The Appalachian Naturalist
Key to the snakes of the Southeast US
Copyright 1999-2000
D. A. Netherton

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    It is rarely easy to identify a snake, even when you have it in the hand. I have written this key to help all folks (in the Southeast) who have found a snake in the field or their yard, and want to know what it is, just out of curiosity, or the concern that it might be venomous and must be removed.
    This was going to be a "dichotomous key" a mechanism that gives you two choices, only one of which is true, and when you pick that one it leads you to two other choices. (Dichotomous is Greek, and means branching in two.) I have used this type of key for years, and I like the way it works. However, I will use a multiple key here, as it seems easier to write.
    Nothing beats a good book, and I have a "store" set up on my  books page.
    You will notice I have not used the shape of the head in this key. That old "husband's tale" just doesn't work. Many harmless snakes have rather large heads, and all snakes' heads are larger than the neck. Many harmless snakes have heads that appear "diamond" or "arrowhead" shaped, and have been killed for it. The Copperhead's head can be quite small, especially in a youngster.
    Another thing; harmless snakes and venomous snakes cannot interbreed! That would be like the family dog mating with the neighbor's milk cow. Even if it did happen (unlikely), nothing is likely to come of it!
    So here is the first "couplet." Just click the link below the description that is true.

Heavy bodied snakes with a "pit" (hole) between the eye and nostril. Pupil of eye is cat like and vertical, not round, OR pupil is round and the snake has yellow, red, and black rings around body, and red and yellow rings touch.
                                                                The Venomous snakes,  click here

Generally slender snakes, no pit between eye and nostril, pupil of eye round. May have red (or orange), yellow (or white), and black bands, but the red and black rings touch.
                                                              The Harmless snakes,  click here.