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Missouri's Venemous Snakes

Like all snakes, Missouri's five venomous snake species are incredibly shy and prefer to avoid human interaction.  There have been no snake related deaths in Missouri in the past thirty years and nearly all venomous bites occur due to inappropriate handling of these animals.  If you encounter any of these species in the wild, keep your distance or just walk away. Chances are the animal will do the same. 

Western Cottonmouth

Common Name: Western Cottonmouth, Water Moccasin
Scientific Name: Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma
Description: Heavy bodied and large (30-42 in).  Usually black with a black/cream colored belly.  This species is incredibly secretive and shy, but if confronted can be quite aggressive.  It is best just to leave all snakes alone, chances are, they will move on in a matter of minutes.

Habitat:Cypress swamps, sloughs, drainage areas in the Mississippi Lowlands.  Populations can also be in the Ozarks around small creeks and rivers.   

Osage Copperhead
- Photo Courtesy of Quentin Hall

Common Name: Osage Copperhead
Scientific Name:
Agkistrodon contortrix phaeogaster
Description: Medium sized (24-36 in.) and stout.  Grey-tan to pink-tan with hour-glass shaped brown vertebraeal markings. 
Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats ranging from praries to rocky, wooded hillsides.  Will inhabit abandoned buildings/equipment.

Timber Rattlesnake
- Photo Courtesy of Quentin Hall

Common Name: Timber Rattlesnake
Scientific Name: C
rotalus horridus
Description: Missouri's largest venomous snake (36-60 in).  Brown dorsal line, black tale, slate grey body with black side and back markings.  Species was once statewide but now very rare.  This beautiful species needs public help!
Habitat: Found in mature forests.  Dens often found on rocky, wooded, south facing hillsides and bluffs.

Eastern Massasuaga Rattlesnake

Common Name:Eastern Massasuaga Rattlesnake
Scientific Name:Sistrurus catenatus catenatus
Description:Medium sized (18-30 in).  Light to dark grey/brown with 28-40 black dorsal blotches (Tom Johnson). This species in almost extinct in the wild due to habitat destruction and persecution. 
Habitat:Marshes and moist praries in northern Missouri.

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Common Name:Pygmy Rattlesnake
Scientific Name:
Sistrurus miliarius streckeri
Description:Small bodied (15-20 in).  Body is greyish brown.  Brown dorsal stripe with black blotches on back.
Habitat:Often found in glades, second growth forests near rock ledges, and in powerline cuts through dense areas of forest.

The majority of information used in this page is from Tom R. Johnson's "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri".

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