50 Common SNAKES That Live in the USA! (ID Guide)

There are A LOT of snakes in the United States!

common types of snakes

 

And what’s interesting is that they are all incredibly unique and have adapted to fill many habitats and niches.

 

You’ll see that the snakes that live in the United States are very different from each other. For example, some species are venomous, while others use constriction to immobilize their prey. Or the fact that certain snakes are rarely seen because they spend most of their time underground, but others are comfortable living EXTREMELY close to humans.

 

Today, you’re going to learn about 50 types of snakes in the United States!

 

Because of the sheer volume, I was not able to include every type of snake. So I tried to pick the most interesting and common species. 🙂

 

Also, if you enjoy this article, make sure to check out these other guides!

 


#1. Eastern Copperhead

  • Agkistrodon contortrix

common kinds of venomous snakes

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults reach lengths between 20 and 37 inches.
  • Stout body, broad head, and elliptical pupils.
  • Coloration varies from pale tan to pinkish-tan with darker, splotchy, hourglass-shaped bands, which are darker at the edgees.

 

Look for these VENOMOUS snakes in the United States in deciduous forests and mixed woodlands, often near rocky outcroppings. You’re more likely to see them active during the day in the spring and fall when the weather is cooler. During the middle of summer, Eastern Copperheads are often nocturnal.

Eastern Copperhead Range Map

copperhead range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

This species is an ambush hunter, meaning that it selects a suitable site and waits to surprise its prey. In addition, copperheads are considered “pit vipers,” which means they have a heat-sensing organ located between their eyes. This adaptation helps these venomous snakes find and judge the size of their prey by being able to sense infrared!

 

Bites from these snakes are rarely fatal in the United States.

 

The venom they produce has relatively low potency. In addition, copperheads also frequently employ false strikes, dry bites, and warning bites. Dry bites contain no venom, and warning bites have a relatively small amount of venom.

 

These snakes primarily feed on small rodents, frogs, birds, and large insects such as cicadas. After the initial bite, they will wait for the venom to take effect before consuming their prey whole.

 


#2. Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus adamanteus

eastern diamond back rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 3 to 6 feet long!
  • Coloration is a mixture of browns, yellows, grays, or olive. Look for the distinctive diamonds that run down their back.
  • A black band covers the eyes, which have vertical, cat-like pupils. A pit between the eye and nostril is present on each side, and adults have a distinctive rattle.

 

This species is the longest, heaviest VENOMOUS snake in the United States!

 

Some impressive individuals have even grown up to 8 feet long. They prefer relatively dry habitats but can also be spotted around the borders of wetlands and in wet prairies and savannas. The best time to look for these rattlesnakes is during the morning and evening, as this is when they are most active.

Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnake Range Mapeastern diamond back rattlesnake

These impressive venomous snakes can strike as far as two-thirds of their body length, meaning a six-foot individual can reach prey four feet away! When attacking, they inject their prey, which includes mice, rabbits, and squirrels, with venom. Once their victim is bitten, they release it and track it to the place it has died to consume it.

 

As you may have guessed, Eastern Diamond-backed Rattlesnakes typically issue a warning with their rattle when threatened. If you hear this sound, back away and move along, or you risk being bitten. LISTEN BELOW!

 

 

Interestingly, young snakes don’t have a rattle; as it grows as they get older. Each time an individual sheds their skin, a new section is added (though sections do commonly break off).

 


#3. Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus atrox

western diamondback rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically grow to about 4 feet in length.
  • Coloration ranges from brown, gray, brick red, pinkish, and chalky white. Look for the darker diamond-shaped blotches down its back, outlined by white scales.
  • Broad, spade-shaped head with a black mask over the eyes. Elliptical pupils and pits between eyes and nostrils.
  • A rattle on the tail alternates between black and white-colored bands.

 

This famous VENOMOUS snake has a wide range of habitats in the United States!

 

You might spot them in deserts, grassy plains, forested areas, coastal prairies, rocky hillsides, and river bottoms. But your best chance to see one might be on a rural road in the evening because of the heat the pavement retains.

Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake Range Map

western diamondback rattlesnake

The Western Diamond-backed feeds on small mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, prairie dogs, rabbits, mice, and rats. They also consume birds that fly within reach. Like other pit vipers, they ambush their prey and track them while the venom takes effect.

 

When threatened, these snakes typically stand their ground. They rattle and coil, lifting themselves off the ground to prepare to strike.

 

If you hear their characteristic rattle, make sure to leave the area slowly! Due to their specialized fangs and large venom glands, these snakes can deliver a lot of venom in a single bite! Untreated bites have a 10 – 20% mortality rate, so make sure to get to the hospital quickly if struck!

