When encountering Michigan’s snakes, best to leave them be (video)

The Michigan DNR gets many questions this time of year about Michigan’s snakes. Eighteen different species of snake call Michigan home, but only one of them poses any real harm to humans.

The snake the DNR gets the most questions about is the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, the only venomous species found in Michigan. This snake rarely is seen and is listed as a threatened species by the U.S Fish. and Wildlife Service due to declining populations from habitat loss. As its name implies, the massasauga rattlesnake does have a segmented rattle on its tail. It should not be confused with the other harmless species of snakes in Michigan that do not have segmented rattles but will buzz their tails if approached or handled.

Another snake that can cause quite a stir is the eastern hog-nosed snake, one of the many harmless species found in Michigan. When threatened, hognose snakes puff up with air, flatten their necks and bodies, and hiss loudly – this has led to local names like “puff adder” or “hissing viper.” If this act is unsuccessful, they will writhe about, excrete a foul-smelling musk and then turn over with mouth agape and lie still, as though dead. Despite this intimidating behavior, hog-nosed do not pose a threat to humans.

Michigan snakes do not attack, chase or lunge at people or seek out human contact. If you have spotted a snake, stay at least 3 feet away from the head to avoid getting bit. Handling or harassing snakes is the most common cause for humans getting bit. Simply put, if left alone, Michigan snakes will leave people alone.

Learn more about Michigan’s snakes by visiting mi.gov/wildlife and clicking on the “Wildlife Species” button, then selecting “Amphibians and Reptiles.” The DNR urges anyone who spots a reptile or amphibian to report the sightings to the Michigan Herp Atlas research project to help monitor amphibian and reptile populations in the state and protect these Michigan residents for future generations. Visit www.miherpatlas.org for more information.

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