Skilled predators, snakes help maintain the balance of nature by eating prey that reproduces frequently, everything from earthworms to rabbits. Snakes are especially important in the control of rodents such as mice and rats.
Venomous Snakes in
Only one species of coral snake is native to
A pit viper is a type of venomous snake. Copperheads,
cottonmouths and rattlesnakes are called pit-vipers because they have a pit
near each nostril which is highly sensitive to heat. This pit helps the snake
in locating warm-blooded prey. In
Copperheads have chestnut or reddish-brown cross bands on a lighter colored body. These snakes are found in rocky areas and wooded bottomlands and are rare in dry areas. In the spring they can be found along streams and rivers, as well as in weed-covered vacant lots. There are three subspecies of Copperheads in Texas; Southern copperhead (A.c. contortrix), 20-30 inches long and found in the eastern one-third of the state; Broad banded copperhead (A.c. laticinctus), about two feet long, widely scattered in central and western Texas; and the Trans-Pecos copperhead (A.c. pictigaster), 20-30 inches in length and found near springs in the southern part of the Trans-Pecos.
With their bands of gray and/or brown, the three subspecies of
The Latin name piscivorous means
'fish- eating,' indicating its dietary characteristics. Also known as 'water
moccasins', only one recognized subspecies is found in
Cottonmouths can be dark brown, olive-brown, olive green or almost solid black. They are marked with wide, dark bands, which are more distinct in some individuals than in others. Juvenile snakes are more brilliantly marked. The cottonmouth gets its name from the white tissue inside its mouth, which it displays when threatened. This heavy-bodied snake, which averages about 3-1/2 feet in length, is found over the eastern half of the state in swamps and sluggish waterways, coastal marshes, rivers, ponds and streams.
The cottonmouth, or water moccasin, rarely strays far from
water and can be found in marshes, swamps, ponds, lakes, ditches, and canals in
Swimmers, bathers and anglers on river banks should always keep an eye open for these snakes.
Nine kinds of
rattlesnakes are found in
There are two groups of rattlesnakes: the more primitive forms
belong to the genus Sistrurus.
Western massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus tergeminus), light gray, with brown oval blotches along the middle of the back and smaller blotches along each side. They are two feet in length and found through the middle of the state in grasslands, marshy and swampy areas.
Desert massasauga (
The more advanced forms of rattlesnakes belong to the genus Crotalus and
(Crotalus atrox) has brown,
diamond-shaped markings along the middle of the back and alternating black and
white rings on the tail; averages 3 1/2 to 4-1/2 feet in length, and can reach
seven feet. This is the most common and widespread venomous snake in
Timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) also known as Canebreak rattlesnake is a large, heavy-bodied snake averaging 4-1/2 feet; brown or tan with wide, dark cross bands; tail is entirely black; found in the eastern third of the state in wooded areas in wet bottomlands.
Mottled Rock rattlesnake (Crotalus lepidus) is light bream or pink background with widely
spaced, dark cross bands and mottled areas between the cross bands. It is small
and slender with an average length of about two feet and is found in the
mountainous areas of
Banded Rock rattlesnake (C.l. klauberi) is similar to the mottled rock rattlesnake, but
darker greenish-gray in color. It is found only in the extreme western tip of
Blacktail rattlesnake (Crotalus molossus) is gray to
olive green with dark blotches along the back and a black tail. Averaging a
length of 3-1/2 feet, it is found from
Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus) is similar to the western diamondback in
markings, but smaller and more slender and found only in extreme
Prairie rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis viridis) is a slender rattler that is greenish or grayish, with rounded blotches down the middle of its back. Its average length is about three feet and is found in the grassy plains of the western third of the state.
Centipedes do not carry diseases to man or to his animals and plants. They are usually considered nuisances rather than destructive pests. Centipedes pose an occasional threat to man because they have poison glands and will bite.
There are many kinds of centipedes but all of them are more or less
wormlike and have a flattened body. The largest centipede inhabits the tropics
Like all centipedes Scolopendra can inflict a painful bite with a pair of poison claws located directly under the head. These poison claws, once a pair of walking legs, have undergone a drastic change over thousands of years and are now used for capturing and killing their prey instead of walking. So complete is the change and so close is the association with the head, the claws now appear to be mouth parts.
