How to Identify Venomous Snakes in Florida

A Visual Guide on How to Identify Venomous Snakes in Florida

Know how to identify venomous snakes in Florida with the help of some basic characteristics of these cold-blooded creatures of the wild.
AnimalSake Staff
Last Updated: Jun 6, 2018
One of the most magnificent, and interesting creations of nature are snakes. In many cultures, especially those sprung from Eastern mythologies and folklore, snakes are worshiped as an embodiment of healing, new life, rebirth, sexuality, and psychic power. While in some cultures, they hold the reputation of being a messenger of the evil or evil itself.
Man has been able to discover about 2000 - 3000 different types of snake species, and the number is increasing with more and new discoveries of the same. Some snakes are venomous, while, surprisingly, most are non-venomous.
Timber Rattlesnake
Timber Rattlesnake
To start with the list, we have with us the timber rattlesnake, also known as canebrake rattlesnake. Besides from being found in Florida, the population of this large-sized snake also exists in other places of the eastern United States
Adults can grow up to 35.8 - 59.8 inches (2.95 - 4.98 ft), and the longest one recorded is 74.5 inches (6.2 ft). Its scientific name is Crotalus horridus, and the main identification feature of this reptile is its dorsal scales, which are keeled. Being keeled means having ridge down the center, which makes the scales rough to touch, rather than being smooth.
The timber rattlesnake gets its name from its body being yellowish-brown or gray. Another important identification of this creature is its pattern of dark brown or black crossbands, against the color of its body. And these crossbands can resemble the shape of "V" or "M". These may also be in the form of irregular zig-zag edges.
The center line of the back is run by a stripe that has a reddish tinge. In addition, there is a dark stripe that angles back from the eye. It is common to find most of this species of pit vipers to be of dark complexion, sometimes, to solid black.
Also known as Agkistrodon contortrix scientifically, the copperhead is found in several states of the United States, besides Florida. Usually, the snake can grow up to a length of 20 - 37 inches (1.6 - 3.1 ft).
A growth beyond 3.3 ft has also been recorded, and the maximum till now is 53 inches (4.41 ft). One important characteristic feature about this stout-bodied pit viper species is its broad head (which has a copper-red color on it thus, the name) that is distinct from the neck.
Usually, the snake is pale tan to pinkish tan ground color. And this becomes darker towards the midline of the body, which is then overlaid with dark brown to reddish-brown crossbands. These bands have an hour-glass appearance, and they tend to be thinner across the spine , and wide on the sides of the body.
Water Moccasin
Cottonmouth Strike
You can identify the cottonmouth by the inside of its mouth that is bright white. An important fact to know here is that this is the only semi-aquatic member of the viper family.
It is found in various regions of the United States, including that of Florida, the water moccasin can grow up to 71 inches (5.91 ft) in length; the record being 74 inches (6.16 ft). Unlike its copperhead cousins, this one does not have rattles; one important characteristic feature for its identification.
The tail is slender and moderately long, when compared to the rest of the body which has a heavy built. The dorsal scales of the snake are keeled. The most important identification mark of this cold-blooded crawler is its "bandit's mask". It is a dark line that runs through the eyes, and the shade is made more pronounced with border of white above and below.
The color of the snake's body can range from shades of brown, gray, to olive with a yellowish tint. However, most of this species are almost solid black. And against the background of the body color, there lie crossbands which are dark brown to almost black. These bands are marked with edges which are usually serrated, or saw-like.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) holds the record of being the largest rattlesnake, and the heaviest of all venomous snakes in the American regions.
36-72 inches (3 - 6 ft) is the average length of a male; maximum being till date being 96 inches (8 feet). However, it is a rare occurrence to find any of this species being longer than 7 ft. Most of this species of snakes wear a brown shade, with some of them being a brownish yellow, or gray with a brownish tint.
True to its name, the snake's back is impressively decorated with diamond-shaped patterns, running along the spine of the reptile. The diamonds can be brown to black, with typically lighter brown centers. And to make the visual more prominent, the diamonds are outlined by cream or yellowish scales.
However, towards the end, the diamonds break or fade into bands. There is a distinct dark stripe that runs from the head of the snake, in a diagonal direction through the eyes. And on the snout there are stripes lightly colored and arranged in a vertical fashion.
Pigmy Rattlesnake
Pigmy Rattlesnake
As the name suggests, the pigmy rattlesnake is a small reptile, growing up to 16 - 24 inches (1.3 - 2 ft) long. 31.0 inches (2.5 ft) was known to be the maximum length recorded till date.
It is also known as Sistrurus miliarius, and commonly as ground rattlesnake, it has a small and slender rattle that produces sound similar to that of a buzzing insect; hardly audible.
There are 9 large scales on the top of its head, and the body is brown or gray. The spine of this small but heavy-bodied snake is run by a reddish brown or rusty stripe, and this is crossed with dark brown or black blotches from one side to the other.
The front or the belly portion is heavily spotted with black and white. On both sides of the head, starting from the eyes, there is a cheek-stripe that runs down and backwards to the jaw in a diagonal direction. There are two stripes on the head that continue running towards the neck.
Eastern Coral Snake
Eastern Coral Snake
The main identifying characteristic feature of the eastern coral snake (Micrurus fulvius) is its hue of yellow, black and red. This snake is infamous for its potent venom.
Average length of this Florida snake can reach up to 20 - 30 inches (1.6 - 2.5 ft); record is of the one with no longer than 47.5 inches (3.9 ft).
The whole body of the snake is covered in rings, wherein, narrow yellow rings separate the wider black from the wider red rings. Starting right from the snout till the back of the eye, the head wears a black shade. And from there onwards, the color pattern goes as yellow ring, then black and then red, and so on.
However, towards the tail, there are only yellow and wide black rings without any red rings. Now it is important to know that these colorful rings are similar to some non-venomous snakes such as the scarlet snakes, kingsnakes, and milk snakes.
The main distinguishing points between these and the coral is the pattern of the rings. In the non-venomous snakes, the red ring will touch the black, and not the yellow as in the case of the coral snake. Also, in the non-venomous mimic snakes, the tip of the nose is red, and not black.
Snakes are fun to watch and know about in books, or when they are in captivity. But when it comes to encountering a real one, it is best to leave it alone and let it be.