 


#4. Timber Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus horridus

timber rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 30 to 60 inches in length.
  • Coloration is variable and generally ranges from yellowish-brown to gray to almost black. Look for dark brown or black crossbands on their back.
  • Heavy-bodied with characteristic rattle on the tail.

 

The Timber Rattlesnake, also known as the Canebrake Rattlesnake, is found in a wide variety of habitats in the United States. Look for these venomous snakes in lowland thickets, high areas around rivers and flood plains, agricultural areas, deciduous forests, and coniferous forests.

Timber Rattlesnake Range Map

timber rattlesnake range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These snakes are ambush predators, waiting for unsuspecting prey to come within range of their strike. They feed primarily on small mammals but may also consume frogs, birds, and other smaller snakes. Timber Rattlesnakes strike their prey and release them, waiting until their venom has taken effect before eating them.

 

These venomous snakes are potentially the most dangerous species found in the United States due to their large size, long fangs, and high venom yield. Luckily, Timber Rattlesnakes have a mild disposition and don’t bite often. They typically give plenty of warning by rattling and posturing.

 

The Timber Rattlesnake played a noteworthy role in U.S. history. Found in the original 13 colonies, it was used as a symbol during the American Revolution. In 1775 it was featured at the center of the “Gadsden Flag.” This yellow flag depicts a coiled and ready-to-strike Timber Rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread on Me.”

 


#5. Prairie Rattlesnake

  • Crotalus viridis

prairie rattlesnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range between 3.3 and 5 feet in length.
  • Coloration is highly variable and can be greenish-gray, olive green, greenish-brown, light brown, or yellow. All variations have dark blotches on the body that turn into rings near the tail.
  • Broad triangular head, elliptical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and a tail rattle.

 

These venomous snakes can be found in the United States in open prairies, grasslands, semi-desert shrublands, and forested environments. They can even be found at elevations up to 9500 feet!

Prairie Rattlesnake Range Mapprairie rattlesnake range map

The Prairie Rattlesnake hibernates during the winter, often in communal dens. These dens are typically rock crevices, caves, or old mammal burrows. Individual snakes return to the same den each winter and migrate up to seven miles to their hunting grounds in the spring.

 

When they feel threatened, these snakes freeze to use their camouflage to avoid detection. They may also quietly crawl away to cover. If approached, they may coil and rattle their tail as a warning before striking. Their potent venom has both hemotoxic and neurotoxic properties, and although rare, can be fatal to an adult human.

 

Prairie Rattlesnakes are listed on the ICUN Red List as a species of least concern. However, they are considered threatened and declining in parts of their range. In addition, they have faced pressure from habitat fragmentation and hunting.

 


#6. Eastern Massasauga

  • Sistrurus catenatus

eastern massasauga

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically around 2 feet in length.
  • Coloration is gray or light brown with darker chocolate-brown blotches on the back and smaller ones on the sides, which feature light edges.
  • Thick body, vertical pupils, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, and heart-shaped head.
  • Being rattlesnakes, look for the rattle at the end of their tail.

 

These small venomous snakes live primarily in wet habitats in the United States.

 

The name “Massasauga” actually comes from the Chippewa language and means “great river mouth” which describes their habitat. Look for them in floodplain forests, shrub swamps, low areas along rivers and lakes, wet prairies, moist grasslands, bogs, and marshes. During the summer, they often migrate to drier regions adjacent to these habitats.

Eastern Massasauga Range Map

 

Unlike other rattlesnakes, the Eastern Massasauga hibernates alone. They frequently hibernate in crayfish burrows but may also use small mammal burrows or spaces under rotting logs or tree roots. Dens must be below the frost line, or they risk freezing to death!

 

These snakes have cytotoxic venom (poisonous to cells), which destroys tissue, disrupts blood flow, and prevents clotting. But these snakes are secretive, shy, and avoid humans when possible. The only times they bite seem to be when handled or accidentally stepped on!

 

This venomous snake is listed as threatened, endangered, or a species of concern in all of its range. Historically, these snakes have faced pressure from hunting, and many states had bounties and roundups for them. Today they are still often killed out of fear AND face diminishing wetland habitats.

 


#7. Western Massasauga

  • Sistrurus tergeminus

western massasauga

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 14 to 36 inches in length.
  • Coloration is gray to light brown with dark brown blotches on the back.
  • Thick body, large triangular head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, elliptical pupils.
  • Being rattlesnakes, look for the rattle at the end of their tail.

