Stay Safe While Exploring Tennessee’s Great Outdoors: A Guide to Snakes You May Encounter
Whether it's hiking, camping, or fishing, as you head out to enjoy outdoor recreation you need to be aware that you aren't the only one enjoying the warmer temperatures.
Spending Time Outdoors Means Potential for Snake Encounters
The arrival of spring and summer means the possibility of a snake encounter when you are enjoying time in nature. There are a number of snake species that call Tennessee home. And while most of the snake species in Tennessee are harmless to humans, there are a few species that are actually venomous.
Indiscriminately Killing Snakes is Illegal in Tennessee
As it turns out, regardless of species, all snakes in Tennessee are considered to be protected and it is illegal to kill them unless they pose an immediate threat to your health.
Unless posing an immediate health threat, all snakes in Tennessee are protected and indiscriminate killing is illegal. - University of Tennessee
Snakes Are Important for the Tennessee Ecosystem
Snakes are important creatures and they play an important role in our ecosystem. They are excellent at managing the rodent population and they provide a source of food for other predators like bobcats, coyotes, hawks, and owls.
There are 32 Species of Snakes in Tennessee
There are 32 species of snakes that call Tennessee home, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, most of which are non-venomous. The University of Tennessee says that the non-venomous snakes have "round pupils" and they say the scales found "on the underside of the tail are divided in two." The 28 species of non-venomous snakes found in Tennessee include:
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
Mississippi Green Watersnake
North American Racer
Southeastern Crowned Snake
Only Four Venomous Species of Snakes in Tennessee
If you're like me and don't want to get close enough to see if its scales are divided or its pupils are round, then it may be much easier to just remember that there are four species of venomous snakes in Tennessee. All four venomous species in Tennessee fall into the category known as "pit vipers."
The pit (small hole), located between the nostril and the eye, are actually heat sensors used to detect warm-blooded prey in low-light conditions. - University of Tennessee
Where Venomous Snakes are Found in Tennessee
Of the four venomous snakes in Tennessee, only two of them are found throughout the entire state. The other two are only found in the western region of the state.
Copperhead (sometimes called a Highland Moccasin) is found throughout Tennesse
Cottonmouth (sometimes called a Water Moccasin) is found in Western Tennessee
Timber Rattlesnake (including a species known as a canebreak rattlesnake) is found throughout Tennessee
Pygmy Rattlesnake is found in Western Tennessee.
What To Do If You Encounter a Snake in Tennessee
If you encounter a snake in the wild, your best bet is going to be to leave it alone. If you are bitten by a snake, you should seek medical treatment immediately. According to The University of Tennessee, of the approximately 50,000 snakebites annually in the United States, only 10-12 of those result in death, and those that do are the result of bites from snakes not found in Tennessee. They say more people die from wasp stings and lightning strikes than venomous snake bites.
[Source: University of Tennessee]
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