Discover Virginia’s 3 Largest And 3 Most Dangerous Snakes This Summer!

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: August 12, 2022
Image Credit Scott Delony/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

The state of Virginia is home to 30 species of native snakes. Depending on the climate, there are certain species more prevalent in each location. Some of these snakes range from large to lethal, depending on the species. But are any both? In other words, is the size of a snake indicative of how venomous it is? The simple answer to this is no. Big doesn’t always mean dangerous in the animal realm. To put this into perspective, the little mosquito is the world’s deadliest critter, inflicting the deaths of nearly 1 million people each year!

Certain snakes can also be quite formidable if you are ignorant of their habitats and habits. And some can seem intimidating in appearance but pose no threat to you. So, how can you be sure which snakes are a potential threat? Also, what are Arizona’s largest and most venomous snakes to be aware of this summer? Below we will uncover the top 3 largest and the top 3 most dangerous snakes to keep an eye out for in Virginia this summer, 2022. Let’s find out if any of them are both large and lethal!

3 Largest Snakes in Virginia This Summer!

NAMEAVERAGE ADULT LENGTH (in)VIRGINIA RECORD (in)
Eastern Ratsnake42 – 7279.8
Northern Pinesnake48 – 6666.1
Timber Rattlesnake36 – 6067.1
3 Largest Snakes in Virginia – 2022

Measuring 79.8 inches (6 feet 7 inches) in total, the Eastern Ratsnake is the largest snake ever recorded in Virginia history! This proves that just because something is large does not mean it’s dangerous. Another evident fact from the data is that these snakes in Virginia have surpassed their normal adult lengths! Let’s look deeper at these snakes’ lengths, measuring more than the average human being.

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1.      Eastern Ratsnake

A pair of Eastern Ratsnakes (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) snuggle during the spring season. Raleigh, North Carolina. The base of their body is typically a shiny black.
There is no threat to humans from Eastern Ratsnakes because they are not venomous.

samray/Shutterstock.com

Appearance

The Eastern Ratsnake has a black and white checkered belly, while its upper body is shiny black with keeled scales. The skin on the face and throat is either white or cream. Juveniles have a very distinct appearance. The gray and brown spots on a pale gray background make for an eye-catching design on their backs.

Danger Level

There is no threat to humans from Eastern Ratsnakes because they are not venomous. They are also non-aggressive and typically avoid any human interaction. However, if the snake feels trapped, it will strike.

Habitats and Habits

Aside from the state of VA, Eastern Ratsnakes can be found from CT to SC and west to the middle of KS and OK in fields, forests, farmland, and suburban areas. Even though Ratsnakes are nocturnal in warm locations, they are nevertheless active during the day. They can be seen lounging in the sun, out in the woods, or on the plains, looking for food.

2.      Northern Pinesnake

pine snake
Pine snake bites can be painful even though they are not lethal.

Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

Appearance

The Northern Pine snake coloring varies in the wild. Some specimens have a bright white color; however, this is rare. Northern Pines have a base hue of off-white to light buff, with some yellowing. 30–39 patches of deep brown or black occur along the dorsum’s ridge. These spots might be clustered together. Some specimens have interesting spots that shift color from black to mahogany or chestnut-red towards the midbody. The rest of the dorsum has little black dots. These color patches lack a pattern.

Danger Level

Pine snake bites can be painful even though they are not lethal. If you happen to catch a Northern Pine Snake by surprise, it may hiss and vibrate its tail at you, but it won’t harm you.

Habitats and Habits

Since pine snakes spend most of their time underground, even in places where they are known to exist, it is rare to observe one in the wild. When they are most active in the spring and early summer, they search for rats and other small mammals to feed by going from burrow to burrow.

3.      Timber Rattlesnake

Iowa Snakes - Timber Rattlesnake
The timber rattlesnake tends to remain coiled or stretched out, motionless, if it encounters a predator in its natural habitat.

Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

Appearance

The coloring of the Timber Rattlesnake varies across their range. Their bodies are striped with light and dark lines. They can be brown, grey, or black in the north but tan or yellow in the south. Their undersides are cream-colored. The end of the body is always dark. Their scales are keeled, giving them a rough body. Their triangular head is yellow, tawny, or gray. A dark line stretches from the eye to the mouth. The coloring of these snakes will help them blend into the forest floor while waiting for prey.

Danger Level

Timber rattlers are highly venomous, and they have long fangs that they utilize to inject their prey with venom. The venom toxicity poses a serious threat to human life. Unlike other rattlesnakes in its family, the timber rattlesnake tends to remain coiled or stretched out, motionless, if it encounters a predator in its natural habitat. If you come across this large snake, do not approach it!