 

The Western Massasauga is a rattlesnake and one of the smallest venomous snakes in the country! They primarily inhabit grassland habitats but can also be found in open sagebrush prairie, rocky hillsides, prairie hillsides, open wetlands, and grassy wetlands.

Western Massasauga Range Map

western massasauga range map

These snakes are secretive and not often seen in the United States.

 

When detected, they often freeze rather than rattle. However, when they do rattle, Western Massasaugas make a distinctive sound. Their rattle is significantly higher pitched than larger rattlesnakes and has earned this small snake the nickname “buzz tail.”

 

Though their venom is highly potent, the small quantity they deliver makes their bites much less likely to be fatal in humans compared to larger venomous snakes. However, you still need to respect them as their venom is hemotoxic and will cause localized swelling, extreme pain, and necrosis. Medical attention should be sought immediately if bitten!

 


#8. Northern Watersnake

  • Nerodia sipedon sipedon

Types of Water Snakes that live in ohio

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 24 to 55 inches in length.
  • Coloration is pale grey to dark brown with reddish-brown to black bands.
  • Large adults become darker with age and appear almost plain black or dark brown.
  • Females tend to be larger than males, and coloration is most vivid in juvenile and wet individuals.

 

This species is the most common watersnake in the United States!

 

Northern Watersnakes prefer slow-moving or standing water like ponds, lakes, vernal pools, marshes, and slow-moving rivers and streams. They’re most often seen basking on rocks or logs in or near the water.

 

Northern Watersnake Range Map (Yellow area below)

common watersnake range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These snakes primarily feed on fish and amphibians by hunting along the water’s edge and shallow water during the day. They grab their prey and quickly swallow while it’s still alive!

 

When disturbed, Northern Watersnakes flee into the water to escape. However, if grabbed or captured, they’re quick to defend themselves. They will release a foul-smelling musk from glands near the base of their tale, flatten their body, and strike the attacker.

 

While non-venomous, they can deliver a painful bite!

 

Their saliva contains a mild anticoagulant that can cause bites to bleed, making the injury appear worse. These important defense mechanisms help water snakes survive predators such as raccoons, snapping turtles, foxes, opossums, other snakes, and birds of prey.

 


#9. Plain-bellied Watersnake

  • Nerodia erythrogaster

Water Snakes species that live in United States


Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults have thick bodies and range from 24 to 40 inches in length.
  • Solid coloration of gray, brown, olive, or black.
  • As the name suggests, they have a plain unmarked underside varying from red to yellow.
  • Also called Redbelly, Yellowbelly, Copperbelly, or Blotched Watersnake.

 

The Plain-bellied Watersnake can be found near various water sources, including rivers, floodplains, lakes, ponds, and wetlands. This species spends an unusual amount of time on land compared with other water snakes found in the United States. Especially during hot, humid weather, they can be found in woodlands quite far from a water source.

 

Plain-bellied Watersnake Range Map

plain bellied watersnake range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

They feed on BOTH aquatic and terrestrial prey, including crayfish, fish, salamanders, frogs, and other amphibians. Another unusual feature of this species is that they will sit and wait to ambush their prey, especially on land. Almost all other water snakes actively hunt and chase their victims!

 

If captured, they release a foul-smelling musk and are not afraid to bite! Plain-bellied Watersnakes are eaten by largemouth bass, egrets, hawks, and sometimes other larger snakes.

 


#10. Queen Snake

  • Regina septemvittata

Common Water Snakes species in United States

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are generally around 24 inches in length though individuals up to 36 inches have been reported.
  • Coloration is drab brown or olive green with two lighter stripes down the sides.
  • The underside is yellow or tan, with four dark stripes that run the length of their belly. No other similar species has this feature!

 

Queen Snakes prefer moving water and are generally found near streams and rivers with rocky bottoms. They have highly permeable skin, making them susceptible to evaporative water loss. As you can imagine, they are rarely spotted far from water.

Queen Snake Range Map

queensnake range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

Queen Snakes are considered less secretive than many other snakes in the United States.

 

They are primarily diurnal and can be spotted basking on rocks, overhanging branches, or vegetation near the water’s edge. They often take refuge under rocks along the edges of streams. If you’re lucky, you may see them swimming.

 

Queen Snakes are specialist predators that primarily feed on crayfish. They almost exclusively prey on newly molted crayfish, which have soft bodies and can’t use their pinchers yet. They hunt by probing under rocks and other submerged objects for crayfish.

