Imagine you’re lounging out in your yard and something slithers underneath your feet. You’ll check what’s under your feet and find out it’s a snake.
You may jump up on your chair or marvel at the beauty depending on whether your ophidiophobic or not. Ophidiophobia is the abnormal fear of snakes. Even if you’re not, you should be cautious since you don’t know if it’s venomous or not.
Difference between Poisonous and Venomous Snakes
Before we continue, we should clarify if we should call these types of snakes poisonous or venomous. When you say poisonous, it means you get injured or harmed if you eat the snake. On the other hand, a venomous snake uses its fangs to inject venom into you.
Technically speaking the terms poisonous and venomous are different. But for this article, we will consider both terms to mean the same thing. This means when we call a snake poisonous, we also mean the snake is venomous.
With that clarified, let’s continue to discuss how you can tell if a snake is poisonous. Well, there are actually some ways to know if a snake is poisonous or not without having to get bitten by one.
But, before talking about the ways to differentiate poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, let’s get to know more about these ground-hugging reptiles.
Poisonous vs Venomous Snakes
Facts about Snakes
There are around 3,000 species of snakes around the world. But, there are a few places where they cannot be found. These places are Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, New Zealand, and Ireland.
They are coldblooded and nearly all of them are covered in scales. The scales trap moisture in dry climates. They also reduce friction to allow snakes to move efficiently. While there are some snakes without scales, there are others whose scales are only found on their bellies.
While most snakes live on land, there are around 70 species that live in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Even though sea snakes are among the most poisonous snakes in the world, they are typically gentle and their fangs are too short to pose a significant threat to humans.
Out of the 3,000 snake species, around 600 are poisonous or venomous. And from this figure, only 200 species of snakes can significantly harm humans. While this may be somewhat comforting, you should remember that some non-poisonous snakes can squeeze the life out of their prey.
But, that would be another topic since we’re focusing on the poisonous snakes. Now, let’s talk about how you can know if a snake is poisonous or venomous and some supplies to have on hand in case you encounter one.
Top 6 Signs that a Snake is Poisonous
You found a snake was slithering underneath you and you’re unsure if it’s poisonous or not. In this case, you need to look for some telltale signs of a poisonous or venomous snake.
These signs are as follows:
#1: Elliptical Pupils
Venomous or poisonous snakes have slit-like, elliptical or oblong-shaped pupils. In comparison, the pupils of non-poisonous snakes are typically rounded.
The pupils of poisonous snakes are similar to the eyes of a cat. But, you would want to think twice about trying to check the pupils of a snake. You might end up getting too close for comfort. Due to this, you can continue checking this list for other ways to know if a snake is poisonous or not.
#2: Broad, Triangular Heads
The head of a poisonous or venomous snake is broad and triangular in shape. While most snakes, including non-poisonous snakes, have a triangular head, the heads of poisonous snakes are broader.
You can see the difference in shape close to the jaw of the snake. A poisonous snake has a bulbous head and a skinny neck. In contrast, the jaws of non-poisonous snakes have a gradual slope.
This difference in shape is mainly to the presence of venom sacs or glands under the jaw of poisonous snakes. These glands are not present in non-poisonous snakes.
#3: Heat-Sensing Pit
If you’re still unsure if the snake you encountered is poisonous or not, you may also check for the presence of a heat-sensing pit. This is a small depression between the eye and nose of the snake. It allows the snake to sense the heat emanating from its prey.
The heat-sensing pit or the heat sensor is normally a characteristic of vipers. But not all poisonous snakes have this feature. The coral snake is also poisonous, but it does not have a heat-sensing pit.
Similar to the pupils, you won’t easily spot the heat-sensing pit from afar. And getting too close to the snake to check it may be risky for you. So, read on for the other signs of a poisonous or venomous snake.
#4: Colorful Pattern
When you see a snake with a colorful pattern, you should be wary about approaching it. While snakes with a solid color are likely harmless, snakes with a colorful pattern may be poisonous. They normally have a combination of two or more colors.