Habitats and Habits

This snake is found in much of the eastern US, but its distribution is spotty in many locations. This species inhabits a wide range of environments. They prefer rocky locations and often hibernate in crevices or small caves. Their habitats include woods, wetlands, swamps, mountains, and more. Unlike several rattlesnakes, this one avoids crowded areas. The Timber Rattler is a diurnal creature that basks or hunts for prey during the day.

3 Most Dangerous Snakes in Virginia This Summer

NAMEAVERAGE ADULT LENGTH (in)VIRGINIA RECORD (in)
Timber Rattlesnake36 – 6067.1
Northern Cottonmouth30 – 48  74.1
Eastern Copperhead24 – 3648
3 Most Dangerous Snakes in Virginia – 2022

This means that all three venomous snakes found in Virginia are pit vipers: they’re the copperhead, timber rattlesnake, and water moccasin. The Timber Rattlesnake, Virginia’s third-largest snake, appears to be the state’s most dangerous rattlesnake. It looks like we’ve got a “killer” combination going on. Let’s take a closer look at this group of fearsome reptiles.

1.      Timber Rattlesnake

A Timber Rattlesnake striking prey
The Timber rattler’s venom can kill a human with a fraction of the venom it takes from the Northern Cottonmouth and Eastern Copperhead.

Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

Considering what we learned about this snake in the preceding section, we can safely say that it is large and dangerous. However, did you know that the Timber rattler’s venom can kill a human with a fraction of the venom it takes from the Northern Cottonmouth and Eastern Copperhead? One-third to one-half the amount of venom, to be exact.

2.      Northern Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth venom contains hemotoxins, which inhibit blood clotting and coagulation by destroying blood cells.

Linda Burek/Shutterstock.com

Appearance

Northern Cottonmouths are usually solid brown to almost black in appearance with keeled scales. Younger snakes show significantly more patterning with alternating deep brown and light brown bands going down the body and a uniformly dark tail with a yellow tip.

Danger Level

The Northern Cottonmouth can kill its prey with just one bite. Cottonmouth venom contains hemotoxins, which inhibit blood clotting and coagulation by destroying blood cells. Even though death is quite improbable should a human get bitten, it can happen. Therefore, you should always seek medical help immediately if snake bites. The good news is that there isn’t much of a reputation for this species being antagonistic unless provoked.

Habitats and Habits

Northern Cottonmouths are distributed in the eastern US and are most prominent in the southeast regions of Virginia. In addition to swamps and freshwater marshes, these snakes are found around ponds. In the spring and fall, they will spend time in the sun, but otherwise, they are mostly nocturnal.

3.      Eastern Copperhead

Eastern Copperhead
Copperhead bites are still a medical emergency; if not treated immediately, they can cause severe wounds, amputations, or even death.

Jeff W. Jarrett/Shutterstock.com

Appearance

This species of Eastern Copperhead has a copper-tinted head, hence its name, and a reddish-brown body. It has darker, hourglass-like markings on the back, which is characteristic of the copperhead family. Its underside is tinged with a rosy color, and its eyes are elliptical.

Danger Level

Compared to the venom of many of its relatives, the copperhead’s venom isn’t as toxic. However, the copperhead is a dangerous reptile that deserves respect because it is responsible for the bulk of continent-wide venomous snake bites. Although the copperhead is typically non-aggressive, most bites happen because of mishandling or harassment of the snake species. Copperhead bites are still a medical emergency; if not treated immediately, they can cause severe wounds, amputations, or even death.

Habitats and Habits

Copperheads are native to the eastern United States and range from Alabama to West Virginia. The Eastern Copperhead prefers lush pine and hardwood woods with low, wet regions bordering marshes, river bottoms, and gorges. Large logs, trash, and rock piles are common shelters. This species occurs in suburban areas where development encroaches on suitable habitats. Spring and October are the most opportune times for eastern copperheads to be seen during daylight, as they become more nocturnal during the scorching summer temperatures.

In Conclusion

timber rattlesnake1
Various harmless snakes, especially water snakes, are sometimes mistaken as lethal and unjustly killed.

Joe McDonald/Shutterstock.com

Though some of these snakes we explored today are deadly, they rarely cause harm to humans. Certain snake bites can kill, but most snakes prefer to flee from confrontation. As a bonus, snakes help keep rodents at bay and are vital to our ecosystems. Unfortunately, human activity takes its toll on these snakes. Populations have been decimated across most of their range because of natural and human-caused causes. Various harmless snakes, especially water snakes, are sometimes mistaken as lethal and unjustly killed. Learn to identify the snakes that are in your state and prevent from killing snakes unnecessarily. Fortunately, more states are enacting legislation to save their native snakes.

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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