Snakes in South Louisiana

By Skip Davis

Many of Louisiana's snakes live in the aquatic habitats -- swamps, bayous and estuaries -- in the southern region of the state. Most Louisiana snakes only dwell in freshwater habitats, but some are able to exist in salt water. Sabine National, Rockefeller State and Lacassine National Wildlife Refuges are some areas in southern Louisiana where snake species are protected. The majority of southern Louisiana's snakes are nonvenomous, meaning they use constriction to kill their prey.

Kingsnakes

Kingsnakes are nonvenomous snakes known for eating other snakes, including venomous and other king species. Five kingsnakes live in Southern Louisiana: the Louisiana milksnake, scarlet, mole, prairie and speckled kingsnakes. Two of Louisiana's kingsnakes, the scarlet kingsnake and Louisiana milksnake, have a similar appearance to the venomous coral snake, which also is native to Louisiana.

Water Snakes

Nonvenomous water snakes belong to the snake genus Nerodia. The bayous and swamps of southern Louisiana are home to seven species of Nerodia snakes, six freshwater and one saltwater. The Gulf saltmarsh snake is the only Nerodia snake able to live in saltwater estuaries in southern Louisiana. Other southern Louisiana Nerodia species are broadbanded, Mississippi green, yellow-bellied, midland, blotched and diamondback water snakes. Water snakes are able to swim underwater, as opposed to venomous aquatic snakes that swim on the water's surface.

Texas Rat Snake

The Texas rat snake is the only snake in southern Louisiana in the Elaphe genus. This snake is one of the largest rat snakes in the state, growing up to 5 feet. As their name suggests, Texas rat snakes primarily feed on rats; small lizards and bird eggs are also in the Texas rat snake's diet. April is the primary month to see Texas rat snakes; this month is the Texas rat snake's mating season.

Crayfish Snake

Southern Louisiana's bayous and river inlets are the main habitats for crayfish snakes and crayfish, the primary item in the crayfish snake's diet. These species are also known as crawfish snakes. Three crayfish snakes live in Louisiana: the Delta crayfish snake (also known as the glossy crayfish snake), Graham's crayfish snake and Gulf crayfish snake.

Venomous Snakes

Venomous snakes use venom from their fangs to paralyze their prey rather than constriction. Three venomous rattlesnakes live in southern Louisiana: the canebrake, western pygmy and eastern diamondback. Rattlesnakes are also pit vipers, or snakes with facial pits for heat sensing. Two other venomous pit vipers in southern Louisiana are the southern copperhead and cottonmouth. The eastern coral snake and Texas coral snake are two venomous snakes in southern Louisiana that are not pit vipers. The Texas coral snake lives in Southwest Louisiana, while the eastern coral snake is in the southeastern region of the state.

About the Author

Skip Davis has been writing professionally since 2005. His work has appeared in "Southern Literary Magazine," on various websites and in graphic panels at the Jackson Zoological Park in Jackson, Miss. Currently living in Southern California, Davis received his Bachelor of Arts in theater at Belhaven College.