Venomous Snakes of Texas
Posted August 05, 2010
Texans are no strangers to snakes, especially during the
summertime when many of them are out and about. Copperhead, Coral,
Cottonmouth, and Rattler: these are the names given to the four
species of venomous snakes in Texas. It is a good idea to educate
others as well as yourself about these snakes, and how to avoid
them as best as possible.
"Snakes tend to follow their food source," said Teresa
Shisk-Saling RVT, Veterinary Technician at the Texas A &M
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "If you
have problems with snakes in your home area make sure to clean up
any trash, debris, wood piles, rock piles, or building material
laying on the ground."
Shisk-Saling continued, "Last summer when it was very hot out, a
friend of mine had a problem with copperheads in her dog kennels so
she took several litter pans and placed them along her fence line
and kept them full of water. After that, there were no more snakes
in the kennels because they were just looking for water, problem
Out of these four snakes, the Copperhead is the most prevalent
in the Bryan/College Station area. They will mostly eat rodents and
belong to the Pit Viper family. This makes them unique in that they
have a pit located between the eye and the nostril on either side
of the head. These openings house a pair of extremely sensitive infrared detecting organs, which in
effect give the snakes a sixth sense that helps them to find and
perhaps even judge the size of the small warm-blooded prey. They
can look very similar to the Water Moccasin, and are sometimes
referred to as the Land Moccasin. In general, you want to be
cautious around downed/decaying trees, rock cuts, and sheet metal
lying on the ground, trash, rock or wood piles.
This snake is not to be confused by the similar colored and
non-venomous Milk Snake, whose red and black bands connect.
Remember "Red and Yellow kills a fellow, Red and Black is a friend
to Jack." Mostly the coral snakes in the eastern part of the state
eat snakes and those in western part eat lizards. They tend to be
very shy and secretive and will spend most of their time
underground, in deep leave litter, dens and burrows. There is no
anti-venom being manufactured in the United States that is
available for people bitten by this snake. They possess the most
potent venom out of any North American snake, but
thankfully account for less than one percent of the number of
annual snake bites. Respiratory paralysis can occur suddenly or
within hours after a coral snake bite, therefore intubation and
ventilation should be employed in a victim in anticipation for
Another member of the Pit Viper family, these snakes primarily
eat rabbits or other small mammals. You can find them mostly south
and west of the Bryan/College Station area and are likely hear them
before you see them. There are a number of snakes, venomous
and non-venomous, that will beat their tail in grass and leaf
litter trying to sound like a Rattlesnake. These snakes are a
little more aggressive and will rarely back away from confrontation
so it is best to always steer clear.
Water Moccasin (Cotton
These semi-aquatic Pit Vipers eat fish and frogs. All snakes
swim on top of the water, however when they stop to rest or
evaluate their surroundings venomous snakes will continue to float
on top of the water and non-venomous will sink to where only their
head will be visible.
the non-venomous Yellow-Belly
(Below: the venomous Water
When Water Moccasins feel threatened they will
stand their ground and flatten their bodies out to make
themselves appear bigger. Also, they will hiss and gape their
mouths open, revealing the lighter colored tissue in their mouth,
hence their name.
Occasionally, you will find a snake stretched out warming itself
in a sunny area; just leave the snake alone and respect their space
if you are going to continue admiring it. These four snakes, as
well as most snakes, act more on the defense than offence.
"One of my favorite statistics is that 98 percent of snake bites
happen to males between the ages of 18 and 28 and alcohol is also
involved," said Shisk-Saling.
"Despite urban myth, these snakes do not chase people. This is
not to say that you may be standing between the snake and their
hiding place (den, cubby hole, etc.); giving them a reason to head
your direction," said Shisk-Saling
The underbelly of a snake is very sensitive to vibration which
helps them to sense any other animals approaching.
About 20 percent of venomous snake bites in people are "Dry"
(non-envenomated) bites, but if you are bitten it is always good to
be checked out by a doctor regardless.
"If a person is bitten and envenomated by a snake they will know
it, because the pain will be immediate and intense. The most
important thing is to stay calm and remember the steps that you
need to take following the bite," explained Shisk-Saling.
Anti-venom binds to and neutralizes the venom that the snake has
injected into you, halting any further damage, but does not reverse
damage already done. Thus, it should be administered as soon as
"Do not waste time trying to locate the snake. If it is a
venomous snake bite, the bite pattern will be very different from a
non-venomous snake," said Shisk-Saling.
"Go immediately to the nearest medical facility and call ahead
to let them know that you are coming; Not every emergency room
carries anti venom, but they should have the expertise to stabilize
the bite and take the necessary action," said Shisk-Saling. "Some
ERs have nurses and doctors that have experience and knowledge
about how to treat snake bites."
Another reason not to pretend like you are Jeff Corwin off of
Animal Planet is the fact that anti-venom is not always easy to
come by, if available at all, and is EXTREMELY expensive.
"Do not apply a tourniquet, ice, or heat and if possible
lower the bitten area below the heart while someone else drives,"
So remember, snakes are not evil creatures seeking to attack
innocent people, even the venomous ones. So if you are in a
snake's home territory, leave it alone. If the snake is in your
territory, unless it poses an immediate threat, leave it alone, it
will move on, so that you can as well.
ABOUT PET TALK
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
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Pictures provided by Teresa Shisk-Saling RVT, Veterinary
Technician at the Texas A &M College of Veterinary Medicine and
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