Snakes are scaly, legless reptiles that slither across the ground and constantly taste the air by flicking out their forked tongues. Some types are venomous, such as rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes. Most species of venomous snakes are pit vipers, which can navigate their environment and hunt using infrared-sensing receptors that allow them to detect the heat of their prey.
The majority of snakes found in the United States are not dangerous and are in fact quite beneficial, such as the common eastern garter snake, which preys upon small rodents like mice and rats. Snakes also bask in the sunlight on warm days, since, as cold-blooded animals, they rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature.
In most states, non-venomous snakes are protected from indiscriminate killing. Contact the experienced wildlife professionals at Critter Control to take care of dangerous or problematic snakes, and never handle the heads of freshly killed venomous snakes, as they may still be able to inject venom through a bite reflex which lingers for a short period of time.
Snakes of Virginia
With the 35 species and subspecies of snakes found in Virginia, it is difficult to make any generalizations regarding the type of snake you might come across in day-to-day life. With that said, you should definitely know the characteristics of our venomous snakes.
Venomous Snakes of Virginia
There are three key points when identifying venomous snakes in Virginia:
- All venomous snakes in Virginia are pit vipers. They possess a heat-sensing pit, located just below the mid-point between the eye and nostril on each side of the head.
- Virginia’s venomous snakes have a single row of scales across the underside of the tail.
- Their pupils are vertically elliptical, not round.
The three venomous snakes found in the Virginia Beach area are the northern copperhead, eastern cottonmouth, and canebrake rattlesnake.
- The northern copperhead has a noticeable hourglass pattern of dark or reddish brown on a background of light brown to reddish gray.
- Eastern cottonmouths are specific to the Virginia Beach area and are generally a drab snake with dark, wide, brown, olive or black cross-bands on a lighter background of the same colors.
- The canebrake rattlesnake is also specific to the Hampton Roads region. It is similar to the timber rattlesnake that is found in the mountainous regions of Virginia but has a dark reddish stripe running down the middle of the back splitting the blotches or chevrons on the anterior one-third of the body.
Control and Safety
The best way to control snake populations is to remove potential sources of food and shelter. Clearing yards of refuse piles and frequently mowing grass helps discourage snakes from making their homes in residential lawns. Sealing up cracks and gaps along exterior walls with fine mesh or caulk also proves effective.
To eliminate potential food sources, take steps to control rodent and insect populations, such as maintaining clean living spaces and storing food in rodent-proof containers. In areas with high native snake populations, snake-proof fences may be erected to keep the slithery pests away from children in play areas, though enclosing entire yards with snake-proof fencing often proves prohibitively expensive.