How to Identify Venomous Snakes: A Guide for Homeowners

How to Identify Venomous Snakes: A Guide for Homeowners

Encountering a snake in or around your home can be nerve-wracking. While most snakes are harmless and can control other pests, it’s important to be able to distinguish venomous snakes from non-venomous ones.

Physical Characteristics

The first step in identifying a potentially venomous snake is to observe its physical characteristics. Keep in mind that not all venomous snakes share the same features, but certain traits can help you make an initial assessment:

  • Head Shape: Venomous snakes often have a triangular or “pit” shaped head. This shape is a result of venom glands located behind their eyes. Non-venomous snakes typically have more rounded heads.
  • Pit Vipers: In North America, the most common venomous snakes are pit vipers, such as rattlesnakes, copperheads, and water moccasins. They get their name from the heat-sensing pits located between their nostrils and eyes. These pits help them locate prey. Non-venomous snakes generally lack these pits.
  • Eye Shape: Some venomous snakes have elliptical or cat-like pupils, while non-venomous snakes typically have round pupils. However, this is not a universal rule, as some non-venomous snakes can have slit-like pupils as well.
  • Coloration and Patterns: Venomous snakes often display vibrant coloration and distinct patterns. However, many non-venomous snakes also have colorful markings, so relying solely on color can be misleading. It’s better to consider color and patterns in conjunction with other characteristics.

Behavioral Signs

Besides physical characteristics, a snake’s behavior can provide valuable clues to help you figure out what to do next.

  • Aggressiveness: Venomous snakes tend to be more aggressive when threatened or cornered. They may hiss, strike, or coil defensively. Non-venomous snakes are generally less aggressive and may try to flee when confronted.
  • Rattling: Some venomous snakes, like rattlesnakes, have a rattle on their tails, which they use as a warning signal. If you hear a rattling sound, back away slowly and give the snake plenty of space.
  • Dilated Pupils: In low light conditions, venomous snakes with elliptical pupils may have dilated pupils, while non-venomous snakes with round pupils might not exhibit this behavior.
  • Body Posture: Venomous snakes might assume a distinctive S-shaped striking pose when threatened. Non-venomous snakes are less likely to exhibit this behavior.

Venomous Snakes In Indiana

There are several species of snakes in the greater Indianapolis, IN area. While most snakes in the region are non-venomous, there are two venomous species to be cautious of: the Eastern Copperhead and the Timber Rattlesnake. 

Both these species are pit vipers and are known for their distinctive features, including the triangular-shaped head and the pit located between the nostril and eye. Encounters with these venomous snakes in the Indianapolis area are relatively rare, but residents need to be able to identify them.

What NOT to Do

When faced with a snake, especially if you think it might be venomous, there are certain things you should avoid:

Do Not Approach: Never try to handle or approach a snake, especially if you’re not sure what kind of snake it is. Most snakebites happen when people try to interact with snakes.

Do Not Kill: It’s essential to remember that snakes play a vital role in our ecosystem by controlling other pests, like rodents.

Do Not Use DIY Methods: Don’t try to capture or remove a snake on your own, especially if it’s venomous. DIY snake removal can be dangerous and should be left to trained professionals.

Seek Professional Assistance: If you are unsure about the snake you’ve encountered, it’s always safer to seek professional assistance from wildlife experts or pest control professionals. We can safely identify and relocate the snake to keep you and your family safe.

Contact Nuisance Wildlife Services

Encountering a snake can be unsettling. Try to stay calm and create distance between you and the snake. Most of the snakes you encounter are harmless and don’t pose any risk. But if you’re not able to identify a snake or you need to remove it from your property, don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll help you identify the snake, and humanely remove the snake from your property. This is the best way to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones, as well as the safety of the wildlife that shares our world.

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