So this past weekend I took my first decent snake photos of the year. As the weather warms up in northern NJ more snakes will be out and about, trying to catch a few rays and looking for food. Yes, I understand that many people have a fear of snakes, regardless of the species, and tend to wish they were not around. The truth is that snakes are very important to the environment as well as a species that makes things nicer for humans as well. Also some non-venomous species get confused with venomous species adding to the confusion and fear when a snake is spotted.
According to NJ DEP there are 22 species of snakes that live in NJ. Out of those 22 species only the Northern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake are poisonous. I have seen copperheads a few times. Usually hiding in the rocks or in the shade of a log. I have never seen a rattlesnake in NJ. That is not to say they aren't around, in certain spots they are more likely than others. The point is that neither of these species are taking over NJ.
One of the more commonly seen snakes is the northern watersnake. To those who are not familiar with snakes, this is sometimes confused with the copperhead due to similar markings. Also, to those very unfamiliar with snakes, people claim they saw a water moccasin because the watersnake, not surprisingly due to its name, is normally seen in or near water, as is the water moccasin. The northern watersnake can grow to 55 inches long and is quite abundant in this region. It mainly eats fish, amphibians, invertebrates and sometimes small mammals. Yes, small mammals like mice, moles, voles and other small critters that people complain about when they find to many of them in or around their house.
Other than the color pattern there is a couple of ways to tell the difference between a water snake and a copperhead. Notice that on the watersnake the head is only slightly wider than the body and has almost an oval shape to it. Also, the pupil is very round on the water snake. In comparison a copperhead has a much more triangular head and where it meets the body it is much wider. The eye on the copperhead also has a much more oblong pupil from top to bottom, similar to a cat's eye. The triangular head and cat's eye pupil is a good way to tell the difference between a venomous snake and a non-venomous snake. While I unfortunately was not able to snap a good picture of the head of the copperheads I have seen, I encourage you to google it and compare the difference.
Let's also remember that snakes, like most animals, do not bite people out of malice or hunting. The bites that occur are usually due to being stepped on or feeling threatened. If you do here a tail rattling, or hear a hiss, stop, locate the snake if you can, slowly and smoothly move away from the snake. If you cannot locate the snake quickly, slowly and smoothly move back the way you came. Snakes need to be respected, but not feared. Enjoy the wilderness around you and remember to protect and conserve nature as well as yourself.