SLIDESHOW: Venomous Snakes in Alabama

MOBILE, AL (WKRG) — News 5 is following a troubling story in Mobile, where an elderly woman was hospitalized Thursday after being bitten by a venomous snake she thought was a stick on her windshield.

The type of venomous snake is unknown at this time.

According to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Resources, a total of six venomous snakes have habitats in Alabama:

COPPERHEAD

STATUS: Common statewide. Most frequently encountered venomous snake in Alabama. May be increasing in parts of Coastal Plain, especially where fire is suppressed. Lowest Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: Two of the five subspecies of copperhead snakes are found in Alabama. The northern copperhead (A. c. mokeson) and the southern copperhead (A .c. contortrix) are both stout-bodied snakes. The head is noticeably wider than the neck. The top of their head is a copper color, hence the name copperhead. Dark “hourglass cross bands” are common to both species. The body may be colored from a light brown to tan or pinkish in the southern copperhead. The northern copperhead usually has a darker and more reddish brown body color. Both belong to a group of snakes commonly called “pit vipers”. They get this name because of a pit, or tiny hole, located between the eye and nostril. These pits are heat seeking sensors that help the snake locate warm-blooded prey. Copperheads have elliptical pupils. Pit vipers have a set of well developed fangs capable of injecting venom.

COTTONMOUTH

STATUS: Common statewide. Occurs in most aquatic habitats, but reaches greatest abundance in Coastal Plain swamps. The only venomous aquatic snake in North America. Includes subspecies A.p. piscivorus (eastern cottonmouth), A.p. conanti (Florida cottonmouth), and A.p. leucostoma (western cottonmouth). Lowest Conservation Concern.

DESCRIPTION:   Eastern cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus) are large, aquatic, venomous snakes.   They are generally dark above – olive, brown, or black.  A lighter to darker cross-banding pattern may be seen, especially on the sides.  Adult snakes usually vary in length from 30 to 48 inches up to a maximum of 74 inches.  Juveniles are brightly-colored with reddish-brown cross-bands and have a sulfur-colored tail.  The reddish-brown cross-bands contain many dark spots and speckles but darken with age so adults retain only a hint of the former banding or are a uniform black.  The scales are keeled.  The eye is camouflaged by a broad, dark, facial strip.  The head is thick and distinctly broader than the neck and, when viewed from above, the eyes cannot be seen.  large plate like scales cover the top of the head and in front of the eyes.  Eye pupils are vertical.  There are pit-like depressions between the nostrils and the eyes.  Anal plate is single and scales under the tail are in single rows.  Cottonmouths vibrate their tails when excited.  A thoroughly aroused cottonmouth throws its head upward and backward and holds its mouth wide open, revealing a white interior – the origin of the name

EASTERN DIAMOND RATTLESNAKE

STATUS: Uncommon to rare and possibly threatened. Alabama’s largest venomous snake. Infrequently encountered where formerly common, and now absent from many areas of historic occurence. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

DESCRIPTION:  The eastern diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) is the largest species of rattlesnake in the world.  It is a heavy-bodied snake that can reach lengths close to seven feet, although the average adult is four to five feet.  The tail is short and stout with a rattle or button at the end.  The rattle is composed of hollow, interlocking segments that click against each other when the tail vibrates.  The topside of the snake contains the characteristic yellow diamond shapes surrounding black and brown centers.  The belly is generally yellowish to white.  The large and distinctive head is marked with a dark band extending obliquely from each eye to the lips.  The band is bordered on each side by a light streak.  A heat sensitive “pit” is located on each side of the head between the eye and nostril.  The upper jaw contains movable recurved fangs.  When encountered, the diamondback will often remain motionless until a threat is perceived or the snake is actually touched.  A defensive posture is a coiled position with rattle erect, buzzing, and head near center of the coil.  The act of striking can extend up to two-thirds the length of the snake.  Thirty-six of 39 species of rattlesnake are in the genus Crotalus and range from Canada to Argentina.  Two species, C. adamenteus and C. horridus (Timber rattlesnake) occur in Alabama.

TIMBER RATTLESNAKE

STATUS: Fairly common to uncommon statewide, except for extreme southern Alabama. Declining or absent from many formerly inhabited areas because of direct persecution, habitat fragmentation, and gradual loss of deciduous and mixed forest types, but still apparently secure in some areas. Lowest Conservation Concern.

DESCRIPTION:  Timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) are heavy-bodied snakes with a broad head that is distinct from its narrow neck. Adult timber rattlesnakes average 36 to 60 inches in total length. The coloration of this species varies from blackish to yellowish to pinkish, or grayish with dark, bent crossbands aligned along the dorsal length of its body. On many specimens a reddish dorsal stripe runs between the crossbands. The velvety black tail is short and thick, tipped with a tan rattle. Some people refer to the timber rattlesnakes found in the southern Alabama as “canebrake rattlesnakes.” The timber rattlesnakes found in northern Alabama are simply referred to as “timber rattlesnakes.”

PIGMY RATTLESNAKE

STATUS: Uncommon to rare. Statewide in distribution, but rarely encountered in recent years except in extreme southern Alabama. Believed to be declining. Includes subspecies S.m. miliarius (Carolina pigmy rattlesnake), S.m. barbouri (dusky pigmy rattlesnake), and S.m. streckeri (western pigmy rattlesnake). MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.
DESCRIPTION: There are three subspecies of pigmy rattlesnakes (Carolina pigmy, dusky pigmy and western pigmy), all of which occur in Alabama. Generally, pigmy rattlesnakes, as their name would imply, are miniature rattlesnakes. Sometimes referred to as “ground rattlers”, they range in length from 15 to 24 inches at maturity, and when in a coiled position are roughly the size of a loblolly pine cone. The tip of their tail contains a very small delicate rattle or button that is not much wider than the end of the tail itself. When vibrated for a warning, the rattle is often difficult to hear and has been compared to the sound of an insect buzzing.

EASTERN CORAL SNAKE

STATUS: Rare and possibly threatened. Few recent observations may indicate that this secretive species has declined in Alabama. Two more common and similarly patterned nonvenomous snakes, scarlet kingsnakes, and scarlet snakes, are frequently mistaken for eastern coral snakes. HIGHEST CONSERVATION CONCERN.
DESCRIPTION: A medium-sized (max. length approx. 109 cm [43 in.]), slender snake with a short, blunt head only slightly wider than neck. Upper jaw has a pair of immovable, grooved, erect fangs near front. Scales smooth, in 15 rows near mid-body, and anal plate divided. Top of head and snout black and occiput has a broad yellow band. Body pattern consists of alternating, complete, transverse rings of red, yellow, and black (with red and yellow rings touching) that continue completely around venter (Wright and Wright 1957). Red bands may contain black pigment that coalesces into dark spots dorsally and ventrally. Aberrant color patterns encountered regularly.

 

 

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