Arkansas Wildlife: Venomous Snakes of Arkansas

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Tune in as Education Specialist, Danielle Simmons, profiles 4 of the 6 species of venomous species found in Arkansas.

Timber Rattlesnake

  • Range:
    • Statewide.
  • Description:
    • Pit viper, keeled scales. Head and body can be gray, yellow, grayish or yellowish-brown, with 15-34 V-shaped black bands on the body; rusty or reddish stripe down the center of the back. Tail jet black; the origin of the name “velvet-tail rattler.” Young are patterned like adults. Adults average 36-60 inches in length.
  • Habitat and Habits:
    •  Occurs in hardwood, mixed pine-hardwood, bottomland hardwood forests and rocky or brushy fields and hillsides. Active April-October; prowls at night during hot weather. Breeds in fall or early spring, and 3-16 young are born August-October. Eats shrews, gophers, rodents, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels and birds. Researchers have observed radio-tagged medium-sized adults in trees, presumably in search of prey.

Copperhead

  • Range: 
    • Statewide.
  • Description: 
    • Pit viper, keeled scales. Gray, tan or light brown, with 7-20 dark brown, light-edged, hourglass-shaped crossbands. Head can be gray, brown or reddish. The belly is cream-colored with dark gray, brown or black blotches. Young resemble adults, except the tail tip is bright yellow or greenish-yellow. Adults 24-36 inches in length.
  • Habitat and Habits:
    • Occurs in mixed pine-hardwood forests, bottomland hardwood forests, and rocky or brushy fields and hillsides. Active April-November; prowls at night during hot weather. Two to 14 young born August-September. Primarily eats rodents. Also eats frogs, lizards, small snakes and cicadas. Young copperheads and cottonmouths use the yellow tail tip as a lure to attract prey.

Cottonmouth

  • Range:
    • Statewide; uncommon in upland streams of Ozark Highlands and Ouachita mountains.
  • Description:
    • Pit viper, keeled scales. Heavy-bodied, dark olive-brown to black. Indistinct dark crossbands, except when animal is wet. White upper lip, black stripe from snout onto neck. Belly mottled with black-, brown- and cream-colored blotches. Young are brightly banded like copperhead, turning darker with age; tail tip yellow or greenish-yellow. Adults average 24-36 inches in length.
  • Habitat and Habits:
    •  Occurs in a variety of wetland habitats: swamps, oxbow lakes, sloughs, drainage ditches and streams. Active April-November; active at night in hot weather. Two to 15 young born August-September. Eats fish, amphibians, lizards, snakes, birds and rodents. Opens mouth – exposing white lining – when threatened.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

  • Range: 
    • Uplands of the Ouachita Mountains and southwestern Ozark highlands.
  • Description:
    • Pit viper, keeled scales. Light brown, gray to grayish brown, with 24-45 diamond-shaped, light-bordered, brownish blotches. Tail white, with 3-7 black bands; the origin of the name “coon-tail rattler.” Pair of pale stripes on the sides of the head. Young are patterned like adults. Adults average 36-60 inches in length; rare individuals up to 72+ inches.
  • Habitat and Habits:
    • Found in upland rocky, open pine-hardwood forests and rocky outcrops. Active April-October; active at night during summer months. Breeds in fall or early spring. Up to 25 young born August-October. Eats large numbers of rats and mice. It also feeds on rabbits and squirrels. Arkansas’ rarest venomous snake.