So, you’ve been making plans to go to Texas and surrounding regions, but you’re not that fond of snakes.
Or, maybe on the contrary, you actually love them and would like to know more about the local reptilian fauna. It’s okay, I’m here to assist, no matter your goals.
So, today we will discuss the various types of snakes you’re bound to encounter in Texas, venomous and non-venomous alike.
Venomous Snakes in Texas
These rank higher on the danger list for obvious reasons. (Un)fortunately, Texas has a fair supply of venomous snakes, some of which are quite deadly.
Here are the trademark names to look out for:
Cottonmouths get their trademark name from the white inside of their mouth, which you’re very likely to observe firsthand. These snakes are not your friends, and they will open their mouths aggressively when threatened, scared, or sense your presence nearby.
The snake is easy to recognize thanks to its short and thick body, usually no longer than 3-4 feet.
Cottonmouths are typically grey or blackish but can also exhibit warmer colors like earthy yellow and brown. They have very thick and powerful bodies with long and thin tail tips. While cottonmouths aren’t aggressive in nature, they can bite when cornered or surprised.
Their hemotoxic venom will get to work immediately, causing hemorrhage, pain, local necrosis, and intense swelling. Lovely stuff, so keep your distance if you come across one.
Copperheads are shorter but a lot more colorful. The typical copperhead can only reach 2-3 feet at most and exhibits vivid and warm colors like yellow, orange, and brown, typically with symmetrical splashed patterns.
This color pattern and warm colors allow the snake to blend in the foliage easier, which makes sense given the snake’s predilection for ambush hunting.
These snakes also possess a hemotoxic venom that leads to tissue and blood cell destruction and hemorrhage, but their bite isn’t as dangerous as other species.
Even so, you don’t want to experience the snake’s wrath firsthand. Keep your distance, especially since copperheads are rather shy and are not looking for trouble.
An interesting point here, copperhead juveniles possess a bright-yellow tail tip which they use to lure potential prey.
Adults eventually lose this characteristic, since they can hunt just fine without it.
Rattlesnakes are some of the most recognizable reptiles in the world, alongside cobras, pythons, anacondas, and a few other popular names. The snake’s name comes from the rattling sound it produces with its tail when threatened.
Rattlesnakes exhibit an immense variety in terms of size, with some being as small as 1.5 feet while others reach 8 feet, depending on the species.
The most important aspect here is knowing the core features by which you can distinguish a rattlesnake. That’s because not all rattlesnakes are identical, but they all have specific characteristics that tie into the species itself.
One of them is the distinct tail tip that comes with prominent yellow or brown rings. Most tail tips have a white and black banded pattern right before the ring section begins.
The rhomboid body pattern qualifies as another distinct feature present in nearly all adult rattlesnakes.
It’s critical to remember that there are multiple subspecies of rattlesnakes, including:
- Western diamondback
- Timber rattlesnake
- Mottled rock rattlesnake
- Banded rock rattlesnake
- Blacktail rattlesnake
- Prairie rattlesnake, etc.
All these are interspecies variations that tie to the ecosystem the snake lives in. As a general rule, though, keep in mind that rattlesnakes prefer desertic and arid areas where their duller coloring helps their camouflaging abilities.
Rattlesnakes are dangerous, as their hemotoxic venom can cause severe bleeding, shock, and organ failure, leading to death. Fortunately, fatalities are rare, especially with timely medical assistance.
However, your best tool remains your spatial awareness. These snakes prefer to be left alone, so they will curl in a ball and ring their tails when sensing your presence nearby.
Listen to your better judgment and leave the snake alone.
Non-Venomous Snakes of Texas
We’re now moving to the less dangerous snake species that you may encounter during your Texan pilgrimage, and there’s a hefty supply of these too.
Gopher snakes, or bull snakes, prefer to live in more arid regions, which explains their yellowish coloring. Many specimens exhibit rhomboid patterns similar to those of rattlesnakes, but you don’t risk mistaking the 2.