For example, the coral snake has black, yellow, and red bands on its body. So, if you see a snake with a colorful pattern, you may want to back off.
But, this doesn’t mean dark-colored snakes are safe. There are several snake species that have a rather dull-looking color, but carry quite a punch when they bite.
For instance, the fierce snake of Australia may be dark brown or light straw in color, but they are among the deadliest snakes in the world. The adder of the United Kingdom is another example with its pale grey to brown or brick red color.
#5: Presence of a Rattle
This is one sign you can listen to if you want to know if the snake is poisonous or not. Rattlesnakes are poisonous. In fact, they are among the most venomous snakes in the United States.
So, if you hear that distinctive rattle, you should try to move as far away as possible. Rattlesnakes are so dangerous that they can stretch up to two-thirds of the length of their bodies when they strike. But, they only do this when they feel threatened.
Rattlesnakes have unique rings at the end of their tails. If you spot that distinctive tail, it’s highly recommended for you to avoid it as much as possible.
Venomous or poisonous snakes may have a peculiar behavior that distinguishes them from non-poisonous snakes. For instance, cottonmouths swim with their bodies visible on the water. In contrast, non-poisonous water snakes swim with only its head sticking out of the water.
While poisonous snakes have a peculiar behavior, some non-poisonous snakes try to mimic them. For instance, rat snakes may mimic the patterns and behaviors of rattlesnakes.
If you have an idea about the different behaviors of snakes, you can have a better chance of knowing if the snake is poisonous or not.
How to Tell if a Snake is Dangerous
How Can You Keep Snakes Out Of Your Backyard?
Snakes normally move to areas where they can easily find prey, especially during hot summer months. These places are normally well-irrigated and provide suitable cover. This perfectly describes a lot of backyards.
So, what can you do to keep snakes out of your backyard? If you have no idea, continue reading and find out.
- Keep the grass short. Snakes don’t normally stay in areas with short grass since it exposes them to predators, like hawks and owls. When the grass is short, it’s also easier for you to spot the snake.
- Trim the shrubs and trees. You should create a space of at least two feet under the shrubs and trees to make it easy for you to spot snakes. It also discourages snakes from entering your property.
- Feed your pets inside the house. If you have pets, you should consider feeding them inside the house. When you feed them outside, it will attract insects and rodents, which are basically the prey of snakes.
- Avoid watering the yard too much. Watering your yard too much will attract slugs, worms, and frogs. Since these are some of the prey of snakes, it will be an open invitation for them to enter your yard.
What Should You Do When You Encounter Snakes In Your Backyard?
If you encounter a snake in your backyard, what should you do? Well, here are some things that you can do when you find one in your backyard.
- You should stay away from it. Slowly walk away while keeping an eye on the snake.
- If you have pets in the house, keep them away from the snake as you would with any wild animal like a moose, grizzly bear or wolf. Keeping them away prevents your pets from approaching the snake. When your pets go near the snake, it may feel threatened and will attack.
- Do not try to catch a snake. Even if you don’t see any of the signs enumerated above, it’s better to let the professionals handle it.
- Ensure you have at least a basic first aid kit on hand.
Snake Bite First Aid Tips
What Should You Do When You Encounter A Snake In The Open?
While you can easily deal with a snake in your backyard, the situation will be different if you encounter a snake out in the open. Here are some things you can do in this situation:
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings. This is especially true if you’re passing through the grass. You should also be on the lookout for snakes hiding under logs and rocks.
- Stay Calm. When you encounter a snake, the last thing you should do is panic. Avoid sudden movements towards the snake so you won’t startle it.
- Walk Away. Never engage the snake. Instead slowly walk away from it. They normally avoid humans and if you don’t threaten it, it will also move away from you.
Knowing how to tell if a snake is poisonous or not is the first step in avoiding an incident where you might end up in the hospital.
Have your Say about How to Tell is a Snake is Venomous
Do you have any tips or tricks for how to recognize if a snake is poisonous? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
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