If we were to put together a list of the most unfairly maligned and feared animals on Earth, snakes would probably be at or near the top. The fear of snakes is both deeply-seeded, possibly hardwired into our brains but we’re happy to say that it’s entirely irrational. As with anything that you’re initially afraid of, a little knowledge will go a long way toward helping you see it for what it really is. Still, most of us don’t want to see them creep into our homes or backyards and for that Bama Pest offers highly effective snake repellant. We’ll talk about that in just a bit. But for the purposes of education and a little bit of fascination, let’s take a few minutes together and dive into the enchanting world of Alabama snakes!
Snake Myths – BUSTED!
Before we get into specifics regarding the most iconic snakes found in Alabama, it’s worth taking a little time to dispel a few common misconceptions regarding the amazing creatures. Some of the more common ones include:
Snakes are Naturally Aggressive
Owing in no small part to the deadly reputation of snakes like Cobras, Black Mambas, and Rattlesnakes, serpents of all kinds have been labeled as being aggressive. In reality though, very little could be further from the truth. By and large, snakes are timid and wary, preferring to keep hidden whenever possible. Remember that to a snake, you look gigantic, meaning that you’re among the last things that they’d go after voluntarily. The old adage, “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” tends to be overused but in this case, it applies perfectly.
Snakes are Slimy
When people see snakes’ slender, elongated bodies, their minds can often go straight to thinking of them as big worms. Snakes however are just another species of reptile and like lizards, tortoises, or turtles, their skin is naturally dry and smooth. So the next time that you hear someone say that snakes are covered in slime, send them our way and we’ll straighten them out.
Snakes are Deaf
This is another old and outdated misconception. It’s true that snakes don’t have ears or eardrums like you and I do. That, however, does not mean that they’re deaf. While they may not process sounds in the same way that mammals do, snakes are able to feel sounds and vibrations, often to a very high degree, meaning that they’re just as able to detect and react to noise as any other animal out there.
Some Snakes are Poisonous
Okay, maybe we’re splitting hairs a bit here, but it’s still worth clarifying. There’s no such thing as a poisonous snake, there is however an abundance of venomous snakes. What do we mean when we say that though? Well, the distinction is quite simple. Venom needs to be injected into the bloodstream via bite or sting whereas a poison needs to be consumed, either via the digestive tract or by your airways. So a rattlesnake, for example, bites its prey, injecting a powerful venom. On the other hand, a poison like cyanide needs to be consumed orally to take effect. It’s a small difference for sure, but one that’s worth remembering in the unlikely encounter with a venomous snake.
Common Snakes in Alabama
Alright, now that we’ve gotten all of that cleared up, it’s time to meet a few of Alabama’s most common snake species. In the interest of the organization, we’re going to split things up between venomous and nonvenomous varieties as we take a deep dive into a few of our local slithering reptiles.
Venomous Snakes in Alabama
Some of Alabama’s resident venomous snakes include:
Northern and Southern Copperheads
Found just about everywhere in Alabama, the copperhead is the most commonly-encountered venomous snake in our home state. Both the Northern copperhead (aka Mokesin) and Southern copperhead are endemic to the area. Both varieties have stout bodies, usually measuring about 2-3 feet in length, and large triangular heads.
Copperheads prefer heavily-wooded areas where they can hide amongst leaf litter, blending in with their dull brown coloring, and waiting to ambush their prey. Speaking of which, their preferred prey typically includes mice, lizards, birds, and other small woodland mammals.
Hunters, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts may run an increased risk of running across a hidden copperhead however, they rarely bite unless directly stepped on or mishandled. Bites, fortunately, are both exceedingly rare and almost never fatal, owing to their relatively weak venom.
Sometimes referred to as the “Water Moccasin,” cottonmouths are found statewide but prefer wet like the swampy areas of the coastal plain. As North America’s only Aquatic venomous snake, they play a critical role in maintaining species all over the Southeast’s fragile wetlands. Often measuring at about 4 feet in length, they’re most commonly a dark shade of olive green from above but lighter on their sides and bellies. And of course, they can be easily identified by their signature white mouths, which they open wide to warn intruders in their territory to not come any closer.
Cottonmouths subsist on a diet primarily of fish, frogs, salamanders, small turtles, and even other snakes. While they’re most commonly found in swamps and lakes, it’s important to remember that cottonmouths are found anywhere that their prey is, even in roadside drainage ditches, backyard ponds, or reservoirs.
Although rare in their native habitat, encounters can increase dramatically when they venture closer to civilization in search of food. This can be extremely dangerous as a cottonmouth’s venom is highly toxic and it’s not uncommon for their bites to be fatal. So anytime you’re close to an aquatic environment or even a small body of water, it pays to pay attention to your surroundings.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Visually striking and iconic in its own right, the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the largest venomous snake species found in Alabama. Sadly though, due to loss of habitat and tragic misunderstanding, this native North American species is slowly approaching extinction. As a consequence, it’s increasingly rare to encounter them in the wild.
