Of the 38 species of snakes in South Carolina, only six are venomous. Last time, we covered two of our most famous venomous snakes, the Copperhead and the Cottonmouth. In this blog, we’ll cover the remaining four–three rattlers and the Coral Snake.
The Coral Snake is the only venomous snake in SC that is not a member of the pit viper family. Adults reach about two feet in length. They have a bright red body with alternating bands of yellow and black. While there are several versions of a rhyme to help distinguish this snake from nonvenomous look-a-likes, the rhyme can be wrong so it’s best not to rely on it. The Coral Snake is a very secretive species that tends to live underground in soft and loose sandy soils. They feed on lizards and on other snakes.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is the largest of all the venomous snakes in SC, often growing from five to six feet in length. This snake gets its name from the dark diamond shapes that run along its back, each one outlined in either cream or yellow. This snake feeds primarily on rabbits, squirrels, rats and other large rodents. Like all rattlesnakes, the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake is a member of the pit viper family.
The Timber Rattlesnake is also known as the Canebrake Rattlesnake in coastal areas. This snake ranges throughout SC and has a different appearance in the mountain varieties than it does along the coast. In the coastal areas, they have a background color ranging from tan to pink to light orange with dark-colored bands around the body. They grow to between three to five feet in length. They eat rodents such as chipmunks, mice, rats and squirrels. They are found mostly in wooded forest areas, wet thickets or wooded swampy areas.
The Pygmy Rattlesnake gets its name from its small size. Adults are seldom more than one foot in length. They can have a background color that ranges from light gray to pink to charcoal gray with dark blotches down the back. They have a tiny set of rattles that is often difficult to see and often unheard. They prefer marshes, ponds and swamps where they feed on frogs, lizards and small rodents.
Like with all snakes, avoiding being bitten is key. They all have potent venom that can make you or your pet seriously sick or even cause death. While out hiking or enjoying our local wetlands, keep an eye and an ear out for these snakes. If you do have a snake encounter, back away slowly until you put a great enough distance between you and the snake to turn around and walk away without being struck. If you or your pet does get bitten, being able to identify the snake will help medical personnel treat you most effectively.