Gopher snakes look nothing like rattlesnakes. They have longer and thinner bodies, capable of reaching up to 8 feet in length. They also have smaller heads with thinner necks.
However, I’ve mentioned rattlesnakes here for a reason. That’s because gopher snakes are known to exhibit defensive mechanisms similar to rattlesnakes.
It’s not uncommon to see a gopher curling up in that typical rattlesnake ball and hissing loudly to deter unwanted visitors or predators. Some species also vibrate their tails to produce a faint sound that some may mistake for a rattlesnake.
Otherwise, these snakes are harmless, as they don’t attack humans. Even if they do, they have no means of inflicting any meaningful damage.
The problem is that, due to the snake’s resemblance to a rattlesnake, many people kill it just to be sure. Don’t be like that!
Western Hognose Snake
Hognose snakes inhabit a multitude of environments, Texas being one of them. But you can also find them in Canada and throughout Western US, depending on the local conditions.
These snakes share their habitat with many other species, especially the gopher. They are excellent diggers and ambush predators who exhibit an opportunistic personality, both in terms of hunting and in other areas.
This explains why so many hognose snakes tend to steal the gophers’ burrows.
The snake’s name comes from its upturned snout, giving its mouth a flatter appearance. Hognose snakes are small, only growing up to 2 feet, with 3 being the absolute maximum.
These snakes are harmless to humans but will hiss and inflate their bodies when threatened. Hognose snakes are also famous for their ability to play dead when encountering predators or feeling threatened. This is to make themselves unappealing to predators who won’t eat dead or decaying prey.
Sometimes it works, sometimes, not so much.
There’s no doubt that Western rat snakes are mean-looking, which explains why so many people fear them. The typical rat snake is long, capable of reaching 7 feet, and usually black with black eyes.
Some specimens could come with lighter colors like brown or grey, but that’s rare. Fortunately, rat snakes are harmless and won’t attack humans.
They will, however, attack a variety of small birds and mammals, especially rodents. Hence, their name. This explains why rat snakes are so widespread near human settlements that facilitate the reproduction of mice and rats.
Western rat snakes rank as some of the most beneficial American snakes thanks to their predilection for rodent consumption.
Blotched Water Snake
Jumping from a real giant to a petite crawler that can only reach 2-4 feet as an adult. Blotched water snakes are small, usually thick-bodied, and with a long and slim tail, which is a staple among water snakes.
What’s not staple is the snake’s coloring. While many water snakes are black or close to it, the blotched water snake is more vividly-colored, showcasing brown, yellow, and grey as the main colors.
This semi-aquatic snake prefers to live and hunt near or in water but will often lay on rocks to warm up in the sun. The main food sources include amphibians, fish, small birds or mammals, and whatever else comes near their playground.
These snakes are not aggressive, so they’re most likely to flee your presence.
Checkered Garter Snake
Checkered garter snakes got their name from their distinct checkerboard-like color pattern on their back. Most snakes come in black and white with distinct checkerboard marks, while others exhibit different coloring, combining brown with yellow, blue, and even red.
These snakes typically grow up to 2-3 feet and have long and agile bodies, perfect for habitats like grasslands, swamps, and a semi-aquatic lifestyle.
These snakes are widespread throughout North America and Texas, where you will find them hunting frogs, small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They are non-aggressive and docile, but they’re not as skittish as other species.
They’re actually quite curious and investigative, which makes them quite beloved by novice and professional pet keepers.
It also doesn’t hurt that this species is well-adapted to life in captivity and is generally easy to care for.
Coachwhips are very handsome snakes with a distinct and memorable appearance worthy of their name. The snake has a very long and thin neck and a similarly whip-looking tail.
The snake showcases thick body scales and an interesting color palette and pattern. Many specimens are completely brown with black necks and heads, while others may exhibit an even more subtle color gradient.
