Identifying Florida's Venomous Snakes
Did you know there are 6 types of venomous snakes native to Florida - 5 of which can be found in Alachua County? With cooler weather upon us, we are here to help you identify which snakes can spell major danger for you & your pets if they decide to find warmth near your home this winter:
Water Moccasins (also known as Cottonmouths) are extremely dark snakes with dark, splotchy bands along their bodies. They get their name from their bright white mouth, which they display when they feel threatened. These snakes are also known to be extremely aggressive and are usually found near water.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes are the largest of the venomous snakes found in Florida, and can be identified by the dark diamond pattern along their backs. These snakes have a very loud rattle and live in dry places like pine woods and golf courses.
Pygmy Rattlesnakes can be identified by their dark blotches and bright red/orange spine. While a species of rattlesnake, the Pygmy Rattler’s rattle is so small that it cannot be heard. Watch out for these in wooded areas and sometimes neighborhoods.
Coral Snakes can be some of the trickiest to identify as there are many harmless look-alike species with similar colorings. Our rule of thumb for coral snakes is if you see their red bands touching yellow bands, then they are venomous. These snakes like to hide under grass and leaves, so be extra careful when exploring after storms or in areas with high grass or heavy foliage.
Timber Rattlesnakes can be identified by the V-shaped bands along their backs as well as their tan coloring and rust-colored spine. Timber Rattlers can usually be found in moist, wooded areas.
Copperheads are also a venomous species native to the Florida panhandle, but are close to never seen in the rest of the state.
Now that you can identify Florida’s venomous snakes, it is now time to learn how to identify when your pet has been bitten by one. If you see the bite happen, identifying the snake that did it from a safe distance can help tremendously during the treatment process. However, DO NOT put yourself in danger when trying to locate and identify the snake! It is not worth risking getting bitten yourself!
All snake bites, venomous or not, in pets will usually be followed by some pain, swelling, bruising, and sometimes small puncture wounds from the snake’s fangs in the area of the bite. The swelling from venomous snake bites, however, will spread faster and will often be large enough to cover up any puncture wounds. Venomous snakes also tend to cause bleeding or bloody discharge at the bite site, injecting venom that can cause:
Weakness & collapse
Uncontrollable urination or bowel movements
Excessive salivation or bleeding from the mouth/nose
Regardless of which type of snake you think has bitten your pet, it is important for your pet to be promptly seen by a veterinarian. Treatment of snake bites can vary greatly depending on the type of snake (non-venomous vs. venomous) and the severity of the bite. In the case of a venomous snake bite, pets may be hospitalized for a few to several days and may require the use of antivenin to counteract the effects of the snake’s venom.
So how can you avoid interactions with snakes for your pet? Avoiding areas with tall grass, logs, rocks, or piles of leaves where snakes can hide is extremely important, especially when hiking. If you live in a rural area or near a body of water, always supervise your pet when you let them out and teach dogs a strong “Leave It” command or other avoidance cue so they know how to easily and calmly avoid a snake-y situation.
Additionally, having the phone numbers of your primary veterinarian as well as your local emergency animal hospitals on-hand can save time in the event your pet ever gets bitten:
Newberry Animal Hospital Group
Local Emergency Hospitals
Newberry Location: (352) 472-7035
Community Care Veterinary Specialists:
39th Avenue Location: (352) 332-2292
University of Florida Small Animal Hospital:
Main Street Location: (352) 372-5391
BluePearl Pet Hospital: (352) 672-6718
Springhill Location: (352) 373-7208
UrgentVet Gainesville: (352) 374-0040
Holistic Location: (352) 332-9991