How to Identify Snakes in South Carolina

How to Identify Snakes in South CarolinaSouth Carolina is a hot, wet, rural state. These conditions make it ideal for a great variety of snake species to make their homes there. Some of these snakes are venomous, but most are not nonvenomous and harmless, and actually helpful as they prey upon pests. Still, when most people see a snake they assume the worst and panic. A little skill in snake identification will go a long way to determining if a snake is a harmless wild animal or a genuine menace. Pictured: Red (Carolina) Pygmy Rattlesnake


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Begin identification of the snake by looking for obvious, distinctive body features. For example, only rattlesnakes have a rattle. This is an easy way to either eliminate rattlesnakes from consideration, or limit consideration to South Carolina's four types of rattlesnakes.
Step 2
Observe the size of the body. The eastern garter snake, for example, is found everywhere in South Carolina. It is a slender snake with a middling length that rarely exceeds 24 inches. The eastern diamondback rattlesnake, on the other hand, averages between 3.5 and 5.5 feet and can reach up to 7 feet. It is also very stout-bodied.
Step 3
Examine both the colors and the pattern (if there is one) on the snake's body. The plain belly water snake, often found near South Carolina's freshwater swamps and waterways, is an all-olive drab green with an orange belly. That belly coloring distinguishes it from every other water snake likely to be encountered in South Carolina.
Step 4
Look at the size and shape of the head. The aforementioned plain belly water snake, for example, has a flat, arrowhead-like skull that is indistinct from the body. This can be helpful in trying to identify the snake if the belly cannot be seen.
Step 5
Look at the face and eyes. Excepting the eastern coral snake, all of South Carolina's venomous serpents are pit vipers. This means cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlers all have slit-shaped pupils and distinctive pits located between their eyes and snouts. Since the coral snake can be readily identified by its colorful red and black with yellow stripes coloration, this makes separating venomous from nonvenomous snakes in South Carolina a matter of getting a look at the snake's face.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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