Please do not say “Poisonous Snakes” in my presence. It’s VENOMOUS….VENOMOUS…V-E-N-O-M-O-U-S

I often find that the same people that think the common garter or rat snake they saw slithering through their yard is “dangerous”, are the same people who cannot differentiate between “poisonous” and “venomous”.

To be venomous an animal must be able to inject a toxin.  The common delivery systems are fangs and stingers.  The toxic is stored internally usually in a specialized gland(s).  A great example of a venomous snake is a rattlesnake or cobra.  Toxic snakes are only venomous, there is no such thing as a “poisonous” snake.  Spiders such as black widows are also VENOMOUS, not POISONOUS.  Venom and poison are two truly different animals.

Poison is a toxic substance that is usually secreted from a creature’s external covering, be it skin or leaves.  Poisons are not injected; instead they have to come in contact with skin or be ingested to cause harm.  Poison dart frogs and poison ivy are examples of poisonous organisms.  And as you know, poison ivy is not fatal unless someone has a hell of an allergy and can’t get help in time. 

Another interesting little fact: Although a salamander looks like a lizard…it is not a reptile. It’s an amphibian.  I found one the other day and JOKINGLY said to my kids, “hey I found a lizard”.  I was corrected by my 15-year-old “It’s an amphibian, Mom”.  He passed my reptile/amphibian differentiation test.


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