How to Identify Snakes of Wisconsin

Wisconsin may not automatically conjure images of being full of snakes, and indeed it has a relatively small number of 21 native species. Only two of these are venomous. However, while the relatively small variety of serpents makes snake identification easier, it does not make it easy. Proper identification is still usually a multi-step procedure requiring careful observation. (Pictured below: Ringneck Snake)
How to Identify Snakes of Wisconsin


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Take note of any features that make a Wisconsin snake species distinct. For example, both the poisonous species are rattlesnakes (the timber rattler and the eastern massasauga rattler), which gives them a host of locally unusual characteristics: the slit eyes and facial pits of a pit viper, plus the rattle. Other examples are the prairie and northern ringneck snakes. These harmless snakes are present everywhere in the state, and have a distinctive, single yellow ring around their necks.
Step 2
Observe the local habitat. If you are in a place where a particular species of snake cannot be found, you can use that to rule out several species. For example, the queen snake is only found in places with the clean streams with stony bottoms that form the habitat of their prey: freshwater crayfish.
Step 3
Look closely at the snake's coloration. The aforementioned queen snake, for example, has a set of black and yellowish-white end-to-end stripes on its belly, and an almost all-black top. That distinctive pattern, plus the surrounding habitat, should make confirming its identity easy.
Step 4
Take note of the snake's size. For example, the quickest way to tell the difference between Wisconsin's eastern massasauga and timber rattlesnakes is by size. The timber rattler is typically 36 to 56 inches long, while the eastern massasauga is much smaller at 22 to 32 inches long.

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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