Get familiar with the venomous snakes of North America, so you know what to do in an encounter or better yet, avoid it!
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Venomous Snakes: The Most Deadly Snakes in America
Rattlesnakes | Venomous Snakes
Rattlesnakes belong to the subfamily of pit viper snakes. Some of the most venomous snakes in the U.S. are rattlesnakes.
1. Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
This type of rattlesnake roam the southeastern regions of the United States in lower coastal plains. You will also find them in southeast North Carolina to the Florida Keys, west to south Mississippi, and East Louisiana.
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes grow to a length of 96″ which makes it our largest rattlesnake. It has also a reputation for being the most dangerous snake in North America.
2. Timber Rattlesnake
It is commonly found in most of the eastern regions of the United States, except the extreme northern regions. The timber rattlesnake grows to a length of about 75″.
It prefers remote wooded hillsides with rock outcrops, swampy areas, and floodplains.
3. Mojave Rattlesnake
The distinction for the most venomous rattlesnake in the world goes to the Mojave rattlesnake. It is commonly found in southeastern regions of the U.S. in south Nevada, southern California, and southwest Utah.
The Mojave rattlesnake grows to a length of about 51″. You can find them in upland desert flatland supporting mesquite, creosote bush, and cacti.
Be wary of these snakes in arid lowland with sparse vegetation, grassy plains, Joshua tree forests, and rocky hills, too.
4. Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
The southwestern regions of the United States from southeast California eastward to central Arkansas are the hunting grounds for this venomous snake.
The Western diamond rattlesnakes grow to a length of about 84″. They prefer arid and semiarid areas such as brush desert, rocky canyons, bluffs along rivers, and rocky foothills.
5. Speckled Rattlesnake
The chances of an encounter in the desert areas of the southwestern regions of the United States with a speckled rattlesnake is pretty certain. It grows to a maximum length of about 52″.
You will encounter this rattlesnake in rugged rocky terrain, rock outcrops, deep canyons, talus, and chaparral amid rock piles and boulders. It is also active during the day in spring and fall and active at night in the summer.
6. Pygmy Rattlesnake
Pygmy rattlesnakes grow 15 – 31″ long and ranges from eastern North Carolina to the Florida Keys, west to eastern Oklahoma, and East Texas. It prefers mixed pine-hardwood forest, sandhills, marshes, and areas near ponds.
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Unlike other rattlers, the massasauga has nine enlarged scales on top of its head. It ranges from northwest Pennsylvania, west to eastern Iowa, and southwest into Texas.
Keep your eyes open for this rattlesnake in dry woodlands to rocky hillsides to bogs and swamps.
You will find the sidewinder rattlesnake in the desert areas of the southwestern regions of the United States. At about 33″ long, it travels over shifting surfaces by “sidewinding.”
It is a process by which the snake makes use of static friction to keep from slipping when crossing soft, sandy areas. It does prefer arid desert flatland with sandy washes or mesquite-crowned sand hammocks.
A trail of parallel J-shaped markings is left behind it.
Primarily nocturnal, this snake is usually encountered crossing roads and trails between sundown and midnight in the spring. During the day, it occupies mammal burrows or hides beneath bushes.
9. Black-Tailed Rattlesnake
At 28-49 inches in length, the black-tailed rattlesnake is the least venomous of the kind. They like rocky mountainous areas, usually among rimrock and limestone outcrops, wooded stony canyons, chaparral, and rocky streambeds.
It ranges from Arizona to east/central Texas and south through central Mexico.
10. Tiger Rattlesnake
At 20-36 inches long, the tiger rattlesnake is another highly-venomous pit viper snake kind. It hunts in arid rocky foothills and canyons; primarily in the ocotillo-mesquite-creosote bush and saguaro-paloverde associations.
You will also find them in central Arizona and south to Sonora, Mexico.
Other Venomous Snakes
You will find cottonmouth snakes in the southeastern regions of the United States. This snake mainly resides in southern Missouri to south-central Oklahoma and central Texas.
