Varies greatly depending on species. Overall, they lack fully developed legs and eyelids. They range from around 10 cm to several meters in length. Colors can be vivid greens, reds or yellows to darker black or brown. Many snakes have distinct stripes or patterning. Though many people fear them, snakes are a very important part of our ecosystem. They help control pest populations for a variety of animals. Many snakes found in the United States are nonvenomous and pose no risk to humans other than fright or a potential secondary infection in a bite. Despite this, many people have a deep-seated fear of snakes and don’t want any around their homes.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Snakes have several different ways to kill prey. Snakes eat such animals as frogs, salamanders, insects, worms, small rodents and birds. Venomous snakes have sharp, hollow fangs designed to pierce skin and inject venom. They are located in the upper jaw with venom glands connected above. When not in use, the fangs fold back onto the mouth. Nonvenomous snakes use constriction to subdue their prey. They bite the prey and quickly wrap themselves around it. The snake applies pressure until the prey usually suffocates. Regardless the method of capture, the prey is consumed whole. The lower jaw is hinged and can open to surprising sizes, allowing the snake to consume prey larger than their mouth would otherwise accommodate.
Snakes are cold-blooded animals, which is why they sun in the warmer months and go into hibernation during the colder. To help keep body temperatures from dropping too low, sometimes snakes will even hibernate in dens together, thus sharing the limited heat available.
Snakes often mate in the spring. Some species lay eggs, while other give birth to live young. Number of offspring varies by species.
Signs of a Snake Infestation
Nonvenomous snakes vs. Venomous Snakes
All snakes should be treated with respect and left alone regardless of venom. Most venomous species in the U.S. are a type of pit viper, including copperheads and rattlesnakes. There are various ways to identify a pit viper from nonvenomous snakes. The physical differences focus on features of the head. Characteristics of the nonvenomous snake are narrow head, no pit between eye and nostril and round pupils. The pit vipers have a triangular shaped head, a prominent pit between eye and nostril and elliptical pupils. There are also tail differences. Of course, close examination of a snake of unknown type can be dangerous. Contact a professional wildlife management technician for positive identification.
Copperhead snakes are some of the more commonly seen North American snakes. They’re also the most likely to bite, although their venom is relatively mild, and their bites are rarely fatal for humans.
The Garden snake is one of the most common snakes in North America. There are many varieties and subspecies, but all are thin with a long stripe along the spine, in the middle and usually a stripe along the side, running the length of the body as well. Many people have dubbed the Garden snakes the ‘garden snake’, as it’s so often found in suburban gardens. This species of snake are usually around 2 to 3 feet long but, on occasion, have been found to grow as large as 4 feet. The Garden snake has a similar biology to the majority of other snakes found in North America. The color of a Garden is usually very dark and earthy – with tan or even red or yellow or green stripes down the middle of its body.
Water snakes are non-venomous snakes found in North America that, true to their name, like to spend time in or around water. Water snakes are often confused with water moccasin snakes (also called cottonmouths), which are venomous with a dangerous bite. Inability to tell the two species apart has led to the death of many harmless water snakes.