Beware Snake Encounters!

Most Texans have stories to tell about their interactions with snakes.  It's just good sense to always be on the lookout, wear gloves when weeding by hand and put on boots or shoes when walking in tall grass.  Even non-venomous snakes will bite if grabbed with a bunch of weeds.  Luckily, more than half of the snakes in Texas are non-venomous (Southeast Texas has up to 60 non-venomous snakes), however Texas is home to 15 venomous snakes, with 4 of those being common to the Southeast Texas region.  We here at Living Expression Landscapes want you to stay safe outdoors this summer by providing you with this detailed reference list on the 4 common venomous snakes to the Southeast Texas Regions, so you know which snakes to especially watch out for...

15 Venomous Snakes In Texas:

  • 1 species of coral snake (Texas Coral Snake)
  • 1 species of water moccasin or cottonmouth (Western Cottonmouth)
  • 3 species of copperheads (Southern, Broadband and Trans-Pecos Copperhead)
  • 10 species of rattlesnakes (Western Diamondback, Timber, Mottled Rock, Banded Rock, Northern Black-Tailed, Mojave, Prairie, Desert Massasauga, Western Massasauga and Western Pygmy Rattlesnakes)

*SOUTHEAST TEXAS has 4 venomous snakes popular to the area:

  • Texas Coral Snake

  • Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)

  • Southern Copperhead

  • Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

1.) Texas Coral Snake

Coral Snake by  Ralph Arvesen

Coral Snake by Ralph Arvesen

“Red next to yellow kills a fellow. Red next to black is a friend to Jack."  Words to live by...

This red-and-yellow-kill-a-fellow is the most venomous snake in Southeast Texas, but their bites account for less than one percent of United States snake bites.  The coral snake is shy, rarely seen and is usually non-aggressive, even though its bites are very dangerous. 

Physical Characteristics:

  • The Texas Coral Snake is small and slender (usually 2-1/2 feet or shorter).
  • Has a distinctive pattern of a broad black ring, a narrow yellow ring and a broad red ring, with the red rings always bordered by the yellow rings.  Several harmless snakes are similarly marked, but never with the red and yellow touching.
  • Has round pupils.  The general rule of thumb in identifying a venomous snake is that they have pupils that resemble cats' eyes (like a slit in the center of the eye), while non-venomous snakes have round pupils.  The exception to this rule is the very venomous coral snake, who has round pupils.

2.) Cottonmouth (Water Moccasins)

Western Cottonmouth Water Moccasin By  Patrick Feller

Western Cottonmouth Water Moccasin By Patrick Feller

Cottonmouths, also known as water moccasins, are one of the most dangerous snakes in Southeast Texas.  Although their venom is not as dangerous as a coral snake, they are aggressive.  It's actually North America's only venomous water snake.  They are semi-aquatic, so they're happy both swimming in water and basking on land.

Physical Characteristics:

  • Water moccasins are relatively large, often ranging from 2 to 4 feet long with thick, stout bodies. 
  • Their coloration varies from dark brown or black to olive, banded with brown or yellow, and they are covered in ridged scales.  Their bellies are paler than their backs. 
  • They have large jowls, due to their venom glands and a blocky, triangular head that is distinct from their thinner necks. 
  • They have "cat-eye" pupils and dark stripes by each nostril and pale snouts. 
  • Interestingly, the explanation for its name "Cottonmouth" is because of the bright white lining of the mouth that it displays as a warning to predators and prey alike.
Juvenile Western Cottonmouth Water Moccasin By  Patrick Feller

Juvenile Western Cottonmouth Water Moccasin By Patrick Feller

**Young water moccasins look different than adults!**  Juveniles and young adults have bands across their bodies and are lighter brown.  Their patterns, which can be striking, fade or are lost as they age.  The juveniles also differ from adults by having bright-yellow tail tips that they use as a wagging lure to attract prey, such as frogs, withing striking distance

Side Note: Two beneficial, non-venomous snakes are often mistaken for cottonmouths and killed - the diamondback water snake and the yellow-bellied water snake. These two are the most likely to fall into your boat, but both kill and eat venomous cottonmouths, and therefore should be considered beneficial to have around.

3.) Southern Copperhead

Southern Copperhead By  tom spinker

Southern Copperhead By tom spinker

Copperheads have a reputation for having a beautiful appearance and a nasty disposition, responsible for inflicting numerous bites in Texas.  They do not have the most toxic venom of snakes in the United States, but Copperheads CAN and DO inflict serious bites that require immediate medical attention.

Physical Characteristics:

  • These copperhead snakes get their name, fittingly, from their copper-red heads. 
  • They are medium-size snakes, averaging between 2 and 3 feet in length, with muscular, thick bodies and ridged scales. 
  • Copperheads' bodies are distinctly patterned: a series of dark, chestnut-brown or reddish-brown crossbands, each shaped like an hourglass, on a background of lighter brown, tan, salmon or pinkish. 
  • In contrast to its patterned body, the snake's somewhat triangular/arrow-shaped, coppery-brown head lacks such adornments, except for a pair of tiny dark dots usually present on top of the head. 
  • Their pupils are vertical slits, like cats' eyes, and their irises are usually orange, tan or reddish-brown. 

Side Note: Several other non-venomous species of snakes have similar coloring, and so are frequently confused for copperheads. However, copperheads are the only kind of snakes with hourglass-shaped markings.

4.) Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake   Larry Smith

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Larry Smith

The western diamondback will coil, rattle fearsomely, and stand its ground when threatened.  However it does NOT always rattle to warn a victim.  It bites hundreds of people a year, more than any other venomous snake in the United States.

Physical Characteristics:

  • The Western diamondback rattlesnake ranges in size from 3 to 5 feet long with a few reaching 7 feet long. 
  • It's a heavy bodied snake with a triangular shaped head, and has two dark diagonal lines on each side of its face running from the eyes to its jaws. 
  • It has dark diamond-shaped patterns along its back outlined by lighter-colored scales.
  • The tail has black and white bands just above the rattles, like the pattern of a raccoon’s tail. 
  • Its patterns are most distinctive when the snake is young and are more faded, blurred and camouflaged when it is older.

Interesting Fact: A rattlesnake can move its rattle back and forth 60 or more times per second!

What to do and What NOT to do If Bitten by a Venomous Snake:

  • If you are bitten by a venomous snake, you need to get to a hospital right away, even before you start experiencing swelling or pain.
  • It helps emergency crews if you know what kind of snake bit you, or can at least describe it.
  • Before leaving your home, be sure to wash the wound and apply antiseptic.  You should also remove watches, rings and shoes before the swelling begins.
  • It's a common misconception that sucking the poison out, or cutting or freezing the infected area, will help.  Snake bite victims are advised NOT to do this. They also should NOT apply a tourniquet, which can cause gangrene.

Preventive Measures to Help Keep Snakes Away From Your Yard: