You could end up killing a harmless snake due to a case of misidentification. The snake most misidentified in Kentucky is the water snake.
According to Wildlife Biologist Jimmy Watkins, the most misidentified snake is the common water snake because "people see a snake in water and automatically think it's a cottonmouth or water moccasin."
Common water snakes are non-venomous and beneficial. They are found throughout Kentucky usually near water with frogs and fishes. Water snakes are killed by humans because they are often mistaken for venomous water moccasin snakes.
The common water snake and water moccasin do look quite similar. Both snakes are found near water and have dark bodies with distinct band patterns. Their scales are rough-looking and keeled. However, there are some distinct differences between the two different snakes.
The body of a water snake will be slender while the water moccasin's body is thicker. Water moccasins also have thick, blocky heads with narrow necks while the water snake has a slender head and no distinct neck. The harmless snake has a round eye pupil while the water moccasin has a vertical pupil. The water moccasin also has heat-sensing pits on the face.
If you are trying to determine if the snake or venomous, you can also look at its location. Water moccasins are found in western Kentucky while the water snake tends to be found in central or eastern Kentucky.
While its great to be able to tell the difference between the two types of snakes, wildlife experts don't recommend getting close to a snake to identify the differences. Rather their advice, is to just leave the snake alone.
So the next time, you run across a snake, don't try to determine if it is venomous or harmless. Just walk away.
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