Environment

The Venomous Snakes Of Texas

Coral snakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, etc., are some of the venomous snakes found in Texas.

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Texans are not strangers to snakes particularly during summer when these creatures slither around looking for food and water. Texas is home to numerous snake species and subspecies (both venomous and non-venomous). Out of the 115 subspecies and 76 species found in Texas only 15% of them are poisonous and dangerous to human beings. Some non-venomous snakes resemble the venomous snake like the milksnake which can be mistaken for the venomous coral snakes.

The Most Venomous Snakes In Texas

1) Coral Snakes

Coral snakes are a large group of snakes which belong to the venomous Elapidae family. These snakes are in the subtropics and tropics areas around the world including South America, North America, Africa, Australia and Asia. They are famous for their black, white/yellow and red colored bands; however numerous non-venomous species like milksnake, king snakes, and scarlet snakes have the same coloration. One of the main ways to differentiate the venomous one from the non-venomous snakes is by looking at their colors. In venomous species the yellow and red stripes are together in the pattern while in non-venomous snakes the black and yellow bands are next to each other. The South American species have black, yellow and bright red stripes.

Coral snakes are nocturnal creatures which spend most of their days buried in the soil, under a leaf litter, or in rock burrows in the scrub-covered sandy hills. Coral snakes have a small pair of hollowed fangs which they use to deliver their venom. Unlike other snakes, the fangs of the coral snakes are fixed and not connected directly to the venom duct; instead, the poison enters their fangs through a small groove. Their fangs are small and inefficient when it comes to venom delivery. The venom of coral snakes does not affect their victims instantly after being bitten; therefore these snakes tend to hold onto their prey.

They are not aggressive snakes and only account for less than 1% of the snake bites in the United States. The coral snakes usually flee when a human being confronts them; they only attack when cornered. The symptoms of a coral snake bite take some few hours to form, and it usually begins with vision problems and slurred speech followed by respiratory failure and paralysis.

2) Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth snakes are pit vipers which reside in the southeastern parts of the United States. Cottonmouths are semi-aquatic snakes which are typically found near or in the water particularly in streams, marshes, and shallow lakes. Adult cottonmouths are about 26 to 35 inches long with the males weighing approximately 10 to 20 oz, and the females weighing about 7 to 9 oz. In some cases, adults have been seen to grow up to 71 inches and weigh 10lbs!

Majority of these snakes are usually black with some facial markings. Their color patterns consist of blackish ground, yellowish-olive, tan, gray, or brown overlaid with about 17 series of dark-brown to black crossbands. These snakes have some heat-sensing facial pits right between their nostrils and eyes. These pits can detect a small change in temperature and accurately attack the source of heat which is usually their prey.

These snakes only attack when threatened, and they tend to display some defensive behaviors like vibrating their tails with their heads thrown back and mouth wide open producing a hissing sound. The front part of their body and neck are usually pulled in an S-position when attacking prey or when they are threatened. They can also thicken their bodies while releasing a pungent secretion through their anal glands. Cottonmouth snakes have very toxic venom which causes hemorrhage in victims. Cottonmouths can be mistaken for some harmless snakes belonging to the Nerodia genus. These harmless snakes are aggressive as well but do not vibrate their tails when defending themselves.

3) Copperhead

Copperheads are rare venomous snakes belonging to the pit viper subfamily. The average length of an adult copperhead is about 37 inches, but it can exceed 3.3 ft. The average mean weight of female copperheads is 4 oz while the male weighs approximately 7 oz. Copperheads arepinkish tan in color with a series of up to 18 crossbands. The crossbands are pale brown to pinkish tan at the center and darker at the edges. Their scalation includes about 157 rows of ventral scales, 25 dorsal scales, with 57 subcaudal scales in females and 62 subcaudal scales in males.

Copperheads are ambush predators which select a compromise position and wait for their prey. The only things they don’t ambush are the small insects like a caterpillar. These snakes avoid human beings and given an opportunity they prefer leaving them without biting. Copperheads freeze when they meet with human beings instead of slithering away like other vipers. They tend to remain still especially when approached closely and only strikes when touched. Their tails vibrate forty times per second faster than other non-rattlesnakes species. Copper heads can be mistaken for some other non-venomous snakes like the northern water snake.

4) Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes are the venomous pit vipers belonging to the Crotalinae subfamily. These snakes get their names from the rattler on their tail which produces a rattling sound when it vibrates. The rattling sound serves as a warning to predators and human beings. Hawks, other bigger snakes, and weasels usually prey on young rattlesnakes.

The different categories of rattlesnake found in Texas include Pygmy, Massasauga, Western, Mojave, Diamondback, and Timber rattlesnakes. Timber Rattlers are medium sized snakes found in forests and rugged terrains, but during summer the pregnant ones migrate to warmer open areas like the rocky ledges. Mojave rattles live in the desert, but they tend to wander into other places including cactus shrub and semi-grasslands. The Mojave has a triangular shaped head, and mature ones are about 4ft long.

Pygmy rattlesnakes are the smallest venomous snakes in Texas which are also known as ground rattlers, grey rattlesnakes, spotted rattlers, or small rattlesnakes. They live along lakes, ponds, streams, marshes, and rivers, but they can also live in the woods too. Just like all the other pit vipers, they are nocturnal, and they like to spring up on their prey. Their venom is not potent enough to harm a human being. Pygmy rattlesnakes feed on mice, rats, birds, frogs and smaller snakes among other little creatures.

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