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The Hot Spot

Where each month we will showcase a venomous reptile. Check out which species it is this month, and learn interesting facts !

"Which is better: to fear all snakes and keep out of danger, or become educated and fear those only that can be harmful to you?" - Bill Haast on the Discovery Channel

There are about 27 species of snakes found in Iowa, only 5 are venomous and a danger to humans.

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There are FIVE species of venomous snakes that inhabit Iowa. Anyone who lives in or visits Iowa should make themselves aware of these snakes, and learn how to identify them. Children especially, whom snakes often fascinate, should be made aware of these 5 species. A lot of snakebites occur because people are uninformed about the venomous snakes that inhabit Iowa, and mistakenly think them harmless. The best rule of thumb is - if you don't know what kind of snake it is - leave it alone.

Northern Copperhead
Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen
Agkistrodon_ c._mokasen-01.jpg (216105 bytes)
Timber Rattlesnake
Crotalus horridus  
horridus-05.JPG (147845 bytes)
Prairie Rattlesnake
Crotalus viridis viridis  
crotalus_v_viridis-08 a.JPG (192724 bytes)
Eastern Massasauga
Sistrurus catenatus catenatus
Sistrurus_catenatus_catenatus-01.jpg (223572 bytes)
Western Massasauga
Sistrurus catenatus tergeminus

A word of caution: If you find a snake, and you do not know whether or not it is venomous, the safest thing to do is leave it alone. Most snakes are not aggressive and, unless they are cornered, most will flee when humans approach. Occasionally, you might encounter one that is reluctant to leave because it is basking in the sun to get warm. Among snakebite victims, an unacceptably high number are bitten on the hands and arms when they are handling the snake. Do not catch a snake and do not handle one unless you are sure it is not venomous. In addition, for a short time after a snake is killed, its reflexes may continue to work. Those reflexes typically cause the body to writhe slowly for a while, but they can cause a convulsive contraction and a bite, so you should not handle a freshly killed venomous snake.
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