Living in the United States (especially in Arizona and Nevada), may have exposed you to an encounter with a snake or more at least once in your lifetime. Something about looking into those serpentine eyes, with the tongue flickering out, will send a shiver down anyone spying. You probably gave it a wide berth unless you have an unquenchable thirst for a dangerous adventure.
Let’s be honest; the snake is one animal that doesn’t inspire the greatest confidence. Few people see one and get the urge to touch it or come close to it. That instinctual sense of preservation can save you from a venomous snake bite, thus saving your life.
Many snake species call the United States home. Yet, no one can tell you with utmost confidence the exact number. The inability to establish snake populations is due to sampling challenges. The state does not keep track of these non-priority species. Also, the snakes don’t make it any easier because of their elusiveness.
With that said, there have been some attempts to count the snakes per state. So, let’s delve deeper into Arizona vs. Nevada to determine which has more venomous snakes.
Important Information About Venomous Snakes
Out of the existing 3500 snake species, 600 are venomous. Some terrifying examples are the yellow Sea snake, gaboon viper, banded krait, Eastern brown snake, and the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake. Others are the forest Cobra, inland taipan, bushmaster, black mamba, and king cobra.
The venom of these snakes can immobilize the prey, sometimes leading to fatalities. It should be noted that death is not always the result of the envenomation or venomous bite. Allergic reactions can be the cause.
In the US, 7000 to 8,000 people will likely experience a snake bite. The numbers per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. The only silver lining in these numbers is that only 5 out of the bitten, 7000 or 8000, will end as a fatal case. However, anti-venom injections available in most hospitals can save victims.
Distinguishing a Venomous From Non-Venomous Snake Bite
By looking at it, can you tell whether a bite is venomous? The answer is tricky. It depends on how much you know about snakes. If you can ID the snake that bit you, then you can be sure that there’s venom flowing through your body. The banded krait and king cobra are easy to identify. In that case, drop whatever you’re doing and run to the nearest hospital for life-saving intervention.
But here’s an important bit of knowledge. A closer observation of the bite site will give you some critical information. If you see two very distinct puncture wounds, that is a sign of trouble. You see, non-venomous snakes will leave two teeth mark rows instead of puncture wounds.
You may also start to experience the following:
- Breathing difficulty
- Blurred vision
- Elevated heart rate.
The reality is many people will panic after a snake bite. Consequently, the symptoms may present, no matter whether venomous or non-venomous. So, don’t wait for the snake bite symptoms to get worse. Better stay safe by seeking medical help immediately.
How Fast Can a Venomous Snake Bite Kill?
So how much of a time window do you have between a snake bite and potential fatality? Well, it depends on:-
- Which species you had the misfortune to cross paths with.
- How much venom the snake released in the bite. Interestingly, the snake controls how much venom it will inject into its victim.
- Size and health status of the victim.
When compared, the Australian inland taipan’s venom is the worst, beating the deadly cobra. Death can occur between 30 minutes to an hour if the victim does not get medical attention.
A Look at Nevada and Arizona Snake Populations
Nevada and Arizona top the list as some of the most snake-infested states in the United States.
The Warm Temperatures
Snakes are ectothermic, relying on environmental conditions to regulate their body temperature. Arizona and Nevada experience hot and dry climates, thus providing an ideal environment for the snakes. The reptiles can remain active for most of the year without hibernating because of long periods of cold weather.
Abundance of Prey
The Arizona and Nevada desert, mountains, forests, and grasslands provide plenty of habitat for venomous and non-venomous snakes.
Limited Human Activity
Arizona Venomous Snake Species
Arizona has 52 identified snake species, out of which 14 are venomous. The densest populations are in Phoenix, specifically north Scottsdale and Gold Canyon.
The venomous snakes include:-
- 13 rattlesnake species, including the Arizona black rattlesnake, banded rock rattlesnake, Colorado Desert sidewinder, Mojave rattlesnake, and the Grand Canyon rattlesnake
- Desert massasauga
- Sonoran coral snake
Nevada Venomous Snake Species
Like Arizona, Nevada has 52 snake species. Yet, according to the Washoe County Government, only 12 are venomous.
The venomous ones all belong to the Viperidae or pit vipers family and include:-
- Mojave Green rattlesnake
- Western diamondback rattlesnake
- Speckled rattlesnake
- Great basin rattlesnake
- Panamint rattlesnake
Gopher snakes are non-venomous snake species that are quite common in Nevada. They are interesting because they resemble rattlesnakes, specifically the Great Basin rattlesnake. But unlike the latter, the gopher snake’s tail has no rattle.
Other salient differences are that gopher snakes are slimmer with rounded heads and pupils. Rattlesnake eyes are vertical, and they have triangular-shaped heads. The gopher snake’s body is also shiny, unlike the rattlesnakes’ dark-colored bodies.
Let’s dive deeper into some snake species found in Arizona and Nevada.
The Sonoran Coral Snake
The colorful Arizona Sonoran coral snake is easily identified due to its yellow and bright red pattern. It doesn’t grow too big, rarely exceeding two feet in length. But it’s the perfect example of not letting its small size fool you. The snake is quite aggressive, and the neurotoxicity in the venom can kill victims quite fast.
Many people mistake the Sonoran coral snake for the non-venomous Arizona mountain kingsnake. The latter prefers higher elevations, mountain areas, or near streams. Its warning to potential victims is a foul-smelling musk that it emits when anything disturbs it.
Unlike the Sonoran coral snake, the body has red, black, and white bands, further adding to the confusion about the two. But there are salient differences to help you tell the two species apart, including:-
- A kingsnake is typically bigger.
