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Posted on January 29th, 2016 in | Comments Off on How can I tell if a snake is venomous?

Only six of the 45 snake species found in the Midwest are venomous; four are found in Indiana, three of which are very rare. Venomous snakes of the Midwest include copperhead, cottonmouth and four rattlesnakes (timber, massasauga, pigmy, prairie). All of these species belong to the pit viper family (Viperidae). Several characteristics can be used to distinguish pit vipers from harmless snakes: all pit vipers have 1) elliptical, cat-like eye pupils; 2) broad, spade-shaped heads; and 3) heat sensory pits between the nostrils and eyes. Of course, rattlesnakes will also have a tail rattle. Be careful, this distinction does not hold true everywhere in the country. For example, the venomous coral snake found in the southeastern United States is not a member of the pit viper family, and thus, lacks these characteristics.

More people die of lightning strikes than venomous snakebites in the U.S. every year. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (2002), about 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year, and about five of them die. For more information about snake identification and more, see the publication listed below.

Snakes and Lizards of Indiana, Purdue University Extension Publication


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