HOME PAGE
MASTER INDEX
REPTILES
MODERN REPTILES

MODERN SNAKES

Modern Snakes consist of several Orders, Families, Genuses & Species.

NOTE: Please do not kill a snake, just to kill a snake--even if you are afraid of snakes. Most snakes do a world of good in control of rodents and other pests.
Naturally you don't want, around your home, one of the four poisonous snakes in the United States. If you don't know the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes, call someone who does. In the meantime, don't get bitten, but try to keep the snake where someone can identify it. Kill a snake, only as the last resort.

Your chances of being near the one poisonous lizard in the United States (the Gila Monster--pronounced in English as "He-la") are very limited. There are usually only found around desert type environments, which leaves out most of the U.S.

Blotched Water Snake
Nerodia erythrogaster transversa
Looks like a rattler
but it is non-poisonous. 05
Blotched Water Snake
Nerodia erythrogaster transversa
Looks like a rattler
but it is non-poisonous. 04
"Hello there. Get
close and I am ready
to strike to scare you". 06
"I mean it. I am coiling
to provide me the spring
to strike out at you".
And it did, over and over. 08
Western Cottonmouth (juvenile)
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
This specimen had become lethargic
and turned an unattractive dark color
with the bands hardly able to be seen. 32
Western Cottonmouth (juvenile)
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
About an hour later it had shed its skin
and now was very colorful. The actual
color has more copper color. 30
Western Cottonmouth (juvenile)
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
This is the shed skin found in the cage
a short time after the first picture above. 31
Western Cottonmouth (juvenile)
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
This is a closer view of this specimen
after it had shed its skin.
Notice yellow tip to tail. 36

Do poisonous snakes always bite you, if you don't get out of the way? The answer is NO. In Africa and Australia, to name a couple of places on Earth, there are poisonous snakes which will chase you, to bite you if they can. Fortunately, in the United Snakes our four general types of poisonous snakes (Copperhead, Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth and Coral Snakes and our one poisonous lizard, Gila Monster will all usually attempt to avoid you, UNLESS you corner them, aggravate them, or come into close contact with one without warning (like stepping over a log that one is lying under unsuspectedly).
A poisonous snake has venom basically to help it kill food as well as for protection as a distant second purpose. A poisonous snake in the United States is going to avoid wasting venom on you, if it can do so, because it cannot eat you and therefore, other than scaring you away, or continuing a precedent for things not to get close to that type of snake, it has no useful purpose in biting you.

One interesting example of personal observation I have had is described here and some pictures below. The PMNS in conjunction with the HGMS made a fossil collecting field trip to "Whiskey Bridge (between Bryan and Caldwell, in October 2004. While there one of the Boy Scouts from Trip 512 of Holy Trinity United Methodist Church (who were invited to go on this trip) discovered the Western Cottonmouth snake above. The snake was put into a container and returned to Houston (to prevent it from biting any of the many people who dig at this well-known fossil site) to give to the Houston Zoo or other entity which might want it. It was believed to be a ground or pygmy rattlesnake (which have few if any rattles). When I was unable to get a return call from the Houston Zoo, Herpetology Dept., I contacted herpetologist, Mike Howell of the Jesse H. Jones Harris County Precinct #4 Park. Mike examined pictures and then told me that the snake was not a ground rattler, but a juvenile Western Cottonmouth. Mike already had a couple so he didn't need this one for the Park.

For the time being therefore, until I can release the snake into a relatively uninhabited and safe area, I had it in a terrarium provided by Dan Trotti, my office manager's husband. He brought me a white mouse at the same time, for the snake to eat. Two months later, our Cottonmouth has gone without eating and the white mouse loves his new friend. Apparently the Cottonmouth juvenile realizes that even with jaw unhinged, he cannot consume the mouse, so he doesn't waste his venom striking the mouse, other than one time, when I first put the mouse in with the snake. The mouse, being a lab type mouse, undoubtedly has no experience with poisonous snakes, so he is very unconcerned about his dangerous playmate.

I put in a small water container for both. The Cottonmouth immediately coiled around it, so to level the playing field, I put in a second water container, at the opposite end of the terrarium. Many very funny things have happened since they were put together about two months ago. The bottom of the terrarium is covered with Pine bark pieces and there were a number of rocks in the terrarium to give the snake and mouse some natural type of things to crawl around on. I used the rocks to build a small stone house, for the mouse to have to hide in.

On one occasion, the snake went into the stone enclosure and disappeared. The mouse promptly took chunks of bark and plugged up the holes in the rocks. The snake had no problem getting out however. On a number of occasions, the mouse takes the bark chips and plugs all of the ways into the stone house, except one, where he goes in and out.

The mouse also started filling both water containers (which are small empty plastic applesauce cups) with bark chips. Why it does this, is a mystery, since he drinks the water, as does the snake. Once the chips are in the water, the water turns orange with the tannin from the chips and I would think would be undesirable to drink. Frankly, I'm tired of putting my hand into a terrarium with a Cottonmouth, even if he appears very docile, to give this ungrateful little mouse fresh water.

I feed the mouse millet and corn chips, both of which he eats voraciously, while the Cottonmouth looks languidly on, as if he could care less. The Cottonmouth shed its skin one time. It had started to look a dull gray color and I was worried. It was up on top of the pile of rocks when I left. I came back about an hour later, to find the Cottonmouth at the other end of the terrarium and a discarded snake skin lying stretched out in his direction with the head on the rocks. Apparently it used the rocks to start the skin peeling off, on the rocks and then came out of the skin. Now it was a beautiful reddish brown color, almost as bright as a copperhead, but with a pattern, not unlike a rattlesnake.

It is my understanding that rattlesnakes, Cottonmouths and copperheads are closely related. The coral snake is not closely related to any of these other three.

Here are four pictures of the juvenile Western Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma) and the white laboratory mouse (Muridae mus--an albino domesticated relative of wild mice of the same species).

Western Cottonmouth (juvenile)
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
and white laboratory mouse
Muridae Mus musculus with an
apparent compatible relationship
Western Cottonmouth (juvenile)
Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
and white laboratory mouse
Muridae Mus musculus with an
apparent compatible relationship
What are you anyway? I don't recall
recall meeting anything like you in the lab!!
Can't we just be friends?
This is a Texas Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis annectans) which is a subspecies of one of the most common snakes in the United States which is the Common Garter Snake.
While non-poisonous, this snake will readily strike at you, and it can bite with teeth like pins. While it is not poisonous, it can cause an infection if the bite of the teeth is not promptly treated with anti-biotic. This snake can move with lighting speed and usually just wants to zip away from you as fast as possible.