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West Virginia Wildlife
Poisonous Snakes
Katelyn Sykes Seldom Seen But Know The Facts

May 23, 2014
Reporter: Katelyn Sykes
Videographer: Brad Rice


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Katelyn Sykes) -- It’s the perfect time of the year to get outside and take in the beautiful scenery of wild and wonderful West Virginia.

Wild, is the key word.

There are a lot of wild animals in West Virginia including 22 species of snakes.

"We have common snakes like our garter snake, green snakes, black rat snakes,” said Jim Fregonara, a biologist with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “Most of the common ones that people see are the garter snake and black rat snakes."

Out of 22 snakes found in the Mountain State, two are venomous -- the northern copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. Both would rather be away from people. Copperheads prefer the woods while rattlesnakes like to be high up in the mountains. But if you come across one, how can you tell it’s venomous?

"First of all, you don't want to get that close to them,” Fregonara said. “But if you're close enough to see their eyes, if they have round eyes, like our eyes are round, they're non-venomous. If their eyes are shaped like a slit, like a cat eye, that's going to be a venomous snake."

The rattlesnake gives away another clue. Its tail rattles -- a tell-tale sign that you don’t want to get too close.

While the copperhead doesn’t rattle, its body still provides a clue as to what it is.

"Milk snakes, young black rat snakes, even garter snakes and cornsnakes all resemble copperheads, but copperheads are the only snakes that have a unique hour glass marking on its back,” he said. “They also have a coppery colored head and they have that slit for eyes rather than a round eye like our non-venomous snakes."

And if you come across one, don’t get too close and leave it alone. Snakes can strike out about half of their body length, and you don’t want to get bit. These bites can be deadly, so if you do get bit, seek medical attention immediately.

While your chances of coming across venomous snakes are slim, it can still happen and now you know what to look for should you encounter one of these snakes.

LEARN MORE at the W. Va. DNR


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