The Planted Tank Forum banner

Good snake ID site? (*not for the squeamish*)

4911 Views 59 Replies 17 Participants Last post by  Mori
Night before last, I caught a chicken snake in the henhouse eating my eggs and dispatched him with one shot from the .410 (BIG snake, too! 57+"!:icon_eek: ). A couple friends said he looked like a rat snake, so now I'm wondering if chicken snakes and rat snakes are the same thing.

I'd also like to be able to positively ID other kinds of snakes. I used to be afraid of them (still am a bit) and would "kill first, ask questions later", which is, of course, the WRONG thing to do ~ upsets the ecological balance, will lead to rodent infestations, just isn't the right thing to do morally, etc. But to fight my fear of them, I need information and knowledge. I figure that when I encounter a snake, if I KNOW it's not going to hurt me, I'll be more apt to not be afraid of it, therefore less apt to "kill it and ask questions later".

Since I'm in Central Texas, a site with pics of snakes from this area would be perfect (don't snakes vary in "looks" from area to area and strain to strain?). But I think I might can muddle through with any site that has good, clear pictures.

One more question ~ is it true that snakes whose belly scales divide into two below the anal vent aren't poisonous? The chicken snake's did that. And what about the shape of the head ~ triangular is poisonous I've heard ~ true? The .410's shot blew the chicken snakes head to smithereens and almost completely off, so that info won't help me now but will in the future. I wish I would have been able to see what shape this one's was before I shot it, but nighttime-shooting-by-flashlight and a little bit of adrenaline-fear pumping got in the way of that. ;)

Thanks in advance everybody. :)
1 - 20 of 60 Posts
Yes, rat snakes and chicken snakes are the same thing. Can be very aggressive, but not venomous.
This link should be a good guide for your area.
^Nice link, I found one for NC my father is the same type of person tries to kill a snake first and then ask questions. :(

By the way snakes are cute
See less See more
That's exactly what I was looking for, Doug!! Just pefect. MUCHO thanks! :biggrin:

And you're right about rat/chicken snakes being the same thing. This is the "chicken snake" I shot: TEXAS RAT SNAKE, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimerii. What a bummer since now I'll have to watch out for extra rats around the place, but since he was eating almost all my eggs it was necessary that he go. I haven't had many eggs for a while and those girls need to earn their keep somehow ~ chicken food isn't cheap! ;)

I haven't gotten any eggs at all yesterday or today which isn't surprising since upset chickens won't lay as well. I'd be pretty darn upset if someone came into my bedroom, ate my "kids" ;) in front of me, and another someone came in and BOOM!! :icon_lol: So I can't blame the girls. Maybe I'll get more eggs tomorrow. After a long dearth of eggs, spinach quiche for dinner sounds really good.

I'm headed back over to that site to learn some more. I hope they have answers to my other questions about the split-scales below the anal vent and triangular heads.
See less See more
careful killing some states if they catch ya its a federal felony. it is here in MO
careful killing some states if they catch ya its a federal felony. it is here in MO
In SOME states it's a FEDERAL felony?????? Check your Constitution.

Most states allow that any wildlife (provided it's not endangered) that is causing damage to agriculture may be exterminated. That being said, I am not a big fan of killing snakes. It's one thing if they're damaging your livelihood, but too many people just kill them for no good reason. Considering the number of mice we have in my neck of the woods this year, I could go for some more snakes.
Good for you Linda! So many people are afraid of them, it's nice to see someone actually trying to learn about them.

I worked at pet stores far too long to be afraid of the snakes, and ended up taking a couple home with me. If you met my Baazil, he'd change your mind quick... as long as you kept him away from your chickens. Poor gals! They must have been scared.

He's a snow corn, a not too far off relative of your chicken snake.

See less See more
I never thought I'd say this, but that's a pretty snake, Jen. I've never seen one that color! Stepson#1 has snakes and bugs (had ~ traded them for aquarium stuff ~ I got him hooked GOOD! :icon_lol:) ~ he had an entire room for them. I could hardly stand to go in there. *Heehee-blush* (BTW ~ finished the Cornwell Arthur trilogy last week ~ I did the same as you, closed the last book and sat there going, "Whoa!" ~ am ordering the Saxon Chronicles and Grail Quest books next I think. ;))

No worries, Geoff ~ it's not illegal to kill chicken snakes in Texas. Even if it was, like Canoe said, those rules get bent pretty often when agricultural damage is factored into the equation.

