Poisonous Snakes Of Florida

Poisonous Snake


01.13.2006 - There are six species of poisonous snake in Florida. Before I continue and describe them, I'll state that the correct term is actually venomous (a specific type of toxin that's actively injected) and not poisonous (any toxin absorbed via touching, eating, or breathing), but of course I realize that many people aren't familiar with the difference, and are thus searching online for information on poisonous snakes. I'll also point out that poisonous snakes are relatively rare compared to non-poisonous ones. I think there's about 45 species of snake in Florida, and only 6 are poisonous. And those poisonous snakes are pretty rare.  Most such snakes (5 out of 6) are members of the pit viper family, such as the Cottonmouth seen in the above photo.  You'll notice a hole near the tip of the nose.  That's actually a heat-sensing pit, not a nostril.  Snakes smell with their tongues.  Also, you'll notice that the snake has an elliptical pupil, like a cat.  Of course, you don't want to be close enough to a poisonous snake to ever really see these features, so if in doubt, just leave the snake alone! Here is a brief list of Florida's poisonous snakes.

1) Copperhead - This is a common venomous snake across the eastern US.  It inhabits only the very northern reaches of Florida, and is not present in the peninsula, or down here in Orlando, where I work.

2) Timber Rattlesnake - Another widespread species across the east, which only lives in the northern tiip of Florida.  It's often called the Canebrake Rattlesnake.

3) Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake - This is the big daddy, the largest, fastest, most dangerous snake in North America.  Most snakebite fatalities in America are due to this awesome serpent.  It grows up to 8' in length, but isn't very common.

4) Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake - A tiny little bastard, it's not lethal, but it is aggressive.  Some people call this snake the Ground Rattler.  It grows to perhaps 2', and is fairly common.

5) Cottonmouth - Also called the Water Moccasin, this snake is a pit viper without rattles, and it primarily lives in water or swamps.  It can grow to above 5' and has a very nasty bite, far worse than the Copperhead.  They're fairly common.

6) Eastern Coral Snake - This one is not like the others.  It's of the Elapidae family, and possesses a very potent neurotoxic venom.  It's small and thin and shy, and it's red, yellow, and black in color.  It rarely grows above 2' in length.

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Most people know Florida as the home of snakes; you can find a wind range of poisonous and non-poisonous snakes there. The Florida Museum has termed six out of the fifty snake species in Florida as venomous and a threat to humans.

These snakes are:

  • Copperhead or Highland Moccasin
  • Florida Cottonmouth
  • Rattlesnake
  • Timber Rattlesnake
  • Dusky Pigmy
  • Coral Snake
These snakes have distinct personalities, and they will not attack humans unless they feel threatened. So it is best to leave them alone, especially if you are not sure if the snake is harmless or not. HOW TO IDENTIFY THESE SNAKES COPPERHEAD OR HIGHLAND MOCCASIN

These are vipers that look deceptively beautiful. They have flattened heads and slit-like eyes that are very similar to cat eyes. They live far from humans, and only hikers have encountered them. FLORIDA COTTONMOUTH

The other name for these snakes is water moccasins, and they are very aggressive and dangerous snakes that prefer to live in swampy and marshy areas. You can also see them in other places like bases of trees, or on trees that are close to water bodies, especially those that are flowing. These snakes swim excellently, and you can see them swimming in springs or lakes. The cottonmouth gets its name from the white within its throat that it shows when it is excited. Its coloring is also common to many harmless water snakes, and the cottonmouth uses this fact to hunt for prey and even as a defense mechanism. It has a sharply angled head and a pit within its eyes. RATTLESNAKE

Its other name is diamondback rattlesnake, and it is the largest venomous snake in Florida. These snakes are very easy to find, and they are huge. They can grow to about five or six feet long, and the biggest rattlesnake ever recorded was eight feet long. These snakes also coil up like the cobra when they want to attack, and because of their large size, their rattles are prominent and distinct. You can find them in pine flat woods, open sands, scrubs, and in coastal habitats. You should avoid entering bush thickets or stepping on the tail of this snake because it will attack you. TIMBER RATTLESNAKE

This snake is present but not very common in Florida. Its other name is canebrake rattlesnake, and you can only find it in Northeast Florida. These snakes love to live in moist places, especially floodplain forests. You can differentiate this rattlesnake from the diamondback because it is smaller and has a reddish-brown stripe along its spine. DUSKY PIGMY

This is Florida's smallest rattlesnake, and you can find it in a wide range of habitats. They have various colors and sizes, but they always blend in with the vegetation around them. Most times, they do not rattle unless they feel threatened. The pigmies are the source of most of the venomous snake bites in Florida because children often pick them up. CORAL SNAKES

These are the deadliest snakes in Florida because their venom is a neurotoxin. However, they are also the least likely snakes to cause harm because they must chew to inject their toxins. They are skinny snakes and have red and yellow bands, and so you can easily recognize them. You can find them in prairies, upland areas, and flat woods. Although Florida has a lot of snakes, most of them are harmless and will not attack unless they feel you are a threat. It is best to steer clear of all snakes, and you should never pick up snakes or step on them.

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