Snakes Alive!

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 16, 2010

Snakes of Missouri

passed a downed rotten log, my son stopped and exclaimed, "Look, Dad! Here's a big snake skin!"

I stopped and picked it up. The skin was old and torn, but the faint color pattern was unmistakable. It had once been attached to a timber rattler. We both marveled over the discovery. Back at the cabin we showed the skin to family. Grandma gave Michael a clear sandwich bag to take the skin home so he could show it to his grade-school classmates.

Finding that snake's skin turned our hike into a memorable event, a chance to witness what is still wild in Missouri. triangle

Avoiding Venomous Snakes

Missouri is home to five species of venomous snakes: copperhead, cottonmouth, timber rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake and massasauga rattlesnake. All are shy and normally avoid people, but when cornered, they are capable of defending themselves.

Medical literature reveals that most people are bitten by venomous snakes while trying to kill or handle them. If you come across a venomous snake or a snake you can't identify, leave it alone. In areas that harbor venomous snakes, wear protective footwear and always look where you put your hands and feet. Do not straddle logs or rocks. Step on them, then step over.

A bite by any of Missouri's venomous snakes warrants immediate medical attention. However, no human deaths from bites by native venomous snake have been recorded in Missouri in more than 30 years.


Killing a Snake: IS THAT LEGAL?

Chapter 4 of Missouri's Wildlife Code, rule 3 CSR 10-4.110 reads:"No bird, fish, amphibian, reptile, mammal or other form of wildlife, including their homes, dens, nests and eggs in Missouri shall be molested, pursued, taken, hunted, trapped, tagged, marked, enticed, poisoned, killed, transported, stored, served, bought, sold, given away, accepted, possessed, propagated, imported, exported or liberated to the wild in any manner, number, part parcel or quantity, at any time, except as specifically permitted by these rules and any laws consistent with Article IV, sections 40-46 of the Constitution of Missouri."

This inclusive piece of legal prose recognizes the importance of all wildlife. It prohibits all use of wildlife, unless specifically permitted by a rule in Missouri's Wildlife Code. Only under very limited circumstances is it permissible to kill a snake in Missouri. Rule 3 CSR 10-4.130 establishes provisions for capturing or killing wildlife that is damaging private property. A black rat snake that is beyond a reasonable doubt eating your chicken eggs would be an example of a snake damaging your property.

Missouri's Wildlife Code provides broad protection for wildlife and encourages a common sense approach to wildlife problems and management.

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