- The separating banding on coral snakes is yellow, while the king snake is black.
- The kingsnake has a longer head and a pointed snout, while the coral snake has a short stubby, or rounded snout.
The appearance mimicking by the non-venomous kingsnake is a survival tactic. Thus, predators will avoid it thinking it’s the Sonoran coral snake.
The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
The Western diamond rattlesnake is an Arizona native. It has a distinct diamond-shaped pattern on its back. Its preferred habitat is grassland and arid desert. Like other rattlesnakes, it will give a warning with the normal rattling sound. The venom is very toxic and can result in fatality.
Mojave Sidewinder Rattlesnake
The Sidewinder or Mojave Sidewinder rattlesnake is unique. Rather than gracefully sliding forward, it tends to ‘sidewind’ along substrates. That is a preservation method because the body doesn’t come into too much contact with the hot ground.
The Sidewinder is not very big, typically not exceeding two feet long. It’s easy to recognize with the triangle-shaped head and black or dark brown diamond-shaped patterns on its back.
The venom of the Mojave rattlesnake results in paralysis, breathing problems, and, finally, death. The snakes are common in the southwestern part of Arizona and Nevada in rocky areas. Seeing one can be difficult because the color allows camouflage seamlessly into the rocks.
When the snake bites, immediate symptoms will be swelling, pain, and tissue damage on the bite site. Lack of medical attention will result in muscle weakness, breathing difficulties, and death.
The desert massasauga is gray or tan with brown blotches on its entire body. The venomous snake will sound its rattle as a warning. But the sound is different from what you will hear with the other rattlesnakes, as it sounds more like the buzz of a bee.
Also, the desert massasauga does not have very long fangs. Thus, a typical bite will only contain a small amount of venom, rarely resulting in fatalities.
Banded Rock Rattlesnake
The banded rock or Arizona banded rock rattlesnake has wide, dark bands on its yellowish-brown or sometimes greyish-brown body. They are common in canyons, rock outcrops, and hillsides.
The banded rock rattlesnake species are active during the day and will come out to bask. Like the other snakes, it’d rather avoid aggression but will attack if it feels threatened by anything or anyone.
Are Venomous Snakes Naturally Aggressive?
The surprising and strangely calming answer is that venomous snakes are not naturally aggressive. Indeed they would rather keep away from humans and animals. They’ll only display aggression if they feel the need to defend themselves. And that includes any attempt to capture or handle them.
So take the following cautionary steps to avoid snake bites:-
- Be especially watchful of your surroundings, especially when outdoors. Some of the snakes camouflage quite well against the background. Thus, you may step on one, causing it to strike.
- Some of the snakes, especially the rattlesnakes, will give a warning before striking. So awareness includes listening carefully to sounds like rattling or rustling in the bushes.
- Wear appropriate clothing when exploring the outdoors, especially if there may be a possibility of snakes in the area. For instance, long pants and boots will protect your feet and ankles.
- Stick to designated areas or trails when hiking or exploring. Human traffic and clearing of vegetation will typically chase snakes away.
- If you are outdoors at night, ensure plenty of illumination for your path. A flashlight will help you see any snakes, thus giving you a chance to avoid them.
- Be careful about reaching under rocks or into crevices, as these are favorite resting places for snakes.
- If you encounter a snake, give the reptile a wide berth and let it go on its merry way. If it’s not moving, slowly back away and let it be.
- In the case that, despite your best efforts, you fall victim to a snake bite, seek immediate medical attention.
Immediate Action After a Venomous Snake Bite
Understanding this part could be the difference between saving or losing a life. Use the same tips whether you’re the victim or someone else is.
It’d be hard to remain calm when a snake bites. That is understandable. But, you must call on every strength you have to do that. Venom travels in the bloodstream and lymphatic system. So, in an excited state, the heart beats faster, thus transporting the toxin more quickly.
Also, no matter how tempting, don’t try and suck out the venom because it can lead to infections.
Immobilize the Affected Area
If the bite is on a limb, immobilize it immediately. Don’t, for any reason, elevate it to above the heart level. Otherwise, the venom will move faster toward the heart.
Keep Up With Symptom Monitoring
Keep track of symptoms like breathing, heart rate, swelling, or any other we discussed above.
Loosen any constrictive clothing and remove jewelry so as not to interfere with blood flow. Furthermore, don’t apply a tourniquet hoping to stop the spread of the venom, as it’ll make things worse.
Get Medical Care
We’ll keep reiterating this part. Get yourself or the victim to the hospital as soon as possible for an anti-venom injection.
It’s important to remember necessary details like the time of the bite. If you saw the snake, describing its features could be pertinent information for the medics.
Arizona Leads in the Most Venomous Snake Species
Arizona leads, though not significantly, with the most venomous snake species. Even though they have 52 snake species, Nevada only has 12 dangerous ones, compared to Arizona’s 14. Yet, they’re all behind Texas, which takes the US snake infestation-by-State trophy. Information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website shows that Texas has over 105 species, of which 15 are venomous.
We’ll end this article with a word of caution. Unless you are a snake expert and can determine which is venomous, give all snakes the respect they deserve. As we shared, snakes are not aggressive creatures and would rather stay away from humans. Be watchful of your surroundings, especially if you’re in areas that may have reptile populations. Don’t try to capture or handle the snake. Rather, keep your distance at all times.
Finally, take time to learn what to do after a snake bite. The most obvious and prudent action would be to seek medical attention. That anti-venom could be why you get to see and respect snakes in the future.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © jaroslava V/Shutterstock.com
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