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How to Identify Dangerous Arizona Snakes

If you’re afraid of snakes, you’re not alone. Their fan club is pretty small. With their eerie, slithering movements, beady eyes, intimidating hisses and dry, scaly skin, they don’t exactly inspire warm, fuzzy feelings. If that isn’t enough to scare you, consider that many are venomous and can seriously hurt or even kill you. When you live in Arizona, running into dangerous snakes is always an unpleasant possibility. While many native snakes are harmless, it pays to know which ones are actually worth the embarrassment of having a full-blown freak-out in a public place. Here are a few of the most common venomous Arizona snakes.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Rattlesnakes have the most effective venom delivery system of all snakes, and the diamondback is almost legendary for its biting record. According to the University of Arizona, the western diamondback rattlesnake is the source of most fatal snake bites in the United States. It’s also the largest and most common rattlesnake encountered in Arizona, and it doesn’t back down from a fight. You can identify the diamondback by its length and physical features. It may be up to seven feet long. It has a large head and has distinctive diamond-shaped markings on its body. The snake’s coloring is never uniform; you may see a mix of grey, pink, yellow, brown, tan and black. The head is triangular with dark stripes running from the eyes down toward the snake’s upper lip. The diamondback’s tail will have black and white rings and will vibrate audibly when the snake perceives a threat.

Mojave Rattlesnake

Another dangerous Arizona snake is the Mojave Rattlesnake. Its venom contains a powerful neurotoxin. Its bites are painful and may cause severe swelling. The Mojave is often confused with the diamondback, but the Mojave’s tail typically has more white coloration and its skin has a cleaner appearance.

Other Less Common Arizona Rattlers

Speckled rattlesnakes have a loosely banded, flecked pattern that resembles white and grey granite. The Tiger rattlesnake and Speckled rattlesnake look similar, but the Tiger has a disproportionately small head and a large rattle. The black-tailed rattlesnake is large but usually less aggressive than other species. Its tail is completely black, and its skin features a vivid pattern with shades of brown, yellow, orange and green. The Sonoran sidewinder moves with an unusual side-winding motion and is usually less than two feet long. This snake has a distinctive horn that protrudes over each eye.

Sonoran Coral Snake

Although not as dangerous as Arizona rattlers and rarely seen, the Sonoran coral snake is often a source of panic when encountered. Bright bands of white, coral and black define its body coloring. This snake has a very small head, and it’s difficult to sustain a bite without picking up the snake or stepping on it in bare feet.

Snake Encounter Safety Tips

  • Don’t approach, confront or tease a snake. Keep your distance.
  • Wear protective clothing when in snake-infested areas.
  • Don’t try to capture or kill a snake yourself. Seek professional help.

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