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News Story
Updated: 08/28/2014 08:00:02AM

Identifying Florida’s venomous snakes

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (CDC JOHN WILSON)

One of the most frequently mistaken harmless snakes is the banded water snake. Both the cottonmouth and water snakes have a wide thick body with a dark blotched indistinct pattern. When swimming the body of the water snake is mostly submerged.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (CDC)

The cottonmouth will often hold its head at a 45 degree angle to its body. When agitated they usually display their open mouth — and then there is no mistaking them. Cottonmouths have elliptical pupils, while water snakes have round pupils. When swimming the cottonmouth is very buoyant.

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PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (TIM VICKERS)

The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the biggest and deadliest native snake in our area. They can strike up to two thirds their length, and their venom is potent. The best defense is to be aware and wear protective boots and leggings if you are in snake territory.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY COMMONS WIKIMEDIA.ORG (BLUEAG9)

The dusky pigmy rattlesnake probably bites more people than any other snake in our area. They are small, from 12 to 24 inches typically, and are found just about anywhere. However, because of their small size, their venom is seldom fatal.


PHOTO FROM SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION

The coral snake delivers potent neurotoxin venom that attacks the nerve system. They are known to tolerate quite a bit of handling before actually biting. Coral snakes average about 30 inches in length. A full size snake can deliver a deadly amount of venom, and it is not true they must actually chew on the victim to deliver the toxin.

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Most Floridians don’t encounter snakes on a daily basis. But those of us who live in rural areas are much more likely to meet these legless reptiles. Thirty-five species of snakes are found in our region; some of the most common are the black racer and yellow rat snake.

Most snakes will flee at the vibrations of your approach. If a snake feels threatened it will escape in most situations. Shaking its tail does not mean it is about to strike. It is a bluff to scare predators. Since snakes only eat what they can swallow whole, they no more want to encounter you than you want to meet them. Use caution when you are in snake habitat, and stomp your feet to give reptiles warning and they will most likely avoid you.

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