Snake Info: There are 45 species of snakes in Florida, 6 of which are venomous. They live in a variety of habitats, some aquatic, some land-based. All snakes are carnivores, and feed on a variety of small prey. Snakes can prove beneficial in reducing rats and mice, but many people prefer not to encounter snakes at all. It is worth noting that the venomous snakes are rare, and only 4 of the 6 venomous species live in central Florida.
FLORIDA’S VENEMOUS SNAKES
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake: This is the largest and most dangerous of Florida’s native snakes. It also ranks high on the list of poisonous snakes of the world. Its large body size, quantity of venom, aggressive defensive tactics and tremendous striking speed make this snake one to be treated with extreme caution. Although it may attain a body length of over eight feet, it is rare to find a rattler over seven feet long. Rattlesnakes feed on small warm-blooded animals, mainly rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, shrews, and occasionally birds. When disturbed, the rattler assumes a defensive position with the body coiled upon itself, with the head and neck raised in an S-position. From this stance, the rattler can deliver it’s venomous strike. It almost always gives a warning rattle of the tail first. The Easter Diamondback occurs in every Florida county and in many habitats. Average adult size is 36-72 inches, and the record is 96 inches.
Timber Rattlesnake: Restricted mainly to northern Florida but has been reported as far south as Alachua County. This snake is the southern subspecies of the timber rattlesnake found in other portions of the United States. As in other rattlesnakes, the head is much wider than the neck. It is more slender in build than the average diamondback. Florida specimens seldom measure more than five feet in length. Usually found in the flatwoods, river bottoms and hammocks, also occurs in abandoned fields and around farms. Average adult size is 36-60 inches, and the record is 74.5 inches.
Pygmy Rattlesnake: Also called ground rattler, is common throughout Florida. It is found in every county. Its rattle is small and slender and produces a sound like the buzzing of an insect, which may be difficult to hear. Most pygmy rattlers measure less than 18 inches in length. It feeds on small frogs, lizards, mice and other snakes. The Pygmy has a feisty disposition, and is quick to strike. Luckily, it usually does not inject enough venom to kill an adult human. Average adult size is 12-24 inches, and the record is 31 inches.
Cottonmouth or Water Moccasin: Found commonly in every county in the state. Often when disturbed it draws into a loose coil, cocks its head upwards and opens its mouth wide to reveal the whitish interior lining, hence the name cottonmouth. It does not have to be coiled to strike, but can deliver a bite from almost any position, either in or out of the water. It is an unpredictable snake. Some individuals are calm and sluggish while others may be very aggressive. A water snake, the cottonmouth is found along stream banks, in swamps, margins of lakes and in tree-bordered marshes. It hunts at night for its prey of fish, frogs and other snakes, lizards and small mammals. The poisonous bite of this reptile results in great pain and severe swelling. With immediate and proper medical treatment, the bite is only occasionally fatal to humans. Average adult size is 20-48 inches, and the record is 74.5 inches.
Copperhead: Rarely if ever identified in the Orlando area. Most Florida copperheads are confined to the panhandle. Many snakes that are reported to be copperheads turn out to be young cottonmouths which are similar in appearance. The copper-coloured head is wider than the neck. Average adult size is 22-36 inches, and the record is 53 inches.
Coral Snake: It’s venom is the most potent of any of North America’s snakes. It has short fangs and a small mouth. It does not strike like the pit vipers but bites and chews to inject its poison. Many people use this rhyme “red touch yellow, kill a fellow; red touch black, okay Jack.” to differentiate the Coral Snake from non-venomous copycats like the Scarlet King Snake. It occurs throughout Florida, primarily in heavy brush. Average adult size is 20-30 inches, and the record is 47.5 inches.