26 Types of Venomous Snakes Found in the USA! (ID Guide)

What kinds of venomous snakes can you find in the United States?”

common venomous snakes

 

This question is extremely common. Everyone wants to know if any dangerous snakes live near them and what they look like!

 

Believe it or not, you can find TWENTY-SIX types of venomous snakes in the United States. But please don’t live in fear, thinking that you are going to be bitten. In general, snakes try to avoid any contact or interaction with people. As long as you leave them alone, you shouldn’t have any trouble!

 

Did you know that snakes are considered venomous, NOT poisonous? If you eat something that makes you sick, then it’s considered “poisonous.” If an animal, like a snake, delivers its toxins when it bites, then it’s considered “venomous.”

 

*If you come across any of these species, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB! Venomous snakes are dangerous animals and should be left alone. The more you agitate them, the more likely you could get bitten. DO NOT RELY ON THIS ARTICLE to correctly identify a snake that has recently bitten you. If you have recently been bitten, GO DIRECTLY to the nearest hospital to get help and to determine if the snake is venomous.*

 

26 Venomous Snakes That Live in the United States:

 


#1. Eastern Copperhead

  • Agkistrodon contortrix

common kinds of venomous snakes

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults reach lengths between 20 and 37 inches.
  • Stout body and broad head and elliptical pupils.
  • Coloration varies from pale tan to pinkish-tan with darker, splotchy, hourglass-shaped bands, which are darker at the edges and thinner towards the center of the back.

 

Look for these venomous snakes in the United States in deciduous forests and mixed woodlands, often near rocky outcroppings. However, they may also be seen in swampy areas, coniferous forests, and near river habitats. You’re most likely to see them active during the day in the spring and fall when the weather is cooler. During the middle of summer, Eastern Copperheads are often nocturnal.

Eastern Copperhead Range Map

copperhead range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

This species is an ambush hunter, meaning that it selects a suitable site and waits to surprise its prey. In addition, copperheads are considered “pit vipers,” which means they have a heat-sensing organ located between their eyes. This adaptation helps these venomous snakes locate and judge the size of their prey by being able to sense infrared!

 

Bites from these venomous snakes are rarely fatal in the United States.

 

The venom they produce has relatively low potency. In addition, copperheads also frequently employ false strikes, dry bites, and warning bites. Dry bites contain no venom, and warning bites have a relatively small amount of venom.

 

These snakes primarily feed on small rodents, frogs, birds, and large insects, such as cicadas. After the initial bite, they will wait for the venom to take effect before consuming their prey whole.

 

When threatened, Eastern Copperheads use a “freeze” defense. Their excellent camouflage coloration allows them to blend into the leaf litter and soil. However, they may also vibrate their tails in the leaves when approached to produce a buzzing sound. This noise may serve to warn predators, similar to a rattlesnake, or divert a predator’s attack to their tail.

 


#2. Broad-banded Copperhead

  • Agkistrodon laticinctus

venomous snakes that are common

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 20 to 36 inches in length.
  • Tan coloration with wide, dark bands.
  • Broad head is distinct from the neck, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and elliptical pupils.

 

The Broad-banded Copperhead is found in woodland habitats that include oak, cedar, and juniper trees. They prefer areas with heavy leaf litter or pine needles and can sometimes be spotted near rotten logs, piles of woody debris, ledges, and rocky bluffs.

Broad-banded Copperhead Range Map

copperhead range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

Like its cousin, the Eastern Copperhead, this species is an ambush hunter. Its superb camouflage allows it to wait and strike unsuspecting prey. The Broad-banded Copperhead is opportunistic and feeds on a wide range of creatures, including rodents, birds, lizards, frogs, and insects.

 

When threatened, these venomous snakes normally lie motionless, relying on camouflage for defense. This adaptation sometimes leads to unaware humans and pets stepping on them. They may also vibrate their tail in the leaf litter and lift it up as a warning. If they continue to be disturbed, they may deliver false strikes or bite.

 

Broad-banded Copperheads have a hemotoxic venom that destroys blood cells and tissue. Luckily, bites to humans are uncommon, and the venom is not ordinarily deadly to healthy adults but can cause localized swelling, necrosis, and severe pain. If bitten, medical attention should be sought.