 


#11. Northern Cottonmouth

  • Agkistrodon piscivorus

venomous snake species that are common

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 26 to 35 inches in length. Females are typically smaller than males.
  • Most individuals are dark gray to black with a broad head, heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nostrils, elliptical pupils, and a blunt snout.
  • Some individuals have a brown, gray, tan, or blackish coloration.
  • Also commonly called Water Moccasins, Black Moccasins, or Gapers.

 

Cottonmouths are the ONLY venomous water snake in the United States.

 

Be on the lookout for these snakes near swamps, marshes, ponds, and slow-moving streams and rivers, as well as flooded fields and drainage ditches. But they aren’t limited to just aquatic habitats. Cottonmouths can also be found in palmetto thickets, pine forests, dune areas, and prairies.

Northern Cottonmouth Range Map

cottonmouth range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These water snakes have several defensive tactics to warn potential threats to stay away! They often vibrate their tail in the leaf litter, pull their heads up and back, and then open their mouth to hiss and expose a white interior. This particular display is what earned them the name “cottonmouth.

 

Since they are venomous, please use extra caution if you come across an unknown water snake. Quite a few species look similar, especially if you just get a glance as one moves across the water.

 

Luckily, receiving a bite from a Northern Cottonmouth is rare. But when it does happen, it’s very serious as their venom destroys tissue. It is rare to die from their bite, but it does cause swelling and bruising and can leave scars.

 


#12. Southern Watersnake

  • Nerodia fasciata

southern watersnake (banded)

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 24 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is typically gray, greenish-gray, or brown with darker cross bands. However, some individuals may be so dark that the bands are barely distinguishable.
  • Flat heads and heavy bodies.
  • Also commonly called the Banded Watersnake.

 

The Southern Watersnake is found in the southern United States near most freshwater sources within their range. Look for them everywhere, including lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, swamps, wetlands, and streams. They’re often spotted on branches overhanging the water, sunning themselves.

Southern Watersnake Range Map

southern or banded watersnake range map

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS

 

These snakes are primarily nocturnal and spend much of their time hunting along the shoreline for frogs and small fish. Like other watersnakes, they quickly grab their prey and swallow it alive.

 

Southern Watersnakes are docile and non-venomous. But when they are captured or grabbed, they will flatten their heads, release a foul-smelling musk from glands near the tip of their tail, and may bite. Unfortunately, they are sometimes killed because they are mistaken for the venomous cottonmouth.

 


#13. Diamond-backed Watersnake

  • Nerodia rhombifer

diamondbacked watersnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 30 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is brown, dark brown, yellowish, or olive green. Look for a dark chain-like pattern down the back.
  • Thick body with a yellow belly that has dark half-moons.

 

The Diamond-backed Watersnake can be found in the United States in a variety of freshwater habitats. They generally prefer slow-moving bodies of water with overhanging vegetation such as ponds, swamps, slow rivers, and streams.

 

These snakes are common in their range and can be spotted on overhanging branches looking for prey, which mainly include frogs and fish. Once they grab their target, they haul it to shore and wait for it to die before consuming it. This behavior is unique as most other water snakes consume their prey alive.

Diamond-backed Watersnake Range Map

diamond backed watersnake range map

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS

 

When disturbed, Diamond-backed Watersnakes will quickly flee into the water and dive below the surface to swim away. If captured, they will bite and release a foul-smelling musk from glands near the base of their tail.

 

They are relatively common and aren’t considered a threatened species. Unfortunately, they are sometimes killed out of ignorance. People often mistake them for venomous cottonmouths and rattlesnakes.

 


#14. Graham’s Crayfish Snake

  • Regina grahamii

grahams crayfish snake range map

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 18 to 28 inches in length.
  • Coloration is a dull brown, yellowish-brown, or gray.
  • Look for yellowish-tan stripes down the sides and sometimes a faint tan stripe down the middle of the back.

 

This water snake is rather reclusive and hard to find in the United States.

 

Look for Graham’s Crayfish Snakes in slow-moving bodies of water such as ponds, prairie streams, marshes, and roadside ditches. They prefer areas with abundant vegetation, rocks, logs, and other debris along the water’s edge, which allows them to hide from predators. They are commonly seen basking on branches overhanging the water.

Graham’s Crayfish Snake Range Map

graham's crayfish snake range map

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS

 

As the name suggests, Graham’s Crayfish Snakes primarily feed on crayfish. They hunt exclusively for individuals that recently molted and temporarily have soft bodies. However, they’ll also prey on fish and amphibians, including tadpoles and frogs.

 

Like many other water snakes, this species is often mistaken for cottonmouths and killed, even though they are MUCH smaller.

