More than 50 types of snakes call Mississippi home and if you spend any time outdoors, you may see a few this summer.
If you learn to identify the state’s six venomous snakes, you’ll be equipped with knowledge that could save your life.
Snakes use venom for protection, for hunting and to digest food. Most venom reduces the amount of oxygen in the victim’s red blood cells. The venom of a Coral snake affects the nervous system, but the snake’s small mouth makes it less likely to bite people, according to the Mississippi State Extension (MSE).
Corals are also the only venomous snake not found along the Mississippi Coast.
Most venomous snakes have flat, triangular heads, facial pits, vertical pupils (cat’s eyes) and a single row of scales. The Coral snake is an exception to the cat’s eyes rule. It has round pupils.
Here’s where snakes love to hide:
Along or under
Natural or human-made structures
These venomous snakes are roaming around Mississippi
Southern Copperhead — You’ll find Southern Copperheads hiding at the base of trees, near large rocks and in brush piles, according to AZ Animals. It was named for the bronze tone of its head and the body usually has hourglass patterns. Copperheads are usually 20 to 26 inches in length.
Cottonmouth (Western and Northern) — Nicknamed the Water Moccasin, Cottonmouths tend to stick around fresh water and are often confused with the harmless Mississippi Green Water Snake. If you catch a look at the inside of its mouth, it should be cotton white. The snakes range from two to four feet and can be solid brown or olive or have dark bands.
Eastern Coral — Coral snakes have bands of red, black and yellow and can be two or three feet. The snakes are often confused with scarlet kingsnakes and milk snakes. The Mississippi State MSE offered this rhyme to remember which is poisonous: “Red touches black, friend of Jack; Red touches yellow, kills a fellow.”
Pygmy Rattlesnake (Western and Dusky) — Pygmy rattlesnakes average 18 to 20 inches in length and have fragile rattles, easily broken off. If you see a small snake with dark blotches on its back and sides and vertical pupils, assume it’s a pygmy and don’t bother looking for the rattle.
Timber Rattlesnake — Also known as the Canebrake rattlesnake, this variety can be found on farmland, in swamps or in forests. The species averages 2.5 to 5 feet in length and have ridged scales and rattles. They come in gray and brown with dark stripes across their backs and sides.
Eastern Diamondback — This snake is the largest venomous snake in North America, according to MSE. They average 5.5 feet in length but can grow to as much as 8 feet. The pattern on their backs are shaped like diamonds and edged with a light yellow or light brown background. Diamondbacks also have rattles that break off over time, but they add another button every time they shed.
According to the MSE, snakes usually remain motionless or try to run away and hide when they see people. If threatened, they warn before attacking.
How to detect if a snake is about to strike:
It flattens its head
It opens its mouth
It vibrates its tail
The snake only attacks if these warnings are ignored.
What to do if you are bitten by a snake
Get emergency medical help as soon as possible. Refrain from moving about quickly.
Remove all items that may restrict circulation in the affected area. Watches, bracelets, rings, gloves, or shoes may pose a problem as the bite area swells.
Immobilize the affected area as much as possible. Attempt to keep the bite at or slightly below the level of the heart.
If the snake is still in the area, do not attempt to kill or catch it. Try to remember what it looks like so you can identify the type of snake from pictures in the emergency room.
Do not take these actions:
Place a tourniquet or constricting band above the bite;
Give the victim anything to eat or drink, particularly alcohol;
Place the affected area in ice;
Make any cuts or apply suction to the area;
Attempt to give antivenom; or
Administer pain or anti-anxiety medications.
For help, call the Mississippi Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.