The 3 species of poisonous Pennsylvania snakes to be aware of when the weather improves and you head outdoors


The sun is out and temperatures are starting to rise in the Keystone State, and it looks like it’s been a long time coming.

For many, it’s the perfect time to get outside, enjoy the good weather and enjoy the great outdoors. Be aware though that snakes think this too. And, if you pay attention to your neighborhood’s social media page — many Pennsylvania neighborhoods now have one — you might already see posts from people who’ve spotted one walking around near their home.

There is good news about this.

Most of the 21 species of snakes you’ll see in Pennsylvania aren’t just harmless, they’re helpful. They eat pests, like mice and bugs, that may try to enter your home. But there are three species of snakes you will want to consider because, although they are also important parts of our environment, they are poisonous.

Below is an overview of the three species of snakes you’ll want to give space to when heading outdoors:

Timber rattlesnakes play an important role in the environment and they often alert you to their presence, allowing you to stay away.

timber rattlesnake

About the snake: It is the poisonous snake that people are most likely to see when traveling in Pennsylvania. The timber rattlesnake likes to hang out near cover and rough terrain — rocks, crevices, and trees — throughout the state. Adult timber rattlesnakes reach about 36 to 60 inches in length. Females tend to bask in the sun, especially in the summer when they are often pregnant and preparing to give birth. The males spend their time in cooler wooded areas. They also feed on small animals like birds, frogs and other snakes. A bite from a timber rattlesnake can be serious, but if there is good news, they can often be quite docile and will often alert you to their presence with their rattles. They are listed as a species of special concern and are even endangered in New Jersey.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

The eastern massauga rattlesnake is a rare sight in Pennsylvania.

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

About the snake: You are much less likely to encounter this rattlesnake than the timber rattlesnake. In fact, it is considered endangered in the Keystone State. it is found in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Lawrence, Mercer, and Venango counties. It can reach a length of 18 to 40 inches. Its main territory includes wetlands and grasslands.

Northern Copperhead

The northern copperhead can be difficult to detect and it can also be aggressive. (File photo)

Northern Copperhead

About the snake: The copperhead can be difficult to see, and it does not make its presence known like the timber rattlesnake. He can also be aggressive. They have excellent camouflage and tend to hang out near shelter they can blend in with and also like rocks, ledges and brush. The Copperhead typically grows to around 24 to 36 inches in length.


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