The Mississippi is one of the most prominent rivers in the United States, stretching 2,350 miles and flowing through 10 US states. On the east of the river are 26 more states, fourteen of which make up America’s east coast. Some of these states, like Florida, have as many as 44 snake species, while others like Maine have none.
While some species are rare and hard to find in these parts, others are more commonly seen and have high populations on America’s east coast. This article discusses every kind of venomous snake east of the Mississippi River.
How Many Venomous Snake Species Live East of the Mississippi River?
There are 8 venomous snake species in the states east of the Mississippi River. They are the copperhead, cottonmouth, eastern diamondback rattlesnake, eastern coral snake, eastern massasauga, timber or canebrake, pygmy rattlesnake, and the Texas coral snake.
Copperheads are one of the most popular snake species in North America and are responsible for most of the recorded snake bites in the entire US. Copperheads are venomous pit vipers that grow to medium lengths of 20–37 inches. They are colored tan to brown and have reddish-brown hourglass markings on their skins.
Although these snakes bite often, they are not extremely venomous, and the chances of surviving a copperhead bite are high if the victim receives prompt care. Copperheads are found in various habitats, including rocky outcrops, mixed woodlands, and even swampy regions. These venomous snakes are ambush hunters that stalk their prey and wait for them to get close before attacking. However, copperheads generally avoid company by attempting to camouflage when they hear humans approach.
Timber or Canebrake Rattlesnake
Timber rattlesnakes are also known as canebrake rattlesnakes. They have tan or grayish skins with dark brown or black crossbands. These snakes attain an average of 36-60 inches and weigh up to 52.3 ounces (3.3 pounds). Timber rattlesnakes are one of the most venomous North American snakes, so a bite from one is quite a cause for worry.
Like all rattlesnakes, these snakes are pit vipers with solenoglyphous fangs. Their venom contains extremely potent hemotoxins that affect their victims’ blood cells and tissues. These snakes are considered endangered in most states due to their low populations and the fact that they are slow to sexually mature and reproduce.
Also known as water moccasins, cottonmouths are another very venomous pit viper species. They are semi-aquatic and live in both the land and water. Although they are members of the same genus as the copperheads, they are far more venomous. Their venom contains potent hemotoxins that break down blood cells and stop the blood from clotting.
According to research, they can emit as much as 237 mg of venom but need only about 100–150 mg to kill a human. Cottonmouths got their name from the whitish interior of their mouths. When approached by humans, these snakes do not back away. Instead, they stand their ground and threateningly expose the interiors of their mouth.
Eastern Coral Snake
Eastern coral snakes are venomous elapids that hardly grow past 31 inches long. They are known for their distinct wide, black, and yellow rings, which encircle their entire bodies. This species is notorious for its neurotoxic venom, which makes it the deadliest coral snake. Its venom is neurotoxic and causes paralysis and respiratory failure, among other complications.
The eastern coral snake can emit up to 20 mg of venom but needs only 4 to 5 mg to kill a human. Consequently, an eastern coral snake bite is an emergency and should be treated as one. Luckily, in 2021, an antivenom for eastern coral snake bites was developed, greatly increasing the chances of survival after a bite.
Texas Coral Snake
The Texas coral snake used to be a subspecies of the eastern coral snake but has been elevated to a species. This species has the usual black, yellow, and red coloring for which its genus is known. It also has a deadly and dangerous neurotoxic venom. Texas coral snakes grow to an average length of 42 inches and grow a bit thicker and longer than coral snakes.
Texas corals snakes are also said to have a higher venom yield than eastern coral snakes, although not many studies have been conducted on this. The venom of a Texas coral snake causes neuromuscular disorder, respiratory or cardiovascular complications, and even death.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are deadly pit vipers that grow to an average of 4 to 5 feet and up to 5 pounds weight-wise. They can be identified by their blackish-gray to muddy gray and even olive-green skin with irregular blotches close to their heads.
They are extremely venomous snakes with the longest solenoglyphous fangs of any rattlesnake. Consequently, their bites are notoriously painful. Venom from eastern diamondback rattlesnakes is hemotoxic in nature and affects blood cells and tissues.
Pygmy rattlesnakes are the smallest venomous snake in the United States and measure just 16 to 24 inches long on average. Despite their small size, they have hemotoxic venom that is extremely potent on their prey. With humans, a bite from a pygmy rattlesnake may not cause death, but it is potent enough to cause the victim to lose the bitten part.
Eastern massasaugas are a species of massasauga rattlesnakes known for their docile and calm demeanor. This species goes to extra lengths to avoid humans by never rattling its tail when it senses humans nearby. Research leads us to believe that they do this because of how often they were hunted by humans.
Eastern massasaugas avoid rattling their tails as it could draw attention to them. These snakes grow to 24 to 30 inches in length and have gray or tan colors marked with brown or black blotches that run down the center of their backs. Although eastern massasaugas are venomous and capable of killing humans, they are regarded as one of the least venomous rattlesnakes.
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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock.com
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