Alabama, the Heart of Dixie, is a state that's as rich in biodiversity as it is in Southern charm. Among its diverse fauna, the snakes of Alabama hold a particular fascination. Whether you're an avid herpetologist, a nature enthusiast, or just someone who'd like to know what's slithering in your backyard, this guide will help you identify the various snakes that call Alabama home.
Understanding Alabama's Snake Diversity
Alabama is home to a whopping 50 species of snakes, six of which are venomous. This diversity is due to the state's varied habitats, from the Appalachian Mountains in the north to the Gulf Coast in the south. But don't worry, not all snakes are out to get you. In fact, most are harmless and play a crucial role in controlling pests.
It's also important to remember that snakes, like all wildlife, should be respected and not disturbed. If you encounter a snake, admire it from a distance. After all, they're more scared of you than you are of them. Now, let's dive into the fascinating world of Alabama's snakes.
Identifying Venomous Snakes
The Copperhead is a venomous pit viper that's easily identifiable by its copper-red head. It has a heavy, stout body and its back is covered with alternating crossbands that are light in the center and darker on the edges. Copperheads are common in wooded and suburban areas.
Despite their venomous status, Copperheads are generally not aggressive and bites are rarely fatal. However, it's best to give them a wide berth just to be on the safe side.
Also known as the Water Moccasin, the Cottonmouth is a venomous snake that's often found near water. It's dark in color, with a thick body and a broad head. When threatened, the Cottonmouth opens its mouth wide to display its namesake white, cottony interior.
While Cottonmouths are more aggressive than Copperheads, they usually only bite when cornered or stepped on. So, watch your step when you're near water in Alabama!
Alabama is home to three species of rattlesnakes: the Eastern Diamondback, the Timber Rattlesnake, and the Pygmy Rattlesnake. All three are venomous and have a rattle at the end of their tail, which they shake when threatened.
Rattlesnakes prefer dry, rocky habitats, but they can also be found in swamps and forests. They're not usually aggressive, but they will defend themselves if threatened.
Identifying Non-Venomous Snakes
Eastern Indigo Snake
The Eastern Indigo Snake is a large, non-venomous snake that's known for its shiny, indigo-blue color. It's the longest native snake in the United States and is a protected species in Alabama.
Indigo Snakes are docile and pose no threat to humans. They feed on a variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, and even other snakes.
The Corn Snake is a popular pet snake due to its docile nature and beautiful coloration. It's non-venomous and is often mistaken for the venomous Copperhead. However, the Corn Snake has a more slender body and its back is covered with red-orange blotches outlined in black.
Corn Snakes are excellent climbers and are often found in trees. They feed on rodents and are beneficial for controlling pest populations.
What should I do if I encounter a snake?
If you encounter a snake, the best thing to do is to leave it alone. Most snake bites occur when people try to handle or kill snakes. Remember, they're more afraid of you than you are of them.
What should I do if I get bitten by a snake?
If you're bitten by a snake, seek medical attention immediately. Try to remember the color and shape of the snake to help identify it. Do not try to suck out the venom or apply a tourniquet. Stay calm and try to keep the bitten area below heart level.
Alabama's snakes are a fascinating part of the state's biodiversity. Whether they're venomous or not, all snakes play a crucial role in the ecosystem and should be respected. So, the next time you're out and about in the Heart of Dixie, keep an eye out for these slithering residents. You never know what you might find!