Most people harbor an unnatural fear of snakes, partly
because they can’t immediately tell a venomous from a nonvenomous snake. But
the threat of a snakebite is low; most snakes only bite when provoked and
prefer to retreat if the option is available. Statistics show fatalities from
snakebites are fewer than those from bee or wasp stings or lightning strikes. Read
on to learn about some of the more commonly seen southern snake varieties in
and around the home landscape.
Identifying Snakes in Southern Regions
Learning to identify snakes in your area can prevent undue
fear and unnecessary eradication of the environmentally
beneficial snakes. Even a pit viper is harmless when observed from a
distance and left alone.
Southern snake varieties include the venomous copperhead,
coral snake, cottonmouth, Western diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake,
prairie rattlesnake, western massasauga, and western pigmy rattlesnake.
Nonvenomous snakes in the South include glossy snake, black
rat snake, scarlet snake, racer, bull snake, ring-necked snake, brown snake,
common kingsnake, milk snake, western ribbon snake, western hognose snake, and
common garter snake.
Common Snakes in South Central States
Learn how to recognize snakes in South Central states by
consulting field guides available online, in bookstores and in libraries. Your local
extension office can also be a good resource for snakes in this area.
Venomous snakes, particularly pit vipers, share identifiable
characteristics – a triangular-shaped head, elliptical pupil like a cat’s eye,
a depression or “pit” between the eye and nostril, and a single row of scales
below the vent under the tail. A rattlesnake warns of its presence by shaking
the rattle on the end of its tail.
The coral snake is the only venomous snake mentioned above
that is not in the pit viper family and lacks those characteristics. Its
coloration is its calling card, and to avoid confusing it with similar snakes
that are nonvenomous, such as the milk snake, recall the rhyme: “If red
touches yellow, will harm a fellow. If red touches black, it’s a friend of Jack.”
Nonvenomous snakes typically have elongated heads, round
pupils and lack the facial pit. They have two rows of scales beneath the vent
under the tail.
Snakes hide in grass, under rocks and debris and lay in wait
for prey, so they are easily camouflaged. When outdoors, take precautions to
avoid snakes by walking on clear paths where you can see the ground. Only step
over logs or rocks if the ground on the other side is visible. When walking in
known snake habitats, wear snake-proof leather boots or snake leggings.
If you wish to avoid
snakes in the garden, try to keep the area free of possible food sources and
Treating Snake Bites
If bitten by a venomous snake, seek medical attention
immediately. Remain calm. Excitability can increase blood circulation and speed
the flow of venom throughout the body. Do not apply a tourniquet, ice packs or
make cuts around the bite. If possible, wash with soap and water. In case of
swelling, remove jewelry and restrictive clothing near the wound.
For a nonvenomous snake bite, treat the wound like you would
a cut or scratch. Keep it clean and apply antibiotic ointment.
“Identifying Snakes In Southern Regions – Common Snakes In South Central States” was first posted here