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Protect Yourself: 5 Tips For Identifying Poisonous Snakes

poisonous snake coiled

The United States is home to many wildlife species, snakes included. North America, for example, is home to a variety of snakes that, in their natural environment, will be found hiding near bushes, at the edge of hiking trails, on power lines, and near old structures that warm in the sun.

The most common poisonous snakes in the USA are copperheads, rattlesnakes, coral snakes, and cottonmouths. Every year, more than 7,000 Americans fall victim to snake bites, usually due to attempting to capture or kill the snakes.

We value your safety here at Stone Creek, ensuring our snake chaps are high-quality, durable, and comfortable. However, we also know that you enjoy the outdoors, so we want to make sure you can distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes.

That said, below are 5 tips for identifying poisonous snakes.

5 Tips For Identifying Poisonous Snakes

1. Coloring

Most solid-colored snakes are harmless. The rule of thumb is that the more colorful and patterned a snake is, the more you should be careful around it. However, there exist many subspecies with color and size variations that help them blend in well with their environment.

In such cases, coloring is not the most efficient method for distinguishing venomous and non-venomous snakes. For instance, both coral snakes (venomous) and scarlet kingsnake (non-venomous) have a banded pattern with yellows, browns, and black on the scales.

Their major distinction is that the red bands touch the yellow bands on coral snakes, while the red bands touch the black bands on scarlet kingsnakes.

Cottonmouths, also known as water moccasins, range in color from green to black. They also have a white stripe that runs down the side of the head.

2. Head

By observing the shape of the heads, you will find that most venomous snakes have larger heads. In addition, they have a broad, triangular shape with a pointier snout.

The copperhead is a good example of a snake with a triangular head. This is because of the position of the venom sacks underneath the jawline, making the snake have a bulbous head with a skinny neck.

Conversely, non-venomous snakes have a rounded head and a gradual slopping jaw because they lack venom sacks. However, some of them will mimic the triangular shape of poisonous snakes by flattening their heads as a defense mechanism to appear more dangerous to their predators.

3. Pupils

Harmless snakes will tend to have round pupils. On the other hand, poisonous ones have a thin, elliptical pupil surrounded by a yellow-green eyeball, like a cat's eyes. The downside of this method of identifying poisonous snakes is that you would have to observe from close range, which is not advisable.

The eastern coral snake, however, is an exception to this. Known for its venomous trait, it has round eyes without a vertical pupil. This is why it's important to consider all features of a venomous snake and not just a few.

4. Snake Pits

Venomous snakes have two pits (holes on their faces). The pits are located between the eye and nose and contain a membrane that detects infrared radiation from warm bodies as far as one meter away. In addition, being a part of their somatosensory system, the pit organ detects temperature, touch, and pain.

While it may be difficult to observe the presence or absence of snake pits from a safe distance, it is advisable to contact a local wildlife professional to help with identifying and handling the snake for you.

The head of an Asian cobra, Naja kaouthia, a highly venomous snake

5. Behavior & Habitat

The behavior and habitat of a snake are important in determining whether it is poisonous or not. However, each snake species exhibits different behavioral patterns, which can be challenging to untrained individuals.

For example, a harmless water snake swims through the water with just the head poking above the surface. But, conversely, a venomous one will let its entire body float along the water.

Some snake species are known for their tail rattle. Therefore, if you come across a snake that will make a rattling sound, it should serve as a warning against a rattlesnake attack. On the other hand, it is also common for harmless snakes to make a rattling sound by dragging their tail through dry leaves.

Either way, it should be your cue to stay away.

How Do You Protect Yourself Against Poisonous Snakes?

Now that we can better differentiate between the two types of snakes let's look at a couple of ways to keep yourself protected when hiking and traversing through snake country areas.

1. Snake Proof Chaps

Snake chaps offer various benefits when hiking, participating in hunting activities, or enjoying the great outdoors. Whether you are outdoors for fun or adventure, snake chaps can help ensure you stay protected from potential snake bites as well as scratches from thorns and bushes.

