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Snakes of the Florida Everglades

Venomous, Non-venomous, and Invasive

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Snakes of the Florida Everglades

Florida Cottonmouth Snake

US Geological Survey
There are many species of snakes in the Florida Everglades. Most are harmless, but there are 4 venomous snakes that you should know how to identify. Read on for more information about the snakes you might encounter when you visit Everglades National Park.

VENEMOUS SNAKES

The Florida cottonmouth, also known as the water moccasin, has a "bandit's mask," a dark line which runs through the eye, bordered above and below by white. It is often confused with other water snakes that are non-venomous. There are a few ways to tell them apart from their non-venomous relatives. The Cottonmouth floats high on the water, with most of its body visible above the water line. When it feels threatened, it will most often cock its head up, and vibrate the tail (which is not done by other water snakes). If it continues to feel threated, it will pull into a tight coil and open the mouth wide, showing its white-colored mouth.

The Eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the world’s largest rattlesnake, and the heaviest of all venomous snakes. It can range from 3 to 6 feet long, but some can reach up to 8 feet. The color pattern can be brownish, brownish yellow, brownish gray or olive, overlaid with a series of 24-35 dark brown to black diamonds with slightly lighter centers. These are considered to be the most dangerous venomous snake in North America. They are not usually aggressive, and give a warning by shaking the tail, making a rattling sound. If you encounter or hear a rattlesnake, quickly move very far away from it so it will not consider you a threat.

The Eastern coral snake has bright bands of red, yellow and black. Two other snakes – the scarlet kingsnake and the Florida scarlet snake, also follow this color scheme, but they are non-venomous. To tell them apart from the Eastern coral snake, you can look at the pattern. If the red and yellow body bands touch, then it is the venomous one. Remember the phrase "Red and black, friendly Jack … red and yellow, kill a fellow." This one also has a black nose, while the mimics have a red one. These snakes do not often bite, but if they do, just one drop of venom can cause serious health problems. Move away if you see one.

The Dusky pygmy rattlesnake, also called the ground rattler, is the most common venomous snake in Florida. It is also the type most likely to bite humans. It has a gray body with black blotches all over. The back has a series of almost circular black markings along the middle, with a dotted red to orange line running straight down the center between blotches. These are small snakes, usually only about 2 feet long. Their bite is very painful, but usually not serious. The snake does not give very much warning before striking.

NON-VENOMOUS SNAKES

Most of the snake species living in the Florida Everglades and non-venomous. Learn about the different species by following the links for more information.

INVASIVE SPECIES

During the last decade, more and more exotic snakes have been found in the Everglades. Nearly 1,000 Burmese pythons, one of the largest snake species in the world, have been removed from the area since 2002. Many of these snakes are pets released into the park by owners, and then their population can increase rapidly. These invasive species can be devastating to the local ecosystem, as they prey on native wildlife.

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