Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Very few animals make people shake in their shoes like the idea of stumbling across a snake. However, the truth of the matter is that most snakes you will find around Central Florida are completely harmless to you. On average, most snake calls that we get are for the incredibly common Southern Black Racer. The black racer, as its name implies, is a long, slender, and agile black snake. They are opportunistic hunters and will essentially subdue anything they physically can for a meal. Frogs, rodents, birds, lizards and even other snakes are on their dietary menu. If you come across these snakes, there is no need to panic. They are completely harmless. Most people find them around thick bushes and gardens.
However, we know that you want to know about the dangerous snakes. The ones that you need to be safe around. We'll start with the famous Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus)(Pictured above). This is the largest venomous snake in North America and contains a highly potent hemotoxic venom. However, just because a snake is venomous does not mean it seeks to do you harm. If any snake that you cannot identify is found, it is simply best to step away. Do NOT attempt to kill the snake. Most bites occur from people either handling or attempting to kill the snake in question. The safest thing you can do for yourself and others is maintain distance.
Following up will be the Florida Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti) (Seen below). This snake is another well known snake that strikes fear in the hearts of many, often with stories surrounding the species of how they have chased people for extended distances. The truth of the matter is, despite the number of "stories" that people have, ZERO of them have ever been substantiated with any form of proof. In the age of everyone videoing everything, no videos of anyone being chased have ever been produced. Instead, in our many encounters with this species, they most often simply recoil and sit still with their mouth agape in a threatening pose and practically never even strike, despite being handled and moved. If a Cottonmouth is encountered on your property, it's best to leave it be and it will go on its way. However, if you need it removed for safety purposes, please contact a professional and allow them to assist you.
The next runner up in the family of Crotalid venomous snakes would be the Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri) (Seen below). Common in much of the same territories that the Cottonmouth can be found, these snakes prefer low level flood plains and cypress swamps with higher banks with a lot of pine scrub to conceal them. Their venom is not known to be overly potent, but does require medical treatment if you are bitten. Bites to dogs are common as dogs are frequently left unattended, even in areas where these snakes are common. These snakes are usually under 10" long and their rattle typically not be heard clearly like that of their bigger cousin, the Eastern Diamondback which packs a very clear and unmistakable rattle to warn off predators and outside threats. The best way to keep safe with this species if you live in their habitat, is to keep grass cut low and avoid allowing any debris to pile up around your property which may provide them safety and concealment. Further, never place your hands outside where you are unable to clearly see what is beneath it. When possible, use a long handled tool to pick up logs, boards and other material so that you can at least clearly see if there is anything under them.
Last on the Central Florida venomous list belongs to the same family of venomous snakes that also include cobras. It is in the family Elapidae, and packs a very powerful neurotoxic venom. This snake, seen below, is the Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius) and is as potentially deadly as it is beautiful. However, fear not, these snakes are truly not aggressive and bites are incredibly rare. Unlike the previously mentioned snakes, the Eastern Coral snake is unable to strike outward to bite effectively. Instead, bites usually occur from people accidentally grabbing them and giving them an opportunity to open their mouths to latch on. Most bites are gardening accidents, or mistaken identify for harmless species and then picked up and handled. This goes again to say, that if you are unable to 100% positively identify a species of snake, it is best to be left untouched and give it some space. It will happily give you the same courtesy.
Snakes are incredibly important to our natural ecosystems. They have well undeserved reputations for being evil creatures and pests. These, like any other animal, are simply trying their hardest to survive in a constantly changing environment. They protect themselves from threats just like any other animal will. They seek food and shelter, like any other animal will. They seek mates, like any other animal will. If you encounter a snake on your property, please respect its space and allow it to do its thing. If it is confirmed to be a potential human or pet safety threat, please give us a call at 813.699.9079 and we will be happy to help! Nature-Tech Wildlife Solutions LLC's services are offered in Polk County, Hillsborough County, and Pasco County Florida.