Michigan is home to a diverse range of snakes, with 18 different species found throughout the state. While the majority of these snakes pose little danger to humans, there are a few that are venomous and potentially dangerous. The largest and most dangerous snake in Michigan is the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, which is the only venomous snake in the state.
In this article, we will explore the top 4 largest and most dangerous snakes in Michigan, including information on their size, location, and potential danger to humans.
Top 4 Largest And Most Dangerous Snakes In Michigan
Eastern massasauga rattlesnake
The Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake is Michigan’s only venomous snake and one of only two rattlesnake species that occur in the Great Lakes region. It is a small- to medium-sized snake, with adult lengths averaging 2 to 3 feet.
The Eastern Massasauga is primarily associated with wetland habitats, but some populations also utilize adjacent upland habitats for parts of its life history. Despite being venomous, the Massasauga is a timid snake and will avoid humans whenever possible.
The snake is often referred to as a “swamp rattler” and spends the majority of its time in year-round wetlands, hunting its primary prey, mice. While Michigan and other Great Lakes states are considered a stronghold for the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, the snake is still a rare sight for most visitors.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protects the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake under the Endangered Species Act, as its population has been declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
In terms of danger to humans, the Michigan Poison Control Centers report about 16 Massasauga bites in a typical year. From 2003 through 2020, the Eastern Massasauga has been suspected or proven responsible for at least 75 bites reported in the state.
Rattlesnake bites, while extremely rare in Michigan, can and do occur, and anyone who is bitten should seek medical attention immediately.
Gray rat snake
The Gray Rat Snake, also known as the Central Rat Snake, Chicken Snake, Midland Rat Snake, or Pilot Black Snake, is a nonvenomous snake species in the genus Pantherophis in the subfamily Colubrinae. Here are some facts about the Gray Rat Snake:
– The Gray Rat Snake is a medium to large serpent that can reach an adult size of 99-183 cm (3.25-6.00 ft) in total length, including the tail.
– The record length for a captive specimen is 247 cm (8.10 ft) at the Ridley 4-H Center in Tennessee.
– Unlike other Pantherophis species, whose juvenile pattern fades into adulthood, the Gray Rat Snake in the southern part of its range does not undergo drastic ontogenetic changes in color or markings.
– Most adult Gray Rat Snakes are about 42-72 inches (106-183 cm) in total length.
– Gray Rat Snakes are light gray with darker gray blotches down the back.
– Gray Rat Snakes are found in the eastern and central United States, occurring relatively continuously throughout the major part of the eastern half of the country.
– They are typically found in deciduous woodlands, prairies, stream valleys, and on rocky hillsides.
– Gray Rat Snakes are important predators of small mice, rats, and voles, helping to manage the rodent population, but they also become food for larger carnivores such as hawks, egrets, and foxes.
Gray Rat Snakes are not venomous and are not considered dangerous to humans. They are generally docile and will try to escape if threatened.
Eastern hog-nosed snake
The Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, also known as the Heterodon platirhinos, is a species of mildly venomous rear-fanged snake in the family Colubridae. Here are some facts about the Eastern Hog-nosed Snake:
– Description: Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes are stout-bodied snakes with slightly upturned, pointed snouts. Most adults are about 20-33 inches (51-84 cm) in total length, with a record length of 49.9 inches (126.8 cm). The color pattern is extremely variable, ranging from mostly yellow, tan, olive, brown, gray, orange, or reddish-brown with large, dark brown or black, irregular-shaped blotches on the back and smaller blotches on the sides. Some individuals may be entirely black or dark gray without any pattern.
– Habitat: Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes can be found in various habitats, including sandhills, scrub, high pine and turkey oak woodlands, hardwood hammocks, meadows, and cultivated fields. They inhabit areas with sandy soils and are often found in fields, open grassy areas adjacent to woods, and open pine or mixed forests.
– Behavior: Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes are known for their elaborate “death feigning” defensive behavior. When threatened, a snake will flatten its head, hiss, and may even strike with its mouth closed, but it does not attempt to bite. If this threat display does not work to deter a would-be predator, an Eastern Hog-nosed Snake may roll onto its back, open its mouth, and appear to be dead, hence its name.
– Venom: While Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes are mildly venomous, their venom is not considered dangerous to humans. The rear-fanged snake’s venom is primarily used to subdue its prey, which consists mainly of toads, frogs, and small rodents.
– Range: The species is endemic to North America and can be found in various states, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Virginia, and Florida. Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes can be locally abundant in certain habitats, but their populations may be threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation due to urban development.
The Blue Racer, also known as Coluber constrictor foxii, is a subspecies of the nonvenomous, colubrid snake commonly referred to as the eastern racer. Here are some facts about the Blue Racer:
– Description: Blue Racers are long, slender snakes that can reach lengths close to two meters (6.6 feet). They have unkeeled, shiny scales, with large eyes and distinct brow ridges. Blue Racers often have creamy white ventral scales, dull grey to brilliant blue lateral scales, and pale brown to dark grey dorsum. They also have characteristic black masks, relatively large eyes, and often have brownish-orange rostral scales (snouts).
– Habitat: Blue Racers are found in central and western North America, including Ontario, Canada. They inhabit a variety of habitats, including grasslands, prairies, and open woodlands.
– Behavior: Blue Racers are diurnally active and are known for their speed, with some individuals capable of moving at speeds close to 7 km/h (4.3 mph). They are active foragers, with younger snakes consuming crickets and other insects, while adults feed primarily on rodents, songbirds, and other snakes.
– Venom: Blue Racers are not venomous and are not considered dangerous to humans.
– Conservation: While Blue Racers are not currently listed as a threatened or endangered species, their populations may be threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation due to urban development.
Overall, Blue Racers are not considered dangerous to humans and are an important predator of small rodents and other snakes, helping to manage the local ecosystem.
1. What is the largest and most dangerous snake in Michigan?
The Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake is the largest and most dangerous snake in Michigan. It is also the only venomous snake in the state.
2. What is the largest snake in Michigan?
The Gray Rat Snake is the largest snake in Michigan, which can grow more than 8 feet long.
3. Are Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes dangerous to humans?
Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes are mildly venomous, but their venom is not considered dangerous to humans.
4. Are Blue Racers dangerous to humans?
Blue Racers are not venomous and are not considered dangerous to humans.
5. How many species of snakes are found in Michigan?
There are 18 different species of snakes found in Michigan, with only one of them being venomous.
6. What should I do if I encounter a venomous snake in Michigan?
If you encounter a venomous snake in Michigan, such as the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake, it is important to give the snake plenty of space and avoid disturbing it. If you are bitten by a venomous snake, seek medical attention immediately.