Venomous Creatures in New Mexico

Snakes

Snake seasons are spring and summer in New Mexico, when snakes emerge from their winter dens to hunt for food and water.  Venomous snakes have  triangular heads, elliptical pupils, upper jaws with fangs and rounded tails.  There are two venomous snakes that inhabit New Mexico:  the rattlesnake and the coral snake.  For further information, download our Venomous Snakes in New Mexico brochure (pdf).

Rattlesnake

Prarie Rattlesnake

     Prarie Rattlesnake

The most common venomous snake in New Mexico is the rattlesnake.  Several species of rattlesnakes inhabit New Mexico.  Adult rattlesnakes are usually 2.5 to 4.5 feet long and have a rattle button that sounds if they feel threatened.  Rattlesnake venom is very toxic and can be deadly. 

Coral Snake

Coral snakes can be found in the southwest corner of New Mexico.  Although the coral snakes in New Mexico are often too small to bite humans, please know that their venom is highly toxic.

Coral snakes are often confused with the New Mexico milk snake (does not have toxic venom) because of similar banding patterns.  This catchy rhyme can help one distinguish the coral snake from its less dangerous counterpart, the New Mexico milk snake:  "Red touches yellow will kill a fellow (coral snake).  Red touches black, venom lack (New Mexico milk snake)."  However, if it slithers on the ground, it is best to leave it alone!

 milk snake    Coral Snake

                   Milk Snake                                     Coral Snake

Prevention and First Aid Tips

  • Do not try to capture or handle a poisonous snake. 
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  • Walk in cleared areas where it is easy to see where you step or reach with your hands. 
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  • Use a walking stick to rustle shrubs or brush to alert snakes of your presence. 
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  • Wear protective clothing, such as long pants and boots.  Some snakes, such as the rattlesnake, can sense the heat of bare skin. 
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  • Wear gloves when using hands to move rocks or brush.  Snakes seek shade during intense summer heat.   
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  • Never put your hands or feet into places where you cannot see. 
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  • Patch holes in your home that are more than a one-quarter of an inch wide.  Be careful when working in a crawl space. 
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  • Always carry your cell phone in case of an emergency.  Program it with the Poison Help Hotline:  1-800-222-1222.
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  • View Snakebite Prevention / First Aid Video.

If bitten by a poisonous snake…

  • Remain calm.
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  • Put a safe distance between you and the snake.
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  • Get to a hospital immediately.  Antivenin is the only accepted treatment.
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  • Keep the bite area immobilized and level with your heart.
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  • Do not put ice on the bite or try to suck the venom out with your mouth.
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  • Call the New Mexico Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for more first aid advice.


Spiders

The venom of two spiders in New Mexico can cause serious illness:  the black widow and the brown spider.  Read below to find out more about these spiders.

Black Widow

       Black Widow Spider

Black Widow

Black Widow spiders have a shiny black color and large, rounded abdomens.  Females are larger than males, ranging from one to two inches in diameter.  The female also differs from the male in that she has a red marking on her abdomen that may or may not look like an hourglass; however it is not recommended that one handles the spider to try to identify the hourglass shape.  

The bite is most painful during 8 to 12 hours after being bitten.  Black Widow venom causes severe muscle spasms all over the body and can be deadly, especially in small children.

Brown Spider

Apache Brown Spider

      Apache Brown Spider

In New Mexico, there are three species of brown spiders:  the blanda, desert and Apache.  All three species are similar looking spanning about an inch in length including the legs and light to dark brown in color.  As close relatives to the brown recluse, the brown spiders may or may not have the "violin" marking present on their bodies. 

All three species live outdoors under logs, rocks, dead cacti, in burrows, etc.  Their venom is very potent and can be deadly, especially in small children. 

Prevention and First Aid Tips

  • Dust and vacuum around windows, corners of rooms, and under furniture regularly.
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  • Wear gloves when working with wood piles, brush, and rocks; avoid stacking wood against your home.
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  • Shake shoes before wearing.
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  • Have a professional exterminate for poisonous spiders on a regular basis; request a pesticide that is safe for children and pets.
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  • If you think that you have been bitten by a spider that can cause serious illness, call the New Mexico Poison Center right away for treatment advice: 1-800-222-1222.


Scorpions

AZ Bark Scorpion

      Arizona Bark Scorpion

Scorpions are venomous relatives of spiders.  They have 4 sets of legs and two pinchers in the front of their long bodies.  They sting their victims with the tips of their tails.   

Although all scorpions produce venom, the Arizona bark scorpion is the only species that can cause serious medical illness and even death.  The bark scorpion can be found in the southwest corner of New Mexico.  If you live in an area that the Arizona bark scorpion inhabits, you are likely to find them in your home.

The Arizona Bark scorpion is one to one and one-half inches in length.  This scorpion likes dark and damp places, so be extra careful around water at night if you are in an inhabited area.  The Arizona bark scorpion can climb virtually any surface except glass and clean plastic.

Symptoms in children include uncontrollable crying, increased salivation and rapid eye movements.  Within two to three hours of being stung, adults may experience the following:  pain and burning at the site of the bite; numbness and tingling distant to the site of the bite; difficulty swallowing and an increase in salvia or drooling; muscle twitching; respiratory problems; slurred speech; and restlessness and irritability. 

Prevention and First Aid Tips

If in areas inhabited by the Arizona bark scorpion...

  • Put crib legs in glass jars and shield the top with netting.
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  • Wear shoes when outdoors, especially around swimming pools and lakes at night.
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  • Shake all shoes, towels (especially damp swimming towels) and bedding before using.
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  • Have a professional exterminate on a regular basis; request a pesticide that is safe for children and pets.
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  • If you think that you have been stung by a scorpion, call the New Mexico Poison Center right away for treatment advice: 1-800-222-1222.
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