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Tips for Encountering Michigan Snakes

Did you know that Michigan is home to 18 different species of snakes, 17 of which are harmless to humans?

Most of the snakes one would typically encounter are harmless and will not interact with humans. There are two exceptions.

Jason LaVelle with an Eastern Hognose snake.
Photo: Jason Rosa

 

 

Eastern Hognose SnakesEastern hognose snakes, when threatened, puff up with air, flatten their necks and bodies, and hiss loudly (This has led to local names like “puff adder” or “hissing viper”). If this act is unsuccessful in deterring predators, the snakes will writhe about, excrete a foul-smelling musk and then turn over with mouth agape and lie still, as though dead.

Despite this intimidating behavior, hog-nosed snakes are harmless to humans.

The only venomous snake species found in Michigan, the rare eastern massasauga rattlesnake is shy and avoids humans whenever possible
Photo courtesy Michigan DNR

 

 

 

Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake: The eastern massasauga rattlesnake is the only venomous snake species found in Michigan.

When encountered, if the snake doesn’t feel threatened, it will let people pass without revealing its location. If given room, the snake will slither away into nearby brush.

Those who encounter a snake of any kind should leave it alone and should not try to handle or harass the snake – this is primarily how snake bites happen.

A snake can only strike roughly one-third of its body length, so it is physically impossible for people to get bitten if they do not get within 24 inches of the snake’s head.
Michigan snakes do not attack, chase or lunge at people or seek out human contact. Simply put, if left alone, Michigan snakes will leave people alone.

 

Rattlesnake bites, while extremely rare in Michigan (fewer than one per year), can and do occur. Anyone who is bitten should seek medical attention immediately. To learn more about the massasauga and for more snake safety tips, visit http://mnfi.anr.msu.edu/emr/index.cfm.

To learn more about Michigan’s snakes, visit www.michigan.gov/wildlife, click on the “Wildlife Species” button and select “Amphibians and Reptiles.”

 

 

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