Types of Snakes
Snakes, commonly considered the knaves of the reptile kingdom, make their presence known to humans during the warmer months of the year.
Most people immediately associate venomous snakes with the snake world. Four native genera of venomous snakes inhabit North America, Coral Snakes, Copperheads, Cottonmouths and Rattlesnakes. The presence of rear fangs and a very mild venom sometimes qualifies a few Colurbridae species such as Lyre snakes as venomous snakes.
|Types of Snakes
Garter Snake Identification
They represent a small proportion of the country's approximately 250 total snake species and subspecies.
In broad terms, the types of snakes that inhabit North America cover five different snake families:
- Boidae: Two boa species, the Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) and the Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata) inhabit many areas of the Western United States.
Boa species can range in size from two feet for the smaller species to up to thirty feet for the Anacondas, and most boa species inhabit Central and South America.
Western North America hosts two boa species, the Rubber Boa (Charina bottae) and the Rosy Boa (Lichanura trivirgata).
Rubber Boas inhabit mountain regions from California to British Columbia.
One local researcher, notes thriving populations in higher elevations, around the five thousand foot mark. Their cold weather tolerance differentiates them from many snake species.
On average, rubber boas grow two feet in length. Because the tail end of the snake can be as blunt as the head, it is often referred to as a two-headed snake.
Rosy Boas inhabit the desert Southwest, favoring rocky areas near water sources. They can grow between two to three feet in length and are recognized by their stout, striped bodies.
Their diet also consists primary of small rodents, although they also have a taste for small birds.
Rosy boas are known as very docile snakes, making them a popular snake in the pet trade.
- Colurbridae: Colubrid snakes constitute the largest family of snakes in terms of number of species. The family covers around one hundred species, including common snakes such as garter snakes, milk snakes, kingsnakes, rat snakes and more.
Ring-necked snakes (Diadophis punctatus), a common Colubrid can easily identified by the dual color bodies, dark on the top and a bright shade of orange or yellow on the bottom.
The top picture highlights the characteristic neck mark.
While ring-neck snake bites are rare, touching them is not recommended. They can secret a foul smelling chemical.
The video presents a variety of common native Colurids, the garter snakes.
- Crotalidae (or Viperidae, aka vipers): North American rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths receive extended attention in the article linked in the box.
- Elapidae: The cobra family of snakes, one of the world's most deadly snake families, also contains the coral snakes, four of which inhabit different areas of the United States.
Western Coral Snake (Micruroides euryxanthus): a desert species found in rocky areas of the desert Southwest.
Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius): a soil species of the Southeast
Texas Coral Snake (Micrurus tener): a similar looking subspecies native to Texas
Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Pelamis platurus): a ocean species occasionally found off the coast of Southern California and Hawaii
Identifying native coral snakes can be confusing because their color and banding pattern can be similar to a a handful of native snakes, such as milk snakes. Micrusus species typically have connecting red and yellow bands.
Coral snake, rarely fatal, makes it cost ineffective to produce coral snake antivenom.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently reported that the last batch of coral Snake antivenom, will soon reach its expiration date, with not further production planned.
The FDA says, "Wyeth Pharmaceuticals no longer manufactures Antivenin (Micrurus fulvius) (Equine). There is no alternative product licensed in the U.S. for coral snake envenomations. Lot 4030026 is labeled with an expiration date of October 31, 2008. Because this lot has a new expiration date, you may continue to maintain the product in your inventory and keep it available for use until October 31, 2010."
- Leptotyphlopidae: Blind-snakes (Leptotyphlopidae), small, worm-like creatures, with cylindrical bodies, short heads and tails, live a subterranean existence.
While two genera are recognized, for all extent and purposes, the Leptotyphlops genus, with over eighty documented species, represents the family. Measuring in at the four inch range, Leptotyphlops carlae, the world's smallest snake, belongs to this genera.
The other genus, Rhinoleptus, is represented by one West African Species.
Depending on the source, up to four different blind snake species, and multiple subspecies, inhabit North America.Western Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops humilis)
New Mexico Blind Snake: Leptotyphlops dissectus
Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis)
Mountain Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops myopicus)
They inhabit the southern areas of the United States from California to the Midwest. Growing up to eighteen inches in length, the Western Blind Snake is the largest species. Growing less than a foot in length, the Texas Blind Snake is the smallest species.
Nocturnal and secretive, blind snakes can occasionally be found above ground after heavy rains flood them out of their soil homes. Within their range, people report finding them in and around compost piles, and after rains, in the house.
Their worm-like appearance might be sufficient to mistake them for the worm snakes in the genus Carphophis. The two native Carphophis species are found in the Eastern United States and can be differentiated from the blind snakes by their distinctive two-toned bodies.
The articles listed in the box on the right provide greater detail of native North American snakes in the tree listed families.
© 2006-2012 Patricia A. Michaels