Snake Identification

USA and Canada are home to a large number of different species of snakes. Many species are similar in appearance and are extremely difficult to differentiate from one another while some snakes display high variations in appearance within a particular species. For these reasons, experts rely on scale patterns to make a positive identification of a snake.


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The most common method for determining the difference between a snake and a lizard is the presence or absence of limbs. However, there are several species of lizards that have very small or no legs. The differences between snakes and legless lizards are:

  • Tongue – Snakes have forked tongues which they use to ‘taste’ the air for scent particles. All species of legless lizards have a fleshy tongue.
  • Eyes – Most species of lizards have moveable eyelids. Snakes have fixed transparent scales that cover their eyes which are known as the brille or spectacle.
  • External ear openings –  All species of legless lizards have external ear openings. Snakes do not have ears, and as a result are unable to hear airborne sound using an ear. Snakes are very sensitive to vibrations and actually have some remnant bones of the ear attached to the lower jawbone

1 thought on “Snake Identification”

  1. I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out what kind of snake my son found in the back yard of a friend’s house. I thought at first it belongs to the python group but now I’m not sure. Please help me identify what we have here. Thank you in advance. I hope that I can figure out what I need to do with it as well.


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