How Can I Tell If A Snake Is Poisonous Or Not?


9 Answers

Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Three methods (other than opening the mouth and checking teeth) are available to determine a poisonous snake, but like Yegamon stated, you really do not want to get close enough to find out.
Venomous snakes have pits behind their eyes, where the venom glands are located. 
Venomous snakes also have slit pupils whereas non-venomous snakes have round pupils.
The final method is to flip the snake on it's back... venomous snakes and non-venomous snakes have different scale patterns.  On this point I am unable to remember which is which... One has a single row of scales down it's belly, and the other has a double row of scales.  In any event, it is not a very good way to find out.
Best rule of thumb is if you do not know what sort of snake you are looking at, keep away from it.
LJ Bee Profile
LJ Bee answered
The best and only real way to know if a snake is harmful, is to know your snakes. Many will tell you that you can tell by the shape of the head, but this is a myth because cobras, mambas, coral snakes, and many others do not have that triangular-shaped head that is the trademark of venomous snakes like the viper (and others). Also, just as some humans are shaped differently from others or can develop improperly, so can snakes. And if you live outside of the US, there may be many snakes in your area that do NOT have a triangular shaped head.

Another common myth is that you can tell by the vertically slit pupils. However, cats and alligators also have vertically slit pupils, and we all know they are not venomous.

Also, many species of snakes look one way as juveniles, and quite a different way after they mature. Yet, the venom of snakes (who have it) is just as toxic at birth or hatching as it is when they are adults. Their appearance can also differ depending on how well the lighting is where they are, or whether they are in the shadows. Lastly, their appearance can differ by the area they are found in. There is a type of Copperhead in Texas, for instance, that looks quite different from the ones you typically find in North Carolina.

If you aren't familiar with a species of snake and able to readily identify it, the best thing to do is avoid it altogether and make lots of ground noise (vibration) when walking through habitats where snakes can be found so they know you are coming and have a chance to hide or slither away. O'Shay (one of the experts you often see on television dealing with snakes) once made the mistake of misidentifying a snake and grabbed it... Or grabbed it before he identified it. Well, it turned out to be a Stiletto, which is a venomous snake with fangs that protrude out of the sides of the mouth (not too differently from the way a wart hog's tusks protrude without him having to open his mouth). Anyway, long story short, the snake whacked him with the side of his face and one of his fangs sunk in O'Shay's hand and he was venomated. So, you see, even the experts can make mistakes. Snake identification can really be tricky.
Penny Kay Profile
Penny Kay answered
You need to procure a copy of a book with illustrations in it, which contains information on the snakes native to your area. If you do not know where to look, ask your local librarian. Read the book and make mental pictures of the characteristics of the poisonous snakes in your area. Look for a Herpetarium, like a zoo  for snakes and the like. Visit it and  get pictures. The best way to  overcome any fear, is to learn about it. Remember that Snakes don't like people any more than we don't like them. They can not eat you, so they would rather avoid you. When out in the 'Outdoors', make sure you make plenty of noise, Snakes generally strike when they are surprised.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Species of posonous snakes are generally identified by a broad triangular head shape and the presence of fangs,a limited amount of snakes do not have an apparent "viper" shaped head such as the coral snake,whose venom is given in a more gripping and chewing manner. Some snakes such as the bull snake put on bluffs to make other predators believe they are dangerous,the best resort is to determine which snakes are poisonous in your region and learn of any warning behaviors they have (rattlesnake rattle). If you live in an area that may contain snakes that rely on camoflage and stealth to hunt it would be advisable to wear snake chaps in areas of heavy cover. But in general the robust and heavy head shape is a very good indicator that the snake you are dealing with is dangerous.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Most experts agree that you don't want to be close enough to a snake to try to identify whether or not it is venomous if you cannot tell from a distance what species it is.  But to help you, know that all pit vipers are venomous (rattlesnake, water moccasins, copperhead, etc.).
This site provides pictures of the venomous snakes found in Georgia, which can help you visually identify them more quickly.  On the same site, you can see photos and information about non-venomous snakes in your state as well.
Here is the site to view pictures: 

website for snake pictures

thanked the writer.
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Anonymous commented
Thank you, BB. I will try placing it differently the next time. For me it seems to be a problem when the link in longer (is it the same for you?). It appears to be a programming issue on the part of Blurtit, rather than browser incompatibility as is the case with other bugs.
Anonymous commented
I am not really sure what causes it, but tend to agree with you that it is likely a programming bug. Had it happen a couple times, and stopped trying to put links in after that, cause fixing it was such a pain.
Shujing commented
Hi, yergamon, I have made your link appear in the answer. The reason that some times a link not appearing in an answer is the link is too long. So the best solution is try to use the hyperlink function in the answer box. Hope it helps.
Don Johnson Profile
Don Johnson answered
Most poisonous snakes have a larger head than their bodies, lots of nonpoisonous snakes look like a real poisonous snake so when in doubt just avoid them
tutu song Profile
tutu song answered
The skin colored snakes are usually toxic.
Jeannine almeida Profile
I heard of a saying "Red touches black, You're ok Jack.  red touches yellow, you're a dead fellow."  Dealing with the markings on the snake.

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