Venomous Snakes

Venomous means poisonous! Take 5 giant steps back when you see a snake; then run and tell a grown-up. Snakes are only 1 inch tall, and they’re scared of you! Most snakes are not venomous, but a few are. If you get bitten by a snake, wash the bite well; remember what the snake looks like; and get a grown-up to take you to the doctor.

What is a snake? A snake is a reptile without legs. A reptile usually has scales, lays eggs, breathes air, and doesn’t spend much time taking care of its babies. It is also cold-blooded, which means that its body doesn’t stay the same temperature all the time. (Our bodies stay at 98.6 F all day.) Snakes get very cold on winter days and very hot in the summer. Because of this, snakes usually stay in burrows during very hot and cold weather. A burrow is a hole in the ground where they can live.

What do snakes eat? All snakes are carnivores (car-ni-vorz) or meat-eaters. There are no snakes that can eat people in Florida. Small snakes eat bugs and frogs. Larger ones eat fish, birds, mice, and rabbits. They use sharp teeth and strong muscles to catch the prey. If the prey animal is bigger than the snake’s mouth, the snake can dislocate (unhinge) its bottom jaw to fit the big animal in.

What about venom? Venom is a poison the snake puts into its prey through its fangs (teeth). This either kills the prey animal or makes it so the prey can’t move. Once venom gets into the prey, it is easy for the snake to eat it. The snakes on this page DO HAVE VENOM. Some venomous snakes have bright colors or patterns which can warn us. Rattlesnakes have rattles to scare away animals or people that might hurt them
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Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is the largest snake native to North America, reaching 6 feet long. It has brown, black, and beige diamond marks on its back. This snake lives in forests near palmetto bushes. It makes its home in old animal burrows (holes in the ground). It is a good swimmer and can live near fresh or salt water. The eastern diamondback does NOT always rattle before it strikes.

To hear rattle sound, click the speaker.

 

Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake

 

 

Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri) is usually less than 1 feet long and not even as thick as a grown-up’s thumb. It is dark gray with black and brown patches. The rattle is very tiny and hard to see. The sound it makes is so small that it may sound like an insect buzz. This snake lives near marshes and ponds under palmetto bushes.

 

Florida Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti) is a thick-bodied (fat) water snake also called a Water Mocassin. He is usually between 2 and 4 feet long. When he is young, he is light brown with black and olive patterns. As he gets older, black covers up the patterns, and he looks like an all-black snake. When he’s angry, he opens his mouth wide, showing the white inside. This snake does NOT have a rattle. Cottonmouths can be aggressive and may strike several times. They like to live near fresh water swamps, lakes, streams, and ditches.

 

 

 

Eastern Coral Snakes (Micrurius fulvius fulvius) are skinny snakes about 2 feet long. They have rings of red, yellow and black all along their bodies. Their noses are always black. They do not have long fangs and have to actually chew on you to get the venom in. Many snakes look like the coral snake. A rhyme about the order of the colored stripes helps you tell them apart, but don’t get too close! Rhyme: Red and yellow kills a fellow. Red and black is safe for Jack. Coral snakes [venomous] have red and yellow touching; scarlet king snakes [non-venomous] have red and black.

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Behler, John and King, F. Wayne. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992.

Conant, Roger and Joseph Collin. Peterson’s Reptiles and Amphibians. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1991.Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission pamphlet Florida’s Venomous Snakes. Florida.

Foster, Steven and Caras, Roger. Peterson Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1994.

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