Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Readers Write In: Are These Rattlesnakes (with Bonus Peruvian Snake Challenge)?

Hi David,

       I have always loved animals and reptiles especially after going to a science fair where a local herpetologist brought all kinds of interesting snakes and such to show the students... Once moving to Virginia I became scared of copperheads because they can't rattle to warn you of their presence and I am an avid hiker. In living in this state a long time I never ran into any snakes until this year. Now, I have seen seven snakes in the past few months...five living and two dead. I currently live in Southside Richmond VA and spend everyday hiking along the James River and man feeder streams around it and parks in Chesterfield County as well. ...Can you help me identify this snake? Thanks so much for your help! 

Margaret M.
Richmond, Virginia

Neighbors called my husband to get rid of this snake.  It was in the pasture with horses and very near the house.  The head was blown off when my husband fired because he was coiled. They thought it was a rattler.  Probably about 4 feet long and at least 10 pounds according to the guy that picked it up

(Name Withheld)
Panola County, Texas

I can confirm this rattler my buddy killed Monday. I was wondering what type this is?


We just shot one (our rule is any snake longer than 2 feet that comes within 15 ft of our house or is found in our chicken coop will be shot if we cannot identify it). Most of the time I chase them off with a stick but this one was tricky. We weren't sure if it was a chicken snake, a rat snake, or a Cottonmouth. Since we shot its head off we can not identify it as having a white mouth. The underbelly had a distinct pattern though. Also, is he poisonous?

Melinda D.
Grant Parish, Louisiana

In shed, 100 ft from pond.  Pretty sure its Nerodia (i.e., a Watersnake) but not sure of species. 

Kevin S.
Stillwater, Oklahoma

Expert Challenge:

Here's a tricky one. The unidentified snake was picked up, photographed and then released alive. Difficulty - this photo was taken along the Rio Tambopata in the Peruvian part of the Amazon River Basin. The second photo is just a brag photo (below). We were very lucky to see this gigantic female laying on the bank with at least two males in attendance. Love your blog and your attempts to educate the public about snakes. I hate the high rate of death photos and suspect that reflects the normal interaction between people and snakes.

Diana D. 
Beverly, Massachusetts 

Readers: What Are These Snakes?

Snake Identification Post Ground Rules

-Guesses are welcome and encouraged. Don't worry if you're not an expert, wrong guesses allow us to talk about how to distinguish between the various species and that's why I run these posts.

-If you can't explain why you think a snake is a particular species, go ahead and just say what you think it is. But otherwise please do let us all know how you identified the animal. If you're wrong, we can explain why. If you're right, this helps everyone learn how to identify snakes, which is the goal of these posts.

-You can safely assume that I know what kind of snake is in the picture, I run these posts because they are outreach opportunities. Please don't send me private e-mails with your guesses, include them below.

-Remember, the person that sent me the picture is probably reading your comments. Although it is frustrating to know that many of these snakes have been killed, these people do want to learn more about them. More snake knowledge will lead to fewer snakes being killed.

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