Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Jersey's Two Venomous Snakes

We have only two venomous snakes in New Jersey, but there are four snakes on our endangered or threatened species list.

Both the copperhead and rattlesnake are reclusive and shy, but each will defend itself if threatened. In reality, though, you have a greater chance of being struck by lightning than of ever being bitten by one of these snakes.

Of 22 species found in New Jersey, only the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead are venomous.

REPTILES
Endangered Threatened
Rattlesnake, timber Crotalus h. horridus Snake, northern pine Pituophis m. melanoleucus
Snake, corn Elaphe g. guttata

Snake, queen Regina septemvittata


Northern copperhead Photo by Mike Muller  via state.nj.us/dep/
Copperheads are social snakes and often hibernate in communal dens with other copperheads or other species of snakes including timber rattlesnakes and black rat snakes.

Adult copperheads eat mostly mice but will also eat small birds, lizards, small snakes, amphibians and insects, especially cicadas.

Copperheads have fangs that inject prey with a hemolytic venom that subdues its prey by causing the breakdown of red blood cells, making it easy for the snake to swallow. The copperhead seeks out its prey using its heat-sensitive pits to detect objects that are warmer than its environment. This also enables them to find nocturnal mammalian prey.

A copperhead, one of New Jersey’s least common snakes, is frequently confused with the northern water snake and the eastern milk snake, among the state's most common species. Copperheads have a dark-colored pattern that forms hourglass-shaped bands from side to side, but coloration is highly variable among individuals and changes according to seasonal shedding periods.

You should never approach this snake, or try to handle it, or disturb it. Copperheads and other snakes help to control rodent populations in its environment."

Timber rattlesnake Photo by Kris Schantz via state.nj.us/dep/
The timber rattlesnake inhabits three distinct areas – the Kittatinny Ridge and the northernmost portion of the Highlands as well as the sprawling Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. The copperhead is limited to hilly, forested regions in portions of northern New Jersey and a few isolated, hilly areas of Hunterdon and Somerset counties.

While the rattlesnake has its rattle to distinguish it from other snakes, many other snakes mimic the rattlesnake by shaking their tails on leaves, twigs and other objects. A rattlesnake has jagged and dark bands extending from side to side around the center and back end of the snake.

More info: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/daw/snakes/

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