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Meet Ohio's 3 Venomous Snakes

Venomous Snakes Ohio

Did you know Ohio has venomous snakes?

When you think about venomous snakes in the United States, you usually don't think of Ohio. Out west and down south is where they all are right?

Actually, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources recognizes three venomous species slithering around the Buckeye State. Turns out, this place has enough snakes to cause folks to watch their step.

Here are the state of Ohio's three venomous snake species for your identification.

1. Northern Copperhead

Venomous Snakes Ohio

This is the Northern Copperhead snake (Agkistrodon contortrix), a pit viper. With brilliant coloration, the Northern Copperhead is a beautiful serpent.

It loves to eat small rodents (like mice), but it will also go after frogs, small snakes, small birds, and insects. Female copperheads have a territory of around eight acres while the males may roam up to 24 acres using the heat sensitive pits in their heads to hunt.

Watch for them around old buildings, old logging sawmill slab piles, rock crevices, and areas bordering wetlands and swamps where small mammals are present. They do very well in North America that are year-round residents of Eastern and Southern Ohio. This species of snake often gets mixed up with a water moccasin or cottonmouth. If you hear an Ohioan say they saw either of those in Ohio, it was probably the Northern copperhead or the non-venomous northern water snake.

2. Massasauga Rattlesnake

Venomous Snakes Ohio

The Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) is a venomous species named after a combination of two words from the language of the Chippewa tribe of Native Americans. It is one of only two rattlesnake species native to Ohio. You may also sometimes hear this one called a "swamp rattler" in some areas. It is characterized by dark blotches across the back and an overall grey or tan coloration.

They are found in wet prairies, early succession fields, and sedge meadows. They are not fond of open waters and prefer to stay hidden.

These Ohio year-long residents hibernate in small groups in moist soil. Young birds, shrews, mice, voles, salamanders, and other small species are regular meals for this slithering recluse. Fortunately, due to the reclusive nature of this endangered species, snakebites are extremely rare.

3. Timber Rattlesnake

Venomous Snakes Ohio

Eastern Timber Rattlesnakes are all about wooded areas. They will sun themselves where the sunlight penetrates the leaf canopy. Deep rock crevices are their preferred hibernating areas and den sites. Coloration can vary from dark brown to brownish-gray, or a much darker, almost black appearance.

Squirrels, chipmunks, rats, amphibians and mice are often on the menu for the Timber Rattler. They're active in the summer months, but hibernate in winter time and are more lethargic in the colder spring and fall months. This snake is usually only seen in the extreme northern and southern parts of the state.

While venomous snakes might be a part of Ohio, they are indeed rare and in some cases endangered. They prefer to stay hidden and away from trouble.

In my 43 years of being an Ohio resident, I have yet to come across one from all my years of wilderness trekking. Older woodsmen have told me of times when they were more common, but habitat loss has been a major barrier to higher populations.

If you come across one of these snakes, it is best left alone. They can be dangerous snakes if not given their space.

In other words, even in Ohio you need to be smart, and watch where you step!

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Do you like articles about the outdoors? Click here to view more articles by Eric Nestor. You can follow him @ericthewoodsman on Twitter, The Classic Woodsman on Facebook, and @theclassicwoodsman on Instagram.  You can view more Nestor Photography photos at Nestor Photography.  

Meet Ohio's 3 Venomous Snakes