Canoe, if I come across another one, want me to box him up and send him to you? :icon_lol: That is IF I can find someone to handle it 'cause I'M NOT touching it! You should have seen me and Mae, a girlfriend who's been staying with me, handle this one. She was holding the flashlight and me with the gun, standing in the henhouse, looking at each other expecting the other one to grab the snake to get it out of there. Nope! On to plan B ~ looooong handled tongs. :icon_lol:
See less See more
Linda - Are you sure that snake was eating your eggs? I didn't realize that rat snakes ate eggs. I'm not saying they don't - I just didn't know that.

Rat snakes - of all varieties (including Jen's LOVELY corn snake variety) are usually very helpful snakes. And not vicious either - unless cornered. Or picked up. But that is the same with most wild animals. But if you get bitten by one, you'll have some pretty distinctive marks where those teeth went in. They're curved, and go in real cleanly. But on the way out they tear a little bit (they are curved, to help them hold their prey), and will leave little tiny cuts where each tooth came out.

And telling poisonous snakes is fairly easy. And the excellent link higher in this thread will bear witness to this. There are only two types of poisonous snakes in the US - coral snakes and pit vipers.

Coral snakes are EASY to tell. If the first color band is black, and it goes from the tip of it's nose PAST its eyes - it's a coral snake. Any other colors before tip of nose and beyond the eyes, and it's something else. Something you don't have to worry about. IMO - all that "red on yellow" crap is misleading, sometimes wrong, and confusing. Stick with "black beyond the eyes" and you won't go wrong.

Pit Vipers (rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins) are a bit harder, but in a nutshell you have three serious markers. They have triangular heads, fat bodies (unless undernourished) and vertical slits in their pupils - like a cat. And all rattlesnakes DO NOT have rattles. So the absence of a rattle is not a confirmation of a snake being OK.

To illustrate what I'm taking about on head shape, and body thickness, go look in the website mentioned previously and compare the water moccasin and the diamondback water snake pictures. Most of the snakes killed in the US as "water moccasins" are actually the far more common diamondback water snake. So many, many harmless snakes get killed with a bad rap. But I digress.

If you compare those two species, you can see the difference in the head size, and body thickness. It's subtle. So frankly if you don't know the difference - it's best to stay away. And if you are looking at the pupils... well, you should have known what you were looking at before you got that close.

But in the case of your rat snake, the difference in head shape and body thickness should be fairly evident. All of the pit vipers have far more triangular heads, with the characteristic "cheek bulge" on each side. Other snakes bulges there will be far less pronounced. And the pit viper will be a lot fatter. Look at Jen's corn snake - not a fat snake. Not skinny. But not fat.

But as always, when in doubt, leave it alone.

Sorry for the rant. But it's always nice to have a chance to clear up people's confusion over snake identification.
See less See more
I Canoe, if I come across another one, want me to box him up and send him to you? :icon_lol:
Nope. I have a simple rule when it comes to pets. Unless it's a fish, it has to have four legs and fur. No lizards, no snakes, no scorpions, no spiders, no bugs of any kind, no birds, no crocodilians, no kangaroos, no crabs. And no dogs or monkeys (despite having four legs and fur). Cats and runny babbits are okay.
Oh, most definitely, Steve ~ I'm sure he was eating eggs. Not only was his head up in the nest where I knew eggs were, but I heard a crunch. Final piece of evidence ~ his body was lookin' like a string of beads. ;)

Thanks for the tips on venomous snake ID. That's exactly what I was needing an answer to ~ the triangular head question. Heehee on the pupils ~ I agree about if you're close enough to notice that, you're TOO CLOSE! :icon_lol: That's why I figured I'd see about the head shape. I thought I'd remembered that venomous snakes' heads were trianglular due to the large jaws needed to hold the extra "envenomating equipment" ... ? Regardless, I figured the head shape is one thing I could definitely remember even when I'm staring one straight on and starting to feel the fear.

Thanks so much for writing all that out for me! I'll be coming back to reread it and compare the info to pics on that site. I really do want to learn the differences.
In general, if it has a triangular head, or slitted pupils, it's poisonous. For Michigan, that's mostly true. For other states which have a more variety of snakes, it may not be so true.

But in Michigan, the northern water snake's head is triangular, it has long fangs, but is not poisonous. It has circular pupils. It would also rather run away than fight.

I should add, I got a free poster from our DNR containing 15 color photos of the most common snakes in Michigan, along with brief facts about each. Call them and see if you have one.

Instead of killing snakes try to plug the holes they got into in your chicken shack.
In general, if it has a triangular head, or slitted pupils, it's poisonous.
Thanks for the confirmation, Bulrush. :) I'm thinking that's true here, too. I don't know about the coral snake's head shape, but if not, that's got other distinct markings that'll let me know what it is.

I should add, I got a free poster from our DNR containing 15 color photos of the most common snakes in Michigan, along with brief facts about each. Call them and see if you have one.
DNR? What's that? D___ of Natural Resources? Department maybe?

