The United States of America is a vast nation with a wide range of ecosystems. But what’s fascinating is the diverse populations of animals, particularly snakes, that exist within the country’s borders. Among them are several venomous snake species found in nearly every region.
Only four distinct families contain all of the poisonous snakes in the United States, including rattlesnakes, copperhead snakes, cottonmouth snakes, and coral snakes. The level of poison in these venomous species can be fatal if caution isn’t followed.
Currently, 22 species and 37 subspecies are acknowledged in the United States. The 37 snake varieties are all easily classified into one of four families. Here is a comprehensive look at all the poisonous snakes in the country and information on where you may encounter them. So, without further ado, let’s check out poisonous serpent species in the USA
Don’t be bluffed by the name because rattlesnakes are anything but playful. Pit viper snakes, of which rattlesnakes are a subspecies, are the most dreaded poisonous snakes in the United States. The name “rattlesnake” comes from the rattle on the snake’s tail. When shaken, the rattle makes a series of loud, scary noises that the snake uses to scare away potential predators.
The following are some of the rattlesnake’s unique characteristics;
- Depending on the breed, the average length of a rattlesnake is anywhere from one to eight feet. These serpents have thick, scaly skin covered in various vibrant hues and patterns.
- One of the most amazing things about these serpents is their adaptability. To blend in with their surroundings and avoid being spotted by predators, they prefer harsh environments with dry temperatures, like deserts or rocky hills. In the winter, they hibernate in caves, holes in rocks, or branches.
- These snakes might uncoil completely and hold their head high as a menacing pre-attack signal. Also, like cats, these snakes have been observed to use snarling as self-defense. They use the hissing sound their throats produce to scare off potential assailants and onlookers.
- Once a week, rattlesnakes feast on various rodents, birds, lizards, and amphibians. Their appetite is surprisingly relatively less in adulthood. They don’t eat people and may bite humans only when they feel threatened.
- Unique predatory adaptations are a part of these snakes’ makeup. Their keen eyesight, active smelling sense, and the heat-sensing pits on their snout make hunting a breeze, even in low-light conditions. Once the monstrous serpents have found their victim, they strike with two powerful fangs in their jaws, releasing venom to kill. They then dive back into their caves to digest the food they wolfed down.
Rattlesnakes rely solely on their poison to scare away predators. Besides causing extreme pain and swelling at the site of infection, this potent toxin also destroys blood cells and tissues and causes unstoppable bleeding. The neurotoxins cause complete paralysis in the affected person.
Types of Rattlesnakes Found in the United States
Statistics show rattlesnakes account for over 90% of all poisonous snakes. While estimates vary, there are at least 32 distinct rattlesnake species, with at least 83 recognized subspecies. Following are all the species of rattlesnakes found in the US:
- Western diamondback rattlesnake
- Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
- Timber rattlesnake
- Three subspecies of Sidewinder rattlesnake
- Mojave rattlesnake
- Santa Catalina rattlesnake
- Two subspecies of Rock rattlesnake
- Three subspecies of Speckled rattlesnake
- Black-tailed rattlesnake
- Seven subspecies of Pacific rattlesnake
- Twin-spotted rattlesnake
- Red diamond rattlesnake
- Tiger rattlesnake
- Two subspecies of Prairie rattlesnake
- Two subspecies of Ridge-nosed rattlesnake
- Three subspecies of Massasauga rattlesnake
- Three subspecies of Pygmy rattlesnake
Most of the rattlesnakes in this part of the world are Timber rattlesnakes, while the most significant number of species of rattlesnakes are Pacific rattlesnakes located across the desert and west coasts of the United States.
There are two distinct types of coral snakes, Old World and New World, which are members of the poisonous Elapidae family.
They have the second-strongest poison of any snake species and come in various eye-catching colors and patterns. Several species of nonvenomous snakes found in the United States mimic coral snakes. The people have devised the mnemonic “red touch yellow, murder a fellow” to recognize a dangerous coral snake by its distinctive banding and patterns.
Let’s take a look at some of their unique characteristics.
- Coral snakes are thinner and shorter than other snake species, with the most extended reported length of only five feet.
