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How to Identify Snakes in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is a US state in the Mid Atlantic Ocean known for its historical importance. Pennsylvania is not only home to attractions like the Liberty Bell and the Convention Center, but also more than 21 species of snakes. Knowing how to identify snakes can be important to someone living or planning to live in Pennsylvania because three of these species are poisonous and can become dangerous if approached. Look at the markings, size, and shape of a snake for clues about a snake's species.

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There are more than 21 species of snake in Pennsylvania, including three venomous species. Looking at a snake's size, shape, and drawing can help identify its species.

Short head garter snake

Many types of garter snakes come from Pennsylvania. One of the most common and clear is the short-headed garter snake. These small, non-venomous snakes mainly come from the northwestern part of Pennsylvania near water in wooded areas. They are easy to recognize thanks to their different markings. The brown bodies of the short-headed garter snakes are covered with strong, vertical, yellowish stripes that make them recognizable from afar.

Like most garter snakes, short head garters never grow more than 2 feet long. Their heads and bodies are thin. It is important to remember these types of details when identifying snakes, as markings can sometimes be similar between species. Short-headed garter snakes aren't the only striped snakes native to Pennsylvania, but they are one of the smallest and most unique colors.

Northern Copperhead

Native to forests and rocky areas, the northern copperhead is one of three venomous snake species native to Pennsylvania. These relatively large snakes can reach lengths of 2 to 3 feet. Because these snakes are poisonous, knowing how to spot them is extremely important for anyone planning to spend time in Pennsylvania.

Northern copper heads are long, full-bodied snakes with triangular heads that are wide in the back and reach a point on the muzzle. As their name suggests, their bodies are usually copper and covered with rusty brown ribbons outlined in dark brown with dark brown dots between each ribbon.

If you encounter a northern copper head in the wild, be careful. These snakes can be aggressive when they feel threatened and display behaviors such as: B. inflate their bodies, shake their heads and hiss loudly. In this situation, get back quickly. If you are bitten by a northern head, see a doctor immediately as treatment will require a dose of anti-venom.

Eastern milk snake

Eastern milk snakes are not venomous, but they are often mistaken for venomous copper heads. This is likely because of the snakes have a similar coloring. The eastern milk snake is light brown, with rust-colored ribbons surrounded by dark brown borders and running along its body. It even has dark brown spots between its bands, just like a northern copper head.

However, there are some key differences in appearance between northern copperheads and eastern milk snakes:

  • Eastern milk snakes can be lighter in color than copperheads. Copperheads are always copper, while eastern milk snakes range in color from copper to light, sandy brown.
  • Eastern milk snakes grow longer than northern copper heads. While copper heads can grow to 3 feet in adult length, eastern milk snakes can grow to more than 4 feet in length.
  • Eastern milk snakes have slender heads rather than triangular heads.
  • Eastern milk snakes are much more populous than northern copper heads. Northern copperheads have become scarce enough in Pennsylvania to be considered a type of special concern that has a similar classification as threatened or endangered.

If you come across a copper-colored Pennsylvanian snake with rust-colored ribbons, it is likely an eastern milk snake rather than a venomous northern copper head. However, it's best to keep your distance just in case.

Wood rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes are some of the most famous snakes in the world because of the distinctive rattle they make when threatened. There are 32 species of rattlesnake in the world, but only one is native to Pennsylvania: the wood rattlesnake.

Like all rattlesnakes, wood rattlesnakes can use the tips of their tails to create a loud rattle when scared. This is lucky, because wood rattlesnakes often hide under tree trunks or ledges where people and other animals can trip over them. The wooden rattlesnake warns to stay away and may give a would-be snakebite victim time to flee. The tip of the tail of a wood rattlesnake is made up of segments of loosely fitting keratin that bump into each other as they swing back and forth. This creates the famous sound of the snake.

There are other ways to identify a wood rattlesnake besides its rattle. These snakes are usually light gray, with dark brown stripes or spots. They have thick bodies and large, triangular heads. Wood rattlesnakes are quite long, growing to 3 to 5 feet in adult size.

If you encounter a wood rattlesnake in the wild, keep your distance; if you are bitten by a wood rattlesnake see a doctor immediately as treatment will require a dose of anti-venom.

Spotting snakes around you, whether you live in Pennsylvania or elsewhere, can be fun and even serve as an important safety measure.
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