(NEXSTAR) — Hiss! It’s that time of year in Texas when rattlesnakes are slithering out as temperatures (hopefully) start cooling.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has a handy education guide on snakes of Texas, including copperheads, cottonmouths and coral snakes. But the most plentiful type of snake in Texas is the rattlesnake, which we’ll focus on.
The department notes that Texans should not kill or disturb snakes, not even poisonous ones. Snakes will generally retreat from humans if they can.
Here are the nine types you’ll find in the Lone Star State.
Looks like: Typically about 3.5-4.5 feet long with brown diamond-shaped marks down its back. Tail usually has black and white stripes ahead of the rattle (see second photo below for better view).
Lives near: Found all across Texas, except for the easternmost part.
Looks like: Thick body with an average 4.5-foot length. Typically colored brown or tan with dark crossbands. Tail is black.
Lives near: Eastern part of Texas, particularly wooded parts of wetlands.
Mottled Rock rattlesnake
Looks like: Smaller than many of the others, with an average length of about 2 feet. Light-colored (cream or pinkish) with dark crossbands spaced out downs its body. Crossbands have blotchy coloring in between (these are the mottles).
Lives near: West Texas mountain areas.
Banded Rock rattlesnake
Looks like: Similar to the mottled rock rattlesnake but dark greenish-gray.
Lives near: Only in the extreme western tip of Texas, Texas Parks and Wildlife says.
Looks like: Average length of 3.5 feet. Typically colored gray to olive green with dark pattern down its back.
Lives near: Bushes and rocky areas of Central and West Texas.
Looks like: Looks like a smaller and thinner version of the western diamondback, with dark diamond-shapes down its back.
Lives near: Extreme West Texas.
Looks like: Slender build with an average length of about 3 feet. Typically green or gray-colored with round splotches down its back.
Lives near: Texas Parks and Wildlife says this one is found in “the grassy plains of the western third of the state.”
Looks like: Usually about 2 feet long. Colored light gray. Brown blotches can be seen down its back with smaller blotches along the sides.
Lives near: In swampy grasslands in central Texas.
The photo below is technically an eastern massasauga, though the western and eastern snakes of this variety are very similar. Though western massasauga are less common than their eastern cousins (hence fewer available pictures), the two share similar looks, though the western is smaller and slimmer.
Looks like: Like the western and eastern massasaugas but smaller and thinner.
Lives near: Texas Parks and Wildlife says the desert massasauga can be found in the Trans-Pecos, western Panhandle and lower Rio Grande Valley areas.
Keeping snakes away from your home
The Austin Animal Center has a few tips for keeping snakes out of and away from your home.
- Keep lawns trimmed. Snakes love hiding in tall grass and brush piles.
- Keep rodents away. While snakes are great mouse and rat catchers, you also likely don’t want snakes in your home, either. Keeping your home rodent-free will decrease the likelihood a slithery friend may come searching for a snack.
- Keep competition. Austin Animal Center says snakes are competitive and don’t like to share food between venomous and non-venomous types. Keeping a non-venomous rat snake around the house could deter a rattler or a copperhead from taking over.
Snakes are great!
While many of us share a common fear of snakes — also called Ophidiophobia — the creatures don’t prey on humans and generally like to avoid us altogether. Most snake bites are the result of humans being reckless or threatening to snakes, TPW says.
Snakes have historically been maligned, University of Illinois’ Wildlife Epidemiology Laboratory students Katie V. and Kennymac, previously wrote in their article, “Why YOU Should Care about Snakes.”
Snakes have been the victim of many unprovoked attacks and killings, but it’s important for humans to know how much good the animals provide to their habitats. One big help snakes offer is by controlling pest populations — and controlling the harmful diseases they can carry.
The Circle of Life: while snakes are predators, they’re also prey for other animals. This, according to the Wildlife Epidemiology Lab, is what’s called being a “mesopredator.” Larger predators like foxes, birds of prey, and bigger snakes are quick to snatch up a smaller snake.
Overall, snakes serve critical roles in sustaining Earth’s ecosystems. So keep your distance and let snakes do their work!