Snakes of Louisiana

This web site is intended to provide information to the public concerning snakes native to Louisiana. Much of the content has been taken from Snakes of Louisiana by Jeff Boundy. This book provides a more detailed analysis of the subject and is available from the Office of the Louisiana Conservationist

For more informtion contact Jeff Boundy jboundy@wlf.la.gov

Introduction

Snakes are a fascinating part of Louisiana's natural heritage, but are also a source of much worry and fear among Louisiana residents and visitors. Most of Louisiana's snakes are harmless, and many are beneficial as predators of insects and rodents, as a source of income for reptile collectors, and as a necessary component of the food chain or "balance of nature." The fear of snakes in general, and particularly the venomous species, can be alleviated by understanding the behavior of snakes, and the limits of the threat they may pose to humans.

Snakes are an important component of the ecosystem as predators and as prey for other wildlife. They tend to be secretive, and when not searching for food or mates will usually remain hidden. Some snakes, particularly small ones, will feed almost daily, while large snakes may feed only once every week or two. During the mating season, usually in spring or early fall, male snakes may travel extensively to search for mates. During the warmer part of the year many snakes become nocturnal and are infrequently encountered by humans.

Snakes are not aggressive except when defending themselves. They do not pursue people, although they may swim or crawl toward someone they don't recognize as a threat. Venomous snakes are unable to strike a distance more than their body length, even less for large rattlesnakes. Thus, a distance of only five or six feet can be considered "safe" for any venomous snake in Louisiana. Despite the quickness of some snakes such as racers and coachwhips, they cannot crawl faster than five miles per hour, and can be easily outdistanced by a person.

The chief enemies of snakes are predators (hawks, owls, wild pigs, skunks, etc.), humans, automobiles, and habitat destruction. Snake populations can be maintained against any of these odds except for the latter.

Crotalus horridus
Canebrake Rattlesnake
Canebrake Rattlesnake
25-70 inches. Light tan or beige above with dark brown crossbands and a reddish stripe down the middle of the back; brown band from eye to angle of mouth; tail dark gray or black; scales keeled.
Agkistrodon contortrix
Copperhead
Copperhead
14-45 inches. Beige, tan or pale gray, often with a dull pink or orange tint above, with broad, darker brown, hourglass-shaped crossbands that slightly paler on the lower sides; underside whitish...
Agkistrodon piscivorus
Cottonmouth
Cottonmouth
15-55 inches. Dark tan, brown or nearly black, with vague black or dark brown crossbands; side of head black with a white line from the eye to the angle of the mouth; underside dark with large...
Crotalus adamanteus
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
25-90 inches. Brown or tan above with dark brown, pale-edged, diamond-shaped markings; dark band bordered by light stripes extends diagonally through eyes; tail with pale and dark rings; scales...
Micrurus fulvius
Harlequin Coral Snake
Harlequin Coral Snake
15-36 inches. Series of wide black and red rings, separated by narrow yellow rings, encircling the body; snout black and rear of head yellow; scales smooth and in 15 rows. The first black ring on the...
Sistrurus miliarius
Pygmy Rattlesnake
Pygmy Rattlesnake
10-20 inches. Pale gray or tan above, with a row of dark blotches or spots down the back and one row on each side; reddish or orange band present down the middle of the back, and wide black band...
Micrurus tener
Texas Coral Snake
Texas Coral Snake
15-36 inches. Series of wide black and red rings, separated by narrow yellow rings, encircling the body; snout black and rear of head yellow; scales smooth and in 15 rows. The first black ring on the...