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West Virginia Wildlife
Snakes Of West Virginia
Patrick McMurtry Biologist Provides A Little "West Virginia Snakes 101"

July 17, 2013
Reporter: Patrick McMurtry
Videographer: Brad Rice


West Virginia Division of Natural Resources biologist Jim Freganara knows more about snakes than just about anyone in the state.

"There's our timber rattlesnake," Freganara said. "This is our official West Virginia state reptile, and they come in different colors phases. This one is kind of yellowish, kind of gray. Some will be almost all black. They can live to be 35 to 40 years old. If he does rattle, all that means is you're in my space and leave me alone."

The rattlesnake the biologist was referring to is about 10 years old. The way he was acting was pretty typical. He was sticking his tongue out to get a bead on his location. He was not agitated and really could care less if anyone was around or not. Even if he did want to strike, he can only strike half his body length. If you don't hear him, you might get him confused with other, non-venomous snakes.

"You can look at the shape of the head. The non-venomous snakes will have more of a spear head. The rattlesnake will have more of a triangular head. If they have slits for eyes, that's going to be a rattlesnake or a copperhead." Freganara said.

While the timber rattlesnake isn't very aggressive, the other poisonous snake in the state is a little more dangerous.

"When you're around copperheads, you have to be extra careful. Rattlesnakes pretty much want to be left alone, they will coil and rattle, but copperheads are much more agitated and much more nervous." Freganara said.

The rattlesnake is more venomous than the copperhead, but neither get as long as the imposing black rat snake. Although it looks mean, it's not, and it does a lot of good, keeping the rodent population down wherever it goes, much like every other snake in the state.

LEARN MORE at the W. Va. DNR


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