How to Identify Arkansas Snakes

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There are over 40 species of snakes in the state of Arkansas. Of these 40, only six are venomous: the Southern Copperhead, Western Pygmy Rattlesnake, Western Cottonmouth, Timber Rattlesnake, Western Diamondback Rattlesnake, and the Texas Coral Snake. Many snake bites occur because people mistakenly think venomous snakes are harmless and handle them. If you are visiting or moving to Arkansas, and especially if you have children, learning how to identify Arkansas snakes is an investment well worth your time.

Copperhead snake.
Copperhead snake. (Image: Wirepec/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Obtain a snake reference guide that contains detailed descriptions of Arkansas snakes. This is done more easily by purchasing a guide book or reviewing an online document such as the "Arkansas Snake Guide" available at agfc.com.

Obtain the snake reference guide.
Obtain the snake reference guide. (Image: Reicaden/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 2

Familiarize yourself with the 40+ species of snakes commonly found in Arkansas. Note distinguishing features of each species of snake that can help you identify them in the wild. Note which snakes are nocturnal and which are active by day, which snakes prefer rocky areas and logs and which snakes prefer forests or water, and what each snake's typical coloring is.

Familiarize yourself with snake species.
Familiarize yourself with snake species. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Step 3

Note features that distinguish the six venomous species from the harmless ones. For example, five of the six species of venomous snakes in Arkansas belong to the pit viper family. Pit vipers can usually be distinguished from other snakes by their elliptical eyes, with pupils that are slitted like a cat’s eyes, as opposed to the round pupils of most non-venomous snakes. The only venomous snake not belonging to the pit viper family is the Texas Coral Snake, which can be distinguished from non-venomous look-alikes by recalling this mantra about its colored bands: "red touch black, venom lack; red touch yellow, kill a fellow." (See Resources and References 2)

Coral snake.
Coral snake. (Image: Dave Rodriguez/iStock/Getty Images)

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Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid snakes if possible. Do not step over logs or other obstacles unless you can see over the other side, as snakes often lie in wait for prey near logs, rocks, and other debris. When walking or hiking outdoors, carry a walking stick and make noise as you go to ward off snakes.
  • Do not disturb wild snakes if you do come across them. Snakes only bite humans in self-defense, and often after substantial prior attempts at escape or threatening actions. Handling any wild snake is inadvisable. If you come across a snake in Arkansas, leave the vicinity as quickly as possible.
  • The best rule of thumb in dealing with snakes is this: if you find a snake and do not recognize whether it is venomous, leave it alone.
  • When attempting to identify snakes in Arkansas, only do so from a safe distance. Confusing a venomous snake for a non-venomous snake could be the last mistake you make before a long hospital stay.

References

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