Arkansas, known for its diverse wildlife and picturesque landscapes, is home to several species of venomous snakes. While encountering these reptiles can be a cause for concern, understanding their habits, habitats, and identifying features can help residents and visitors coexist safely with these fascinating creatures. In this article, we will explore the venomous snakes found in Arkansas and provide valuable information to promote awareness and safety.
1. Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix)
The Copperhead snake is one of the most commonly encountered venomous snakes in Arkansas. They are known for their distinctive copper-colored heads and hourglass-shaped patterns on their bodies.
Typically found in forested areas, these snakes are most active during warmer months. While Copperheads possess venom, their bites are rarely fatal to humans, but medical attention should always be sought.
2. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, although more commonly associated with western regions, can also be found in the southwestern parts of Arkansas. Known for their characteristic diamond-shaped patterns and rattles on their tails, these venomous snakes prefer dry and rocky habitats.
They have a venomous bite, which can be life-threatening if left untreated. Caution should be exercised when encountering these snakes, and professional snake handlers should be contacted for removal if found near residential areas.
3. Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus)
The Timber Rattlesnake is a venomous pit viper species that inhabits forests and rocky areas in Arkansas. These snakes can grow to impressive lengths and are known for their distinctive dark crossbands on a lighter background.
Timber Rattlesnakes possess potent venom and, if provoked, may exhibit defensive behavior by shaking their tails to produce a rattling sound. These snakes should be admired from a safe distance, and professional assistance should be sought for their removal if they pose a risk to humans or pets.
4. Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
The Cottonmouth, often referred to as the Water Moccasin, is a venomous snake found in various aquatic habitats throughout Arkansas. These snakes are dark in coloration, with a thick body and a distinctive white mouth, which gives them their name.
While generally non-aggressive, Cottonmouths will defend themselves when threatened. Avoiding their territory and being cautious around bodies of water can reduce the likelihood of encounters.
To coexist safely with venomous snakes in Arkansas, it is crucial to follow some essential safety precautions:
Familiarize yourself with the different venomous snake species in Arkansas, their habitats, and their behaviors.
Keep your distance
Never attempt to handle or provoke a venomous snake. Maintain a safe distance and allow them to move away on their own.
Wear appropriate footwear
When hiking or walking in snake-prone areas, wear sturdy boots or closed-toe shoes to reduce the risk of snakebites.
Clear your surroundings
Keep your yard tidy by removing potential snake-hiding spots, such as tall grass, piles of debris, and woodpiles.
Seek professional assistance
If you encounter a venomous snake in your vicinity, contact local authorities or professional snake removal services for safe removal.
Interestingly, the safety precautions and awareness needed in Arkansas are not too dissimilar from those required in other states with venomous snakes, such as Colorado, where residents and visitors must also be vigilant and informed.
Common Non-venomous Species of Arkansas
In Arkansas, several non-venomous snake species can be commonly found. It is important to know about them so here is a quick overview. The last thing you want is to mix up the harmful and harmless reptiles while out in the wild! Some of the most frequently encountered non-venomous snakes in Arkansas include:
1. Eastern Rat Snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis)
- Size: They can grow up to 5-6 feet in length, with some individuals reaching even larger sizes.
- Habitat: Eastern Rat Snakes are highly adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, farmlands, and suburban areas.
- Diet: Their diet primarily consists of rodents, birds, eggs, and occasionally amphibians.
- Behavior: Rat snakes are excellent climbers and are often seen in trees or on buildings. They are non-aggressive and will typically retreat if encountered.
2. Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
- Size: They are relatively small snakes, averaging around 2-3 feet in length.
- Habitat: Eastern Garter Snakes have a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, woodlands, wetlands, and suburban areas.
- Diet: Their diet mainly consists of small invertebrates, such as insects, earthworms, and slugs.
- Behavior: Garter snakes are active during the day. They have the ability to secrete a musky odor as a defense mechanism.
3. Rough Earth Snake (Haldea striatula)
- Size: Rough Earth Snakes are small, typically measuring around 7-10 inches in length.
- Habitat: They prefer moist environments and are commonly present in areas with loose soil, such as gardens, forest edges, and marshy regions.
- Diet: Their diet mainly consists of small invertebrates, including earthworms, slugs, and soft-bodied insects.
- Behavior: Rough Earth Snakes are secretive and spend much of their time burrowing in soil or leaf litter. They are harmless and rarely bite.
4. Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
- Size: Ringneck Snakes are relatively small, averaging around 10-15 inches in length.
- Habitat: They live in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, grasslands, and rocky areas.
- Diet: Ringneck Snakes primarily feed on small invertebrates, such as earthworms, slugs, and small snakes.
- Behavior: These snakes are primarily nocturnal and are often hiding under rocks or logs. They have a mild temperament and rarely bite.
5. Western Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis proximus)
- Size: Western Ribbonsnakes are medium in size, ranging from 2-3 feet in length.
- Habitat: They are semi-aquatic and prefer habitats near water, such as streams, ponds, and marshes.
- Diet: Their diet consists of small amphibians, fish, insects, and invertebrates.
- Behavior: Ribbonsnakes are excellent swimmers. You can see them basking on rocks or vegetation near water sources. They are generally docile and try to escape rather than confront threats.
Arkansas is home to several venomous snake species that play vital roles in the ecosystem. While it’s essential to respect their presence and take necessary precautions, the likelihood of encountering these snakes is relatively low. By familiarizing yourself with their characteristics and adopting safety measures, you can appreciate the natural beauty of Arkansas while minimizing the risks associated with venomous snakes.