Adventurers beware: the U.S. is home to some of the deadliest snakes around, so equip yourself with the knowledge to defend against them.
The menacing look of a snake comes naturally – the smooth scaly body, forked tongue and giant fangs are designed to do more than just intimidate. Most snakes, however, are not that dangerous, and if you leave them alone they won’t harm you. If you tread on or inadvertently corner one, however, you may be in trouble.
Here are the 3 most dangerous snakes in the U.S. Avoid these formidable predators at all costs.
The Mojave rattlesnake is a venomous pit viper that lurks on bare grasslands in the southwestern U.S. The adult Mojave rattlesnake stretches about three feet long and has a distinctive appearance: it has a triangular head, narrow neck and short, black and white banded tail ending in a rattle.
Knowing how to identify a Mojave rattlesnake is a vital skill, as its venom presents a mortal hazard. The lethal species varies in color from gray and pale brown to olive. Like so many dangerous snakes, it is deceptively intriguing. A chain of brown diamonds with light centers and white edges extends along its back.
Some Mojave rattlesnakes pack the tissue-damaging hemotoxins typical of rattlesnakes. Others pack paralyzing neurotoxins that are sneakily destructive, causing no pain until acute respiratory distress kicks in.
New World Coral Snake
The New World coral snake, also known as the “true coral snake,” is an eye-catching specimen, but do not be deceived. Like the Mojave rattlesnake, it is a highly dangerous snake.
Widespread in the southern U.S., the New World coral snake has a narrow head, sleek body and long, pointed tail. Its creepy “snout” is rounded and its eyes are tiny. Its most distinctive attribute is the narrow yellow rings set between black and red rings. “Red next to yellow can kill a fellow, red next to black and you’re all right Jack,” is a popular jingle that separates the snake from its harmless mimics.
Inclined to burrow, the New World coral snake passes most of its time tucked away in animal tunnels, hollow logs and under rocks. Sometimes, it can be found hanging out in stone ruins. Remember to be aware of these danger zones the next time you set off exploring.
Theoretically, it is in the market for small snakes and lizards, but you do not want to test that theory because the New World coral snake has a tetchy temperament. If accidentally touched, it will strike in a flash. Any bite it inflicts should be taken seriously because it can be fatal.
The moccasin – or water moccasin – is a dark, heavily-built, venomous North American snake, filed as part of the viper family. Semiaquatic, the moccasin hovers in these settings: riverbanks, swamps and sluggish waterways of the southeastern Gulf and Mississippi Valley states.
The adult moccasin usually grows to up to four feet long, but can reach a terrifying six feet long. The moccasin’s color ranges from dull brown to olive or black, with wide black, jagged bands. It also as a distinct flat-topped, triangular head set atop a slender neck that looks small relative to its surprisingly chunky body.
If you find yourself in a tight space with a creature resembling a moccasin, don’t panic. Take a second to check out the eyes. If the pupils are round, it is a harmless water snake, probably more scared of you than you are of it. If the pupils are “vertical” on the other hand, it is a venomous moccasin.
When angry or spooked, the moccasin shakes its tail, throws its head back and gapes, baring its pair of membrane-covered fangs. Even more unnervingly, the open mouth and throat are strikingly white. Hence the reptile’s nickname, cottonmouth.
The cottonmouth can bite under water. The venom that the reptile releases is acutely toxic – a bite can be fatal to a human victim, making it another dangerous snake that you should never mess with.
Ever gone head-to-head with one of the most dangerous snakes in the U.S.? Tell us your story in the comments below or @DegreeMen on Twitter. Check out our guide on how to survive an anaconda attack to be ready for your worst snake nightmare.