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Identifying venomous snakes in Mid-Missouri

There are five venomous snakes in Missouri; the Western Cotton Mouth, Timber Rattlesnake, Copperhead, Pygmy Rattlesnake and the Massasauga Rattlesnake.

Chris Newbold is a natural history biologist at the Missouri Department of Conservation and said there is a way to physically identify the venomous snakes.

“In Missouri, our venomous snakes are Pit Vipers, which means they have pits that occur between their eyes and nostrils. It’s a specialized organ that helps them detect prey,” said Newbold.

Venomous snakes also have a “cat eye”, whereas non-venomous have a pupil.

He also said the term “water moccasin”, is merely a general term for “water snakes”.

“Majority of the time snakes that people see in the water, that are generically called water moccasins are going to be non-venomous snakes, such as banded water snakes, diamond back water snakes, which are harmless snakes. The most dangerous time is when you try to handle them and that’s because people are picking them up and not giving them the option of fleeing, then they are falling back on their second option of, ‘I need to defend myself.. and bite’,” said Newbold.

Robin Grumm with the Missouri Department of Conservation said snakes are more afraid of humans that what we are of them.

“Give them space. If you see a snake, back away. Let it go along. It’s going to be more afraid of you than anything else,” Grumm said.

Conservationists said if someone is bitten by any type of snake to seek medical attention.

They also said anyone with a snake bite should remain calm.

If the heart rate increases, it could allow the venom to get into the bloodstream quicker.

They also remind people to take off any jewelry immediately after a snake bite.

Venom makes the body swell and cutting circulation off by rings or watches can cause more damage.

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