Types of Venomous Snakes

Rattlesnakes | Copperheads | Cottonmouths/Water Moccasins | Coral Snakes


Coiled up rattlesnake


Upclose photo of black rattlesnake

Photos courtesy of Sean P. Bush
There are many species of rattlesnakes in the United States. Rattlesnakes are the largest of the venomous snakes in the United States. They can quickly and accurately strike one-third or more of their body length from any position, whether coiled or stretched out. Rattlesnakes may use their rattles as a warning when they feel threatened, although they do not always rattle before biting. Rattlesnakes may be found sunning themselves near logs, boulders, or open areas. These snakes may be found in most work habitats including the mountains, prairies, deserts, and beaches. Antivenom is recommended for the treatment of signs of progressive envenomation (e.g., worsening of local tissue injury, systemic symptoms).

U.S. Geographic Region: Across the United States.


Copperhead Snake

Snake in the road

Upclose picture of copperhead

Photos courtesy of Sean P. Bush

Copperheads vary in color from reddish to golden tan. The colored bands on their body are typically hourglass-shaped. They have a deep facial pit between each eye and their nostril. Most adults are about 18–36 inches long. They are not usually aggressive, but will often freeze when frightened and will strike in defense if threatened, contacted or interacted with. Workers are more likely to be bitten when they unknowingly step on or near a copperhead. Copperheads are often found in forests, rocky areas, swamps, or near sources of water like rivers. Early administration of antivenom results in faster limb recovery and reduced limb disability after copperhead snake envenomation.

U.S. Geographic Region: Eastern states, extending as far west as Texas.

Cottonmouths/Water Moccasins

cottonmouth snake

Cottonmouth snake

Upclose picture of cottonmouth snake

Photos courtesy of Sean P. Bush and Frederick S. Boyce

Cottonmouth snakes average 50–55 inches long. The adult snake’s skin is dark tan, brown, or nearly black, with vague black or dark brown cross-bands. Juveniles have a bold cross-banded pattern of brown or orange with a yellow tail. Cottonmouths are frequently found in or around water.

U.S. Geographic Region: Wetland areas, rivers, lakes, etc., in the southeastern states.

Coral Snakes

Coral Snake

Photos courtesy of Mike Cardwell and Elda Sánchez. Other venomous snakes display warning coloration.

These snakes are sometimes confused with nonvenomous king snakes, which have similar colored bands although in a different arrangement. Coral snakes tend to hide in leaf piles or burrow into the ground.

U.S. Geographic Region: Wooded, sandy, or marshy areas of the Southern United States.

Page last reviewed: May 31, 2018