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Snakes of Houston

Why Love a Snake!

  • Snakes fill an important ecological niche and help maintain balance in the natural food chain.
  • Many are beneficial predators of garden and suburban pests, including rats and slugs.
  • Snakes possess natural beauty and grace.
  • The vast majority are non-aggressive and only bite if handled.
  • Snakes are victims of a bad press which often conveys false and misleading information.
  • Their streamlined locomotion is a fascinating example of evolutionary adaptation.
  • Snakes possess certain chemical compounds which have been found to be very beneficial to mankind and are being used to develop new medicines and chemicals.

Just remember - they're much more scared of you than you are of them!
 

Nonvenomous Snakes

Small Burrowers
Flathead Tiny salmon-colored snake, 3" to 10" long. A friend of gardeners, it eats cutworms and centipedes. Found in flower beds and compost heaps. Egg-bearing.
Rough Earth Solid brown in color. Eats grubs, earthworms, slugs, etc. Commonly found in gardens. Normal adult size about 12". Live-bearing.
Marsh Brown Another brown snake, but this one has lighter brown stripes along its back. Eats similar food to rough earth snakes. Normally up to 12". Very common in gardens and lawns. Live-bearing.
Woodland Snakes
Eastern Hognose Blotchy, variable coloring - best identified by very stocky shape and upturned nose. Mainly eats toads. Seldom bites. Normal adult size 33". Egg-bearing.
Rough Green Slender bright green snake, usually arboreal but may be seen on ground. Prefers caterpillars, spiders and grasshoppers. Normal adult size 32". Egg-bearing.
Texas Rat Most common long snake (up to 72") in our area. Dark squarish blotches on lighter colored skin. Good climber (may be found in attics). Very aggressive and bites readily though bites usually result in only shallow scratches. Eats birds, rodents and other small mammals. Egg-bearing.
Eastern Yellowbelly Racer Olive-gray above with yellow belly, a slender snake up to 54" long. Insects are its principal food but it also eats smaller vertebrates. Egg-bearing.
Speckled Kingsnake Shiny chocolate scales with pale yellow spot on each scale and yellow belly. Normal maximum size 36". Prey is all sorts of smaller vertebrates. Will bite readily if picked up. Egg-bearing.
Eastern Garter Uncommon in Harris County. Variable in coloring but always has a prominent light yellowish green stripe down center of back. Normal adult size 26". Live-bearing.
Water Snakes
Ribbon Slim pond-dweller with light yellow stripes down back. Stripes vary in color. Two different species in our area. Eats tadpoles, frogs, lizards and fish. Maximum size 34". Live-bearing.
Broad-banded Water Chocolate brown with broad yellowish-orange bands encircling body. Much stouter than the ribbon snake. Eats same foods. Adult size 30". Live-bearing.
Diamondback Water Taupe with black blotches of various shapes. Bites readily and emits musky odor if threatened. Generally 20" - 34". Carrion important food source. Live-bearing.
Graham's Crayfish Coffee-brown with paler brown stripes, cream belly. A small slender snake (18" - 30"), it is extremely reclusive and rarely seen. Eats mainly crayfish but will also take snails and frogs. Live-bearing.

Venomous Snakes

Southern Copperhead Most common venomous snake in our area. Deaths are extremely rare from its bite, though it could be fatal to a small child and could cause the loss of a limb or digit. The copper-colored dark bands which encircle the pale-skinned body appear to be compressed into an hour-glass shape over the spine. Principal food is mice, but it readily eats other small animals. Lover of woodpiles and leaf litter. Adults up to 30" long. Young have bright yellow tail tips. Live-bearing.
Western Cottonmouth Stout dark viper mainly seen in water but may live in dry habitats. Normal adult size 36". Relatively few people bitten despite reputation. Mortality rate throughout the U.S. is less than 1 person a year. Many harmless and beneficial water snakes are mistaken for the cottonmouth and needlessly killed. Young have bright yellow tail tips. Live-bearing.
Texas Coral Small (up to 26") snake with vivid markings: red bands surrounded by yellow bands on each side. (One helpful way to remember this is to think of a traffic light - when you have the yellow warning light and red stop light on together, you better stop!) Several harmless snakes resemble the coral snake but do not have adjoining red and yellow bands. The coral snake's venom is the most virulent in the U.S. It is non-aggressive and virtually all bites occur from someone trying to touch or handle it. Antivenin should be given at once. Found in plant litter or rocky crevices. Eats primarily other snakes. Egg-bearing.

Rattlesnakes

May be found in outlying areas around Houston but are uncommon. Many snakes, including copperheads, cottonmouths and nonpoisonous snakes, also vibrate their tails when threatened, and if the snake is in a brushy area, the sound can be quite similar to a rattler. If you are bitten by a rattler, seek medical attention at once! Fatalities are very rare now because of the excellent treatment which is available. All rattlers are live-bearing. The young often have yellow tail tips before the rattles begin to form.

Western Diamondback The largest and most wide-spread of the rattlers in our area. It averages 3' to 4' and feeds on small mammals. Because it often forages during the day, it is the most likely rattler to be seen, especially around farm buildings.
Timber Rattlesnake Not quite as large and not easily found. It prefers to hunt at night in thickets away from areas of human occupation.
Western Massasauga Average length of about 2'. It prefers grasslands with prickly pear thickets and is very uncommon.
Western Pigmy Also rare. It is a little over a food long and stockily built. It is very retiring but will bite readily if threatened.

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