How To Tell If A Snake Is Venomous In 5 Steps?

Hey there! Some links on this page are affiliate links which means that, if you choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!

Confronting a snake is mighty scary, to begin with. On top of that, having to figure out whether that snake poses a danger to your life is a task that is almost impossible at that second. But, how to tell if a snake is venomous?

Well, in this article, you will not only understand how to tell if a snake is venomous, but you will also understand how to differentiate between venomous and non-venomous snakes and how you should go about tackling bites from these reptiles. Keep reading to understand all about venomous snakes!

How to tell if a snake is venomous in 5 steps?

How to tell if a snake is venomous?

Now, there are four crucial steps in trying to identify whether a snake is venomous or not. These are essentially understanding the behavior of that snake, what habitat it usually resides in, and two specific physical attributes, namely, its coloring pattern and the shape of its head.

I have properly explained each of these steps in the subsequent sections!

The behavior of the snake

There are a few varying things you can look for when trying to identify a snake. One of the most important is the snake’s behavior. Many snakes will exhibit warning signs before attacking, such as hissing or coiling up.

One very common behavioral sign that venomous snakes exhibit is that of rattling their tails loudly. However, this trait is typically exhibited by the rattlesnake species!

Habitat of the snake

Observing a snake’s nesting behavior is one way to help identify whether it is venomous or not. Additionally, gaining knowledge about the habitats in which different snakes live can also be helpful.

For example, pit vipers tend to live in warm, wooded areas, while copperheads prefer rocky environments. Similarly, venomous cottonmouth snakes are found in habitats that have water bodies close by!

The coloring patterns of snakes

There are predominantly four species of venomous snakes in the United States- the coral snake, copperhead, rattlesnake, and cottonmouth. While there are various species of snakes in the US, these four are the only ones that can kill you.

It is vital to be able to identify them so that you can take the necessary precautions. And what is one of the ways you can identify these venomous species? By their coloring patterns.

Though snakes are typically colored in a way that allows humans to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous snakes, this is not always the case. Scientists do admit that depending solely on the coloring pattern of a snake may not be entirely reliable in determining whether it is venomous or not.

In some instances, the color of a snake can be misleading. For example, coral snakes are typically red, black, and yellow. However, there are other species of snake that share this coloring and are harmless.

Therefore, it is important to use other methods for identifying poisonous snakes, such as analyzing their behavior or looking at the shape of their head.

The head of the snake

One more way to tell if a snake is venomous is by looking at its head. Venomous snakes have evolved various heads that can help them deter predators, such as horns, spikes, and large teeth.

Pit vipers are venomous snakes that can be identified by the pits or holes on their heads. Other such snakes that have peculiar and distinctive heads include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes.

Further, all venomous snakes in the United States of America have two pits located on their face that allow them to detect infrared radiation from prey. This is an important adaptation for hunting in the dark.

The shape of the snake’s pupils

A venomous snake's pupils

The final step to identifying a venomous snake is by checking its pupils. Venomous snakes have vertical and extremely well-defined pupils, while non-venomous snakes have round pupils.

It’s important to be able to tell the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes, as it can help you stay safe if you encounter one in the wild.

This pupil method should only be used as a last resort if you can’t tell whether or not a snake is venomous. It’s important to remember that you can only use this method if you are at a safe distance from the snake. If you are too close, the snake may feel threatened and attack you.

What does mimicry refer to in the context of venomous snakes?

Mimicry is a term used in the world of venomous snakes to describe when a nonvenomous snake adapts a color or pattern similar to that of a venomous snake.

This adaptation helps the nonvenomous snake avoid being eaten by predators. It also helps them blend in with their surroundings, making it difficult for potential prey to spot them.

On the one hand, there are natural advantages for a nonvenomous reptile in mimicking the colors of a venomous one. It can avoid being eaten by predators and can sneak up on prey more easily. On the other hand, there are also some disadvantages to this form of mimicry.

For example, it can sometimes confuse predators as to which snakes are dangerous and which ones are not.

What’s the difference between poisonous and venomous snakes?

The main difference between the words venomous and poisonous is that while venom is something that is injected into your bloodstream or body, poison is something that is ingested in your body.

Therefore, venomous snakes are those that can deliver toxins through biting. There are different types of venom, but they all have the ability to harm or kill their prey. Poisonous snakes, on the other hand, do not have venom and rely on other methods to kill their prey.

The garter snake is one of the rare and well-known examples of poisonous snakes in this world.

Is it possible for venomous snakes to bite without injecting venom into your body?

how to tell if a snake is venomous

A venomous snake can give a human or another animal something called a dry bite. This is when the snake bites its victim but does not release any venom. It is important to remember that even if a snake doesn’t release venom, it can still cause serious injury.

You should, however, remember that even if the snake doesn’t inject any venom, there is still a risk of infection. That’s why it’s so important for you to always seek medical attention after being bitten by a snake, regardless of whether you think it to be venomous or not.

Is it necessary that venomous snakes are always large?

Venomous snakes can be found in many shapes, sizes, and colors. While there are some venomous snakes that are notably large, others are very small. It is of paramount importance to be aware of the size of the snake, as well as other identifying features, in order to properly identify a poisonous snake.

