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Watch Out For Poisonous Snakes

Snakes are found almost everywhere on the North American continent, being absent only from the most northerly areas.  While there are 115 species of snakes found throughout this region only 17 species are actually poisonous.  However, as the poison of these snakes can be deadly, it pays to be able to identify those poisonous snakes that are found where you live or where you will be camping or hiking, and to become familiar where they will be likely to be located.  While avoidance is the best policy, it is also a good idea to know what to do in case you or someone with you is bitten by a poisonous snake.


Rattlesnakes are found nearly everywhere in the United States.  You can come upon them in New England, the South, Midwest, Southwest, and Pacific Coast.  These are very dangerous snakes that will deliver a potent venom.  These snakes are members of the pit viper family, and deliver their venom by means of two large fangs.  These snakes can be found in woodlands, mountains, prairies, and deserts.  They will announce their presence by shaking the rattles found at the end of their tail.  Back away immediately if you hear this.  These snakes, especially the western diamondback rattlesnake, can be aggressive, and will sometimes attack without provocation.


These snakes are generally found in watery environments, especially in the southern states.  They are thick-bodied and can reach lengths of over 6 feet.  Their poison is extremely potent, and a bite from one of these can be fatal, especially if delivered on the upper chest or throat.  Cottonmouth snakes will not retreat if approached, but will open their mouth, displaying the white lining.


The region east of the Mississippi River (except for the northern areas) is where the copperhead lives.  These are snakes that are often found in rocky areas in wooded regions.  The mottled pattern of the snake’s scales blends in very well with the forest floor, and they can be difficult to spot.  Fortunately they are not as aggressive as other poisonous snakes and will generally retreat if you get near it.  The poison this snake contains is not as dangerous as that of rattlesnakes and cottonmouths, and will often be painful rather than life-threatening.

Coral Snake

Coral snakes belong in the family that includes cobras, and should be considered very dangerous reptiles.  The two species found in the U.S. live in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions and in Arizona.   These snakes are beautifully colored in bands of white, red, and black and resemble several harmless species.  To tell them apart, keep in mind the rhyme, “Red and black, friend of Jack; Red and yellow, kill a fellow.”


Medical help must be sought immediately when someone has been bitten by a poisonous snake.  While waiting for the ambulance, you can help by keeping the person calm, as being excited will cause the blood to circulate more quickly.  Loosen clothing, but do not cut the wound with a razor or try to suck out the venom with your mouth.  There are some snakebite kits that will help to remove the venom, but should be looked on only as an emergency measure until professional help is available.