Snakes-Venomous and Non-Venomous

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Snakes

Peak Nuisance Period: Spring through Fall

Common Nuisance Situations:

  • These snakes sometimes hibernate in buildings, especially the basements of old houses with stone foundations. They usually enter houses through torn screens, open basement windows, cracks in the foundation, or through gaps next to pipe and cable entrances.
  • They follow prey (mice, insects) into cellars, crawl spaces, attics, barns, sheds, garages. They may also be found in wood piles and debris, in heavily mulched gardens, and under shrubs, tarps or planks. They seek cool, damp, dark places.
  • Their presence may frighten or annoy people. Several species, including the garter snake, may emit a foul and musky smell when handled.
  • Disease risks: salmonellosis (food poisoning).
  • Injury risks: nonvenomous snakes have tiny teeth. They leave a faint, U-shaped bite mark. Their bites rarely hurt much or cause problems, with the exception of the northern water snake, which is known for its nasty bite. Few people encounter New York’s venomous snakes, and fewer still are bitten—and even then, the bites are rarely fatal. A bite from one of New York’s venomous snakes (copperhead, massasauga, timber rattlesnake) will swell, hurt, and turn black and blue. Children and the elderly are at greatest risk for a severe reaction. If bitten, remain calm and get medical help. Do not use a commercial snake bite kit; they tend to do more harm than good.

There are 16 species of snakes found throughout New York State. They are as follows; Non-Venomous- Common Garter, Eastern Milk, Northern Brown, Smoot Green, Northern Red Belly, Eastern Ribbon, Northern Ringneck, Black Rat, Queen, Eastern Hognose, Eastern Worm, Shorthead Garter, Northern Water Snake – Venomous - Eastern Massasuga, Timber Rattlesnake, Northern Copperhead.

We are going to focus on the 6 most commonly encountered snakes found in the areas serviced by Got  Wildlife? LLC. 2 of the species found in this area are venomous, the Timber Rattlesnake and the  Northern Copperhead. There are some simple characteristics that distinguish a venomous snake from a  non-venomous snake:

Nonvenomous snake:

Pupil: round

No pit between the eye and nostril

Shape of head variable, often slender

Scales underneath the tail, toward the tip, are divided

Venomous snake:

Pupil: like a cat’s eye, vertical

Pit between the eye and nostril

(the 3 venomous snakes in NY are all pit vipers)

Broad, triangular-shaped head

Scales underneath the tail, toward the tip,

are undivided

Animal Characteristics:

Snake Type Description Diet Habitat Breeding
Black Rat Typically up to 4.5 feet long-long – Black- Hibernates Mostly small rodents & birds Woods, fields, rocky hillsides, river bottoms Mate May-June lay eggs and hatch July – September-avg 14
Garter Pattern snakes consisting of 1,2 or 3 longitudinal stripes on the back, typically red, yellow, blue orange or white-2 to 4.5 feet long – Hibernates Earthworms, but also slugs, amphibians, fish, crayfish, insects, small birds, snakes Wide variety of moist areas,from woodlands to marshed to fields Mat mid March-May

and again in the fall have live young in

July & early Sept. Avg 14 -40 young

Milk Have transversed bands of red, black and yellow up to 4.5 feet long-Hibernates Eats rodents and other snakes Brushy woody cover in woods, fields & rocky hillsides Mate in June-lay eggs mid June-July – hatch late Aug-Oct-13avg
Water Brown, gray, reddish or brownish-black w/dark crossbands on their necks & dark blotches-up to 4.5 feet long-Hibernates Fish, amphibians, insects, crayfish River, brooks, wet meadows, ponds and swamps-still or slow moving water with areas of over hanging branches and rocks Mates April-May again in early fall-live young in Aug-early Oct-20 – 40 young
Timber Rattle Several types of color morps- Black morph is gray and the patterns are rich, velvety blackyellow morph is tan with patterns having a sulfur yellow tinged brownish patches- up to 5 feet long Small mammals, birds, frogs or other snakes Decidious forest in rugged terrain Mate mid July- October-Live young born the following Aug. 6-10 young on avg.
Northern

Copperhead

Body is relatively stout & head is broan & distinct from the neckcolor pattern consists of pale tan to pinkish tan ground color that becomes darker towards the midline with a series of crossbrands-up to 4 feel long Body is relatively stout & head is broan & distinct from the neck color pattern consists of pale tan to pinkish tan ground color that becomes darker towards the midline with a series of crossbrands-up to 4 feel long Deciduous forrest and mixed woodlands Mates late summer not every year-give birth to live young litter is 4-7 young

Mythbusters:

  • If bitten by a venomous snake, do NOT try to suck out the poison. Do not slice the wound. Get medical help.
  • Snakes don’t dig. They can’t make holes.
  • The milk snake and northern water snake (both non-venomous) are often confused