 


#15. Glossy Swampsnake

  • Liodytes rigida

glossy swampsnake or crayfish snake -

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 14 to 24 inches in length.
  • Coloration is a glossy brownish to olive with yellow lip scales. Sometimes two dark or black stripes run down the back.
  • The underside is yellow with two rows of black half-moons or dots.

 

Glossy Swampsnakes inhabit and rarely leave slow-moving waterways such as cypress swamps, roadside ditches, ponds, lakes, marshes, streams, and rivers. These water snakes are quite secretive and often hide under logs and debris near the water or inside crayfish burrows. Your best chance to see one might be on roadways during or after heavy rain.

Glossy Swampsnake Range Map

glossy swampsnake range map

Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS

 

These nocturnal snakes primarily feed on crayfish. They don’t constrict their prey but use their coils to help hold it while swallowing it alive, typically tail-first. Their small, chisel-shaped teeth allow them to consume hard-shelled crayfish. 

 

When disturbed, Glossy Swampsnakes quickly flee into the water and dive to the bottom. If cornered, they may flatten themselves and release a foul-smelling musk from glands near the base of their tail. If picked up, they may hiss and feign striking but rarely bite.

 

Due to their highly secretive nature, little is known about the population status of these water snakes in the United States. But their dependence on aquatic habitats and crayfish may subject them to decline due to habitat loss and degradation.

 


#16. Brown Watersnake

  • Nerodia taxispilota

brown watersnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 30 to 60 inches in length.
  • Coloration is light brown to dark brown with darker brown blotches down the center of the back and on the sides.
  • Thick body with a large head that is distinct from the neck.
  • It may also be called Water-pilot, False Moccasin, Great Watersnake, Pied Watersnake, Southern Watersnake, and Water Rattle.

 

Brown Watersnakes are found near various permanent water sources, including rivers, cypress stands, swamps, lakes, ponds, and canals. They’re rarely seen far from the water’s edge. Look for them in areas with overhanging vegetation, emergent snags, and rocky banks, which provide places for the water snakes to bask.

brown watersnake range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

 

Unlike most other snakes in the United States, they feed almost exclusively on fish, particularly young catfish.

 

Brown Watersnakes are also excellent climbers and can be spotted basking on branches overhanging the water at up to 20 feet. If disturbed, they’ll quickly drop into the water and dive under the surface to flee. They have been known to fall into passing boats accidentally! 🙂

 

This species is relatively common throughout its range and isn’t considered threatened. However, it is protected in some states. Like other watersnakes, it faces habitat degradation and loss, along with needless killing from people who mistake them for venomous cottonmouths.

 


#17. Eastern Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis

eastern garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 18 to 26 inches in length.
  • Coloration varies and can be mixtures of green, brown, or black. Look for a distinct yellow or whitish stripe down the center of their back.
  • Some individuals may exhibit a checkered body pattern.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

Eastern Garter Snakes are common and easy to locate in the United States!

 

In fact, they are typically the snake species that people come across the most. They’re well-adapted to living around people and can often be found in city parks, farmland, cemeteries, and suburban lawns and gardens. Though not required, they prefer grassy environments near freshwater sources such as ponds, lakes, ditches, and streams.

eastern garter snake range map

Look for these snakes in the United States basking in the sun in grassy areas near cover.

 

Eastern Garter Snakes protect themselves when they are cornered or feel threatened. For example, if you capture or continually disturb one, it will defecate and release a foul-smelling musk from its glands. It’s also common for them to bite as a last resort!

 

The Eastern Garter Snake most commonly preys on toads, frogs, slugs, salamanders, fish, and worms. However, they are very opportunistic and will eat other insects and small animals they can overpower. They’re active during both the day and night, depending on the temperature.

 


#18. Red-sided Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis proximus parietalis

red sided garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Normally dark green to black, but color varies.
  • Three yellow stripes; one down the back and one down each side.
  • As the name suggests, red or orange bars run along their sides between the yellow stripes.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

Like other garter snakes, they are habitat generalists. Look for them in the United States everywhere, including forests, shrublands, wetlands, fields, and rocky areas. Their favorite foods include frogs, earthworms, and leeches! YUM! 🙂

red-sided garter snake range map

 

In some areas, after emerging from hibernation, there are not enough females for all the males. In these cases, “mating frenzies” occur, and dozens and dozens of these snakes can be found together.

