Is that snake or spider poisonous?

Whether it’s that spider building its web in the corner of your bathroom or a snake in your garden, you may have wondered if that creepy-crawly thing was poisonous.

If you live in Northern New England, the answer is most likely no.

One of the many great things about living in our region is that there are virtually no native animals that can poison humans. And the ones that do live here are very uncommon—you’re not likely to run into one. The NNEPC gets very few calls about poisonous animals each year.

A timber rattlesnake in Virginia
A timber rattlesnake in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia

One poisonous critter we do have in our area is the timber rattlesnake. The bite of this snake can actually be quite dangerous, but they only live in certain wooded areas in Vermont and New Hampshire and are considered endangered. A timber rattler would much rather get away from you than bite you and will usually let you know it’s upset by shaking its rattle.

In theory, we also have the northern black widow spider in our region, but they are so rare that one local spider expert told us that he only ever found one during his his whole career.

Of the few calls we do get at the NNEPC, many are about bites from exotic snakes that people keep as pets—most of these snakes are not poisonous, but some are. As for spiders, the southern black widow, which is the most well-known type of black widow, will occasionally hitch-hike up our way with fruits or vegetables, such as grapes. The brown recluse is a well-known poisonous spider, but they do not live here and are not known for traveling.

A Southern black widow spider
A Southern black widow that came to northern New England in some produce. Photos courtesy of Jim Prive.

If you think you have been bitten by a poisonous animal, call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 or chat online. If you are able to take a picture of the animal, that can help us identify it, but the most important things are to stay safe—don’t get bitten again!—and to keep the bite area stable.

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