At about 75″, it is a very dangerous and aggressive snake indeed. It prefers lowland swamps, lakes, rivers, bay heads, sloughs, irrigation ditches, and small clear rocky streams.
The Eastern Copperhead roams the southeastern region of the United States from east Texas to eastern Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, the Northern Copperhead roams southwest Massachusetts to southwest Illinois, south to northeast Mississippi, north Alabama, north and central Georgia, and throughout South Carolina.
At 53″ long, copperhead snakes prefer wooded hillsides with rock outcrops above streams or ponds and edges of swamps.
13. Western Coral Snake
Western coral snakes prefer rocky areas and plains to lower mountain slopes. But, they are also found in the rocky upland desert in arroyos and river bottoms.
The Western coral snake ranges from central Arizona to southwest New Mexico south to Mexico.
Do not confuse this poisonous snake with other harmless snake look-a-likes, like the milk snake. The coral snake has adjacent red and yellow bands.
The non-venomous species, on the other hand, has adjacent red and black bands. Remember this saying? “Red and yellow can kill a fellow, but red and black is a friend of Jack.”
14. Eastern Coral Snake
This beautiful snake ranges from southeast North Carolina to south Florida (including the Florida Keys) and west to south Texas. At about 48″ long, they pack a dangerous, even deadly venom in their tiny fangs.
It prefers moist, densely vegetated hammocks near ponds or streams in hardwood forests, pine Flatwoods, rocky hillsides, and canyons. Take note, the red and yellow bands are adjacent.
Do not confuse this poisonous snake with other harmless mimics such as the scarlet snake and scarlet kingsnake.
Again, remember this saying, “Red and yellow can kill a fellow, but red and black is a friend of Jack.”
15. Texas Coral Snake
Texas coral snakes prefer ponds or streams in hardwood forests, pine Flatwoods, rocky hillsides, and canyons. It is found in southern Arkansas, west Louisiana, and south Texas into northeast Mexico.
Like other species of coral snakes, the red and yellow bands are adjacent. Once again, remember this saying, “Red and yellow can kill a fellow, but red and black is a friend of Jack.”
This video from Tech Insider will show you how to survive a snake bite:
While the chances of dying from a snake bite are nearly zero, it’s best not to take any chance. This positive stat is also credited to the availability of antivenoms and immediate medical attention.
Snake bites can be painful and dangerous still, and you never want to be a part of that statistic. Now, with more knowledge about the venomous snakes of North America, your chances of survival just went up.
Have you encountered any of these venomous snakes before? Tell us all about your venomous snake survival experience in the comments section below:
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 26, 2016, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
Your listed range for the cottonmouth is incorrect. It is very common in most of the Southeastern states.
Just a typo error in your comments on the Mojave rattlesnake….you mentioned the range was I=southeastern U.S. and I assume you meant “southwestern”
I have recently caught a timber Rattlesnake in Glendale pa on route 53. We saved him from the road and released him in the woods nearby. If anyone wants to see the video its on my you tube page. Adam chura on YouTube. Feel free to check it out and also like and subscribe
One snake that wasn’t mentioned is the Pacific rattler. It ranges in Northern CA. It is the only rattler in N CA. Each rattler has its own specific rattle sound. The Mojave is probably the Mojave green. Arizona has 11 species of rattle snakes. S. CA has seven. Most have venom B. The Mohave Green has venom A. There have been some snakes in S CA that have had both, so interbreeding has occurred. Venom A is a neurotoxin. B is hemotoxin.
The photograph you have posted under Werstern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotaluis atrox), is not a rattlesnake. It is a Sonoran gopher snake (Pitupophis catenifer), a non venomous and beneficial rodent destroying machine. If you see this snake, please do no harm to it- it is harmless!! Shame on you guys for not knowing better- this is basic amateur level stuff! Note round pupils and no apical pits.
Also, the most venomous rattlesnake in the world is Crotalus durrissus, the Cacavel, of South America.