GOOD Morning Wilton is thrilled about one of our newest features, a column contributed by the environmental educators at Woodcock Nature Center. They’ll be bringing you news and information about what’s happening seasonally in nature where we live and answering reader questions about our local environment and wildlife. (Email questions directly to Woodcock Nature Center.) 

By: Jennifer Bradshaw, Environmental Educator

The phone rings and the man on the other end says, “I’ve got a poisonous snake here in my garage, what do I do?” This is an all too common call that I receive here at the Woodcock Nature Center. With all animal-related calls, I always do my best to help people but also, educate the caller and let them know if or when they should call for help in the future. Right away, I noticed something wrong about this call. For starter’s there are no poisonous snakes in CT, or the world for that matter. Snakes can be venomous, but they aren’t poisonous. So, how do you tell the difference? The term venomous is used when something injects toxins by bite or sting (think cobra or bee); poisonous applies to an organism that unloads toxins when ingested or is absorbed through the skin (think poison dart frog or some mushrooms).

To get back to the call, after confirming through pictures that it was not a “poisonous” or venomous snake, I assured him that this little Eastern Milk Snake could easily be moved back outside and would most likely be a good tenant to have around to help with rodent control.

Snakes–also sometimes referred to as Nope Rope, Slippery Noodle, Danger Noodle or Noodle Necks–are one of the most feared species in the world. But why do we fear snakes? Scientists believe that throughout evolutionary history, humans that learned quickly to fear snakes would have been at an advantage to survive. Anthropologists have suggested the need to notice snakes in the wild may have led early primates to develop better vision and larger brains. Recently, some psychologists believe that this fear is taught at a young age. Most infants and toddlers are not fearful of snakes and can actually be drawn to them out of curiosity. This irrational fear can be spread to children by parents or family members but can also be the result of a bad experience or their negative portrayals in the media.

Here in CT we have 14 species of snakes, only two of which are venomous. Considering Mexico is the country with the most species of snakes (even more than Australia) with 381 species of snakes, half of which are venomous, I think we have it pretty good! The two venomous snakes we have here in CT are the Timber Rattlesnake and the Northern Copperhead. The Timber Rattlesnake (pictured at the top of the article) is an endangered species and can only be found in small pockets of Northwest and Central CT. Northern Copperheads can be found in the southern half of the state and are often confused with the Eastern Milksnake or Northern Watersnake (two non-venomous species). If you have to get bitten by a venomous snake, the Northern Copperhead is the snake to be bitten by. Although their bites are dangerous and can cause tissue damage to the bite area, fatalities resulting from their bites are extremely rare.