MOORE OUTDOORS: Seven things you probably didn’t know about local snakes

Published 11:38 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You either love them or hate them.

Snakes are by far the most polarizing creature in the Southeast Texas wild lands with a majority on the hate side, and a few of us loving them. The fact is, snakes should be respected and there are many misconceptions that need dispelled as well as some new data that can shed some interesting light on all things serpent.

• Species: There are many species of snakes in Southeast Texas but only seven that are venomous and out of those only four basic types. The only types of venomous snakes in the United States are copperheads, cottonmouths, rattlesnakes and coral snakes.

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There are numerous subspecies, but those are the four basic types. Every other species is nonvenomous.

Locally we have the western cottonmouth, southern copperhead, Texas coral snake, timber rattlesnake (in the upper reaches of the region), pigmy rattlesnake and along the coast the western diamondback (very common in the Galveston area).

Everything else is nonvenomous.

• Venom medicine: Snake venom is being used in various forms in cancer treatment. Copperhead is being used in some breast cancer treatment, king cobra venom is being used in various types of medicines and coral snake venom has applications an epilepsy treatment.

The compounds contained within some of these venoms are being used for good.

• Sea snakes?: It emerged from a weed line that covered the edges of the 18 mile light out of Sabine Pass.

“It had white/bluish and black bands and came from under the weeds and then swam to the surface. It was a sea snake and I have no doubts about what I saw,” said one angler I interviewed in person who wishes to remain anonymous.

The angler said the “snake” had a paddle-like tail and he and his fishing partner observed it for several minutes.

The problem is there are not supposed to be any sea snakes in the Gulf or Atlantic waters. They dwell the Pacific although in the past there has been some banter about whether or not they would make it through the Panama Canal.

I got that report a couple of years back and then sort of filed in the “X” category for review later on down the road.

Then I spoke with someone who told me about catching a big diamondback rattlesnake near High Island. He said this as he brought me a king snake for my collection and we spent an hour talking about serpents.

“The craziest thing I ever saw was a  banded sea krait at one of the rigs off of the Bolivar Peninsula,” he said.

He reported seeing the snake swimming around a rig that he had kayaked to on a calm day.

A couple of things happened when I got this report. First, he called it a “banded sea krait” which is a specific type of sea snake. There are numerous species.

Then I realized this was only about 25 miles from where the other sighting came from which described a banded sea krait.

Once again there are supposed to be no sea snakes in Texas.

The most likely candidate is the snake eel, which is present in the Gulf of Mexico and has similar markings to a banded sea krait. They are established in the Gulf and would be a species found around an oil rig or a structure like the 18 Mile Light (Sabine Bank Lighthouse).

There are several reports of beaded sea snake that allegedly washed up in Florida after a red tide event. There are also a few stories of sea snakes reportedly being found in different areas of the Caribbean.

Bloggers blame ship ballasts for carrying snakes from the Pacific and then unintentionally releasing them into the Gulf. It is unlikely but the fact is you just never know. If you think you have seen a sea snake or a snake eel or have photos of either send to

• Longest snake: The longest snake likely to be encountered in Southeast Texas is the Texas rat snake. They can grow to more than seven feet long and routinely top out at after five feet.

These snakes are often called “chicken snakes” due to their fondness for eggs and baby chicks.

The longest snake in the United States however is the indigo snake, a resident of South Texas that has reportedly been measured at more than 10 feet long. I have personally seen two over seven feet and one that would be close to nine in the South Texas brush.

• Ground rattlers: Here’s a hint. If it doesn’t have a rattle, chances are it is not a rattlesnake.

And if it is found in your garden in downtown Port Arthur or Orange chances are its not a rattlesnake either. Thousand of harmless marsh brown snakes have been hacked to death due to being called “ground rattlers”. They are no such thing.

The thing brown snakes with light uniform black freckling down the backs have always been called ground rattlers here but they are totally harmless.

The pigmy rattler which is sometimes found in the area is also called “ground rattler” but it has an actual rattler (albeit small) and looks like a rattlesnake. It is sometimes confused with the hognose but looks nothing like the poor marsh brown snake.

I deal with snakes every day at our Kingdom Zoo: Wildlife Center facility, so I understand people’s fears, but it is always better to gain an understanding and let the fear turn into respect. Snakes are certainly not all bad as you can see and they are definitely not out to get you.

To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at