Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Texas Snakes on the Crawl

Texas Cottonmouth

Texas Banded Water Snake

Texas Cottonmouth

I recently got an email with pictures from someone telling me of all the cottonmouth water moccasins they had killed at the family place while at their fishing pond. Laid out on the ground were a number of non poisonous water snakes. About two weeks later a friend told be he killed a copperhead snake on his back porch. He was thrilled to get it before it bit his dog or one of the grand kids. The dead snake he was holding in the picture was a very large, very dead rat snake.
Texas Rat Snake

A lot of good snakes end up dead because of mistaken identities. There are lots of books on snakes and how to identify them. One of the easiest ways is watch for the obvious such as a rattle on the tail, this is the easy one. Next easiest is the coral snake because of the bands of color. If the red and yellow are touching leave it alone, remember red and black friend of Jack, red and yellow kill a fellow.

Texas Coral Snake

The copper head has a unique color and pattern and if you mix that up with a rat snake or some other species look at the eye. If the pupil of the eye is round it is a good snake. All the poisonous Texas snakes have an vertical catlike slit pupil of the eye except the coral snake. All the nonpoisonous snakes have a round eye pupil.

Texas Copperhead

Texas Copperhead

Here is a chart on Water Moccasin and Water snake identification.

Cottonmouth: The eyes cannot be seen from the top of the head.

Water snake: The eyes can be seen from the top of the head.

Cottonmouth: The pupil of the eye is a catlike vertical slit, and there is a pit on the side of the head between the eye and the nostril.

Water snake: The pupil of the eye is round, and there is no pit on the side of the head between the eye and the nostril.

Cottonmouth: The top of the head is relatively flat.

Water snake: The top of the head is relatively rounded.

Texas snakes are out in force this time of year and many of us that love the outdoors often come in contact with them. Usually if you leave them alone they will do likewise. If you have to take one out make sure it is one of the bad ones and not one of the good guys. Watch where you step, Wild Ed


Albert A Rasch said...

What a great post Ed!

I love snakes, with all there colors and patterns.

Great topic now that spring is here.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles.
Hogs and Dogs

Anonymous said...

Definately a good post for this time of year I think.
Luckily we don't have a lot of snakes in my area that we have to worry about.

tom said...

Unless you completely surprise a rattler, in my experience anyway, they sure will use that rattle and as often as not are backing away from you, not looking to bite something to big for them to eat. Nothing in the world sounds like it either. If you here that sound, don't make any sudden moves and figure out where it's coming from. I think more people get bit by them because the human gets spooked and moves rapidly in a fashion that's threatening to a snake.

Hammer said...

Excellent info!

native said...

A real strange phenomenon is happening here in California Ed, Rattle Snakes are turning up which will not rattle, and have bitten with no warning.
There have been a few reports written about this, and the general consensus is that over the last century we have been killing all of the ones which warn us first. Thus leaving a gene pool of Rattlers that are programmed to strike first without warning you of their presence.

On another note, being a native Floridian I am acutely aware of the differences between poisonous snakes and non-venomous ones.
I am always telling my daughter who is 3/12 years of age and my son who is 1 1/2 to constantly look where they walk when out in the woods.
And especially look and listen for Rattle Snakes, I had been showing them pictures and letting them play with an old snake rattle which had been laying on my desk.

While on an outing at one of our ranches and teaching them how to spot animal sign and also how to be quiet and stalk, my daughter stopped dead still and pointed out a Rattle Snake laying at the side of the road.

The next thing she said was: Baba, can we eat it?

You see, I am also constantly telling them that we do not kill things which we don't plan on eating! L.O.L.!

Doug said...

Way too often I hear the mantra that the only good snake is a dead snake. The folks that I talk too laugh when I tell them to look at the pupil of the snake to tell if it's a cottonmouth. I guess it is just easier to kill it. It is a darn shame.

Sad on Travis said...

Sadly, I read this today and not yesterday before I killed either watersnake, rat snake or kingsnake. It had a diamond pattern, very dark black head and neck. The underside was pale yellow. It was about 3.5 to 4 ft long. A friend from south LA said one we saw in the water earlier in the day was a cottonmouth. I figured he knew because they have a lot over there. Later I saw a similar snake but it was bigger and it was up on the shore. Long story, but I killed it thinking it was a cottonmouth. But the reason I know I killed a good snake is that it had round pupils! Oh how I wish I had known that. I am so saddened to know I killed a great snake. I guess at least I can say I know now and won't make that mistake again. However, this article did confirm that I did kill a copper head in my garage. I will never forget those slit, cat eyes! Thanks for stating that difference. I will never make this tragic mistake again. Also one question, when at cotton mouth is swimming, does it swim with its whole body on the top or with its head above the water and its body dangling down under the surface of the water. The one my friend said was cotton mouth, had its head out of the water, but its body was down below the surface of the water. It also had a pattern, with black head and lighter belly. Thanks for the great article.