Those of us who are terrified of snakes don't like it when experts tell us that, for a variety of reasons, we should never kill snakes. That they are natural predators to unwelcome vermin and other snakes doesn't seem to matter. We don't want them around. Period.

But again, snake haters don't care which ones are endangered, which ones are beneficial, or which ones do more good than harm. To many of us ophidiophobes (word of the day), it's a "just make them all go away" attitude.

But we shouldn't want them ALL to go away; there are species who do us a solid because of their predatory and dietary dispositions. Unfortunately those snakes that do fend off and destroy the venomous ones often resemble the very serpents we want them to kill. And that puts them in danger.

Poisonous Indiana Snakes and Their Slithery Predators

The four poisonous species of snakes in Indiana are the timber rattler, eastern massasauga, cottonmouth, and copperhead. However, the copperhead is the only one of great concern; the other three are rare enough in the Hoosier State that they're listed as endangered. And the massasauga is even on a list of FEDERALLY threatened pit vipers.

This seems obvious, but it's always a good idea to know the differences between the venomous snakes and their doppelgangers; we want those non-venomous "dopplegangers" to stay healthy. Fortunately, Indiana is home to a couple of species that prey on the poisonous ones. The milk snake, for example, has been known to devour rattlesnakes.

And then there's the yellow-bellied kingsnake--also known as the prairie kingsnake--which SPECIALIZES in eating poisonous snakes.

Yellow-bellied kingsnakes have an immunity to the venom of pit vipers, so it's good to recognize how they differ in color from copperheads; the two species look very much alike. Let's protect those milk snakes, too. Their prey IS among the rare venomous species in Indiana, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

In other words, the milk snakes stay.

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