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  1. Default Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    Anglers in Wisconsin should know their poisonous snakes before they go out in the field. The two venomous snakes that live in Wisconsin are both rattle snakes. They are the Massasauga Rattle Snake and the Timber Rattle Snake. Both are endangered species and very misunderstood. They will not confront you and will attempt to escape when cornered. The other snakes in this article are snakes that resemble poisonous snakes you may encounter. They are dangerous to the angler and to uncontrolled pets. I recommend seeking immediate medical attention for you or your pet when bitten.

    The Massasauga "not pictured here" is the smaller of the two and grows to about 20-30 inches in adulthood. The Massasauga has brown back markings and triple rows of brownish-black side patches . The body markings are edged in black. The tail has five to seven dark rings and a grayish rattle. They live in river bottom forests and nearby fields. Massasaugas also like prairies and lowlands. They eat frogs and other small snakes and sometimes dine on rodents.

    The Timber Rattler is typically 36-56 inches as an adult. It has a solid gold colored head . Its body is marked with black or dark brown cross bars. The tail is black and the rattle is typically tan in color. These snakes live in the bluffs of western and southwestern Wisconsin. In the summer they move to the forests. They are prolific rodent eaters. They will move back to the bluffs to winter.

    Photo by: Scott Hale
    This Timber Rattler was hiding in the weeds. You will never forget your first sighting of a rattle snake.

    Another local resident is the Northern Water Snake. It gets 24-40 inches long. It is a very common snake in Wisconsin. It lives near permanent lakes and rivers and loves to eat frogs, crayfish and smaller fish, both dead and alive. It has grayish brown patterns on its body. This snake is often mistaken for a Water Moccasin and incurs the wrath of many anglers. Water Moccasins are not residents of Wisconsin.

    Photo by: Len Harris
    The northern water snake is very common in Wisconsin. They are often mistaken for water moccasins and killed.

    The Bull Snake is the largest of all Wisconsin snakes. It reaches 50 to 80 inches at adulthood. It has a bad reputation because of its nasty demeanor. It also resembles a rattle snake and receives the fear and disdain that comes with the possibility of being poisonous. Bull snakes are endangered and illegal to kill. Their heads have the classic diamond shaped pattern. Bull snakes have heavily patterned heads and a pointed tail with no rattle. They are good for rodent control.

    Photo by: Len Harris
    The bull snake is the biggest snake a Wisconsin angler might run in to while fishing. They are very testy and are often mistaken for rattle snakes.

    The Gopher Snake is a sub species of the Bull Snake. They are also an endangered species. They too are often mistaken for rattle snakes. They are much smaller than their cousin the bull snake. They have pointed tails and no rattles. They only grow up to 40 inches as an adult. Their demeanor is much more laid back than their much larger cousins. The best way to identify them is the mask across their eyes. They are prolific rodent eaters and hence their name, the Gopher Snake.

    Photo by: Len Harris
    This gopher snake posed for me on the edge of the road. I took a few photos and left it alone. Learn your snake species in your fishing area.

    Snakes in the wild should be given a wide berth. They typically will crawl away from you way before you are even close enough to see them. Your pets are in particular danger and need to be controlled around snakes. Many people only see a snake when it is dead alongside of the road. Venomous snakes can still transfer their venom after death so don't play with them. I know I am sounding like a broken record but if you think your pet or yourself have been bitten please seek immediate medical attention.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Mid-coast Maine

    Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    Ha! Bull snakes will get your attention here in Colorado, too! Ran across (read- almost tripped over) a big one earlier this year on a creek path. Even though I knew what it was I still had to convince myself that it wasn't a rattler. BIG snake.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    as a feild herper, this thread instantly got my attention, glad to see soemone putting effort to educating folks, too many harmless snakes are killed over mis IDing.. the vemonus ones shouldnt be killed either, they all play a roll in the ecosystems we all enjoy playing in. great post.


    ---------- Post added at 09:27 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:23 PM ----------

    I might try to make a post here with the Kentucky info. this should be on the top PINNED thread. Ill work on KY snakes. lets do this.

    ---------- Post added at 09:32 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:27 PM ----------

    Kentucky Snake Info can be found here:

    a reference guide I use.

  4. Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    Photo by: Nick Scobel
    This adult Massasauga Rattlesnake is in the alert position. They are nothing to trifle with.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Akron Ohio (don't let that fool you)

    Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    We've got Massasaugas to the NW and Timbers towards the SE here in Ohio so I usually don't think to much about them but I have come across a few Copperheads. One was in my girlfriends yard, I found it while raking leaves one early spring. And yes it was a Copperhead, triangular head upturned nose and the cat's eye thing going on. I foolishly picked it up to get a closer look, it was still fairly cold so it was pretty lethargic. Once I realized what it was it went back into the woods in another leave pile way off from the house! I didn't tell her what it was cause she would have freaked. Watersnakes creep me out the most though, its almost like they stalk you while wading. Every once in a while I'll come across a monster of a barn snake or black snake but they seem harmless and if I don't mess with them then they don't mess with me plus they're considered a farmers friend. Unfortunately our rattlers are on the endagered list and its rare that I'm in their ranges but it would be pretty cool to see them in the a good distance!
    Oh I live to be the ruler of life not a slave

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    St. Louis, MO

    Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    Another easy way to ID is that the venomious snakes have triangular heads, while the non had round/egg shaped heads. Thats something you can do easily without having to get too close and looking closely at colors and patterns.
    "When you do things right, people wont be sure you've done anything at all."

    Storm Drain Bonefisher

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Boise, Idaho
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    I was fishing this weekend with my son in the Idaho Mountains.

    We came across the rattler below.... It was the fattest rattler I have ever seen in the wild. It took a bit of time to get the camera out so I only got a pic of the snake sneaking away.

    Needless to say, I am happy we did not surprize this guy up close...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Metuchen, N.J.

    Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    Don't go " Hillbilly hand fishing"
    Remember to fill in the dash----

  9. #9

    Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    went out yesterday catching Queen Snakes lots of fun.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Anglers: Know Your Snakes

    back on topic of commonly mistaken snakes we see alot, heres a photo of a copperhead i took today.

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