There are three different kinds of venomous snakes in Ohio: the eastern timber rattlesnake, the northern copperhead and the massasauga rattlesnake. Every year, people report sightings of the poisonous water moccasin, but these are just incorrect identifications of the nonvenomous northern water snake.
There are region-specific guidelines to distinguish venomous from nonvenomous snakes in Ohio. Venomous snakes have a triangular head, as opposed to the oval-shaped heads of most nonvenomous species. They also have heat-sensitive pits located between the nostrils and the eyes, and their pupils are oval rather than round. Venomous snakes have undivided scales between their rectums and their tails on their underbellies, while the scales of nonvenomous snakes are divided. The eastern timber rattlesnake and the massasauga rattlesnake can also be identified by the rattles at the end of their tails.
While people should be familiar with the characteristics and habitats of venomous snakes before heading out into Ohio's outdoors, it is important to keep a safe distance from snakes and all other forms of wildlife. If you are close enough to distinguish between a venomous and nonvenomous snake, you are too close. Even nonvenomous snakes can deliver a severe bite. In the case of a venomous or nonvenomous snake bite, seek emergency medical attention immediately.