Updated at: 04-10-2023 - By: petstutorial

Venomous snakes are a common sight in the United States, with nearly every state having at least one species of venomous snake. However, there are four main types of venomous snakes that are considered the most dangerous due to their venomous bites.

These four types of venomous snakes are coral snakes, cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes. In this article, we will take a closer look at these four snakes, so we can understand why they’re regarded as the most venomous snakes in the United States.

We will also explore where in the United States these snakes are found and what to do if you encounter one.


The 4 Main Types Of Venomous Snakes In The United States

Coral Snakes

Coral snakes are a group of venomous snakes that can be divided into two distinct groups: Old World coral snakes and New World coral snakes. The New World coral snakes are found in the United States and are most notable for their red, yellow/white, and black-colored banding.

However, several nonvenomous species in the U.S. have similar (though not identical) bandings, including the two scarlet snake species in the genus Cemophora, and some of the kingsnakes (including the aforementioned milksnakes) in the genus Lampropeltis.

The Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius) is a species of New World coral snake found in the southeastern United States, from North Carolina to Florida and west to Louisiana and Texas.

Adult Eastern Coral Snakes are slender, medium-sized snakes that may reach almost 4 feet (122 cm) in length. They are thin-bodied snakes with alternating red and black bands.

Coral snakes are extremely reclusive and generally bite humans only when handled or stepped on. They must literally chew on their victim to inject their venom fully, so most bites to humans don’t result in death.

In fact, no deaths from coral snake bites have been reported in the U.S. since an antivenin was released in 1967. Eastern Coral Snakes feed almost exclusively on lizards and other small snakes, which are killed by envenomation.


Cottonmouths, also known as water moccasins, are venomous semi-aquatic snakes that are native to the southeastern United States. Here are some key facts about cottonmouths:

Physical Description:
– Cottonmouths have large, triangular heads with a dark line that runs through the eye.
– They are dark olive-brown to almost black with dark crossbands that may not be visible.
– Adult snakes usually vary in length from 30 to 48 inches up to a maximum of 74 inches.
– Juveniles are brightly-colored with reddish-brown cross-bands and have a sulfur-colored tail.

Habitat and Feeding Habits:
– Cottonmouths are the most aquatic of North American venomous snakes and can be found in most habitats associated with water.
– They inhabit brackish waters and are commonly found in swamps, streams, springs, ponds, sloughs, reservoirs, marshes, and roadside drainage ditches.
– Cottonmouths feed on a variety of prey, including fish, frogs, rodents, and other small mammals.
– They have an unusual feeding adaptation that allows them to adhere to prey through rotation of their head during swallowing because it aids the jaws in clearing the prey and contributes to the advance of the jaws along the prey.
– A 2018 study found that northern cottonmouths on a diet of only fish when compared to a diet of mice had to eat 20% more to achieve the same growth.

– Cottonmouths are generally reclusive and will usually avoid humans if possible.
– They are known to be aggressive when threatened and will stand their ground and display their white, puffy lining in a defensive posture.
– Mating occurs usually in spring, but can take place any time of year. Males perform a dance in which they slither back and forth while waving their tails to attract females. Females give live birth to a litter of 2-15 (average 7) young during late summer.

It’s important to note that cottonmouths are often confused with non-venomous water snakes, which can lead to unnecessary fear and harm to the non-venomous species.

If you encounter a snake and are unsure of its identity, it’s best to leave it alone and contact a local wildlife expert for assistance.



Copperheads are a species of venomous pit viper snakes that are native to North America, ranging from the Southern United States to northern Costa Rica. Here are some key facts about copperheads:

Physical Description:
– Copperheads are medium-sized snakes, with adults typically ranging from 20 to 40 inches in length.
– They have a distinctive copper-colored head and reddish-brown body.
– Copperheads have fangs that release a hemolytic venom, which causes the breakdown of red blood cells.
– The length of the snake’s fangs is related to its size, with longer snakes having longer fangs.
– Even newborn copperheads have fully functional fangs capable of injecting venom that is just as toxic as an adult’s venom.

Habitat and Feeding Habits:
– Copperheads are found in a variety of habitats, including forests, rocky hillsides, and wetlands.
– They are carnivorous and feed on a variety of prey, including mice, small birds, lizards, small snakes, amphibians, and insects.
– Copperheads are ambush predators and will often wait for their prey to come to them.

– Copperheads are generally not aggressive and bites are rarely fatal.
– They often employ a “warning bite” when stepped on or agitated and inject a relatively small amount of venom, if any at all.
– Copperheads give no warning signs and strike almost immediately if they feel threatened.
– Copperhead venom is known as “hemotoxic,” which means that it causes tissue damage, swelling, necrosis, and damage to the circulatory system.
– Although copperhead bites may be painful, they are only mildly dangerous to most people, and fatalities are exceedingly rare.

It’s important to note that copperheads are often confused with non-venomous snakes, such as the northern water snake, which can lead to unnecessary fear and harm to the non-venomous species.

If you encounter a snake and are unsure of its identity, it’s best to leave it alone and contact a local wildlife expert for assistance.



Rattlesnakes are venomous snakes that belong to the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus of the subfamily Crotalinae. They are predators that live in a wide array of habitats, hunting small animals such as birds and rodents.

Rattlesnakes are named after the rattle located at the end of their tails, which makes a loud rattling noise when vibrated that deters predators.

Rattlesnakes are found in almost every part of the continental United States, but they’re especially common in the Southwest. They live in a variety of habitats, including forest, grasslands, scrub brush, swamps, and deserts, and they are also capable swimmers.

Rattlesnakes are pit vipers, so they have heat-sensing organs located in pits near the eyes, which allow them to “see” the heat signature of prey.

Rattlesnakes eat mostly rodents, but may also eat insects and other reptiles. Rattlesnakes are the leading contributor to snakebite injuries in North America, but rarely bite unless provoked or threatened. If treated promptly, the bites are seldom fatal.


1. What are the four main types of venomous snakes in the United States?

The four main types of venomous snakes in the United States are coral snakes, cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes.

2. Where in the United States do venomous snakes live?

Venomous snakes are found throughout the United States, with the highest diversity in the southwestern states. Nearly every state has at least one species of venomous snake, with the exception of Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, and Rhode Island.

3. How dangerous are copperheads compared to other venomous snakes?

Copperheads are venomous and can be dangerous, but they are not considered as venomous as cottonmouths. Opossums and kingsnakes appear to be immune to their venom.

4. How many people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year?

Each year, an estimated 7,000-8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States, and about 5 of those people die.

5. What should I do if I encounter a venomous snake?

If you encounter a venomous snake, it’s best to leave it alone and give it plenty of space. Do not attempt to handle or kill the snake, as this is when most bites occur. If you are bitten by a venomous snake, seek medical attention immediately.

6. How can I tell if a snake is venomous?

There are several methods for distinguishing potentially venomous from non-venomous snakes, including examining the shape of the head, the shape of the pupils, and the presence of a rattle. However, it’s important to note that coloring may not be an efficient method for distinguishing between a venomous and non-venomous snake, as some non-venomous species have similar coloration to venomous species.

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