Every year about this time we receive several calls about snakes—and most of the callers want to know about the poisonous snakes. Which snakes are poisonous?
In Michigan, there is only one. Its name is Massasauga, an Indian name that translates to “big water snake” or “big swamp snake.” They usually hang out by big swamps andthe outlying areas and there’s a quick and easy way to identify them:
Does it have rattles on its tail?
Even the very young Massasauga Rattlesnakes have the beginnings of rattles, and even the youngest of these are poisonous. The older the snake, the more rattle sections it will have.
Indiana, on the other hand, has 4 species of snakes that are venomous:
- Timber Rattlesnake
- Western Cottonmouth
We serve the Northern Indiana area, and the Massasauga is the only poisonous snake found there. The other three are only found in the southern part of the state.
Massasauga’s are a small snake averaging about 2 feet in length. They are not an aggressive species. On the contrary, they are actually quite shy and would prefer to hide or let you walk right over themif possible. Even if you happen to step on one and get bitten, chances are that you would survive. Massasaugas typically don’t inject enough poison to kill an adult.
The bite of an Eastern Massasauga Rattler is a serious thing, however, and should be addressed immediately. Death from such a bite is highly unlikely. Nevertheless, individuals often become quite ill and complications may arise due to local tissue death. Despite their shy demeanor and hesitancy to biteunder most circumstances, Massasaugas will strike when harassed or handled.
What to do in the event you’ve been bitten by a Massasaugas
- Stay calm
- Get to a hospital as soon as possible and call ahead to let them know you’re on your way (if possible)
- Do NOT make any incisions at or around the wound
- Do NOT apply a tourniquet
- Keep the wound below heart level if possible
If you have been bitten on a finger, toe or limb:
An area just a little closer to the heart can be firmly but not tightly wrapped as you would a sprain. For example, the wrist of a person might be wrapped if the bite was on the hand.
As with all snakes, Massasaugas are a beneficial animal as they feed almost entirely on vermin. They are also an endangered species and protected by the State, so please do not kill or molest them.