Instead of killing snakes try to plug the holes they got into in your chicken shack.
That wouldn't be practical at all. My chicken coop is a frame with chicken wire on it, so to plug all those holes would be a helluva chore. :icon_lol: It has to have wire on it for ventilation (without that, conditions inside would become terrible really quickly when I can't let them out, such as during winter storms). I have it about as tight as it can be since everything gets chickens at night ~ opossums, raccoons, coyotes, stray dogs ~ but snakes will get in through a 1" hole and since that's the smallest size chicken wire, that's about as best as I can do.
DNR is department of natural resources
All of the pit vipers have far more triangular heads, with the characteristic "cheek bulge" on each side. Other snakes bulges there will be far less pronounced. And the pit viper will be a lot fatter. Look at Jen's corn snake - not a fat snake. Not skinny. But not fat.
It's worth repeating. Read the above again.

I did not state that only pit vipers have triangular heada. Most snakes have triangular heads. It's a matter of how close to an equilateral triangle. Pit Vipers (see above) have heads that are closer to that than non-poisonous snakes found in the same geographies. As before, it's a subtle difference that might take an experienced eye to see.

That said, leave coral snakes out of this question - again, as I stated earlier - those are not pit vipers, and the same rules (triangular head, slit eyes, fat body) do not apply.

And before someone feels compelled to contradict it... yes, many snakes in North America have fat bodies - like non-poisonous water snakes (hence the confusion with Water Moccasins), but their natural form is not AS FAT as that of pit vipers (Rattlesnakes, Copperheads, and Water Moccasins).

Nuff said.

I realized after my last post, there are two snakes in North America that kind of break the above rules - the Eastern/Western Hognose snake and the Pygmy Rattlesnake.

Hognoses - usually very gentle snakes, are fatter than most snakes, and even have a head that has a shape that is suggestive of a pit viper - except that it has the tip of it's nose turned up, hence the name. The Pygmy rattlesnake is a tiny version of a rattler, but is usually not very fat, small, and has no rattles. I guess there are exceptions to everything.

I'm acutely aware of these difference because of the following true story...

As a kid I was camping in the woods with some of my buddies, when one of them calls me on a walkie-talkie and says "Hey Steve, I found a baby hognose."

Knowing that hognoses have that distinctive up-turned nose tip, I was comfortable with his identification and replied, "Is it black?"

"No, it's normal colored. Why?"

"Cuz sometimes - if they are in a black color phase - they can be mean. But the normal ones almost never bite. Pick it up and bring it back to camp. It'll lbe fun."

"Just pick it up?"

"Yup. Don't be a wimp."

"Okayyyy.... I've got it. See you in camp in a minute."

So a few minutes go by, and I seem my friend happily cresting a hill and walking down into our camp site.

"Cool! Lemme see!", as I hold out my hands, held together like a bowl for him to put the baby snake.

My buddy opens his hands and dumps the baby snake into mine. It's so cute! I pulled it up to my face for a closer look. Those weren't normal hognose markings.. Size and shape was right, but the head was wrong....


I immediately dropped it to the ground! Because my buddy had just brought me a full grown pygmy rattlesnake! While it is not the most venomous of rattlesnakes, we are both lucky that day didn't end with an emergency trip to the hospital.

There's a lesson in here somewhere. I guess it has to do with being careful with snake identification. And when in doubt, leave it alone. And maybe if you are like my friend - and think you know, but are really an amateur at snake identification - it's still a good idea to leave them alone until you are sure.

PS - the little rattler really was cute. I captured it again (carefully!) and took it home where I kept it for a number of months, before its eventual release back into the wild.
See less See more
Another Texas snake page that is useful, although I feel like I must include the obligatory gig 'em before linking to it:
Anything that can move without 2 or 4 legs isn't right in my book!


Gah... snakes...
Coming late to this thread, but yeah, long and thin generally means it's okay. And hognoses are (I'm embarrassed to say) fun to torment (i.e. poke with a stick; yes, I was an evil child.) They'll shake that tail like they're a big mean rattlesnake . . . until it doesn't work. Then they'll flip over and play dead. Flip 'em upright, they'll flip back onto their backs. When you're "dead" you're supposed to be on your back, d*mmit!
Egads, Scolley! Now THAT's a story to tell your grandkids ... in the hopes that they don't bring you another one! *shudder*

Another cool snake site ~ thanks, Mori! So you're an Aggie? Did you hear the one about the Aggie who... ;)

So, Bill, you don't like fish? ;)

Heeheehee, Rose. Atleast you didn't pull the wings off flies like my little brother. ;)
1 - 20 of 60 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.