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Broad Banded Water Snake

Q: I almost stepped on a snake in my yard and want to know what kind it was.

Q:  I almost stepped on a snake in my yard and wanted to know what kind it was.  It was light brown with patterns on the back.  I couldn’t tell if the head was truly triangle but I am curious if it is dangerous.

A:   It is tough to identify a snake just by oral description but a photo would make it much easier to determine if it is poisonous.  According to the Florida Museum of Natural History of the 45 species of snakes found in Florida only 6 are venomous and dangerous to humans.  They have a wonderful on-line guide to local snakes:  http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/FL-GUIDE/onlineguide.htm 

In general, snakes are protected if they are not poisonous.   Most Florida snakes are not aggressive and will try to get away from humans but they will bite if threatened or cornered.  According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, “The only acceptable treatment for venomous snakebite, involves the use of antivenin. So if you or someone else is bitten by a venomous snake, seek immediate medical attention at the nearest hospital or medical facility. Stay calm, remove any rings that could restrict circulation if tissues swell, keep the bitten limb below the level of the heart, and immediately seek medical attention. Your most important aids in getting to a hospital and treatment may be car keys or a cell phone.”

This website is very user friendly and I especially like that it gives a picture of the adult and the juvenile.  The juvenile snake often looks quite different from the adult.  Spend some time looking over these pictures and become familiar with them ahead of time, especially if you live near a body of water or a heavily wooded area.  It is interesting that most snake bites occur when people reach down to pick up a snake.  Our advice is walk away from the snake and do not reach down to touch it.

Obviously there is no way to totally eradicate snakes from our area and we would not want to get rid of them because they are so valuable in controlling our pest rodent populations.  In addition, some of the beneficial snakes even prey on the poisonous snakes.  So the take home message is to develop a live and let live stance then talk to your family and children about leaving snakes alone.  We don’t want children to become fearful of snakes and other creatures we just want them to have a healthy respect.  Now that I have said all this, I was pleased you sent me a picture of the snake and you identified it as a banded water snake, Nerodia facitata – nothing like someone doing my job for me.  The banded water snake is harmless but is often mistaken for a more serious poisonous snake.