Snakes

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Suborder Serpentes

Appearance

Varies greatly depending on species. Overall, they lack fully developed legs and eyelids. They range from around 10 cm to several meters in length. Colors can be vivid greens, reds or yellows to darker black or brown. Many snakes have distinct stripes or patterning. Though many people fear them, snakes are a very important part of our ecosystem. They help control pest populations for a variety of animals. Many snakes found in the United States are nonvenomous and pose no risk to humans other than fright or a potential secondary infection in a bite. Despite this, many people have a deep-seated fear of snakes and don’t want any around their homes.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Snakes have several different ways to kill prey. Snakes eat such animals as frogs, salamanders, insects, worms, small rodents and birds. Venomous snakes have sharp, hollow fangs designed to pierce skin and inject venom. They are located in the upper jaw with venom glands connected above. When not in use, the fangs fold back onto the mouth. Nonvenomous snakes use constriction to subdue their prey. They bite the prey and quickly wrap themselves around it. The snake applies pressure until the prey usually suffocates. Regardless the method of capture, the prey is consumed whole. The lower jaw is hinged and can open to surprising sizes, allowing the snake to consume prey larger than their mouth would otherwise accommodate.

Snakes are cold-blooded animals, which is why they sun in the warmer months and go into hibernation during the colder. To help keep body temperatures from dropping too low, sometimes snakes will even hibernate in dens together, thus sharing the limited heat available.

Reproduction

Snakes often mate in the spring. Some species lay eggs, while other give birth to live young. Number of offspring varies by species.

Signs of a Snake Infestation

Nonvenomous snakes vs. Venomous Snakes

All snakes should be treated with respect and left alone regardless of venom. Most venomous species in the U.S. are a type of pit viper, including copperheads and rattlesnakes. There are various ways to identify a pit viper from nonvenomous snakes. The physical differences focus on features of the head. Characteristics of the nonvenomous snake are narrow head, no pit between eye and nostril and round pupils. The pit vipers have a triangular shaped head, a prominent pit between eye and nostril and elliptical pupils. There are also tail differences. Of course, close examination of a snake of unknown type can be dangerous. Contact a professional wildlife management technician for positive identification.

More Information

Whether snakes already populate your land or there’s a worry they might, a couple of steps can help prevent a long-term stay. First, remove as much of their preferred habitat as possible. Snakes like something to hide in like wood piles, piles of debris, high grass and overgrown vegetation. If such harborage is removed, snakes will relocate. Second, seal any openings leading into structures (homes, outbuildings, garages, etc.).

Common (Eastern) Garter Snake

Copperhead Snake

Cottonmouth Snake

Giant Garter Snake

Glossy Snake

Rough Earth Snake

Rubber Boa Snake

Scarlet Snake

Sidewinder Snake

Timber Rattlesnake

Trans-Pecos Rat Snake

Western Terrestrial Garter Snake

Western Worm Snake