From iconic quotes like “There’s a snake in my boot” to scenes out of Old West movies, it’s clear that one of the things Texas is known for is its snake populations. Thanks to its overall warm climate, rural areas, and wide range of habitats, Texas is honestly a great place for snakes to live.
If you’ve wanted to go to Texas or were just curious, you’ve probably wondered what snake species live in Texas, how common they are, and which ones you should look out for. We’ll be going over common snake species and their traits as well as trying to answer questions you may have about snakes in general.
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How Many Different Species of Snake Call Texas Home?
Texas is home to 68 different species of snake. Out of the five major groups of snakes, Texas houses four, with the only exception being Boidae.
Ten of those snake species are different varieties of rattlesnakes, however, the majority of species are non-venomous. We’ll be going over some of the most common species in detail later on in the article.
Fun Snakes in Texas Facts
Out of all the snake species in Texas, some stand out above the rest. Whether they’re the biggest, smallest, longest, or deadliest, something about them just draws attention. Here are the quick hits on some of these different snakes.
Biggest and Longest Texas Snakes
The biggest snake in Texas is up for debate. Eastern Diamondbacks and Texas Indigo snakes have been found to grow well over nine feet (2.74 m) in length. A typical Diamondback is closer to five or six feet (1.52 m to 1.82 m) though, while an average adult Indigo snake is at or above seven feet (2.13 m)in length.
Smallest Texas Snake
The smallest species of snake in Texas is the Texas blind snake. Only growing to between 3 and 13 inches ( 7.62 cm – 33.02 cm) in length, its mouth is so small it can’t bite humans. They’re hard to distinguish from earthworms and mostly feed on ants and termites
Most Common Texas Snake
Rat snakes are the most common species you’ll find in Texas. While not dangerous at all, they can grow to around four feet (1.21 m). Mostly feeding on rats, birds, and eggs, these snakes are not venomous and run rather than fight.
Every venomous snake bite should be taken seriously and properly treated. The overwhelming vast majority of snake bites are not fatal. Rattlesnake bites are easily some of the strongest venoms you can encounter, especially the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. This is probably the most famous example of a deadly Texas snake.
The thing is, there are plenty of antivenoms for rattlesnake bites. Nearly as venomous, coral snake venom paralyzes you and eventually causes your heart and lungs to quit functioning. Since the antivenom for coral snake bites is much more scarce, these are the deadliest snakes in Texas.
Roughly 7,000 people in the United States are bitten by venomous snakes each year. While this may seem like a lot, it’s a very small portion of the population. In fact, out of those 7,000 bites, only about five of those people die.
In about half of all venomous snake bites, the bite is considered “dry,” where no venom is injected. This coupled with the smaller fangs of many venomous snakes and generally available anti-venom result in the massive survival rate for snake bites (roughly 99.8%).
This does not mean you should feel safe handling, harassing, or playing with snakes. You should be giving them a wide berth and backing away when you stumble across one. Texas is home to four kinds of venomous snakes: rattlesnakes, coral snakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads.
There are ten different species of rattlesnakes that call Texas home, living in all kinds of environments from the desert to the swamps. The most common and largest rattlesnake in Texas is the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.
All types of rattlesnakes are easy to identify, as you’ll likely hear them before you see them. Ranging in color from black or grey to tan and even greenish, their distinct tail is a dead giveaway to their species. They shake their tail to produce a rattling noise when threatened, and it’s a warning they will strike.
Rattlesnakes generally feed on a variety of small prey items including mice, rats, gophers, birds, and all lizard species. They use a venom made of a mixture of hemotoxins and neurotoxins to incapacitate their prey.
Diamondbacks can be found in almost every environment, spending much of their day coiled up in shady places, even using other animals’ burrows as a home. In the colder months, they tend to migrate into caves to hibernate until the weather warms up.
For the most part, Diamondback rattlesnakes are between three to five feet long( 0.91 m – 1.52 m), with larger specimens growing to over seven feet(2.13 m) in length. In captivity, they’re known to live as long as twenty years.
Eagles, foxes, roadrunners, coyotes, kingsnakes, and bobcats are all natural predators of rattlesnakes. They’re also commonly killed by cows, horses, deer, and antelope because these animals see them as a threat.
You can identify coral snakes by their bright red, yellow, and black stripes. They have small mouths and their colored bands do not wrap around their bodies to include their bellies. To tell a coral snake from similar snakes, look to see if the red stripe is next to the yellow stripe. If it is, then the snake you’re looking at is a venomous coral snake.