 

To survive colder months, Red-sided Garter Snakes have to hibernate BELOW the frost line. Depending on the area they are located in, it can be hard to find suitable locations. So the few adequate hibernation dens can shelter hundreds, even thousands, of snakes! To see an example, watch the video below:

 


#19. Western Ribbon Snake

  • Thamnophis proximus

western ribbon snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 17 to 50 inches in length. A slender snake with a long tail!
  • Coloration is blackish, brown, or olive with three light-colored stripes; one down the back and one down each side.
  • The sides and top of the head are dark, and the upper lip is whitish.

 

Did you see a slender snake in the middle of the United States with a long tail?

 

If so, it was probably a Western Ribbon Snake! This semi-aquatic species is rarely found far from a water source. They typically occupy brush-heavy areas around streams, lakes, ponds, and other water bodies. You may also spot them basking on rocks, flat vegetation, and dry sandy areas near water.

 

western ribbon snake range map

 

The Western Ribbon Snake has an incredible, unique hunting technique. As they move over land, they make quick, light thrusts of their head and upper body in different directions in sequences of three. It’s similar to a strike, but with their mouth closed. This action disturbs resting frogs, which alerts the garter snake to their location. From there, this snake uses its superior speed to catch its prey.

 

When they feel threatened, they flee into the water or hide in thick brush. Their coloration provides superb camouflage in dense, brushier areas. If grabbed, Western Ribbon Snakes rarely bite but will thrash around, defecate, and release musk from their anal glands. This species can also shed its tail to escape, but unfortunately, it doesn’t regenerate like some lizard species.

 


#20. Eastern Ribbon Snake

  • Thamnophis saurita

eastern or common ribbon snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 18 to 26 inches in length. A slender snake with a long tail!
  • Coloration is brown to nearly black with three bright yellow to cream stripes; one down the back and one down each side.
  • Snout and entire head are brownish, lips and underneath head are white.

 

Did you see a slender snake in the eastern United States with a long tail?

 

If so, it was probably an Eastern Ribbon Snake!

eastern ribbon snake range map

This species is semi-aquatic and RARELY found far from a source of water. Look for them in a wide variety of habitats, including marshes, grassy floodplains, streams, ditches with grass, wet areas in meadows, and woodlands adjacent to wetlands. Ribbon snakes are even found in suburban areas that match these conditions.

 

You might spot these snakes basking on branches of trees, bushes, or grasses overhanging the water. They typically hunt in the water and prey on amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.

 

When disturbed, these snakes quickly flee into grass or brushy areas. If caught, they are not aggressive and rarely bite. But you can expect them to defecate and spray musk onto your hands. In the wild, Eastern Ribbon Snakes rely on blending into their surroundings to escape predators.

 


#21. Terrestrial Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis elegans

wandering western terrestrial gartersnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 18 to 41 inches in length.
  • Most adults have three yellow, light orange, or white stripes; one down their back and two down their sides.
  • Coloration is widely variable. Individuals may be brownish or greenish. Some have red and black spots between the stripes, and occasionally all black individuals are found.

 

This snake can be difficult to identify in the United States!

 

Even trained herpetologists have issues! Its coloration varies widely, and there are believed to be 6 subspecies, although scientists still debate this.

 

Terrestrial Garter Snakes occupy various habitats, including both grasslands and forests. They can even be found in mountainous areas up to 13,000 feet above sea level. As the name suggests, they’re primarily found on land. But interestingly, these garter snakes are great swimmers!

terrestrial garter range map

 

This species is the only garter snake in the United States with a tendency to constrict prey! Most garter snakes grab their prey quickly and just swallow, rubbing their prey against the ground if necessary.

 

Terrestrial Garter Snakes aren’t aggressive or dangerous, but they do possess mildly venomous saliva! It can cause a muscle infection or even kill some muscle tissue. Most bites on humans just cause pain and some swelling.

 


#22. Plains Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis radix

plains garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults average 36 inches in length.
  • Coloration is gray-green with a distinctive orange stripe down the back and a greenish-yellow stripe down each side.
  • Distinct light yellow spots on the very top of the head!

 

Plains Garter Snakes are almost always found in the United States in prairies and grasslands near freshwater sources. They have a fairly large population and adapt well to human-modified landscapes. You may spot them near abandoned buildings, trash heaps, or vacant lots.

plains garter snake range map

 

This species is considered one of the most cold-tolerant of all snakes! In fact, they will even come out of hibernation on warmer winter days.

 

Plains Garter Snakes feed primarily on earthworms, slugs, and small amphibians. However, they have also been observed preying on small mammals and birds, including the Eastern Meadowlark and Bank Swallow.