The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is easily identified by its two namesake features – the diamond pattern on its back and its famous rattle which is located at the very end of its tail. Growing up to 8 feet in length, it can be a formidable predator but still requires stout legal protections if we ever hope to see them make a comeback. And there’s plenty of reason to hope that they do as rattlesnakes feed on common pest species like rats, mice, rabbits, and squirrels.
While encounters are rare in the wild and bites are even less common, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes can deliver an extremely painful and sometimes fatal bite. So while the chances that you’ll run into one on your next hike are slim, outdoor enthusiasts should still be aware when enjoying Alabama’s hilly woodlands.
Found everywhere in Alabama except for the state’s extreme south, the timber rattlesnake was once a common predator but is now seeing a steady decline in its numbers. Still, though, sightings of timber rattlesnakes are reported in each of Alabama’s counties every year. Heavy for their size, these muscular snakes can grow up to 5 feet in length, display a distinctive dark chevron pattern on their backs, and of course, sport the iconic rattle at the end of their tails.
As their name suggests, timber rattlesnakes are most often found in hardwood and pine forests, particularly those with rocky outcroppings where they can both hide and sun themselves as needed. It’s there that they’ll ambush their preferred prey of mice, rats, chipmunks, and squirrels.
Like their larger cousins, timber rattlesnake encounters are increasingly-rare but it’s still worth paying attention when walking through any of the state’s wooded areas. Their bites are rarely fatal but their venom is known to cause significant pain as well as tissue damage which can be irreversible if left untreated.
Non-Venomous Snakes in Alabama
Now that we’ve met a few of Alamaba’s venomous (not poisonous, remember?) snakes, get to know a few non-venomous varieties including:
At close to a maximum length of 9 feet and darky-colored, rat snakes can strike an intimidating figure. However, these beneficial predators play an important role for both farmers and local ecosystems. The two most common species of rat snake in Alabama are the black rat snake, which is commonly found in the northern area of the state, and the gray rat snake which is typically found further south.
Whichever variety you’re talking about though, it’s important to remember that rat snakes live up to their name, feeding on both rats and mice as well as insects and other potentially harmful pests. And while they may look scary, it’s important to remember that rat snakes are not aggressive toward humans and will only bite in self-defense. So the next time you see a big rat snake around your property, tell it thanks for all the good work that it’s been doing!
Eastern Garter Snake
Small, thin, and commonly found across the Eastern United States, the eastern garter snake is nevertheless a famous and much-beloved variety. Rarely growing past 3 feet in length, garter snakes can be identified by their slender bodies, black and brown-checked coloration, and vibrant vertical greenish-yellow stripes. Garter snakes are also known to give birth to up to 50 live young at a time, making them one of the most commonly encountered snakes around.
LIke rat snakes, garter snakes are beneficial predators, feeding primarily on insects and small rodents. Juveniles are also known to feed on slugs, further benefiting local agriculture. Non-venomous, timid, and completely harmless, garter snakes pose no threat to humans but should still be given space or handled with extreme care as their bites can be painful and become easily infected.
Less common and more skittish than either garter or rat snakes, the eastern milk snake still merits consideration on this list if for no better reason than its striking appearance. This moderately-sized snake, usually topping out at 6 feet long, possesses a brilliant red, yellow, and black pattern all up and down their bodies which is meant to mimic other, more dangerous varieties. However, just like the previously-mentioned species, eastern milk snakes are nonvenomous and pose little threat to humans.
Found primarily in heavily-wooded areas but not uncommon in farmland and even heavily- populated suburbs, milk snakes feed mostly on mice, rats, lizards, and birds. And no, despite their name, milk snakes don’t particularly like milk!
Rough Green Snake
Finally, the rough green snake is another of Alabama’s most common snake species. Brilliantly green on top, yellow on its sides and parchment-colored on its belly, the rough green snake is usually between two and three feet long. And as the name implies, their scales are rougher in texture than many other snake varieties.
Commonly referred to as, “Tree snakes,” often reside in tree branches that overhang aquatic environments but are also found in wetlands and dry woodlands. Unlike every other snake, we’ve mentioned today, the rough green snake eats mainly bugs, preferring crickets, grasshoppers, and caterpillars, making them a boon to vulnerable ecosystems across the state.
Want to learn more about Alamaba’s snakes? Get started here!
Keep Unwanted Snakes Out of Your Yard With Snake Repellant From Bama Pest!
We’ve spent a long time talking about how snakes get a bad rap today. And while that’s definitely true, we also don’t blame you for not wanting an abundance of them around your home. That’s where we at Bama Pest can help! Our dependable and affordable snake repellent treatment is precisely what you need to keep unwanted and potentially venomous snakes away from your yard while still keeping them safe to keep benefiting our local ecosystems. The way we look at it, that’s a win-win for everyone so don’t wait another moment and get in touch with us today. You can reach out to us via our online form or call us by phone at 251-478-7015.
For more information, tips and ideas, check out our other blog articles here.