June 2015 - Non-Venomous Snakes

June 2015 - Non-Venomous Snakes

Critter Control captures huge snake




Trivia Question:

True or False – Some snakes are strict vegetarians and only eat plant material.




Correct Trivia Answer: 

FALSE - All snakes are predators, and the different species eat many different kinds of food.


Non-Venomous Snakes

Snakes are specialized animals, having elongated bodies and no legs. They have no ears, externally or internally, and no eyelids, except for a protective window beneath which the eye moves. The organs of the body are elongated. Snakes have a long, forked tongue, which helps them smell. Gaseous particles from odors are picked up by the tongue and inserted into the two-holed organ, called the Jacobson’s Organ, at the roof of the mouth.

The two halves of the lower jaw are not fused, but are connected by a ligament to each other. They are also loosely connected so the snake can swallow food much larger than its head. Because snakes are cold-blooded and not very active, one meal may last them several weeks. Also, because they are cold-blooded, they may hibernate during cold weather months or aestivate during hot summer months when the climate is severe. In either case, they consume little or no food during these times. Some snakes lay eggs, some hatch their eggs inside the body, and some give live birth. The young of copperheads, rattlesnakes, and cottonmouths are born alive.

Non-venomous snakes are harmless to humans. In most cases, a snake will crawl away when approached if it feels it can reach cover safely. No snakes charge or attack people, with the exception of the racers, which occasionally bluff by advancing toward an intruder. Racers will retreat rapidly, however, if challenged. Snakes react only when cornered. Different species react in different ways, playing dead by turning over on the back, hissing, opening the mouth in a menacing manner, coiling, and striking and biting if necessary.

Of the many kinds of snakes found in the United States, only the following are harmful: rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, coral snakes, and sea snakes. The latter group lives only in the oceans. All venomous snakes, except coral snakes and sea snakes, belong in a group called pit vipers.

Three ways to distinguish between pit vipers and non-venomous snakes in the United States:

1) All pit vipers have a deep pit on each side of the head, midway between the eye and the nostril. Non-venomous snakes do not have these pits.

2) On the underside of the tail of pit vipers, scales go all the way across in one row (except on the very tip of the tail, which may have two rows in some cases). On the underside of the tail of all non-venomous snakes, scales are in two rows all the way from the vent of the snake to the tip of the tail. The shed skin of a snake shows the same characteristics.

snake scales diagram

3) The pupil of pit vipers is vertically elliptical (egg-shaped). In very bright light, the pupil may be almost a vertical line, due to extreme contraction to shut out light. The pupil of non-venomous snakes is perfectly round.

snake eyes diagram

All snakes are predators, and the different species eat many different kinds of food. Rat snakes eat primarily rodents (such as rats, mice, and chipmunks), bird eggs, and baby birds. King snakes eat other snakes, as well as rodents, young birds, and bird eggs. Some snakes, such as green snakes, eat primarily insects. Some small snakes, such as earth snakes and worm snakes, eat earthworms, slugs, and salamanders. Water snakes eat primarily frogs, fish, and tadpoles.

If you need help with snakes in or around your home, use our office finder to contact your local Critter Control office - or call 1-800-CRITTER (274-8837).

To learn more about a variety of critters visit our new "Animal Facts" resource.

Specific diseases transmitted by wildlife can also be researched from our website.

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Credits: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage – Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management