 


#23. Valley Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi

valley garter snake

Identifying Characteristics

  • Adults range from 18 to 55 inches in length.
  • Coloration is brown to black with three yellow stripes: one down the back and one down each side.
  • Pronounced red bars between the yellow stripes. Yellowish chin, jaw, and belly, and a black head, which often has red sides.
  • Subspecies of the Common Garter Snake.

 

Valley Garter Snakes are found in various habitats, including forests, wetlands, scrublands, fields, shorelines, and rocky areas. They’re also well adapted to humans and are often found in urban areas.

 

Look for these snakes in the western United States under rocks, logs, and other objects, which they use for cover and thermoregulation. During the winter, they hibernate, often communally, below the frost line. They will use a variety of underground cavities, including mammal and crayfish burrows, rock crevices, ant mounds, and manmade spaces such as foundations and cisterns.

valley garter snake range map

 

When disturbed, Valley Garter Snakes try to escape into the water and are excellent swimmers. If captured, be prepared for them to release musk and feces onto your hands! They may also strike, but only if they feel extremely threatened.

 

The Valley Garter Snake is considered a species of low risk. They are quite common and adapt well to human-modified habitats. However, they are frequently killed on roadways and are sometimes killed out of fear.

 


#24. Black-necked Garter Snake

  • Thamnophis cyrtopsis

black necked garter snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Western Black-necked Garter Snakes are dark olive with an orange-yellow stripe down the back and a yellow to white stripe down each side. It can be up to 42 inches long.
  • Eastern Black-necked Garter Snakes are smaller and only grow up to 20 inches in length. They have a checkered pattern of black and yellow on their body, between their three stripes.
  • Both subspecies have a gray head, contrasting strongly with the body. In addition, there is a dark blotch on each side of the neck.

 

This species is found in many habitats, including desert scrub, plains, arid grasslands, and pine-oak woodlands. They’re almost always associated with water sources such as streams, ciénegas, and cattle tanks.

black necked garter snake range map

There are two subspecies of this snake: the Western AND Eastern. They look different (see photo above), but they also behave uniquely. The Western subspecies (Thamnophis cyrtopsis cyrtopsis) are water snakes and most often found in the water. The Eastern (Thamnophis cyrtopsis ocellatus) subspecies prefers to live on DRY LAND very close to water.

 

The Black-necked Garter Snake’s preferred prey is frogs, toads, and tadpoles, including poisonous species like the Sonoran Desert Toad. However, they have been known to feed on a wide range of other prey, including earthworms, skinks, salamanders, crustaceans, and birds.

 


#25. Eastern Milksnake

  • Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum

eastern milksnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 24 to 36 inches in length.
  • Coloration is tan or gray with 3 to 5 rows of reddish-brown, black-edged blotches.
  • Look for a gray or tan Y- or V-shaped mark near the rear of the head.

 

Eastern Milksnakes get their unique name from an old myth that they milked cows since they’re commonly found in barns! Obviously, this isn’t true. Instead, their presence inside barns is likely due to the high number of mice, some of their favorite prey.

Eastern Milksnake Range Map

eastern milksnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

A member of the kingsnake family, Eastern Milksnakes occupy a wide variety of habitats in the United States, including fields, woodlands, agricultural areas, and rocky outcrops. These beautiful snakes are somewhat secretive and spend much of their time beneath the ground. You may be able to find one underneath rocks, logs, boards, and other debris.

 

The Eastern Milksnake prefers to feed on small mammals such as mice and shrews. However, they’ll also consume various types of prey, including birds and bird eggs, lizards, snakes, amphibians, fish, earthworms, slugs, insects, and carrion.

 

Like other individuals in the kingsnake family, they will prey on venomous pit vipers. So how do they combat the venom? Interestingly, their blood contains venom-neutralizing properties!

 


#26. Prairie Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster

prairie kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 30 to 40 inches in length.
  • Coloration is typically gray or light brown with darker gray, brown, or reddish-brown blotching, sometimes outlined in black, down the length of their body that fades with age.
  • They have a pale or yellowish underside, and their head is indistinct from their body.
  • The Prairie Kingsnake is a subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Kingsnake.

 

Look for Prairie Kingsnakes in the United States in open habitats, such as fields, farmland, rocky hillsides, and open woodlands. They spend most of their time underground and are found under rocks, logs, and old animal burrows throughout their active period and winter hibernation.

 

Prairie Kingsnake Range Map

prairie and northern mole kingsnake

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These snakes feed on a wide variety of prey, like mice, lizards, other snakes (including other Prairie Kingsnakes), insects, birds, bird eggs, and amphibians. They constrict their prey, coiling around and suffocating it before consuming.

