HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Absolutely no one wants to be bitten by a snake. While some bites leave nothing more than a stinging pain, others could be deadly if you get too close to one of Alabama’s six venomous snake species.
The key way to avoid those harmful bites? Know how to identify the differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes that live in Alabama.
According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), “The majority of snakes encountered in Alabama are non-venomous, but often times are confused with the six venomous snake species we have in Alabama.”
The department said taking the time to learn the difference is beneficial when encountering a wild snake.
Two of the five subspecies of Copperhead are found here in Alabama. Those are the northern copperhead and the southern copperhead.
ADCNR describes the copperhead as a stout-bodied snake with its head noticeably wider than the neck. The top of their heads are copper-colored, hence the name. The snake’s body can be light brown to tan and even appear pink in the southern subspecies.
Both subspecies are listed as “pit vipers” meaning they have a tiny hole, or pit, located between their eye and nostril. They also have well-developed fangs capable of injecting venom.
The eastern cottonmouth, sometimes known as a water moccasin, is a large, aquatic, and very venomous snake.
They are described as being dark above – either olive, brown, or black – with a lighter to darker cross-banding pattern on the body and sides. The average adult cottonmouth is 30 to 48 inches long, but some can grow up to 74 inches, according to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
This snake has keeled scales and the vertical pupiled eyes are camouflaged by a dark, black strip.
Cottonmouths are known to vibrate their tails when excited, and throw its head up and back with its mouth wide open when aroused. The opened mouth will appear white, earning its “cottonmouth” name.
Timber rattlesnakes are common to uncommon everywhere in Alabama, except for the extreme southern parts of the state.
ADCNR says they are heavy-bodied snakes with a broad heads distinct from their narrow necks. Adult timber rattlers are anywhere from 36 to 60 inches in length. Their coloration varies from black to yellow to pink, or even gray with “dark, bent crossbands” along the dorsal part of its body.
The timber rattlesnake’s tail is tipped with a tan rattle.
The pigmy rattlesnake, sometimes spelled pygmy, is rarely encountered in the wild except for South Alabama. The species is believed to be in decline.
Generally described as “miniature rattlesnakes,” pigmy rattlers range from 15 to 24 inches long, and when they’re coiled, they’re about the size of a loblolly pine cone, according to state conservation officials.
The snake’s tail has a very small rattle or button not much smaller than their overall tail length. ADNCR says “When vibrated for a warning, the rattle is often difficult to hear and has been compared to the sound of an insect buzzing.”
Eastern Coral Snake
The eastern coral snake is a rarity in Alabama. According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the species is “rare and possibly threatened.”
It is listed as a high conservation concern for the department.
The snake is described as being medium-sized and slender with a short, blunt head. It has smooth scales in 15 rows that vary between red, black, and yellow. In this snake, the red and yellow bands are touching.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Just like the eastern coral snake, the eastern diamondback rattlesnake is listed as a high conservation concern for state officials. They used to be commonly spotted, but now are possibly threatened.
The eastern diamondback rattlers are Alabama’s largest venomous snake. They can reach up to seven feet long, have a short, stout tail with a rattle on the end.
The snake’s coloring is described as having yellow diamond shapes with black and brown centers, and a yellow to white belly. The head is large and marked with a “dark band extending obliquely from each eye to the lips.”
If you encounter one of these snakes, they’ll likely remain motionless unless touched or disturbed. Then, the snake will coil with an erect rattler and its head near the center of the coil. It can strike from this position at least two-thirds of its body length.
According to outdooralabama.com, there are more than 40 species of non-venomous and aquatic snakes that live in Alabama.
Those snakes include: worm snake, northern scarlet snake, eastern coachwhip, black racer, ringneck snake, eastern indigo snake, mud snake, rainbow snake, eastern hognose snake, southern hognose snake, prairie kingsnake, mole kingsnake, eastern kingsnake, black kingsnake, black speckled kingsnake, scarlet kingsnake, red milk snake, eastern milk snake, rough green snake, red cornsnake, gray ratsnake, black pine snake, northern pine snake, Florida pine snake, pine woods littersnake, brownsnake, northern red-bellied snake, southeastern crowned snake, eastern ribbon snake, eastern garter snake, rough earth snake, western smooth earth snake, eastern smooth earth snake, gulf saltmarsh snake, Mississippi green water snake, plain-bellied water snake, southern water snake, Florida green water snake, diamond-backed water snake, queensnake, midland water snake, brown water snake, north Florida swamp snake, and the glossy crayfish snake.
For a full gallery of photos showing what those snakes look like, click here.