Though many people think that all venomous snakes are large, this is not always the case. Baby bull snakes, for example, measure over seventy inches in length but are entirely non-venomous.

The eastern coral snake is an example of the opposite. While they are one of the most venomous snakes in North America, they are not all large. In fact, they can be quite small, growing to be only about eighteen inches in length.

What should you do if you happen to come across a snake around you?

Keep a safe distance from snakes.

There are some basic things you should follow if you happen to encounter a snake either in the wild or in your home!

Keep your distance from the reptile.

If you do cross paths with a snake, the best thing to do is to keep your distance. If you are too close, the snake may feel threatened and attack you to protect itself.

It is important that you remember that not all snakes are venomous, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you aren’t sure of whether or not a snake is poisonous, it is best to contact a professional.

Even if you think moving it to a different location might help it for some reason, don’t. Snakes are fairly intelligent creatures and are entirely aware of their surroundings. Therefore, you’d only be making the snake uncomfortable and, thereby, potentially aggressive by trying to move it.

Be aware of your surroundings.

If you encounter a snake while you’re on your routine nature trail, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and not try to touch or move the snake. You should also keep an eye on the snake’s movements as it may give you some indication of whether or not the snake is venomous.

Keep your body covered.

If you go out into nature often, you should wear apparel and footwear that keep you protected from any snakes that are lurking in the undergrowth. Full pants that are made of thick fabrics and boots that cover your ankles too are great options to stay safe from any surprise encounters with snakes!

Call in the pros

If you come across a snake and it is in danger, such as if it is cornered or tangled in something, your best bet is to call a wildlife rescue organization. They will know how to safely remove the snake from the situation and relocate it.

Can garden snakes kill you with venom?

Garden snakes

No, garden snakes are a non-venomous snake species. Therefore, it is impossible for these snakes to kill you with their venom. That said, ultimately, they are snakes and have fangs that can cause some serious injury to you if the snake chooses to sink his teeth into your body.

These snakes are generally observed in the central and northern parts of the American continent. Garden snakes are characterized by the white or yellow stripes that run along the length of their bodies. Further, these snakes are so-called because of how commonly they are found in gardens!

What can you do if you get bitten by a venomous snake?

If you are bitten by a venomous snake, the most important thing is to stay calm. Keep the area below your heart level and immobilize the wound with a pressure immobilization splint and bandage.

Changing your position to keep the bite area level or below where your heart is, helps prevent the venom from traveling through your lymphatic system.

You should then seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Here are some additional tips you should remember if you do have the misfortune of getting bitten by a snake!

  • Take off any accessories and jewelry from around the bitten area, as it may swell up.
  • You should also avoid applying any ice to the bitten area of your body.
  • Avoid any intake of caffeine or alcoholic beverages to ease the pain.
  • Avoid washing the bite or compressing it. Further, don’t attempt to suck the venom out. 

How is venom different from poison?

Well, venom is a substance that is injected into your body by an animal. It is introduced to your bloodstream by virtue of some animal biting you. Poison, on the other hand, is merely something that you happen to ingest. It is worth remembering that both venom and poison can have drastic effects on your health.

However, when dealing with snakes, you don’t really have to worry about poison since the threat from a snake only arises due to its bite or its venomous bite!

What are some of the most common venomous snake species in North America?

North America is home to various species of snakes. However, there are some types that are not only venomous but also more commonly found in this part of the world. I have listed these species and their characteristics below to help you identify these if you happen to spot them!


There are many different types of venomous snakes in North America, but the most well-known is the rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes are found in many different types of habitats, including desert areas and forests.

They can grow up to 6.6 feet long and have a distinctive rattle on their tail that makes a buzzing noise when vibrated. There are 33 different species of rattlesnake in North America, making them one of the most diverse groups of venomous snakes.

Cottonmouth snakes

One of the most commonly found venomous snake species in North America is cottonmouth. These snakes can be identified by their markings and size. Cottonmouth snakes get their nickname from their white mouths and can range in size from 24-48 inches long.

As adults, snakes tend to be darker in color than their younger counterparts, and they might be totally brown or black with dark bands running down their brown or yellowish bodies. Every year, cottonmouths are discovered in swamps, floodplains, and wetlands.

Coral snakes

Coral snakes are essentially a species that spend their time under the ground level. These snakes are striking to look at due to their red, yellow, and black coloring pattern. Now, even though these snakes are comparatively small, they are still extremely dangerous.

Further, these snakes spend most of their time near water bodies like lakes or marshes. If you do spot a coral snake and it raises its head at you, you must retreat immediately since a raised head is a sign that the snake is feeling threatened!


These light brown, banded species of snakes are characterized by the appearance of their neck. But because of their color, they blend extremely well within their environments, making it difficult for you to spot them in their habitat.

While their venom will cause harm to you, it is unlikely that you will die as a result of it. Nonetheless, you should maintain a safe distance from this reptile species and avoid getting bitten at all!


The way to tell if a snake is venomous or not is to pay close attention to its appearance, behavioral characteristics, the way its eyes look, and what habitat you have found them in. This is no easy task, and make no mistake, knowing this stuff could even help save your life someday!

That said, remember that most snakes will leave you completely unharmed if you don’t threaten them and stay at a distance from them!

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.