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Old 13 May 2013, 01:34 AM
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Snake How to tell snakes apart

Comment: Is it reliable that poisonous snakes have slit pupils like a cat
and nonpoisonous have round pupils?
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  #2  
Old 13 May 2013, 01:40 AM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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That only works in the parts of North America where pit vipers (which happen to have elliptical or slit pupils) are the only venomous snakes, such as rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, or copperheads. If you live in the southwest were coral snakes are, or other parts of the world you're out of luck.

Nick
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Old 13 May 2013, 01:47 AM
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Coral snakes are in the SE as well. At least, we hasd therm in Florida.
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Old 13 May 2013, 01:57 AM
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From what I remember from long ago research, there are reliable ways of telling venomous from non-venomous snakes by appearance, but from memory they require some degree of expert judgement, and a need to get close enough to the snake in question that unless you are a snake expert and able to catch and handle them safely you are out of luck anyway. You would be better either learning how to recognise the local species, or just staying a cautious distance from snakes
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Old 13 May 2013, 02:09 AM
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A rule like this is pretty useless - if you get close enough to see their pupils, you're too damned close. Nearly every snake prefers to avoid people, but will bite if it feels threatened. If you get your face close enough to tell if the pupils are round or slitted (I suspect that may depend on ambient light anyway, as with a cat), the snake will strike at you. Even a nonvenomous snake's bite can cause serious infection, so don't take the chance if you do not know how to handle snakes safely for both yourself and the snake (which all eat insects, vermin, etc. that we generally like to have eaten so give them a break)
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Old 13 May 2013, 03:25 AM
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When I was growing up, the "rule" was that poisonous snakes have triangular-shaped heads.
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Old 13 May 2013, 03:51 AM
Nick Theodorakis Nick Theodorakis is offline
 
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Also a feature of pit vipers, and also fails with coral snakes.

Nick
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Old 13 May 2013, 04:02 AM
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There's enough different species of venomous snakes that have different enough color patterns and head shapes that trying to rely on any type of rule of thumb to tell the difference between a venomous and non-venomous species is risky.
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Old 13 May 2013, 11:20 AM
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As Atlanta radio personality Ludlow Porch said, "All snakes are deadly. The ones that can't poison you will try to scare you to death."
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Old 13 May 2013, 11:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Theodorakis View Post
Also a feature of pit vipers, and also fails with coral snakes.

Nick
And the rhyme you learn "red next to yellow will kill a fellow/red next to black is my friend Jack" doesn't work outside the US (I.e. Mexico and further south.) according to my dad the herpetologist.
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Old 13 May 2013, 04:41 PM
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That's correct, that banding pattern is only found on the eastern coral snake, Texas coral snake, and Arizona coral snake. Heck, there are some species in Asia that don't have any bands at all.

While we're on the subject, another myth about coral snakes is that they're rear-fanged snakes (meaning the venom delivery fangs are in the back of the mouth) and they can't deliver an envenoming bite unless they hit a thin flap of skin like the area between the thumb and the rest of the hand. This is not true- coral snakes inject their venom from fangs in the front of their mouths and are capable of delivering an envenoming bite to any piece of exposed skin.
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Old 13 May 2013, 05:55 PM
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Some of the regions of the world there are hard and fast rules about snake identification. Here in Lebanon, the locals tell us that brown and grey snakes are bad and the black and green ones less so.

I accidentally ran over a snake on one of our trails and felt a bit bad over that. Our liaison assistant asked the colour. When I said brown they said that they were happy. The only thing that is more dangerous than a brown snake is a grey one.

But, I know that did not work in Afghanistan when I was there.
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Old 13 May 2013, 08:36 PM
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It has always been difficult to tell snakes apart. When Noah offloaded the Ark, all the animals had departed and were off being fruitful and multiplying. All of them, that is, except for this pair of snakes. Noah examined them carefully and couldn't tell what was wrong, until one of his sons (I can't remember which - Ham, I think), looked at the snakes, then brought out two big tree branches to the snakes. After he did this, the snakes, in a word, "got busy".

So Noah said to his son, "I don't understand." His son replied, "Father, those snakes were adders. They need logs to multiply."

