Spring snake guideApr 15, 2023 12:41PM ● By Cristi Mc Kee
As the warmer Spring months approach in Leon County, you’re likely to see an increase in the amount of snakes making their way through your yard, swimming in your ponds, or racing through nearby ditches.
Many common snakes in Leon County actually provide many positive benefits to the ecosystems in this area.
They all control the mice and rat population as these rodents serve as much of their diet.
Some of these reptiles mean no harm, while others, well, you should probably steer clear of them.
It’s important to have a good understanding of what types of snakes you may come across as their most active time of the year ramps up.
Here’s a guide to which snakes you may encounter this time of year.
Gray rat snakes: These common, non-venomous reptiles are typically hiding in your trees and near swamps and wetlands. You can identify them by their light gray color throughout with dark gray blotches down its back. They’re usually non-aggressive and non-controversial. That’s not to say that you should swipe one from a nearby Live Oak to keep as your pet; you should just leave them to their own devices. They love to eat rodents, hence their name, and they’re good snakes to have around.
Water moccasins: Water moccasins, also referred to as “cottonmouths,” have large, triangular-shaped heads with thin, slit-like eyes like those of a cat. These snakes carry powerful venom in their fangs and are semi-aquatic, so you’ll see them in the water and out of it. Water moccasins are typically two to three feet in length and have striking white mouths, as well as thick, “heavy looking” bodies. Don’t try to remove or kill a water moccasin: it’s not going to end well for you. If you have small kids or animals in your yard and know there’s an active water moccasin that frequents the area, it’s best to keep a close eye on your kids and pets and call a professional about relocating it.
Banded water snake: It’s common for people to confuse banded water snakes with water moccasins. Banded water snakes are stout-looking, dark snakes with black, red, or brown splotches bordered by black all down their back. They’re slender snakes with round pupils, unlike water moccasins. These snakes also have a dark stripe that extends from their eye to their jaw. They’re non-venomous, and not dangerous to people or pets. You can leave them be if you see them around your yard. You can pick up banded water snakes if you must relocate them to a safer area, such as if you see one in your driveway and you’re trying to back out, but be cautious unless you want to be bitten.
Indigo snakes: If you’ve seen an indigo snake out in your yard, you’re a lucky individual! These snakes, which are protected by federal and state law, are a lovely blue-black color and can reach up to eight feet in length. These snakes are usually identified by their striking color and their red or brown cheek, chin, and throat. Eastern indigo snakes typically reside in forests, swampy areas, and pine flatwoods, and aren’t aggressive when approached. All that to say - don’t approach them, unless you’re from a safe distance and want to snap a photo. They’re non-venomous, threatened, and rare. If you see one, leave it alone - or get charged up to $50,000 if you kill one. FWC is trying to track sightings of this rare snake, so if you see an Eastern indigo snake, remember to report sightings through the Florida Rare Snake Registry.
Rattlesnakes: Leon County is home to three types of rattlesnakes, all of which you should run far away from: timber rattlesnakes, Easter diamondback rattlesnakes, and dusky pygmy rattlesnakes.
Eastern diamondbacks: These snakes, which are Florida’s largest venomous snake, are usually brown, yellow or tan with distinct black, cream and brown diamond shapes all down their back. They have a rattle at the end of their tail, hence their name. They’re solitary reptiles that are ambush predators and they know how to swim. This snake, if seen, will “puff” itself up to look larger and may even start to rattle its tail to scare its threat. While they’d prefer to leave a dangerous situation such as being encountered by a human or animal, they will attack if they feel threatened at all. Eastern diamondbacks can actually strike up to 2/3 the length of their body. That being said, leave these big snakes alone and walk - or run - in the other direction.
Pygmy: These little guys pack a punch. They’re the smallest of Florida's venomous snake species, usually just under two feet in length, and are the most commonly encountered rattlesnake. Pygmy snakes and covered in dark colored splotches all throughout their bodies, with red-brown marks in between them. They have a prominent facial band extending from their eye to their jaw. Given its size, you won’t hear a pygmy when it shakes its tail to warn you. These little guys will hold their ground if you approach them, meaning that you probably shouldn’t approach them. If they’re about to strike, they’ll bob their head up and down and strike into the air as a warning.
Timber: Usually only found in this area of the state, timber rattlesnakes are tan or pink-gray with spotchy dark bands and marks all throughout its body. They’re easily identified by the rattle on their tail and the red-brown stripe running down its back. With large, thick heads and a dark spot above their tail, these pit vipers aren’t usually aggressive and tend to avoid interaction. However, they’re rattlesnakes and shouldn’t be approached as they will bite using their venom-filled fangs if intentionally harmed or accidentally stepped upon.
As with water moccasins, If you have small kids or animals in your yard and know there’s an active rattlesnake that frequents the area, it’s best to keep a close eye on your kids and pets and call a professional about relocating it.
With all snakes, it’s best just to leave them be if you’re not being actively harmed by them.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission simply says to, “Just stand back and observe it. Snakes don't purposefully position themselves to frighten people.”
That being said, snakes are usually not out to pick a fight, and they don’t want to bite you, unless you’re bothering them.
No matter what type of snake you encounter, you should just leave them alone if you want to avoid harming them, getting bitten, or destroying their habitat.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, “Snakes usually bite people only if they are molested; it's their only means of self-defense.”
If you’re truly concerned about the snake’s intentions in your yard, or if you’re worried that one may be injured or not in its correct habitat, it’s a good idea to reach out to the local Florida Fish and Wildlife office.