 


#3. Northern Cottonmouth

  • Agkistrodon piscivorus

venomous snake species that are common

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 26 to 35 inches in length. Females are typically smaller than males.
  • Most individuals are dark gray to black with a broad head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, elliptical pupils, and a blunt snout.
  • Some individuals have a brown, gray, tan, or blackish coloration.

 

Cottonmouths are the ONLY aquatic venomous snake in the United States.

 

Be on the lookout for them near bodies of water, including swamps, marshes, ponds, and slow-moving streams and rivers, as well as semi-permanent water sources like flooded fields and drainage ditches. But they aren’t limited to just aquatic habitats and can also be found in palmetto thickets, pine forests, dune areas, and prairies.

Northern Cottonmouth Range Map

cottonmouth range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

Since they are typically near water, the bulk of their diet is made up of fish and frogs. But they are opportunistic and will also eat small mammals, birds, turtles, small alligators, and other snakes.

 

These venomous snakes, which are also commonly called Water Moccasins, Black Moccasins, or Gapers, have several defensive tactics. They often vibrate their tail in the leaf litter, pull their heads up and back, and then open their mouth to hiss and expose a white interior. This particular display is what earned them the name “cottonmouth.”

 

Luckily, receiving a bite from a Northern Cottonmouth is rare. But when it does happen, it is very serious. Their venom destroys tissue and is more toxic than a copperhead but not as severe as a rattlesnake. It is rare to die from their bite, but it does cause swelling and bruising and can leave scars.

 


#4. Florida Cottonmouth

  • Agkistrodon conanti

florida cottonmouth

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 30 to 48 inches in length.
  • Heavy bodied with speckled, splotchy light and dark brown banding, which darkens with age.
  • Dark, broad facial stripe through the eye. Look for elliptical, cat-like pupils and heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils.

 

The Florida Cottonmouth used to be considered a subspecies of the Northern Cottonmouth, but now it’s its own species! They are typically found in or near bodies of water, including marshes, swamps, lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. They also inhabit the woodlands near these water sources.

Florida Cottonmouth Range Map

cottonmouth range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These venomous snakes are excellent swimmers and often eat aquatic prey such as baby alligators, small turtles, frogs, and fish. As a member of the pit viper family, they have facial pits which they use to detect infrared radiation when hunting.

 

Interestingly, when hunting in the water, they typically hold their kill in their mouth while the venom takes effect. But when hunting on land, they release their prey, such as rodents, and track it to consume once it dies. The thought is that land animals, like rodents, are more likely to bite back, so it makes sense to make sure they are dead.

florida cottonmouth venomous snake

Florida Cottonmouths, which are also called Water Moccasins, don’t typically flee when confronted. They give the classic “cottonmouth” threat display, showing the startlingly white interior of their mouth and emitting a hissing sound.

 


#5. Eastern Coral Snake

  • Micrurus fulvius

common venomous snakes

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Generally less than 30 inches in length.
  • Slender body with wide red and black bands separated by narrow yellow stripes.
  • Black head. Look for black specks in the red bands.

 

Sometimes called the Common Coral Snake, Coral Adder, or the American Cobra, this species is a highly venomous snake found in the United States. They primarily feed on frogs, lizards, and other smaller snakes. A potent neurotoxin, their venom causes rapid paralysis and respiratory failure for their prey.

Rarely seen by humans, these venomous snakes spend most of their time underground. Because of this fact, Eastern Coral Snakes rarely bite humans. When they do bite, the venom is seldom deadly when medical treatment is immediately sought.

 

coral snake vs scarlet snake

Eastern Coral Snakes are sometimes confused with Scarlet Snakes and Scarlet King Snakes, both of which are entirely harmless. To help distinguish these species, you may use the following rhyme, Red next to black, safe from attack; red next to yellow, you’re a dead fellow.

 

In early summer, female Eastern Coral Snakes lay 3-12 eggs which hatch in late summer or early fall. Coral snakes are the only venomous snakes in the United States that lay eggs. Other species, like rattlesnakes and copperheads, are ovoviviparous, which means they give birth to live young!

 


#6. Texas Coral Snake

  • Micrurus tener

venomous snake species

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 20-30 inches in length.
  • Red and black banding with narrower bands of yellow in between.
  • Smooth scales and black-colored specks within red bands.

