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Venomous Snakes in South Florida: Part 1

November 18, 2016

snake warning

It is important to be able to identify the four venomous snakes that are commonly found in South Florida so that you can avoid their severe and potentially fatal bites.  For part one of this segment, I chose to address two of the four venomous snakes in South Florida that are not classified as rattlesnakes: the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin and the Eastern Coral Snake.  Hopefully you will be to easily identify these dangerous snakes after reading. Also included, is a little bit of information about the non-venomous snakes that they are often confused with and why.

Cottonmouth Water Moccasin

Appearance: They are darker in color, usually brown, olive or black shades. Every cottonmouth has what is called a “bandit's mask” which is a dark stripe along the
side of the eyes that looks like mask.  The name “cottonmouth” comes from the shockingly white color of the inside of their mouths.

Habitat: They can be found either close to or physically in the water.

Diet: Cottonmouths will eat basically any kind of animal, which benefits us since they are keeping the waterways cleaner.

Behavior: When threatened, a cottonmouth will cock its head up and vibrate its tail,and, upon further aggravation, it will tighten into a coil and open its mouth wide.  When a cottonmouth is sunning in overhead trees, they may accidentally fall into your boat; but don't freak out, just quickly use your paddle to gently lift the snake out of your boat.

Claim to Fame: Cottonmouths are the only venomous water snake in United States.

Identifying Features:
Cottonmouths float high in the water so their body is visible above the waterline, while non-venomous water snakes are less buoyant so you will at most only be able to see their heads above the water line.

Venomous Bite: Their bites can be fatal, but most victims will survive a bite with 'prompt and proper' medical treatment.

Mistaken As: Cottonmouths are one of most commonly misidentified venomous snakes, often being mistaken for other non-venomous water snakes.  They are frequently confused with the Florida Bandit Water Snake because they are both
found in same areas and they have similar coloration.  The difference is that the
non-venomous Florida Bandit Water Snake does not have the ‘bandit’s mask’.

Eastern Coral Snake

Appearance:  Coral snakes have a pattern of red, yellow, and black bands that completely encircle their bodies.

Identifying Features:  Many non-venomous snakes mimic this pattern, so just be wary of any snakes with this red, yellow and black-banded pattern.  The venomous ones are the Coral Snakes and you can identify them by looking at the order of the colored bands: if red and yellow touch, then it's venomous.  You can think of the warning signals of a traffic light to remember, yellow for caution next to red for stop.

Behavior: Coral snakes are fairly common but rarely encountered by people because they are most active at night and during rainy days.

Venomous Bite: Coral snakes have incredibly toxic venom, but you can take comfort in the fact that they will only bite when under extreme duress, such as if stepped on or grabbed.  Unfortunately, when they do bite, it's not pretty.  Coral snakes tend to hang on to their victims, seemingly chewing them, and they will quickly deliver the dangerous venom.

Mistaken As:  The Scarlet Snake is often confused with coral snake because they have similar red, yellow and black banded patterns.  However, the scarlet snake is actually trying to mimic the coral snake to trick its predators.  Scarlet snakes can be differentiated from coral snakes because their red and yellow bands do NOT touch.

If you have any questions about any of the four venomous snakes found in South Florida or if you are interested in our pest control services, call one of our Nozzle Nolen representatives at (888) 685-0376.


"About Florida Venomous Snakes - Identification and Bite Advice." Snakes. 24/7 Wildlife

Removal, 2009. Web. <>.

Snakes of Florida: The Good, the Bad & the Friendly. Dir. Joe Burbank. Perf. Nick

Clark. Youtube. Orlando Sentinel, 27 May 2014. Web.


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