is different, with the copperheads having larger, more solid triangular patterns on their bodies. The young ones both have yellowish tips on their tails.
Young Cottonmouth on Porch
© 2011 Yvonne L. B.
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