 

The Texas Coral Snake was once considered to be a subspecies of the Eastern Coral Snake. Although it looks similar and shares the same coloration, it is slightly longer and thicker than its eastern cousin.

These venomous snakes are rarely seen in the United States.

 

They are nocturnal and spend most of their time hiding underground or beneath leaf litter or rotting logs. Your best chance to see a Texas Coral Snake is on a warm rainy night when the temperature remains above 78°F.

 

Interestingly, when threatened, these snakes often pass gas. Listen for a popping sound that comes from the snake’s cloaca. Scientists believe this may be a mechanism to ward off predators.

 

This interesting snake feeds almost exclusively on other snakes, with Thread snakes being their most favorite victims, though skinks may also be consumed. Like other coral snakes, this species is venomous and has a potent neurotoxin that is used to immobilize and kill prey.

 


#7. Arizona Coral Snake

  • Micruroides euryxanthus

the most common venomous snakes

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically between 11 and 24 inches long.
  • Smooth scales with bands of red and black, which are divided by narrower bands of light yellow or white.
  • The head is black, and the red bands are typically absent from the tail.

 

Arizona Coral Snakes, which are also called Sonoran Coral Snakes, can be found in desert scrublands, semi-desert grasslands, rocky canyons, and oak woodlands. Due to their secretive nature and the fact they are nocturnal, these venomous snakes are not often seen.

 

These snakes rarely harm people in the United States, despite being highly venomous.

 

They are generally considered non-aggressive and have small, fixed fangs that make it difficult for them to deliver venom to larger animals. However, they should still be treated with care if found!

 

Coral snakes use their toxic venom to immobilize and kill prey. Interestingly, this species feeds primarily on other snakes, with Thread snakes being their most favorite victims. However, they also consume various types of lizards.

 

You may hear them produce a “popping” sound when threatened or captured, which sounds like they are passing gas. This noise is made by expelling air from their cloaca.

 


#8. Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus adamanteus

eastern diamond back rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 3 to 6 feet long!
  • Coloration is a mixture of browns, yellows, grays, or olive. Look for the distinctive diamonds that run down their back.
  • A black band covers the eyes, which have vertical, cat-like pupils. A pit between the eye and nostril is present on each side, and adults have their distinctive rattle.

 

This species is the longest, heaviest venomous snake in the United States!

 

Some impressive individuals have even grown up to 8 feet long. They prefer relatively dry habitats, including pine forests, palmetto flatwoods, mixed woodlands, and scrublands. They can also be spotted around the borders of wetlands and in wet prairies and savannas. The best time to look for these rattlesnakes is during the morning and evening, as this is when they are most active.

Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake Range Mapeastern diamond back rattlesnake

These impressive venomous snakes can strike as far as two-thirds of their body length, meaning a six-foot individual can reach prey four feet away! When attacking, they inject their prey, which includes mice, rabbits, and squirrels, with venom. Once their victim is bitten, they release it, and they track it to the place it has died to consume.

 

 

As you may have guessed, Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes typically issue a warning with their rattle when threatened. If you hear this sound, make sure to back away and move along, or you risk being bitten. Interestingly, young snakes don’t have a rattle, as it grows as they get older. Each time an individual sheds their skin, a new section is added (though sections do commonly break off).

 

During the breeding season, males will fight for dominance. They lift their bodies and try to throw the other on the ground. And once born, these venomous snakes can live for 20 years or more!

 


#9. Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus atrox

western diamondback rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically grow to about 4 feet in length.
  • Coloration ranges from brown, gray, brick red, pinkish, and chalky white. Look for the darker diamond-shaped blotches down its back, which are outlined by white scales.
  • Broad, spade-shaped head with a black mask over the eyes. Elliptical pupils and pits between eyes and nostrils.
  • A rattle on the tail alternates between black and white-colored bands.

 

This famous venomous snake has a wide range of habitats in the United States!

 

You might spot them in deserts, grassy plains, forested areas, coastal prairies, rocky hillsides, and river bottoms. But your best chance to see one might be on a rural road in the evening because of the heat the pavement retains.

Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake Range Map

western diamondback rattlesnake

Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes hibernate in communal caves, dens, or rock ledges called hibernacula during the winter. They sometimes share these spaces with snakes of other species and can survive in hibernation for several months without eating.