Coachwhips can grow up to 4-6 feet, although they can reach 8 feet in some rare cases. These snakes are fairly popular throughout North America and inhabit a variety of ecosystems, including grasslands, deserts, woodlands, and any other area with sufficient food and hiding opportunities. While coachwhips are not venomous, they do possess a fiery personality.
These are among the few snakes that prefer to attack and bite rather than flee when threatened or surprised. This species is famous for its agility, aggression, and unhinged behavior, which explains the snake’s hunting proficiency.
This snake is a vital part of the ecosystem, feeding on small mammals like rodents, other reptiles, and birds.
Eastern Texas Blind Snake
This entry takes us away from the classical reptile classification and wanders into the world of ‘What in the hell is that, even?’ The typical Eastern Texas blind snake has very good justifications for its name.
This reptile doesn’t even look like a snake to begin with; or a reptile for that matter. Blind snakes can only grow up to 13 inches, although most specimens will remain smaller than that.
The snake’s appearance is closer to that of an earthworm than a standard snake. The animal’s body is thin, smooth, slippery, and lacks any distinctive features. You’ll have difficulties telling which part is the head and which is the tail.
The only noticeable facial features are the 2 black spots that qualify as eyes, and that’s about it. These snakes even look like earthworms in coloring and even in behavior. After all, these are burrowing snakes that live most of their lives underground.
Blind snakes are not dangerous to humans, and they’re quite beneficial to their ecosystem due to their dietary preferences. These snakes thrive on termites and other small insects and larvae, many of which we qualify as pests.
Texas Patch Nose
The Texas patch nose is a long and slithery reptile that’s endemic to Southern US, especially Texas (duh.) This snake can reach up to 4 feet, but most specimens won’t go over the 3-feet threshold.
The snake is very recognizable thanks to its distinct color pattern. The patch nose comes in variations of brown and yellow with black bands stretching on the side, head to tail. This creates a wide dorsal band that also follows the snake’s entire length.
The snake’s name comes from the specific face scales that are wider and slightly more prominent than those covering the body.
Texas patch notes are agile and nimble reptiles that can move with ease in their habitat in search of food like mammals, reptiles, and birds.
This is a shy and reclusive animal that doesn’t like human presence, and it’s not known to attack.
Rough Green Snake
This is another interesting species that you’ll be more than pleased to encounter in the wild. Rough green snakes only grow to 2-3 feet and they exhibit little-to-no color and pattern variations.
This makes them easily identifiable, so you know what you’re dealing with right from the start. All rough green snakes exhibit a pure green coloring on their dorsal area and sides and a faint yellow or white on the underbelly.
Other distinct features include the extra-large and black eyes and the black mouth interior, which makes the snake looks scarier than it actually is.
This species is quite widespread throughout the Central and Eastern US, but you’re quite likely to encounter it in Texas as well.
These diurnal snakes are excellent climbers and prefer to inhabit ecosystems with lush and green vegetation for obvious reasons. They feed mostly on spiders and other insects and are harmless to humans.
Rough Earth Snake
Despite the name similarity, rough earth snakes and rough green snakes are unrelated. Rough earth snakes are quite petite, only growing up to 7-10 inches, and exhibit dull coloring, typically plain brown or dark yellow.
The preferred habitat includes ecosystems like rocky hillsides, forest edges, and urban and suburban areas, where they can find food like earthworms, insects, larvae, etc.
These snakes are fairly small and harmless, so you shouldn’t fear their presence. They will flee when in the presence of humans or even play dead (exhibit thanatosis) when rattled or surprised.
As an interesting feature, rough earth snakes are known to exhibit metachrosis, which is the ability to lighten up or darken the body’s coloring. This is to help the snake blend into its environment better.
This is different than what chameleons do with the help of their chromatophores. Chameleons change their color, while rough earth snakes only change their color intensity.
Diamondback Water snake
Diamondback water snakes come with an ominous appearance, stemming from their thick bodies and wide heads. These characteristics cause the untrained eye to mistake them for venomous species like rattlesnakes.