Snake chaps, a type of clothing worn over your pants, run from the upper thigh to the ankle of your foot. The chaps are made from high-strength fabric that protects against snake bites. Furthermore, the strong and durable material ensures that snake fangs will not penetrate or pierce the skin in the event of a snake bite.

Some of the most important factors to consider when choosing the right pair of chaps include the type of material used, breathability, comfort, and durability. The most reliable materials for snake chaps are made from nylon, denim, polyester, and heavy-duty ballistic fibers.

Stone creek snake chaps, for example, are made from Codura nylon. This heavy-duty synthetic fiber is also used to make other popular items, such as backpacks and military wear.

Layers are also important when picking the right pair of chaps. Snake chaps that have several layers will provide extra fang or thorn protection. However, more layers do not always necessitate flexibility.


Your chaps must fit easily on your normal clothing. If they are too tight on the legs starting from the thigh, it interferes with the natural body movements. Conversely, loosely fitting snake chaps leave the area between the knees and ankles vulnerable to live snakes.

For excellent results, it is advisable to incorporate snake chaps with other fabrics that accentuate the protection required. For example, it is effective to wear pants made from stronger material like jeans underneath instead of putting on sweat pants.

In addition, using snake-proof chaps guarantees full protection for various outdoor activities, such as snake and bird hunting to hiking in the thickest terrain.

2. Snake Gaiters

Snake gaiters are made from leather, plastic, polyester, or a mix of materials. They are worn over your pants to shield the shins and calves against a potential snake bite. In addition, they provide more protection to your ankles and lower legs.

Gaiters keep the section between your trousers and the boots protected. They were particularly used for hiking but have since become preferred by snake hunters.

There are three main types of gaiters: Ankle gaiters, mid-length, and full-length gaiters. Each type has at least three layers to ensure full protection.

The top layer provides thorn protection and prevents scratches or briars. The second layer is made of ultra-tough material, which blocks the snake bites, and the third reduces the chances of any venom reaching your skin.

3. Heavy Footwear & Thick Socks

Heavy-duty boots covering a few inches above your ankle offer full protection against potential snake bites. Pairing these with a thick pair of socks will provide extra comfort and help to keep your foot in place.

It is relatively easy for a snake bite to penetrate leather and rubber. That's why it is recommended to choose boots that have been labeled 'heavy duty' for their added thickness.

4. Gloves

A pair of gloves is essential in keeping yourself protected from snake bites. Unfortunately, while regular cotton gloves come in handy during cold weather, they can be of huge disservice when handling snakes and the rough terrain during hunting or hiking.

Leather gloves are a practical option because of their 'heavy-duty' property. A simple fall or skid could turn a minor scratch into a serious injury. Because of the thin layer of skin on the hands, gloves could prove beneficial in such situations.

5. Learn About Snakes In Your Area

Hunting preparations are more than just getting the best gear. A huge part of it is learning how to do proper research at all times in a given area.

With more experience, learning about snakes in your area should help you distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. This will, in turn, result in a much faster real-time reaction if you encounter snakes outdoors.

6. Avoid Tall Grass

This should go without saying, but snakes love to keep a low profile underneath sections with tall grass or bushy vegetation. This is also a great way of protecting themselves against predators.

Ideally, staying on clear paths and trails is advantageous when hiking. While it isn't practical to always stay on clear trails, try your best to avoid overgrown sections of grass and if you have to and use a long stick to probe the surface ahead of you.

Stone Creek Snake Chaps

Stone Creek snake chaps provide extra protection to hunters and outdoor lovers exploring the snake countryside. The comfortable patented chaps are flexible, breathable, and field-tested to ensure your safety and protection.

We have taken pride in providing lightweight, reliable, and durable hunting supplies for over 15 years. Our hunting supplies are developed in our Pennsylvania warehouse here in the USA, with 420 denier nylon so that you can be assured of quality.

Check out our wide range of products if you're ready to end your search for the best snake chaps on the market. But, of course, you can also contact us for further questions or inquiries about our snake-proof chaps.


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