 

The Western Diamond-backed feeds on small mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, prairie dogs, rabbits, mice, and rats. They will also consume birds that fly within reach. Like other pit vipers, they ambush their prey and track them while the venom takes effect.

 

When threatened, the Western Diamond-backed will typically stand its ground. They rattle and coil, lifting themselves off the ground to prepare to strike.

 

If you hear their characteristic rattle, make sure to leave the area slowly! Due to their specialized fang and large venom glands, these snakes can deliver a lot of venom in a single bite! Untreated bites have a mortality rate of 10 – 20%, so make sure to get to the hospital quickly if struck!

 

These venomous snakes reach sexual maturity at three years of age and mate in the spring after emerging from hibernation. Females give birth to ten to twenty live babies. The young snakes have a high mortality rate, but those that survive may live for 20 years or more!

 


#10. Timber Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus horridus

timber rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 30 to 60 inches in length.
  • Coloration is variable, and generally ranges from yellowish brown to gray to almost black. Look for dark brown or black crossbands on their back.
  • Heavy-bodied with characteristic rattle on the tail.

 

The Timber Rattlesnake, which is also known as the Canebrake Rattlesnake, can be found in a wide variety of habitats in the United States. Look for these venomous snakes in lowland thickets, high areas around rivers and flood plains, agricultural areas, deciduous forests, and coniferous forests.

Timber Rattlesnake Range Map

timber rattlesnake range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These venomous snakes are ambush predators, waiting for unsuspecting prey to come within range of their strike. They feed primarily on small mammals but may also consume frogs, birds, and other smaller snakes. Timber Rattlesnakes strike their prey and release them, waiting until the venom has taken effect before eating them.

 

These venomous snakes are potentially the most dangerous species found in the United States due to their large size, long fangs, and high yield of venom. Luckily, Timber Rattlenskaes have a mild disposition and don’t often bite. They typically give plenty of warning by rattling and posturing.

 

The Timber Rattlesnake has played an interesting role in U.S. history. As it can be found in the area of the original 13 Colonies, it was used as a symbol during the American Revolution. In 1775 it was featured at the center of the “Gadsden Flag.” This yellow flag depicts a coiled and ready-to-strike Timber Rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me.”

 


#11. Rock Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus lepidus

rock rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults rarely exceed 32 inches in length.
  • Robust snake with a tail rattle, elliptical pupils, and a heat-sensing pit between the eyes and nostril.
  • Coloration reflects the local environment and is typically gray to green with dark brown or black banding. There may be dark speckles between the bands.

 

These small venomous snakes inhabit arid habitats in the United States, including grasslands and mountainous areas up to 9600 feet of elevation. They’re often spotted in rocky outcrops and rocky man-made roads. They will shelter in animal burrows, under rocks, and in or under rotting stumps and logs.

Rock Rattlesnake Range Maprock rattlesnake range map

Rock Rattlesnakes are a diurnal species, which means you’re most likely to see them out during daylight hours. However, they’re somewhat secretive and hard to spot due to their excellent camouflage.

 

Rock Rattlesnakes primarily feed on lizards but will also consume centipedes, small mammals, birds, and other snakes when available. Like other rattlesnakes, they use their venom to subdue their prey before consuming it. The venom can cause swelling, bleeding, extreme pain, and local necrosis in humans.

 

Unfortunately, these venomous snakes are often seen in the exotic animal trade for their beauty and relatively docile nature. Rock Rattlesnakes are known to be declining and are considered threatened in some parts of their range. Additionally, they are listed as a species of least concern on the ICUN Red List.

 


#12. Black-tailed Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus molossus

black-tailed rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 32 to 40 inches in length.
  • Coloration is mixtures of yellow, olive green, brown, or black with darker blotches, diamonds, or bands with light edges.
  • Elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between eye and nostril, and distinctive uniform black or dark gray tail with a rattle.

 

Black-tailed Rattlesnakes inhabit deserts, grasslands, and rocky mountainous areas. They prefer warm and rocky areas like the sides of canyons and caves where they can easily find shelter. They hibernate in animal burrows or rock crevices during the winter.

Black-tailed Rattlesnake Range Mapblack tailed rattlesnake range map

In the spring and fall in the southwest United States, these venomous snakes are more likely to be seen during the day. As the weather gets hotter in summer, they become more nocturnal to avoid the heat.