Especially because of the diamond-shaped pattern that can be quite visible among some specimens.
Diamondback water snakes can also grow up to 3-4 feet and come with powerful bodies and the tendency to curl in defensive balls when threatened. Which taps into the confusion I mentioned earlier.
Despite this ominous glow, diamondback water snakes are generally harmless, as they won’t attack humans. Don’t try to capture it, though, because these snakes are known to bite back when threatened.
If that doesn’t work, the unpleasant anal odor acting as a deterrent agent might do the trick.
It’s important to note that diamondback water snakes are vital for their semi-aquatic ecosystem as they feed on a variety of animals we consider pests. These include frogs, crayfish, various fish species, etc.
Endangered Species of Snakes in Texas
If your path takes you through the Texan wilderness, keep an eye out for the Texas indigo snake. This is one of the largest species in Texas, capable of reaching up to 8 feet as an adult.
It is also among the most beautiful snakes with its long, powerful, and black-scaled body and black eyes. Texas indigo snakes are famous for their beauty and ferocity. They are often called rattlesnake killers for their ability to kill and eat rattlesnakes.
But these aren’t the main reasons why you want to keep an eye out for them. The main reason is the snake’s endangered status.
This species deals with a variety of natural and human-caused threats, including habitat destruction and fragmentation, natural predators, and the illegal pet trade, to name a few.
Identify Different Snake Species of Snakes in Texas
To put it plainly, you can’t venture out into a snake-infested ecosystem without at least knowing the basics. This includes being aware of the distinctions between venomous and non-venomous snakes for change.
This is to protect you from misidentifying a venomous snake for a harmless one, which could be the last mistake you make.
The reverse is also valid, as many people mistake non-venomous snakes for venomous ones, which causes them to kill the said non-venomous snakes. You don’t want that either.
With that in mind, here are the primary characteristics that differentiate the two groups:
- The eyes – The majority of venomous snakes have vertical slits for pupils, while non-venomous snakes have round pupils. This feature may be most difficult to observe in the heat of the moment, but it’s a pretty good differentiator.
- The heat pit – Most venomous snakes possess a heat pit, which is a facial organ typically located under the nostrils. There are typically 2 such organs that look like holes, each under each nostril, but some snakes may possess multiple of them around the snout or following the mandible line. These organs can detect infrared radiation, allowing the snake to sense the prey’s warmth. Some non-venomous snakes like boas and pythons also possess heat pits, but you don’t need to rely on these organs to identify those species anyway.
- The fangs – Venomous snakes have massive frontal fangs that they use to deliver the venom. Non-venomous snakes may have teeth, but they don’t possess frontal fangs.
- Tail shape – Most venomous snakes have slimmer and pointier tails, while non-venomous snakes showcase rounder caudal appendices.
Other markers may be valid, too, such as body size and shape. Venomous snakes tend to be thinner since they don’t need to rely on their body strength to subdue the prey. But try telling that to the rattlesnake.
As a disclaimer, you may have noticed that I’ve used a lot of ‘most’ and ‘the majority’ quantifiers, and that’s for a good reason. Not all snakes fit the same pattern.
Some snakes may possess a variety of characteristics that typically belong to the opposite group. This can be coincidental or part of an evolutionary adaptation specifically designed to create confusion.
Corn snakes, for instance, mimic the appearance of coral snakes, which are venomous. This improves the snake’s survivability, as most predators don’t want to mess with a venomous reptile.
Knowing this, I recommend researching the topic thoroughly before hitting the road. Make sure you’re aware of all the snake species that you’re likely to encounter during your journey and keep your eyes open.
Snakes are experts at camouflage, and not all of them are shy or willing to flee a human encounter.
Texas thrives in snake-rich ecosystems, so you’ll have your hands full if that’s the reason you’ve decided to go Texan for a while.
So long as you learn the differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes and you treat endangered species with the respect they deserve, Godspeed, I say!