Many people mistakenly believe that any snake seen in or near the water is this venomous “water moccasin.” But there are seven species of nonvenomous, semi-aquatic snakes found in Missouri. Harmless watersnakes vastly outnumber the much-feared cottonmouths. All are protected by law.
This harmless swamp-dweller is sometimes called the “hoop snake” or the “stinging snake” based on misinformation and imaginative folklore. In the case of this snake, it turns out that fact is more interesting than fiction.
The western pygmy rattlesnake is small and colorful, with a slender tail and tiny rattle. The sound of the vibrating rattle is a faint buzz that is like the sound of a grasshopper. It’s found in some Missouri counties bordering with Arkansas and in the eastern Missouri Ozarks.
The western earthsnake is a small, slightly stout snake with a conical head. It is plain-colored, generally gray, light brown, or reddish brown, with no distinct markings. It is found statewide, except for the northwestern corner.
The western wormsnake is a small, two-toned snake that lives in wooded areas or rocky hillsides. It is usually purplish brown above and salmon pink on the belly and lower sides. It is found statewide, except for the Mississippi Lowlands.
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