- Their round, bulging faces are an intriguing physical feature, but it makes it difficult to tell them apart from one another. In addition, the snakes of the New World have a stunning design of rounded bands of bright colors all over their bodies.
- The short, anchored fangs of these terrifying animals make it difficult for them to inject their poison into their prey, reducing the level of fear they inspire. Yet, they’re still considered one of the deadliest snakes in the region.
- Compared to other poisonous snakes found in the United States, coral snakes are the most reticent to approach humans. They prefer to hide during the day and only come out at night. The species is found in the wooded and marshy regions of the southern United States and the deserts of Arizona and northern Mexico.
- Being timid, coral snakes rarely strike unless they are under extreme stress. It has been documented that these serpents’ bite is the only protective action they take. Due to the impossibility of contracting such short fangs, these creatures typically maintain a firm grip on their prey before repeatedly biting with a chewing action to inject their venom. It has also been reported that serpents will produce a popping noise by releasing air from their cloaca when threatened.
- These shy serpents would instead be left alone, so they only hunt the food they come across regularly. Coral snakes typically prey on lizards, small mice, small snakes, and broodlings because these prey items are easier to catch and consume. They aren’t picky, so you might see one eating its kind. But they can go weeks or months without food and remain healthy and active.
- Because it contains highly potent neurotoxins that can paralyze its victim immediately, coral snake venom is considered the second most powerful. Venom can cause respiratory paralysis, muscle numbness, localized discomfort and swelling, and even death. Slurred speech, blurred vision, seizures, headache, nausea, and vomiting are some less severe reactions to a coral snake attack. As a result of venom, cardiac arrest can occur if the victim is not handled immediately.
Types of Coral Snakes Found in the United States
The coral serpent stands alone in its evolutionary kinships in the United States. Coral snakes are more closely related to marine snakes and cobras than pit vipers. Despite this, they are poisonous and rank among the country’s deadliest animals.
The most common types of coral snakes are:
- Arizona coral snake
- Eastern coral snake
- Texas coral snake
As Elapids, coral snakes are distinct from all other venomous snakes in the United States. Around 50 coral snake species can be found throughout the country.
Cottonmouth snakes are poisonous reptiles that are linked to copperheads and other members of the pit viper family. The terrifying “cottonmouth” moniker comes from the white color of the monster’s mouth when it senses danger.
Cottonmouths prefer water to land but can adapt to either habitat relatively quickly. The semiaquatic snake gets its “water moccasin,” from swimming and then submerging to hunt. Due to their look, they are frequently misidentified as other harmless water snakes.
Let’s find out what sets this breed apart from others:
- Cottonmouths, which can grow up to four feet long and weigh anywhere from 200 to 600 grams, are one of the largest and heaviest water snakes.
- The epidermis of these creatures is thick and muscular, and it is covered in ridged scales. Their bodies have many colors and designs, but dark brown, gray, and black are the most common. Young ones can be recognized by their golden tail tips. Their triangular heads and vertical eyes help them blend into their surroundings, as do the black lines on their faces.
- Like other pit vipers, they have heat-sensing holes on their faces.
- The best places to spot a cottonmouth are near the water’s edge, creeks, wetlands, marshes, and lakes. However, they are perfectly comfortable settling down on the dry ground, atop a mountain, or in a tropical rainforest. These repulsive reptiles are native to the United States and are mainly found in southeastern Virginia, southern Florida, northern Illinois, and southern Indiana regions.
- Cottonmouths have some of the most lethal venoms, so they are commonly considered highly hazardous. But they won’t hurt people unless they’re teased or seized. Surprisingly, they usually avoid human contact by hiding.
- To prepare for a bite, a cottonmouth will coil its body and expand its mouth as wide as possible. Cottonmouths can draw attention from their attacker – thanks to the stark difference between their dark bodies and white mouths. They may also make rattle-like noises with their tails. When threatened, they spray their assailants with a foul-smelling liquid from glands beneath their tails.
- Even though they can cannibalize, frogs, fish, lizards, birds, and baby alligators make up the bulk of their food. They employ a method of hunting that is relatively standard. For instance, when hunting fish, they wait until the prey is close to the water’s edge before launching their attack. Additionally, they pursue rodents by biting them and then killing them with their venom. Then, after the victim is immobilized, they coil around their torso and gulp down the meal.
