There are four species of poisonous snakes commonly found in continental US. The coral snake, a relative of the cobra, is found in southern states as far west as Texas. The copperhead is found in most of the eastern and mid-western states. The cottonmouth Moccasin occupies waterways and wetlands throughout the south as far west as Texas. Rattlesnakes, a species of pit viper, are the most widely dispersed with different varieties that can be found throughout most of the US.
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Cottonmouth snakes typically live near water and prefer shallow lakes, sluggish steams and marshes.
The beautifully colored coral snake has the most powerful venom but it causes very few fatalities. The reclusive, nocturnal habits of this tiny snake insure that it seldom encounters humans. When it does bite, its small size and lack of fangs seldom deliver much venom to the victim. You are not likely to find a coral snake so there is not much danger.
Cotton Mouthed Water Moccasins are normally found in rivers, streams and wetlands of the southern states. The snake is not aggressive and will usually flee unless threatened. The bite can be quite dangerous.
Copperheads are distributed throughout the eastern states from as far north as Massachusetts to northern Florida and well into the midwestern states. It can inflict a very painful bite that is seldom fatal in adults but can be very dangerous to children.
The most commonly encountered venomous snake in the US is one of the many varieties of Rattlesnakes. Some types of "Rattlers" populate the arid deserts and mountains of the southwestern states. Other varieties populate the mountainous regions. And still others are found in the eastern forests, mountains or wetlands. Some of the varieties can grow quite large and are very dangerous. Contrary to popular belief, most rattlesnake bites are not fatal but can be extremely painful.
If you see a rattlesnake or any suspicious snake basking in the sun on a path or trail, simply avoid it. If you are hiking in the dark, make plenty of noises and snakes will flee before you encounter them. Wear leather boots that extend above the ankle to protect you from snakebite in case you accidentally step on a snake. Most snakebite occurs when someone steps on a snake, sits on a snake or pokes his hand into a snake while picking berries or gathering firewood. When in snake country, always watch where you step, where you sit and where you poke your hands.
Snakebites are not very common, but if you happen to get bitten, try to identify the snake, as it will make treatment easier. Remove all rings and jewelry before swelling begins. Do not cut the wound and do not apply a tourniquet. Snake venom can kill the muscle tissue near the bitten area, resulting in scarring and deformities. To help prevent tissue loss, movement of the affected area should be minimized. Lightly bandage the area around the wound and get the victim to a hospital as quickly as possible.
Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Philip / Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0
Photo Description: The sidewinder rattlesnake is found in the desert regions of southwestern United States and parts of New Mexico.