Coral snakes generally prefer the arid scrub brush and woodlands. Found most often in the San Antonio Area, these beautiful snakes have extremely similar colors to other common snakes such as the milk snake Scarlett snake.
A large portion of a coral snakes’ diet is made up of other snakes. They tend to be shy, unaggressive, and don’t strike as freely as rattlesnakes. That being said, a bite from them can still be deadly, as there is a short supply of antivenom to combat their neurotoxins.
A typical coral snake will grow to between 13 and 24 inches (33.02 cm – 60.96 cm) in length. They emerge from their eggs fully venomous and can live for up to seven years. Eagles, hawks, and other birds are common predators of coral snakes.
Only one recognized species of cottonmouth is found in Texas. They’re the world’s only semi-aquatic viper, spending much of their time swimming through still, murky water in search of prey.
Generally dark brown or olive-colored with dark bands, the snakes get their name from their white mouths. Cottonmouths average around three and a half feet (1.06 m) in length and are most common in the Eastern end of the State.
Also called water moccasins, cottonmouths will feed on just about anything they can get their jaws around. This includes fish, frogs, other snakes, lizards, rats, and mice. They’re also one of the few snakes known to feed on carrion.
The bite of the cottonmouth delivers a hemotoxin that stops blood from clotting. Like other snakes, they fall prey to birds and large mammals, however, the cottonmouth can be prey for aquatic creatures as well such as alligator gar, alligators, and larger snakes.
Three subspecies of copperheads can be found in Texas, with most larger populations centered around Central, West, and South Texas. You can identify them by their copper color, and distinct markings. They very much blend into fallen leaves, being another generalist snake when it comes to preferred habitats.
They primarily feed on rodents, but will also eat insects. Copperheads are known to swarm locations where locusts are emerging to gorge themselves. Like other snakes, they fall prey primarily to birds and mammals, but can also be killed by herd animals that see them as a threat.
Most copperheads average around two feet (0.60 m) in length and can be very defensive. They won’t chase people but will strike quickly when cornered. The good news is that due to their extremely short fangs, their bites rarely deliver enough hemolytic venom to be fatal.
You can commonly find these snakes hanging out around springs. The Trans-Pecos area is famous for hosting large numbers of copperheads.
Despite the well-known reputation of its venomous snakes, there are more kinds of nonvenomous snakes in Texas than venomous ones. While still able to bite, these snakes have either no venom or venom so weak that it only causes localized swelling in humans.
Even with no venom, these snakes play important roles in ecosystems. Don’t kill snakes, venomous or not, unless they pose an immediate threat to you or your family. For the most part, if you leave them alone and give them space, they will leave you alone as well.
1. Rat Snake
Rat snakes are a very common and widely distributed species that can range in color from all black to yellow, green, or orange. All kinds have a white belly, a loaf-shaped body, and a mottled coloring towards the tail.
As adults, rat snakes feed on mice, rats, squirrels, and bird eggs. During their juvenile phases, they tend to feed on small rodents, frogs, and lizards. They tend to remain motionless when frightened, then vibrate their tail to release a smelly odor.
Rat snakes tend to only grow to around four feet (1.21 m), but they’re more commonly found at between two and three feet (0.60 m – 0.91 m) in length.
Hognose snakes are easy to identify thanks to their markings, size, and distinctive nose. Reaching about four feet( 1.21 m) in length, these snakes have markings similar to rattlesnakes with a different head shape.
Eastern Hognose prefers sandy soil and lives in woodlands, farmlands, and near the coast from Florida to Texas and beyond. When approached, they tend to flatten out their necks and hiss to ward off threats. If this fails, they’ll hilariously flip over, open their mouths, and play dead.
A favorite prey for hognose snakes is frogs and toads, which it pierces with fangs located at the back of the throat to swallow easier. They also will feed on small mammals, insects, and species of salamanders. They’re preyed on by birds, larger snakes, and mammals like coyotes and wild hogs.
Technically, hognose snakes have venom. Due to the weak potency and short fangs of the snake, their venom isn’t really dangerous to humans. If you’re bitten by a hognose, the worst you’ll likely get is some swelling around the bite location.
Commonly confused with cottonmouths, these snakes prefer the watery areas of South Central Texas. Diamondback water snakes can be identified by their blunt head and the fact that they tend to smell bad. No really, they secrete a foul-smelling musk.
Growing to around five feet (1.52 m), with some specimens over eight feet (2.43 m) in length, the diamondback water snake is the largest water snake in North America. They’re very irritable and will bite readily whether provoked or not.
