The chances of dying from a venomous snakebite in the United States are essentially zero. Fewer than one in 37,000 people are bitten by a venomous snake in the U.S. each year at less than 8,000 bites per year, and only one in 50 million people will die from a snakebite. So much for our Most Venomous Snakes in the US.
Did you know that you are nine times more likely to die from being struck by lightning than to die of a venomous snake bite?
Although with the aid of modern medicine, snakes in the US are not particularly dangerous to humans, none of these snakes should be taken lightly, nor should they be irrationally feared. Let’s get to know them.
The Rattlesnake is the most widespread group of venomous snake in the US. They inhabit almost all types of habitats. This group of snakes is comprised of 32 species and at least 83 subspecies, making them the most diverse group of reptiles in the US.
The Mojave rattlesnake is the deadliest of all rattlesnakes. These rattlesnakes are aggressive toward humans and will bite without provocation.
Although rattlesnake venom isn’t as deadly as some other snakes’, the volume of the injected venom makes rattlesnakes particularly dangerous. The venom is hemotoxic, meaning that it prevents blood from clotting and destroys tissue.
Relatives of the Mojave rattler include the Eastern Diamondback, Western Diamondback, Sidewinder, Timber, Rock, and Pygmy rattlesnakes. Known for their distinctive rattle at the end of the tail, rattlesnakes can strike at amazing distances and catch their victims by surprise.
The Western Diamondback can reach up to 7 feet in length, while Pygmy Rattlers, sometimes called Leaf Rattlers can reach a fully grown length of as little as 16 inches.
2. Coral Snakes – Most Venomous Snakes in the US
As for venom strength, the most dangerous is a cousin to the cobra called the coral snake. These snakes live in the southern part of the United States, stretching from Florida to Arizona. Their range is second only to the Rattlesnakes. They are small snakes, measuring 39 inches or less. And, their fangs are undersized, so most coral snakes are unable to penetrate the skin.
Fewer than one percent of deaths due to snakes are from coral snake bites. The saying “red on yellow kills a fellow” identifies coral snakes from other colorful snakes such as non-venomous milk snakes, king snakes, and scarlet snakes. The coral snake has red, yellow, and black bands; if the red band and the black band are separated by a yellow band, you are looking at a coral snake.
When confronted by humans, coral snakes will almost always attempt to flee and bite only as a last resort. Any skin penetration, however, is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Coral snakes have a powerful neurotoxin that paralyzes the breathing muscles; mechanical or artificial respiration, along with large doses of antivenom, are often required to save the victim’s life.
There is usually only mild pain associated with a bite, but respiratory failure can occur within hours. As of 2012, the relative rarity of coral snake bites combined with the high costs of producing and maintaining an antivenom supply mean that antivenom production in the United States has ceased. So of all snakes on this list, the Coral snake is the one you least want to be bitten by.
3. Water Mocassins / Cottonmouths
The water moccasin or cottonmouth is a less deadly snake that has earned a wildly exaggerated reputation as being aggressive.
Unlike the previous two snakes on this list, the Cottonmouth is one species. These snakes will bite if provoked but are more likely to flee. Their venom is haemotoxic, which literally means blood toxin, and their bites can cause gangrene.
Cottonmouths live in the wetlands, primarily in the Southeast. These are semi-aquatic snakes, preferring swamps, ditches, lakes, and rivers. Cottonmouths were given this colorful name because they flash the inside of their whitish or cotton-colored mouths in a warning. These snakes are between two and a half to four feet in length.
4. Copperheads/Highland Mocassins – Most Venomous Snakes in the US
Copperheads, also called highland moccasins are the most common venomous snake in the eastern half of the United States. They also cause 37 percent of venomous bites in the US. If bitten, you’ll experience pain, but their bites are usually less serious than other venomous snakes.
Like most North American viperids, these snakes prefer to avoid humans and, given the opportunity, will leave the area without biting.
However, unlike the others, they will often “freeze” instead of slithering away, and as a result, many bites occur from people unknowingly stepping on or near them. This tendency to freeze most likely evolved because of the extreme effectiveness of their camouflage. When lying on dead leaves or red clay, they can be almost impossible to notice. They will frequently stay still even when approached closely, and will generally strike only if physical contact is made.
Like most other New World vipers, copperheads exhibit defensive tail vibration behavior when closely approached. This species is capable of vibrating its tail in excess of 40 times per second— faster than almost any other non-rattlesnake snake species.
Remember, ecosystems need snakes. Humans need ecosystems. Therefore humans need snakes – even the venomous ones. There is potential on the horizon for stroke, diabetes, and even cancer cures. Researchers have found a component of snake venom that successfully inhibits the migration of cancer cells. Each snake killed out of fear could be holding the cure for what actually is a killer.
Want more fun, fauna facts? Go ahead and smash that subscribe button and hit the notification icon to not miss a single fact. If you like THIS video, go ahead and push the like button, or that other button also works. If you’d like to help us grow, consider becoming a patron on Patreon or clicking the Paypal link on AnimalFacts.us. And as always catch ya next time.
*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).