 

Black-tailed Rattlesnakes feed on rodents, other small mammals, birds, and small reptiles. Like other rattlesnakes, they use their hemotoxic venom to subdue prey.

 

They are generally considered docile venomous snakes, and bites to humans are very rare. They’re believed to be less toxic than other species like the Western Diamondback. However, a bite should still be treated at a hospital!

 


#13. Mojave Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus scutulatus

mojave rattlesnake

  • Adults range from 2 to 4 feet in length.
  • Coloration is green, gray, brown, tan, or yellow with darker diamond or diamond-like markings down the back.
  • Heavy-bodied, triangular head, elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the nostrils and eyes, and a black and white banded rattle at the end of the tail.

 

Sometimes called the Mojave Green, these venomous snakes are generally found in arid habitats. They prefer desert flatland with sparse vegetation, high desert, mountain slopes, grassy plains, Joshua tree woodlands, and scrub brush areas.

Mojave Rattlesnake Range Map

The Mojave Rattlesnake is one of the most venomous snakes in the United States!

 

Their venom contains both neurotoxins that attack the nervous system and hemotoxins that attack the blood. These snakes are ambush predators and use their camouflage to wait unseen for unsuspecting lizards, rodents, toads, and snakes.

 

Interestingly they are sometimes confronted by California Ground Squirrels. These ground squirrels are resistant to snake venom and adept at dodging strikes. They will defend their pups from the Mojave Rattlesnake with vigor!

 

When disturbed, these venomous snakes will give the characteristic tail rattle as a warning. Their potent venom means that you should give them distance and respect. If someone is bitten, chances of survival are good so long as medical attention is sought immediately.

 


#14. Prairie Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus viridis

prairie rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range between 3.3 and 5 feet in length.
  • Coloration is highly variable and can be greenish-gray, olive green, greenish-brown, light brown, or yellow. All variations have dark blotches on the body that turn into rings near the tail.
  • Broad triangular head, elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and a tail rattle.

 

These venomous snakes can be found in the United States in open prairies, grasslands, semi-desert shrublands, and forested environments. They can even be found at elevations up to 9500 feet!

Prairie Rattlesnake Range Mapprairie rattlesnake range map

The Prairie Rattlesnake hibernates during the winter, often in communal dens. These dens are typically rock crevices, caves, or old mammal burrows. Individual snakes will return to the same den each winter and migrate up to seven miles to their hunting grounds in the spring.

 

When they feel threatened, these snakes will freeze, trying to use their camouflage to avoid detection. They may also quietly crawl away to cover. If approached, they may coil and rattle their tail as a warning before striking. Their potent venom has both hemotoxic and neurotoxic properties, and although rare, can be fatal to an adult human.

 

Prairie Rattlesnakes are listed on the ICUN Red List as a species of least concern. However, they are considered threatened and declining in parts of their range. They have faced pressure from habitat fragmentation and hunting.

 


#15. Eastern Massasauga

  • Sistrurus catenatus

eastern massasauga

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically around 2 feet in length.
  • Coloration is gray or light brown with darker chocolate-brown blotches on the back and smaller ones on the sides, which feature light edges.
  • Thick body, vertical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and heart-shaped head.

 

These small venomous snakes live primarily in wet habitats in the United States.

 

The name “Massasauga” actually comes from the Chippewa language and means “great river mouth” and describes their habitat. Look for them in floodplain forests, shrub swamps, low areas along rivers and lakes, wet prairies, moist grasslands, bogs, and marshes. During the summer, they often migrate to drier regions adjacent to these habitats.

Eastern Massasauga Range Map

 

Unlike other rattlesnakes, the Eastern Massasauga hibernates alone. They frequently hibernate in crayfish burrows but may also use small mammal burrows or spaces under rotting logs or tree roots. Dens must be below the frost line, or they risk freezing to death!

 

These snakes have cytotoxic venom (poisonous to cells) that destroys tissue, which also has the dangerous quality of disrupting blood flow and preventing clotting. But these snakes are secretive, shy, and avoids humans when possible. The only times they bite seem to be when handled or accidentally stepped on!

