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Dallas Morning News - June 11, 2020

Snakes in Texas


Most snakes in north Texas are beneficial and not dangerous. Boy, that's a hard sell, but let me try.


Even the dangerous snakes are smooth not slimy and they don't spit at you with devilish tongues. Snakes smell with their tongues by collecting scents and small organisms.


The good guy snakes include but aren't limited to – Eastern hognose, Texas brown, Texas rat snake, rough green snake, garter snake, milk snake, bull snake, king snake, indigo snake, black racer, water snake, blind snake and coachwhip.


Rough green snakes are smooth and quite friendly

Garter snake is among the friendlies



Snakes to be least afraid include the pretty rough green snakes and milk snakes. Rough green snakes are thin, smooth and green fading to yellow with a white belly. They often hide in trees and bushes and mainly eat crickets, grasshoppers, small frogs and spiders. You can play with them and they won't even try to bite you.


Non-venomous milk snakes have red and black colors that touch


Milk snake (a small king snake) is another that can be handled without danger. They typically eat slugs, insects, crickets, worms, lizards (especially skinks) and rodents. Yes, they look like the dangerous coral snakes – I'll get to that.


There are four venomous snakes in Texas: coral snakes, copperheads, cottonmouth water moccasins and rattlesnakes. And yes they are dangerous.


Coral snakes are shy and rarely seen but brightly colored with red, yellow and black bands. They have small mouths and are not aggressive. Bites are dangerous, but very rare. The friendly milk snakes have similar colors in different order. The rhyme "red and yellow kill a fellow" can help you remember that the coral snake's red and yellow colors touch, but the harmless milk snake has red touching black. "Red and black, venom lack."


Copperhead snakes have bands of gray and/or brown with a copper-colored head. They blend in with leafy areas and are hard to see. Copperheads bite rather than strike. Because they are so well camouflaged, most bites occur when you accidentally touch one.


Cottonmouth - photo by Carl Franklin, UT Arlington Amphibian and Reptile Diversity Research Center 


Cottonmouth/water moccasins are found in marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, ditches and canals. They are less common than the harmless water snakes that are longer and slimmer. When threatened they will show you their fangs and the mouth is white thus the name cottonmouth.


Nine kinds of rattlesnakes are found in Texas. They usually "rattle" before striking, but if they are totally surprised, they may strike before rattling. Most of the rattlesnakes are active at night, when they hunt for prey such as mice, rats and rabbits.


As a general rule-ot-thumb, non-venomous snakes are longer and skinnier with narrow heads


Lucky for us here in north Texas, the deadly snakes like other parts of the state more. As a result we have rare sighting of the dangerous snakes. As a general rule, harmless snakes tend to be longer and skinnier, the bad guys shorter and thicker. People are often hurt trying to kill snakes or running away afraid. So – stay calm, learn to identify the dangerous ones – and walk away slowly.





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