Getting to know wildlife in West Virginia is another reason to appreciate the beauty the landscape provides. Among some of these animals are snakes and other reptiles. These members of the reptile class play a vital role in the balance of nature. Their colorful and complex life histories are fascinating and give little justification for the apprehension felt by so many. 

The fear of being bitten causes many persons to senselessly kill any snake they see. Yet, of the 20 species of snakes found in the Mountain State, only two are venomous, the Northern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake. Although most venomous snake bites in West Virginia are from copperheads, no fatalities from copperheads have been recorded in over 30 years. From 1969 to 1992 only four people in the Mountain State have died from rattlesnake bites while in the wild. Bee stings, cows and horses caused 15 times as many deaths as snakes. Up to one-half of venomous snake bites result in no venom being injected. If, however, you are bitten by a venomous snake, see a doctor or go to a hospital immediately.

Their main prey consists of rodents and small mammals, which they subdue using hemotoxic venom. They are members of the Pit Viper family, for they possess heat-sensitive pits that allow them to locate warm-blooded animals. Even though these snakes aren’t particularly aggressive, many are needlessly killed every year.  

Despite their reputation, all of the other 18 species are completely harmless. There is a broad diversity of body forms, diet, habitat preference, color and behavior within the colubrids. Some live-in streams, while others live in trees. Many are small and secretive, spending much of their time eating invertebrates while hiding under rocks or logs. Others can grow quite large, employing constriction as a means of subduing prey. All are carnivores, feeding on a wide variety of prey, including: insects, spiders, crustaceans, earthworms, amphibians, fish, rodents, birds, lizards, and smaller snakes.

Some of West Virginia’s snakes are very common, such as the Eastern Gartersnake and Black Ratsnake, and can be found all over (even in backyards). Others, such as the Cornsnake and Northern Pinesnake, have only been documented a few times over the years. Always be on the lookout in case one shows up in your area. Snakes have a way of bringing about a certain intense fear in many individuals. This irrational hatred has been passed down throughout history. Hopefully, by reading about these fascinating animals, many people will be able to realize the important (and necessary) role they play in the ecosystem. 

Featured Articles

New West Virginia Wildlife Center biologist ready for busy summer

The West Virginia State Wildlife Center has a new resident biologist and while he’s only been on the job for a few months he already has some advice for people planning a visit in the coming months.

WVDNR partners with Toyota to promote pollinator conservation

Private landowners in the Kanawha Valley had a hands-on opportunity to learn how to create a pollinator habitat on their property through a recent workshop hosted by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia, Inc. 

WVDNR studying deer population around state

Thanks to a new West Virginia Division of Natural Resources study, hunters, conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts will soon know more about the state’s white-tailed deer population, their survival raises, behavior and movement patterns.

New law prohibiting possession of most native reptiles, amphibians now in effect

New regulations making it unlawful to take or possess most native reptiles and amphibians for any reason are now in effect in West Virginia.

Tips to Help You Identify West Virginia Wildlife

Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast or an angler or hunter, knowing how to spot animals in the wild is a valuable skill and enjoyable activity. With more than 80 species of amphibians and reptiles, 70 species of mammals, 178 species…

Tips That Will Help You Landscape for Wildlife

Whether you live on a farm, a quarter-acre suburban lot or in a city apartment, you can provide habitat for wildlife. In fact, all you need to create wildlife habitat is food, water, shelter and space. This task can be…

The do’s and don’ts of feeding wildlife

One of the best ways to protect West Virginia’s abundant wildlife is keeping it wild. That means we all need to respect habitats, keep a safe distance from wildlife and resist the urge to feed wild animals. As you enjoy…

Tips for Observing West Virginia Wildlife

Observing wildlife in their habitat is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors and learn about West Virginia’s abundant natural resources. And the good thing about West Virginia is that you don’t have to go far to see…

Snakes Alive!

Snakes are one of the most misunderstood animals in West Virginia. Did you know these colorful and fascinating reptiles play an important role in healthy ecosystems? If not for snakes, our forests and your yard would probably be overrun with…

Birds in West Virginia

West Virginia is a great state to live and visit, if you love watching birds and tracking them as they come and go each spring. With its mountains, valleys and everything in between, West Virginia provides many different habitats for…

3 tips for taking pictures of West Virginia’s wildlife

From majestic elk to tiny salamanders and everything in between, West Virginia’s rugged mountains, lush forests and beautiful lakes are teeming with wildlife. And one of the best ways to enjoy West Virginia’s abundant wildlife is by photographing them in…

Watch your step: Snakes of West Virginia

Getting to know wildlife in West Virginia is another reason to appreciate the beauty the landscape provides. Among some of these animals are snakes and other reptiles. These members of the reptile class play a vital role in the balance…