The first thing to know is that snakes have venom, not poison, so snakes are venomous. It is very hard to tell if snakes are venomous because they can be a variety of shapes and colors. One good indicator is thickness, most of the venomous snakes in North America are thick. Also, non venomous snakes usually have a round pupil within the eye, while venomous ones have elliptical shaped ones like cats. All snakes with rattles on their tales in the US are venomous. Also, venomous snakes tend to have more triangular heads (although this is not always the rule). The best thing to do is look up venomous snakes in your area and try to learn their specific looks. The second link has very good descriptions you can use.
There is no good rule by which to determine if a snake is venomous (snakes are venomous and not poisonous like a plant that you may eat). Some venomous snakes have a triangular head (like vipers such as rattlesnakes) but other nonvenomous snakes mimic this attribute (for protection – they fool their predator into thinking they are dangerous). Also, the shape of the pupil of the eye is not a good indicator.
The best thing to do is learn about the snakes that live where you live or where you plan to visit. Look at pictures and read about their natural history. As a general rule, it is best to leave all snakes alone as there are many mimics.
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