Last updated on December 18th, 2017
For your safety, know these 4 poisonous (venomous) snakes, and what they look like – to avoid being bitten by one.
There are thousands of types (species) of snakes in the world, while more than one hundred species are found in North America – and some of them are poisonous (venomous).
The poisonous (venomous) snakes of North America fall into two groups:
Coral Snakes and Pit Vipers (which include Rattlesnakes, Cottonmouth, & Copperhead)
First, know that snakes only bite when they are provoked (typically), or when you’ve unknowingly startled them. By simply leaving them alone, you should be okay.
These dangerous snakes have a heat-sensitive sensory organ on each side of the head that enables them to locate warm-blooded prey and strike accurately, even in the dark.
The Copperhead, a pit viper, widespread throughout the United States, is responsible for most of the venomous bites.
Copperhead bites are painful, but rarely pose a serious threat to human life.
However, anyone who is bitten by a Copperhead should still seek medical attention as soon as possible.
They are usually a tan to copper color, but can vary widely based on region.
Common are the patches of hourglass markings on its back and their copper-colored triangular looking head.
The Copperhead typically ranges from Massachusetts to Nebraska to Texas and the south-east United States.
The coral snake is the most toxic of the four on this list.
It’s venom is a powerful neurotoxin and unless you get prompt snake bite treatment, the bite will shut down your nervous system, your heart will stop beating, and you will likely die.
The coral snake is identified by the red, yellow and black bands that ring the length of its body, and it has a blunt black snout.
The Coral snake colors are always red, then yellow (thinner band), then black.
Coral snakes and the similar looking (but harmless) King snake (red snout), are often mistaken for each other.
Here’ how to remember:
“Red touch yellow, kill a fellow.” (Deadly Coral snake)
“Red touch black, friend of Jack.” (Harmless King snake)
The Eastern Coral Snake typically ranges from North Carolina through Florida and along Mississippi.
The Western Coral Snake typically ranges in Arizona.
The Texas Coral Snake typically ranges in (yes, you guessed it — Texas). Also Arkansas and Louisiana.
The Cottonmouth, also called “water moccasin”, is an aggressively fast, nasty, cranky pit viper with large venom glands.
They have a thick, heavy body and are brown, olive to grayish/black with a flat-topped head.
The Cottonmouth’s bite is far more serious than that of the Copperhead and can be fatal.
When annoyed, the Cottonmouth tends to stand its ground and may gape repeatedly at an intruder, exposing the light “cotton” lining of its mouth.
The Cottonmouth typically ranges from Virginia to Florida to Texas to Missouri.
Probably the best known snake in the world, the Rattlesnake is a pit viper found almost everywhere in the United States, and is capable of a deadly bite.
Its trademark rattle strikes fear into anyone who hears it.
With their huge pair of fangs, and while there are many varieties of rattlesnakes,
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake… Give this rattlesnake a wide berth; it is the most dangerous snake in North America! Although the venom of this species is similar to that of most rattlers (and less potent drop-for-drop than that of the coral snakes), a large Eastern Diamondback is capable of delivering a large amount of venom deep into the flesh of its victims. This snake is also known for standing its ground when threatened. They range from North Carolina to Florida. Also Mississippi and Louisiana.
The Western Diamondback is one of the more deadly rattlers, nearly as much as the Eastern Diamondback, and is most often visualized from pictures and Western movies. They range from California to Arkansas to Mexico.
The Timber Rattlesnake is in abundance and ranges from the northeast through Florida, Minnesota and Texas, and is commonly found on Wooded hillsides and rocky outcrops. It has a slightly more laid back reputation but make no mistake, it is deadly.
United States Range Map: Copperhead, Cottonmouth, Coral Snake
Note: There are always exceptions. The following range map indicates predominant regions, whereas these snakes are sometimes found beyond what is ‘typical’.