- Although the likelihood of death from a water moccasin bite to a healthy human is low, their venom is considered highly toxic to other life forms. The inability of the blood to clot is typically due to hemotoxins in their venom. The wound from the bite can be quite severe, sometimes necessitating the removal of the affected limb altogether.
Types of Cottonmouths Snakes Found in the US
Cottonmouths are more dangerous than copperheads but are generally regarded as less venomous than most rattlesnake species. These snakes are found across the Southeast, and there are three different types:
- Florida Cottonmouth
- Western Cottonmouth
- Eastern Cottonmouth
Cottonmouths are massive, venomous snakes that live in water. However, unlike rattlesnakes, these subspecies share more phenotypic traits and are, therefore, still considered part of the same species.
Like rattlesnakes and cottonmouths, copperheads belong to the pit vipers family. Their heads are the ideal shade of copper-red, which is how they got the moniker “copperhead” snake. They share many of the same traits as other members of the pit viper species. They have heat-detecting pits to help them locate attackers and prey. Venom from these snakes can be dangerous, but it is much less so than that of rattlesnakes and other pit vipers.
Here are some unique qualities of copperhead snakes that make them fascinating animals.
- The poisonous snakes are medium in size, reaching two to three feet. On top of that, it’s common knowledge that females of this species are longer than males.
- The copperhead snake is a remarkable species because of its distinctive appearance. These pit vipers are unlike any other because of their stunning dark brown and red coloring and intricate design. Their broad head, slim neck, and muscular and scaly skin differentiate them from other snake species with similar patterns.
- These animals are endemic to the United States and can be found in several locations. Copperhead snakes don’t mind calling a variety of habitats home. However, they typically make their homes in harsh environments like deserts, rocky slopes, and dense forests.
- Copperheads prefer to live alone. They are more reticent than most poisonous animals because they spend the winter in dens, much like rattlesnakes. This suggests that their defenses are inadequate. Instead, they let their bodies do the camouflaging work and become temporarily stunned in the event of an encounter with their predators or people. They also use rattlesnake-like tail vibrations to scare off threats and predators.
- Instead of actively seeking prey like rodents, lizards, and insects, copperheads are likelier to wait for it to pass by and then pounce. They are cunning ambush predators who use various techniques to lure their victims into a trap. The serpents, for instance, can mimic the appearance of a worm by wagging their tails in an upward motion. In this manner, the snakes lure their prey, like frogs and lizards, into the trap where copperheads can quickly devour them. Copperheads use their venom to kill bigger prey and then use their jaws’ flexibility to swallow it whole.
- Copperhead venom is, fortunately, relatively harmless to people. Their hemotoxic venom causes strong allergic reactions, nausea, localized swelling, and pain in the infected region.
Types of Copperheads Found in the US
Once considered five distinct species, copperheads are now only considered two different taxonomic families. However, the traditional categories are still recognized and are as follows:
- Northern Copperhead
- Southern Copperhead
- Broad Banded Copperhead
- Trans-Pecos Copperhead
- Osage Copperhead
The three extant subspecies of eastern copperheads—the northern, southern, and Osage varieties—are all grouped today. There is no longer a distinction between broad-banded and Trans-Pecos copperheads; both types are collectively called broad-banded.
Snakes are dangerous, yet fascinating animals. Whether you’ve been searching for this information for your knowledge, or you are looking for a suitable snake you can call a pet in the United States, this article includes all the information about snakes in the United States to help you understand the various venomous snake species in the region.
Unfortunately, the population of these snakes is steadily declining due to humankind’s continued urbanization strategies, which leads to the loss of their food and habitats.
For safety reasons, it is important to contact a medical professional immediately if a snake bites you. Even if you’re feeling fine, you should get to a doctor or hospital as soon as feasible. You can postpone the effects of many venoms, but by the time symptoms appear, it may be too late for successful treatment.
Never incise and suction out the blood or venom; never let anyone else do so. This is useless and potentially harmful to the victim and the person attempting the non-treatment.
Not only is it our responsibility to save ourselves but also these amazing species. As a result, we must always do our best to safeguard these natural wonders, even if they are potentially harmful to humans. Protecting endangered species is one of humanity’s most pressing responsibilities.