1. Head usually oval, but may be somewhat triangular.
2. Pupils round.
3. No pits-only nostrils present.
4. Divided scales on underside of tail
5. Although many snakes vibrate their tail when upset, nonpoisonous snakes never have rattles
1. Head distinctly triangular.
2. Pupils elliptical.
3. Pits as well as nostrils present.
4. Undivided scales on underside of tail.
5. Except for the copperhead, tail ends in a rattle.
Ohio has only three species of poisonous snakes, two of which have rattles at the end of the tail. The third species is the copperhead. Although many believe the water moccasin occurs in Ohio, it actually ranges no farther north than the Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia. Water moccasins are not native to Ohio. An average of 5 to 15 people die of snakebites annually in the United States. Considerably more people are killed by lightning.
Anyone bitten by a poisonous snake will soon know it. Moderate symptoms will include mild swelling, discoloration, and pain at the wound site, and may also include general tingling, weakness, rapid pulse, dimness of vision, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Severe symptoms include rapid swelling and numbness, followed by severe pain at the wound site; there may also be pinpoint-size pupils, facial twitching, slurred speech, convulsions, paralysis, and loss of consciousness.
|REPTILE PHOTO INDEX
Fence lizard, northern
Wall lizard, European
Poisonous Ohio Snakes
Brown snake, midland
Brown snake, northern
Fox snake, eastern
Garter snake, Butler's
Garter snake, eastern
Garter snake, eastern plains
Green snake, eastern smooth
Green snake, rough
Green snake, western smooth
Hog-nosed snake, eastern
Milk snake, eastern
Rat snake, black
Red-bellied snake, northern
Ribbon snake, eastern
Ring necked snake, northern
Smooth earth snake, eastern
Water snake, copperbelly
Water snake, Lake Erie
Water snake, northern
Worm snake, eastern
Worm snake, midwest
Box turtle, eastern
Map turtle, common
Map turtle, Ouachita
Musk turtle, common
Painted turtle, midland
Smooth softshell turtle, midland
Spiny softshell turtle, eastern
Begin first aid treatment by keeping the victim calm and immobile, preferably lying down. Immobilize the bitten limb, at or below heart level. If the victim will be able to get to a hospital within 4 or 5 hours-and no symptoms develop-no more first aid is necessary.
For moderate symptoms, apply a band 3/4 inch to 11/2 inches wide to the limb, 2 to 4 inches above the wound (but not around a joint, or on the head, neck, or trunk). Make it snug, but loose enough so you can slip a finger under it. Check the victim's pulse beyond the band periodically, to be sure blood is flowing past the band. Loosen the band if it becomes too tight.
For severe symptoms, apply the band, and then make a shallow cut-just through the skin-through each fang puncture, 1/2 inch long and parallel with the long axis of the limb. (Make no cuts on the head, neck, or trunk). Apply a suction cup for 30 minutes, or use your mouth to such out the venom. Don't apply ice packs or any other kind of cold therapy. Continue treatment until you can get medical help.
Most people who die of snakebite today die because they didn't seek medical help or delayed too long in going to the hospital. Preventive medicine is the best method for dealing with snakebites.
Learn how to distinguish poisonous from nonpoisonous snakes and learn where to find-and therefore how to avoid-the poisonous ones. Five characteristics can be checked to determine whether any snake found in Ohio is poisonous:
Agkistrodon contortrix mokeson
Length 24-36 in.
Copperheads have the dubious distinction of having bitten more people in the United States than any other poisonous snake, yet fewer snakebite deaths are attributed to the copperhead. Although the bite is rarely fatal, it is extremely painful.
Copperheads are widely scattered throughout most of unglaciated Ohio. Although they occupy a variety of habitats from floodplains to ridgetops, they show a marked preference for the rocky, wooded hillsides of southeastern Ohio. They are not as averse to civilization as the timber rattler but copperheads tend to stay away from well settled areas.
Their coloration not only acts as excellent camouflage, but also makes them one of Ohio's most beautiful reptiles. When encountered, copperheads are usually content to lie motionless, or retreat if given the chance. But if aroused, they will vibrate their tail rapidly and strike wildly, much like their more aggressive relative the cottonmouth water moccasin.
Except in early spring and late fall, most of their day is spent in hiding. They hunt small mammals, birds, and amphibians by night. One of the best ways to see copperheads is to go for a drive at night, especially after a warm rain has broken a long hot, dry spell. Copperheads enjoy lying on wet, steaming roads.
Sistrurus catenatus catenatus
Length 20-30 in.
"Swamp rattler" and "black snapper" are other names given to this small rattlesnake. The name massasauga is from the Chippewa Indian language. Although recorded in 17 Ohio counties, the secretive massasauga swamp rattlers are widely scattered. They are rarely seen except where they are fairly common, in places such as Killdeer Plains and Mosquito Creek wildlife areas. Originally, these rattlers probably inhabited the scattered prairies of glaciated Ohio, but extensive farming has drastically reduced their numbers. Colonies still persist in bogs, swamps, and wet prairies within glaciated Ohio. Few, however, are found in the Lake Erie marshes. During summer these rattlers range upland into nearby drier areas in search of small rodents.
Massasaugas typically are very sluggish and make little or no attempt to bite unless thoroughly aroused. The bite is seldom, if ever, fatal to a healthy adult. Although the venom is highly toxic, it is not injected deeply by the small fangs, or in large enough quantities to be lethal. This is still a poisonous snake, however, and should be treated with utmost caution and respect.
Its color varies from gray to brownish gray-and some specimens are almost entirely black. The stout-bodied massasauga can easily be identified by its small but conspicious rattle.
Length 36-54 in.
By virtue of their large size, timber rattlers are the most dangerous snakes in northeastern America. They may attain a length in excess of six feet, but average three to four feet long. Fortunately, when encountered most timber rattlers are mild in disposition unless aroused, and make little attempt to rattle or strike. Most remain coiled or quickly crawl away if given the opportunity. However, if thoroughly aroused they can make a good showing.
The first part of the scientific name, Crotalus, is derived from the Greek word krotalon, which means a "rattle." The second part, horridus, is the Latin word for standing on end." Combined, they provide an excellent description of the rattler's stalking pose.
Because of their secretive nature, their numbers have been drastically reduced by development. Remnant colonies persist in widely scattered areas in southern unglaciated Ohio. Timber rattlers are most numerous in the more remote areas of Zaleski, Pike, Shawnee, and Tar Hollow state forests. They prefer dry, wooded hill country where they prey on a variety of small warmblooded animals. Until the 1950s, these rattlers inhabited some of the Lake Erie islands as well as the Catawba and Marblehead peninsulas of Ottawa County. It is doubtful that they still exist in these areas, as there have been no confirmed sightings since the 1950s.
These rattlers have two basic color phases. The yellow phase has a series of dark brown or black chevron-shaped crossbands on a ground color of brownish yellow. The black phase has the crossbands on a ground color of blackish brown.
Contrary to popular belief, the age of a rattlesnake cannot be determined by counting the number of rattles at the end of its tail. A new segment develops every time the skin is shed, two to four times per year, and old segments occasionally break off.