PS Yes, definitely Ham.
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Old 13 May 2013, 10:08 PM
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On several shows I have seen it has indicated that there is something in the pattern of the scales that indicates when they are venomous. Something to do with overlapping scales or alternating scales as opposed to smooth, and I think it was on the belly. Rob Rundle (Rundel?) actually showed the difference on his show, but the only venomous snake around here is a rattler, so I didn't commit it to memory. Maybe kitap's dad could enlighten us.
But once again, you have to be pretty close to the snake, so it would really only be useful in determining how quickly you needed to go to the hospital. He was quite interesting as he would quite often turn himself into a "tree" and the snakes would eventually ignore him and slither off somewhere else. Probably wouldn't work with the heat-sensing ones, but this was Australia, I believe.
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Old 13 May 2013, 10:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitap View Post
...according to my dad the herpetologist.
Could somebody ask They Might Be Giants to write the song, "My dad the herpetologist"? It could be a bonus track on "Here Comes Science".
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Old 13 May 2013, 11:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Embra View Post
Could somebody ask They Might Be Giants to write the song, "My dad the herpetologist"? It could be a bonus track on "Here Comes Science".
Sure.
I nominate you.
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Old 14 May 2013, 12:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Latiam View Post
On several shows I have seen it has indicated that there is something in the pattern of the scales that indicates when they are venomous. Something to do with overlapping scales or alternating scales as opposed to smooth, and I think it was on the belly. Rob Rundle (Rundel?) actually showed the difference on his show, but the only venomous snake around here is a rattler, so I didn't commit it to memory. Maybe kitap's dad could enlighten us.
But once again, you have to be pretty close to the snake, so it would really only be useful in determining how quickly you needed to go to the hospital. He was quite interesting as he would quite often turn himself into a "tree" and the snakes would eventually ignore him and slither off somewhere else. Probably wouldn't work with the heat-sensing ones, but this was Australia, I believe.
Pit vipers have a single row of scales under the tail past the vent. Coral snakes (along with all other US snakes) have a double row of scales on the underside of the tail past the vent. So obviously not a reliable way to check on venomous or not, since you would have to actually handle the snake to see & remember that Coral snakes don't follow the "pattern" of venomous like the pit vipers do.


Like was said upthread, the best way is just to learn to identify the species native to your area. There are only 4 types of venomous snakes in the US: Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, Water Moccasins (aka Cottonmouth) and Coral snakes. The 1st three are pit vipers & have the triangular shaped heads & tend to be heavy bodied compared to their length. But, to the untrained eye, many other species can look somewhat similar. (It'll be completely obvious to those of us who know, but unfortunately, I've seen way too many pictures of dead snakes that the killers of said snakes are convinced they have a triangular shaped head)

Pretty much all snakes (even the venomous ones) just want to be left alone. They'll rarely strike unless they're provoked or feel threatened in some way. If you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone.

Jaci
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Old 14 May 2013, 06:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smallpotatoes View Post
Pretty much all snakes (even the venomous ones) just want to be left alone. They'll rarely strike unless they're provoked or feel threatened in some way. If you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone.

Jaci
That's what we have always been told. We have also been told you are more likely to get bitten trying to kill it then if you just leave it alone. I don't know if it is true or not.

Having a quick look at my "Wildlife of Greater Brisbane" there are 8 potential deadly snakes that are potential found in the area. Looking at the pictures and reading the distriptions I can find no common feature. Some are banded, some are coloured solid, some are pale brown, some are dark brown and some appear black. One is black with a red or pink belly (red belly black snake we tell it like it is). Only one seems to have a triangle shaped head (Death Adder). Scale pattern are listed only when counting the rows of mid body scales can be used to Id them (when they are dead or you have a shed skin)

They advise given that unless you are absolutly certain the species is harmless, leave it alone.
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Old 14 May 2013, 07:02 AM
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What is it about snakes that people don't get when you tell them to leave them alone? There is some instinct that makes mammals want to both avoid them and also attack them. So, yeah, leave them alone!

As one more data point, there are two venomous snakes in this area, one with the typical wide head that looks venomous and another that looks like a rather harmless snake you might find in any garden.
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Old 14 May 2013, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smallpotatoes View Post
Like was said upthread, the best way is just to learn to identify the species native to your area. There are only 4 types of venomous snakes in the US: Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, Water Moccasins (aka Cottonmouth) and Coral snakes. The 1st three are pit vipers & have the triangular shaped heads & tend to be heavy bodied compared to their length. But, to the untrained eye, many other species can look somewhat similar. (It'll be completely obvious to those of us who know, but unfortunately, I've seen way too many pictures of dead snakes that the killers of said snakes are convinced they have a triangular shaped head)
Gopher snakes and bull snakes actually flatten their heads out into a more rattlesnake like shape when they feel threatened. Combined with the diamond shaped patterns on their backs and their habit of shaking their tails when nervous (apparently a common trait among many snakes). Having observed it first hand, I can say that it is a fairly good imitation of a rattlesnake, especially if they're in dry leaves or underbrush, since the tail shaking against it can cause a sound that's very similar to a rattlesnake.

However, many people will panic at the sight of almost any snake- even one as harmless and nonthreatening as a rubber boa* or garter snake (had a neighbor almost beat my parents' front door down in blind panic when her cat brought home a garter snake one afternoon).

*These guys are just so damned cute. If I was going to get a pet snake, this would be the one I'd get. Actually found a wild one in my parents' garage one time, but I let it go: had to keep it safe from the dog and besides, I don't want to take a snake out of the wild, they tend to be much more frightened of humans and consequently harder to handle and more likely to injure themselves trying to escape.
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