Water snakes tend to feed on frogs and fish for the majority of their diet. They fall prey to fish at young ages, then birds of prey, wild hogs, and alligators in adulthood.
Rough green snakes are the kind you see in pictures with funny hats on them. The thin, bright green snakes grow up to three feet (0.91 m) in length and spend most of their time in bushes or other covers. They can be hard to spot thanks to their great camouflage in these settings.
Mainly feeding on insects, especially grasshoppers, these snakes don’t have any kind of venom and are generally harmless for people. They tend to run away and hide when approached, but can still bite if handled improperly.
Central Texas along rivers is where you’ll find the highest populations of rough green snakes. They fall prey to birds of prey, other snakes, and when they fall into the water even fish.
Texas milk snakes grow to be between 24 and 35 inches ( 60.96 cm – 88.9 cm) and have very similar markings to coral snakes. The main way to identify them is a white stripe instead of a yellow one, with the red stripes touching the black ones instead of the yellow.
Milk snakes have 25 separate subspecies and can be found in a vast range around the world. In Texas, they’re typically found in forested areas. They move around mostly at night while preferring to spend time underneath cover in the day.
They get the name milk snake for being found so often inside barns. Of course, these snakes don’t drink milk, and they tend to gravitate towards barns because of how often you can find mice (their primary food source) in them.
Outside of rodents, milk snakes will eat insects, smaller snakes, and lizards. They’re a favorite food for adult coral snakes, as well as birds of prey.
Texas is home to a variety of other nonvenomous species aside from the ones we’ve covered. The most common are listed above, however, you’ll likely be able to find plenty more.
- Scarlet King Snake
- Similar in color to coral and milk snakes, these snakes primarily feed on eggs.
- Garter Snakes
- Almost always have a long stripe down their body, these snakes can range in color from blue to orange and green to red.
- Texas Patchnose
- A fast-moving, daytime hunter found across Texas.
- Resembling a whip with a black head fading to white or tan along the body, they’re one of the longest snakes in Texas.
Texas is a wonderful place for snakes to live. While Central Texas has the highest number of species, snakes can be found everywhere in the state.
This is likely because Texas has a warm climate with very mild Winters most years. It also ranges from arid deserts that some rattlesnakes prefer to humid swamps.
Since snakes are cold-blooded reptiles, they rely on the warmer climate to keep their body temperature high. The Southern United States itself is home to a much higher number of snakes and snake species than the Northern United States.
Urban sprawl, deforestation, pollution, draining swamplands, and increased farmland area are all factors that reduce the available habitat for snakes. These activities also cut off existing habits from one another, fragmenting populations.
In essence, it makes moving areas to find prey even more difficult for reptiles with low mobility. If their prey is exhausted or leaves because of a lack of resources, then the snake population in an area may simply die out even if there is plenty of space for them.
The major effect of climate change on snakes is that their territory is expanding Northward. All snakes have preferred temperature ranges, and as it heats up outside, they move where they’re most comfortable.
Being cold-blooded, hotter weather gives snakes more energy and makes them more active. Being more active means they need to consume more food. As time goes on, we’ll likely see snakes migrating into more populated areas in search of food.
Higher temperatures are also a driving force for faster plant growth. In turn, this leads to higher populations of rodents, a key prey item for most species of snakes. With more prey available and higher ambient temperatures driving reproduction, it’s likely to lead to an increase in snake populations and more confrontation with people.
Snake venom is incredibly complex in its chemical makeup and function. It can however be boiled down to three main kinds of toxins based on the venom’s effects. These are hemotoxins, neurotoxins, and cytotoxins.
Snakes aren’t limited to one kind of venom either. Many snakes carry a combination of multiple venom types to bring down prey and defend themselves from animals much larger than them. The potency of venom is also important, as some snakes are essentially not venomous as their venom is only effective in small animals.
Texas Snakes FAQ
What to do if you stumble across a snake?
Whether you can identify the snake or not, your best option is to back away from it while keeping an eye on it. Give the snake a wide berth, don’t mess with it, don’t agitate it, and don’t try to touch it.
Even nonvenomous bites hurt, while venomous bites require immediate medical attention.
Immediately call 911 and request help. You will want to get to a local hospital as quickly as possible to receive antivenom. Move away from the snake to avoid being struck again, and then remain calm and avoid moving to slow the spread of the venom.
If possible, keep the bite location lower than your heart. This also helps slow the spread of the venom. Don’t do anything that speeds up your heart rate, DO NOT try to cut or suck out the venom, and do not apply a tourniquet to slow the spread.