 

This venomous snake is listed as threatened, endangered, or a species of concern in all parts of its range. Historically, these snakes have faced pressure from hunting, and many states had bounties and roundups for them. Today they are still often killed out of fear AND face diminishing wetland habitat.

 


#16. Western Massasauga

  • Sistrurus tergeminus

western massasauga

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 14 to 36 inches in length.
  • Coloration is gray to light brown with dark brown blotches on the back.
  • Thick body, large triangular head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, elliptical pupils, and rattle on the tail.

 

The Western Massasauga is one of the smallest venomous snakes in the country! They primarily inhabit grassland habitats but can also be found in open sagebrush prairie, rocky hillsides, prairie hillsides, open wetlands, and grassy wetlands.

Western Massasauga Range Map

western massasauga range map

This venomous snake is secretive and is not often seen in the United States.

 

When detected, they often freeze rather than rattling. However, when they do rattle, Western Massasaugas make a distinctive sound. Their rattle is significantly higher pitched than larger rattlesnakes and has earned this small snake the nickname “buzz tail.”

 

Though their venom is highly potent, the small quantity they deliver makes their bites much less likely to cause fatality in humans than some larger venomous snakes. However, you still need to respect them as their venom is hemotoxic and will cause localized swelling, extreme pain, and necrosis. Medical attention should be sought immediately if bitten!

 


#17. Pygmy Rattlesnake

  • Sistrurus miliarius

pygmy rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are small and range from 1 to 1.5 feet in length.
  • Coloration varies, as there are three subspecies of Pygmy Rattlesnake.
  • Thick body, dark bands that run from the corners of the eyes to the jaw, a small rattle prone to breaking, and elliptical pupils.

 

This species is the smallest venomous snake found in the United States!

 

Pygmy Rattlesnakes occupy a wide variety of habitats. Naturally, they can be found in pine forests, dry upland forests, floodplains, sandhills, and near lakes, rivers, and marshes. They are often encountered in urban areas and may be seen in gardens and brush piles.

Pygmy Rattlesnake Range Mappygmy rattlesnake range map

These venomous snakes are rarely seen because they are so small and well camouflaged. When they are found, they typically remain silent and motionless and rely on blending into their environment.

 

It’s rare to hear them rattle. When they do, it sounds more like a faint insect and can be hard to hear unless you’re within a few feet of one.

 

Due to the Pygmy Rattlesnake’s small size, a bite typically isn’t fatal to healthy adults and is considered less severe than the bite of most other venomous snakes. But make no mistake, these snakes’ cytotoxic venom can cause pain and necrosis for a few days.

 


#18. Western Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus oreganus

western rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult size varies widely over their range, with the largest individuals being 6 feet in length.
  • Coloration varies greatly and can be dark brown, yellowish, dark gray, or olive-brown.
  • Triangular head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, dark stripe with white borders that runs from the eye towards the jaw.

 

Also known as the Northern Pacific Rattle Snake, this venomous species occupies a wide range of habitats. They can be found in mountainous areas, woodlands, and grasslands. They also often occur in close proximity to humans.

Western Rattlesnake Range Mapwestern rattlesnake range map

Western Rattlesnakes have excellent camouflage and unique coloring, as these snakes show considerable variation. When they’re young, they have a distinct color pattern, but it fades over time as the snakes mature.

 

These snakes may be active during the day or night and are often curled, waiting to ambush a variety of prey. They’ll feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They may also eat bird eggs, and young snakes often feed on insects.

 

Like other rattlesnakes, this species gives birth to live young. Healthy, sexually mature females can give birth to litters of up to 25 babies!

 


#19. Arizona Black Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus cerberus

arizona black rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 31 to 43 inches in length.
  • Coloration is typically dark brown, dark gray, dark olive, or reddish-brown.
  • Thick body, triangular head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and a tail rattle.

 

This venomous snake is ONLY found in Arizona and can be a bit difficult to identify. They are often confused with the Western Diamond-backed or the Mojave Rattlesnake, which have overlapping ranges. The Arizona Black Rattlesnake changes color as it ages, with juvenile snakes tending to be much lighter in color. Adult snakes also can lighten or darken their color pattern in less than one hour to match their surroundings.

Arizona Black Rattlesnakearizona black rattlesnake range map

These snakes ambush a wide variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, and lizards. They’re often spotted under Velvet Mesquite, and some scientists believe that the mesquite seed pods may attract small mammals that these snakes prefer to hunt.

