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Which snake is a Lucas resident likely to encounter here in Lucas, Texas?
There are only a few poisonous snakes to consider: Cottonmouths, Copperheads, and Rattlesnakes.

Western Cottonmouth
  1) The Western Cottonmouth (commonly called water moccasins). Unfortunately, most water snakes are mistakenly called water moccasins, but the only poisonous water snake around here is the Western Cottonmouth. These guys are chunky snakes, about 3 or 4 feet long, usually dark brown or almost black (but sometimes olive-brown or olive-green), and are marked by dark, wide bands. They (and all venomous snakes) have slits for pupils (while non-venomous snakes have round pupils) and a pointed snout. Obviously, they prefer wet areas and generally eat fish. The cottonmouth gets its name from the white tissue inside its mouth, which it displays when threatened. Its toxin is mostly hemotoxic (affecting the blood and blood vessels). Cottonmouths feed on frogs, fish, water snakes, eggs, lizards, and other small vertebrates.

Broad-banded Copperhead

2) The Broad-banded Copperhead. These guys are also thick-bodied but are smaller (usually about 1 ½ to 2 ½ feet long), have wide reddish-brown crossbands, a skinny neck which makes their heads look large, slits for pupils, and a pointy snout. These snakes are found in rocky areas and wooded bottomlands and are rare in dry areas. In the spring they can be found along streams and rivers, as well as in weed-covered vacant lots. Its toxin is also mostly hemotoxic affecting blood vessels and destroying red blood cells. Copperheads eat insects, mice, frogs, and small birds.

Rattlesnakes.  There are two main groups of rattlesnakes. The more primitive form is a possible resident of our area (the Western Massasauga) while there are three types of the more advanced forms (Western Diamondback, Timber Rattlesnake, and Blacktail Rattlesnake) which may be encountered. All of these snakes have venom which is both neurotoxic (nervous tissues) and hemotoxic (blood cells and blood vessels). The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake accounts nearly all of the serious cases of venom poisoning in Texas . In Texas, breeding takes place both in spring and fall, when members of communally denning species such as the diamondback rattlers are found in closest proximity (during the summer they are dispersed over wide feeding ranges). The young are born alive in early autumn, at which time newborns may appear in considerable numbers, searching for the prey they must find promptly in order to survive their impending hibernation. Many unfortunate encounters with rattlesnakes occur around rural outbuildings where the snakes seek prey animals; other bites occur when rattlers sheltering beneath piles of unused lumber are accidentally disturbed.

Western Massasauga
3) The Western Massasauga. These guys are light gray, with brown oval blotches along the middle of the back and smaller blotches along each side. They are about two feet long and found through the middle of the state in grasslands, marshy and swampy areas. Not very common in our area but is an occasional visitor. This guy is much less common here than the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Usually nocturnal.

Timber Rattlesnake

4) The Timber Rattlesnake (also known as Canebreak rattlesnake) is a large, heavy-bodied snake about 4 ½ feet long. Brown or tan with wide, dark crossbands. Tail is entirely black. Found in the eastern third of the state in wooded areas in wet bottomlands. We are on the very western edge of this snake’s normal range.

Blacktail Rattlesnake  
5) The Blacktail Rattlesnake is gray to olive green with dark blotches along the back and a black tail. Averaging a length of about 3 ½ feet, it is found from Central Texas throughout most of West Texas in bushes and on rocky ledges. We are on the very eastern edge of this snake’s normal range.

Diamondback Rattlesnake

6) The Diamondback Rattlesnake. This is the guy people are talking about around here when they say they saw a rattlesnake. They are brown and have diamond-shaped markings along the middle of the back and alternating black and white rings on the tail. They can be really big snakes. Average adult size is 3 ½ to 4 ½ feet but they can reach an impressive and intimidating seven feet sometimes. This is the most common and widespread venomous snake in Texas , found in all but the easternmost part of the state. They have the normal venomous snake slit pupils and pointy snout. Their venom is about 30% more toxic than the other rattlesnakes and yet fewer than 10% of people bitten actually die from the bite. In prime conditions the young grow rapidly and shed their old skins every six to twelve weeks. With each shed a new segment is added to the base of the rattle-replacing the terminal sections that periodically break off like a too-long fingernail. A rattlesnake’s age can not be determined by the length of its rattle.



Panther Park Animal Hospital
2320 Los Rios Blvd Suite 103
Plano, Texas 75074  
(Just 3 blocks south of Plano East Senior High at the intersection of East Park Blvd and Los Rios Blvd)
Office: 972-578-0608
Emergency: 214-547-9900
established in Plano in 1984
Michael A McLaughlin DVM
University of Illinois Class of 1980
blog: Veterinary Corner
contributing author dvm newsmagazine 

founding member of the Emergency Animal Hospital of Collin County



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Last updated on June 5, 2009