Every year, roughly 8,000 venomous snake bites are reported in the United States. That’s a lot of bad days for folks who probably never saw it coming and were just headed out to enjoy the outdoors. The good news is, on average, only about 5 of those 8,000 bites end up being fatal. That said, it’s best to avoid being bitten by one of these creatures in general. The first step to protecting yourself from being one of the 8,000 this year, and in years to come, is knowing how to identify the kind of venomous snake that lives in your neck of the woods. We’ve taken the liberty of lining out the usual suspects, according to region. Here’s who made our list.
The Wild West is home to the Western diamondback rattlesnake. Though not a large as its Eastern cousin, this highly venomous snake is not to be overlooked. Populating a range that spans from Mexico in the south, to Washington in the north, the Western Diamondback produces an incredible amount of venom in comparison to other rattlesnakes…upwards of 800mg can be transferred to you in a single bite. This venom causes internal bleeding and is specifically geared to break down muscles. Considered to be the most aggressive member of the rattlesnake family, the Western diamondback can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh up to 15 pounds. If you find live on the West Coast and value your time outdoors, it is best to keep an eye out for this snake, whose quick and short rattle will let you know that you’ve stepped onto its turf.
The South has its own special and deadly kind of snake, perfectly suited to the swampy habitats and warm weather of the region. Known as cottonmouth, but also called the “water moccasin,” this snake is semi-aquatic viper. It is, in fact, the only semi-aquatic viper in the world. Though the bite of a cottonmouth is incredibly dangerous to humans, these snakes are not the type to bite unless truly antagonized. The good news about these guys is that they tend to posture up and hiss for quite a while before they strike. Cottonmouth snakes also have a habit of opening their mouths nice and wide, as a warning, to let you see just what kind of trouble you could be in if they strike. Primarily found in the southern US but also spotted offshore on islands of the East Coast, these snakes can reach up to 6-feet long.
While technically considered to be the third deadliest snake of the rattlesnake family, timber rattlesnake can grow up to 6-feet long and weigh in at 10 pounds. That’s a lot of snake. The large size and incredibly long fangs make this snake as deadly as it is intimidating. The good news is that these snakes are usually not the type to strike defensively. Dissimilar to the western diamondback, the timber rattlesnake will perform a long and pronounced rattle before going on the attack. These snakes have brown and black coloring, they prefer to blend in with the leafy environments of the rural East Coast and are masters of camouflage.
In the Midwest, the snake to be on the lookout for is the Eastern Massauga rattlesnake. Sometimes referred to as “the black rattlesnake,” the venom of the Massauga is not as toxic as its counterparts in different regions of the country. Commonly found in Colorado, throughout Michigan and also in the upper Missouri, the Massauga has a wide range and is very resilient. Smaller than most rattlesnakes, these guys rarely grow to more than 2-feet long. Though technically a pit viper, the Massauga is the least likely in the family to defensively strike. When it does bite, the venom is capable of causing death if untreated. They are mostly found in grasslands, and almost never seen in areas about 1,500 feet in elevation.