 

Although these snakes are considered relatively docile, they’re very dangerous. The Arizona Black Rattlesnake’s venom is over twice as toxic as Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes. Their bites are life-threatening, and medical attention should be sought immediately.

 


#20. Red Diamond Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus ruber

red diamond rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 39 to 59 inches in length. Size varies widely over their range.
  • Reddish coloration with diamond-shaped blotches down the back and alternating black and white bands on the tail.
  • Thick body, large triangular head, elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and tail rattle.

 

These moderately sized venomous snakes can be found in southern California. They occupy coastal and mountainous habitats as well as deserts. They prefer dense chaparral areas, cactus patches, and areas with a lot of boulders and brush.

Red Diamond Rattlesnake Range Mapred diamond rattlesnake range map

The Red Diamond Rattlesnake preys on a variety of small mammals, including rabbits and ground squirrels, as well as birds, lizards, and other snakes. Please note, they are also commonly called Northern Red Rattlesnakes in California.

 

Compared with other rattlesnakes, this species has one of the least potent venoms. They’re also considered to have a mild disposition and are unlikely to bite. However, they should still be treated with respect, and if bitten, you should go directly to the hospital.

 


#21. Speckled Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus mitchellii

speckled rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically don’t exceed 39 inches in length.
  • Coloration is a faded tan or light brown. The end of the tail has white coloration with narrow black rings that end in a rattle.
  • Large triangular head and heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils.

 

Look for this venomous snake in the southwest United States inhabiting rocky, arid country, including canyons, rocky hillsides, and rock ledges. Their color usually matches the color of the rocks and soil in their habitat.

Speckled Rattlesnake Range Mapspeckled rattlesnake range map

Speckled Rattlesnakes spend most of the daytime in the shelter of rocks and burrows to avoid the heat of the desert during the day. They’re mostly nocturnal and spend their nights hunting small mammals, though they’ll also consume birds and lizards.

 

Like other rattlesnakes, this species gives birth to live young. Mating occurs in the spring, and in late summer, the females give birth to litters of up to 12 young.

 


#22. Panamint Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus stephensi

panamint rattler

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 23 to 52 inches in length.
  • Coloration varies, and snakes can be mixtures of tan, yellow, off-white, gray, or brown with vague or distinct speckled banding.
  • Thick body and neck, large triangular head, elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, keeled scales, and a tail rattle.

 

The Panamint Rattlesnake is an ambush hunter and primarily waits by rodent trails for prey to pass by. They also feed on other small mammals, lizards, and birds and use their heat-sensing pits to help locate food. Once they strike, they let their victim run away, only to track them once the venom takes effect.

Panamint Rattlesnake Range Map

panamint rattlesnake rangemap

These venomous snakes will rattle when threatened. If you encounter an agitated one, make sure to back away slowly and leave the area. If pressed, these Panamint Rattlesnakes will strike, and bites require immediate medical attention due to their potent venom.

 

During the spring breeding season in the United States, males engage in what is known as the “combat dance.” Neither male is hurt, but they twine together and try to wrestle the other to the ground to determine who will get to mate with the desired female.

 


#23. Sidewinder

  • Crotalus cerastes

sidewinder

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are small and range from 17 to 30 inches in length.
  • Coloration may be cream, buff, gray, yellowish-brown, or pink with dark blotches down the middle of the back and smaller dark blotches down the sides.
  • They have distinctive supraocular scales, which look like horns over the eyes. Also commonly called Horned Rattlesnakes.

 

These venomous snakes are most active in the United States at dawn and dusk.

 

Sidewinders have a habit of submerging themselves in the sand with a practice called “cratering.” They shift their body from side to side to bury themselves. If you see “J” shaped tracks leading to a depression in the sand, be careful as there may be a dangerous snake buried underneath!

Sidewinder Range Mapsidewinder range map

While buried in the sand, the Sidewinder waits to ambush unsuspecting prey. They feed on small mammals, lizards, and birds. Juvenile snakes may use caudal luring with their tail tips, mimicking the movements of moths. The young snakes feed primarily on lizards, while mature snakes feed more on desert rodents.

