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What are Kentucky’s Most Poisonous Snakes?

Valspar Championship - Final Round
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When I think “venomous snakes in Kentucky,” there are really only two that leap to mind. But that’s how little I know. There are actually FOUR types of venomous snakes in the Bluegrass State.

And you’d be forgiven if you only thought there were three, because two of the four are types of rattlesnakes.

And THAT’S why I only thought there were two, because the rattlesnakes in question are not common in our specific part of the Commonwealth.

Now, here’s where I get confused. One of the two snakes I thought would be on this list ISN’T. Unless, the water moccasin is another name for one of these four. If it is, let me know.

The list at puts the copperhead at the top of the list. It’s all over Kentucky and looks very much like other non-poisonous snakes.

That’s hardly fair.

Western cottonmouths are next and they’re in the western part of the state, so I wonder if THOSE are the same as water moccasins. Look, I know we have water moccasins and I know they’re poisonous. I’m not crazy.

The description of the cottonmouth sounds like a water moccasin, in fact. They’re dark-colored and live near water.

There! I think I have my answer.

Young Cottonmouth Ready to Strike!
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Now for the rattlesnakes.

There’s the timber rattlesnake and they’re really easy to spot because they hiss out “TIMBER!” really loud before they strike.

Just kidding.

Actually, the timber rattlers are the longest poisonous snakes in Kentucky, stretching to 5 feet. No thank you!

They’re not aggressive, so don’t surprise them.

Actually, don’t surprise ANY of them. Duh!

Timber Rattlesnake
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Finally, we have the western pygmy rattlesnake. Now I did they that this rattler isn’t around here, but it IS in the western part of the state.

That’s because it’s pretty much relegated to three counties–Calloway, Trigg, and Lyon.

That’s plenty close enough, for my money.

rattlesnake with the X factor
Getty Images/iStockphoto

According to Snakes and Spiders, not a whole lot is known about this little guy, except that it measures between 5 and 20 inches and is a lighter grayish-brown color with wit dark spots on its body.

There also might be rust-colored bars or stripes on its back.

Obviously, if you see one of these things, don’t try to capture or kill it. And maybe you aren’t even seeing a poisonous snake, just a look-alike.

In any case, you can call 1-800-858-1549. That’s the number for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Services. They should be able to answer any of your questions.


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