Usual characteristics of venomous snakes

22 May 2015
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22 May 2015, Comments: 0

Even though deaths caused by venomous or poisonous snakes are rare, it is vital to be well aware of these common characteristics of venomous snakes in order to avoid them while hiking. There are four main types of venomous snakes in the U.S. which includes copperheads, rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and coral snakes. Proper identification of snake bites is vital so that correct treatment can be started.

Pit vipers

The common types of venomous snakes are pit vipers. Take note that pit vipers are a type that possesses a sensory pit on its face.

Pit vipers can be identified by various common features of venomous snakes but coral snakes are easily identified by their distinctive color pattern. Even though there are exceptions, being familiar with the characteristics will help identify as well as avoid a potentially dangerous snake.



Being prepared to manage snake bites is vital.

You have to check first the head of the snake since the head shape is the most easily identifiable feature. When it comes to venomous snakes, they have an arrow-shaped or triangular head with the arrow point at the mouth or snout of the snake. In addition, the head has a flat rather than a round shape.


Poisonous snakes usually have slit-like eye pupils instead of round pupils. The pupil of the snake strikingly resembles the elliptical and vertical pupil of a cat.


Since most of the venomous snakes are pit vipers, you have to check for the presence of a pit on the face of the snake to determine if it is included in this category. Take note that the pit or hole is usually in between the nostrils and eyes of the snake or on the sides of its eyes on each side of the head. These heat-sensitive sensory pits help the poisonous snakes detect warm-bodied prey.


Most of the venomous snakes have a varied pattern instead of a solid color pattern. Some of the color patterns can appear as stripes or bands or as diamond-shaped patterns.


Even though you will not see or feel the fangs, they are retractable and hollow. With this in mind, they are capable of delivering venom into the body of the individual once they strike.


Rattlesnakes are considered as poisonous snakes and easily identified by the presence of a keratin rattle at the end of their tail. Rattlesnakes shake their rattle to generate a sound once threatened, thus you have to listen for this warning signal.

You should also check for any shed snake skin to determine the presence of venomous snakes in the area. These snakes usually have a single row of scales on the underside of the tail while non-venomous snakes have double row of scales.

Coral snakes

Coral snakes are not pit vipers and they lack the distinctive pit viper characteristics. It is important to note that coral snakes have rounded heads with round pupils in their eyes and absence of pits. You have to watch out for the snake’s characteristic black, yellow and red striped pattern. Some non-venomous snakes also possess these colors. The difference with the venomous type is that the red and yellow stripes are touching.

Being prepared to manage snake bites is vital. Methods seen on TV such as sucking out the wound or bleeding it out is not advisable. You can learn the basics in delivering proper first aid care by enrolling in a first aid course near you.

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