 

Sidewinders get their name from their unique form of locomotion, where it appears they are slithering sideways! This adaptation allows them to travel quickly over loose sand (up to 18 mph) and also helps them stay cool in the desert heat. This movement leaves a characteristic “J” shape in the sand.

 

Sidewinder Rattlesnakes have moderately toxic venom and a relatively low venom yield compared to other rattlesnakes. Symptoms of a bite include pain, dizziness, necrosis, weakness, and discoloration. However, fatalities have occurred, and these venomous snakes are known to be somewhat aggressive. They should be treated with caution, and bites should be handled as a medical emergency.

 


#24. Tiger Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus tigris

tiger rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are relatively small and range in length from 18 to 36 inches.
  • Coloration is typically gray, blue-gray, buff, pink, or yellowish-brown. Look for darker crossbands down the back that may become blotches on the neck and head, which resemble a tiger’s patterning.
  • SMALL spade-shaped head, heat-sensing pit between the eyes and nostrils, elliptical pupils, and a large rattle.

 

The Tiger Rattlesnake is a small to moderately sized venomous snake found in the United States! They inhabit a wide range of habitats, including rocky slopes, desert scrubland, chaparral, semi-desert grasslands, canyons, and oak woodlands.

Tiger Rattlesnake Range Maptiger rattlesnake range map

Like many snakes that make their home in hot climates, Tiger Rattlesnakes are usually nocturnal during the summer to avoid the heat of the day. During cooler weather in spring and fall, they’re more likely to be active during the day. These snakes hibernate during the winter months, using old animal burrows or rock crevices as shelter.

 

This incredible species possesses the most toxic venom of any rattlesnake! Its venom is 40 times more toxic than that of the Eastern Diamondback, which is the largest venomous snake in the United States. The Tiger Rattlesnake’s venom contains a potent mycotoxin that causes muscle necrosis and a neurotoxin similar to that of the Mojave Rattlesnake.

 

Lastly, their small head size may be an important adaptation that goes along with their potent venom. If their prey crawls into a small space after being bitten, these snakes are able to pull them out easily.

 


#25. Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus willardi

ridge nosed rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are only 12 to 24 inches in length.
  • Coloration is typically reddish-brown to yellowish gray and matches the color of leaf litter in its habitat. White or pale horizontal striping on its body.
  • Look for two white streaks beneath the eyes, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, elliptical pupils, and tail rattle.

 

These reclusive venomous snakes are typically found in the United States at mid to high elevations in pine, oak, and juniper woodlands. Their limited mountainous habitat and small size means that sightings are rare.

Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake Range Mapridge nosed rattlesnake range map

Ridge-nosed Rattlesnakes are threatened across most of their habitat. Fires, mining, habitat loss from cattle farming, and deforestation are all challenges. In addition, these small snakes have to deal with getting killed and collected by humans.

 

During the breeding season, males compete hard for mating privileges. They raise their upper bodies, intertwine, and try to press the other male to the ground. Males are opportunistic breeders, but females can be very selective. Courting and mating occur in late summer or early fall from about July to August. Females typically reproduce every second or third year.

 


#26. Twin-spotted Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus pricei 

twin spotted rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 20-24 inches in length.
  • Coloration is typically gray, pale brown, blueish-gray, or reddish-brown. Rows of dark brown or black spots run down their body.
  • Dark stripes run from the eyes down past the corners of the mouth. The tail has dark crossbands and a rattle with an orange basal segment.

 

These venomous snakes are found at high elevations in the United States.

 

Because of this unique habitat and distinctive two rows of dark spots, they are hard to confuse with any other species.

 

Twin-spotted Rattlesnake Range Maptwin spotted rattlesnake range map

Twin-spotted Rattlesnakes are primarily active from March through November though they may come out during the winter to bask in the sun. They are typically diurnal and feed mainly on lizards but may also consume small mammals, birds, and occasionally other snakes, including their own species.

 

Twin-spotted Rattlesnakes don’t deliver a ton of venom when they bite, but it’s highly toxic! A bite from one of these venomous snakes causes serious and life-threatening symptoms. Medical attention should be sought immediately.

 


Do you need additional help identifying a venomous snake?

I recommend purchasing a Peterson Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America. These books have lots of helpful information, including pictures and range maps. View Cost - Amazon

 


Which of these venomous snakes have YOU seen in the United States?

 

Leave a comment below!

 

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