Most centipedes can only bite with their poison claws located directly under the head; however, Scolopendra can harm a person with the sharp claws of its many walking legs. Each walking leg is tipped with a sharp claw capable of making tiny cuts in human skin. A poison produced from the attachment point of each leg may be dropped into the wounds resulting in an inflamed and irritated condition. The best rule of thumb is NEVER HANDLE CENTIPEDES.
are non-insect arthropods. All species of scorpion are poisonous.
The presence of pre-existing medical conditions such as pneumonia, hypertension, and certain heart ailments can turn otherwise normal systemic reactions into life threatening situations. Persons with such conditions are at greater risk of severe envenomation than are healthy persons.
Some people are allergic to scorpion venom in the same way that some are allergic to honey bee venom. In such cases, very severe effects, including death, can occur very rapidly and are not related to the toxicity of the venom. Deaths due to envenomation by non-medically important species are usually the result of allergy induced anaphylactic shock.
Tarantulas are solitary animals and can live up to 30 years. They are nocturnal hunters and are generally non-aggressive. Moreover, they can live in burrows that are 2 feet deep. This species (Aphonopelma) has the longest life span of any other spider. Furthermore, most tarantulas are killed by predatory wasps called Tarantula hawks. The Tarantula hawks sting their prey and use the dead tarantula body to lay their eggs in. In addition, the offspring of the Tarantula hawks rely on the leftover body parts to supply them with food.
Unlike other spiders, tarantulas use their silk to line their burrows instead of catching their prey. They have a pair of silk producing spinnerets located on the abdomen. Moreover, the female tarantula uses her silk to protect her delicate baby eggs. In addition, tarantulas shed their skins (molt) to adapt to their growing bodies.
Tarantulas are HARMLESS to humans and
most pets (e.g., dogs and cats). Their venom is of no medical significance, and
contrary to popular belief, nobody has ever died from such a bite; most people
compare the bite to that of a bee sting and experience no lasting ill-effects
other than mild to moderate pain and slight swelling at the site of the bite.
Most species are nocturnal, and if one shows up in or around your house, it is
just because he is trying to hide out during the day to return to his search at
night (or maybe you have female tarantulas living around your house). In
If you do not feel comfortable having tarantulas around, please gently chase the spider into a jar with a leaf or other long object with a soft end, and deposit it as far away as you feel comfortable. Remember, these animals are completely beneficial to humans, feeding on cockroaches, crickets, scorpions, and likely mice and other rodents.
Poison Ivy and Poison Oak, common names applied to two
plants of a genus in the cashew
family, are capable of producing an allergic reaction in people who have become
sensitized to them. Poison ivy and poison oak are variants of a single plant
(sometimes treated as separate species by botanists), different mainly in the
shape of their leaflets. Both are woody perennial plants of roadsides,
thickets, hedgerows, and open woods, and one or the other is found throughout
Poison ivy and poison oak contain a lacquer-like resin in their sap. The resin is composed of active substances that provoke a sensitizing reaction in most, if not all, persons the first time effective contact occurs. Brushing past the leaves or the bare stems may result in contact. Contact with exposed pets, clothing, or garden tools many induce a reaction. Smoke from burning ivy plants may carry the resin and affect all uncovered parts of the body.
After a person has become sensitized, subsequent contact with the resin produces the typical allergic reaction of ivy poisoning. The effects do not become apparent for some hours. First, the skin reddens and begins to itch. Small watery blisters soon appear, often in lines indicating the point of contact with the plant, and the itching becomes intense. Finally, in severe cases, large watery swellings appear and coalesce. The condition is self-limiting, and recovery takes place in one to four weeks, even without treatment. A physician should be consulted in severe cases or if sensitive parts of the body, such as the eyelids, become involved. Scratching slows healing, invites infection, and may spread the resin from one location to another; the watery fluid in the blisters does not spread the reaction. Boric acid solution or calamine lotion is commonly used to relieve itching. Some or all of the resin may be removed by prompt and vigorous scrubbing with strong soap.
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