 

If disturbed, the Prairie Kingsnake may try to warn perceived threats by mimicking a rattlesnake. They accomplish this mimicry by shaking the tip of their tail in dry leaf litter. However, these snakes are non-venomous and don’t typically bite, but they will release a foul-smelling musk if grabbed!

 

This species is considered of least concern and doesn’t seem to face any significant conservation risks. However, they’re sometimes run over when crossing roads or killed because they are mistaken for being venomous. Like many other kingsnakes, this species is sometimes kept as pets.

 


#27. Eastern Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis getula

eastern kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 36 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is shiny black with white or yellow chain-link bands, but some individuals may be entirely black.
  • Stout head and small beady eyes.
  • Also called the Common Kingsnake.

 

Eastern Kingsnakes thrive in various habitats in the United States!

 

Look for them in hardwood and pine forests, bottomlands, swamps, and wetlands, as well as farmlands and suburban areas. They are a terrestrial species but are often associated with water preferring riparian habitats along stream banks or marsh edges.

 

Eastern Kingsnake Range Map

eastern kingsnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

A very secretive species, the Eastern Kingsnake is frequently spotted when moving logs, boards, tin, or other objects they use for cover. They’re constrictors and feed on various types of prey, including rodents, lizards, birds, and turtle eggs. Incredibly, they’re immune to venom from pit-vipers and regularly feed on smaller venomous snakes like copperheads, cottonmouths, and rattlesnakes!

 

If disturbed, these snakes can mimic rattlesnakes by shaking their tails in dry leaves. They may also release a foul-smelling musk and bite if captured.

 

Unfortunately, the Eastern Kingsnake has seen dramatic declines in many areas. This is most likely due to habitat loss and degradation, imported fire ants, and disease.

 


#28. Speckled Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis holbrooki

speckled kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically 36 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is shiny black with small yellow, yellowish-green, or white specks, one in the center of almost every dorsal scale though the pattern of the speckles varies by individual.
  • The underside is white or yellow with clusters of black checkers and is sometimes more black than white.

 

The Speckled Kingsnake’s unique appearance resulted in the nickname “salt and pepper snake.” Look for them in fields along the forest’s edge, prairies, grasslands, stream valleys, pastures, and roadside ditches.

Speckled Kingsnake Range Map

speckled kingsnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These snakes are rather secretive and hard to find in the United States!

 

In addition, they’re primarily nocturnal. As a result, they’re most frequently spotted crossing roadways in the morning or evening.

 

Like other kingsnakes, this species is a constrictor, which means they use their coils to asphyxiate their prey before consuming it. They feed on a wide variety of prey, including rodents, birds, bird eggs, reptiles, reptile eggs, frogs, and other snakes, including venomous species. SEE THE VIDEO BELOW! 🙂

 

Speckled Kingsnakes are generally quite docile and are often kept as pets. However, if disturbed, they may shake their tail, release a foul-smelling musk, and strike if grabbed. Sadly this species is considered threatened in parts of their range.

 


#29. Eastern Black Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis nigra

 

eastern black kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 35 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is black with white, cream, or yellow speckles, larger and more numerous on the sides.
  • Stocky body, head indistinct from the neck, and a yellow or cream underside with black checkering.
  • Also frequently referred to as just “Black Kingsnake.”

 

Eastern Black Kingsnakes occupy various habitats in the United States.

 

They can be found in forests, agricultural lands, thick brush around streams and swamps, floodplain and wetland edges, and even suburban areas!

Eastern Black Kingsnake Range Map

eastern black kingsnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These snakes are very secretive, and they often seek shelter under logs and other debris. They’re primarily active during the daytime but are most active in the morning during the summer.

 

Being constrictors, Eastern Black Kingsnakes use their strong coils to asphyxiate their prey. They frequently prey on lizards, rodents, birds, turtle eggs, and other snakes, including venomous pit vipers.

 

Though they’re non-venomous, these snakes may shake their tails if disturbed. In dry leaves, the noise sounds like a rattlesnake! If handled, they may also release a foul-smelling musk and strike.

 


#30. Scarlet Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis elapsoides

scarlet king snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 14 to 20 inches in length.
  • Coloration is alternating red, black, and yellow rings encircling the body; the yellow and red rings never touch.
  • Small head, barely distinct from the neck and a red snout.

 

Scarlet Kingsnakes are found in pine flat woods, pine-oak forests, fields, agricultural areas, and occasionally urban environments. But they’re hard to see because they’re secretive and mostly stay underground. Look for them under logs, rocks, boards, and other debris. However, they’re also excellent climbers and are sometimes spotted on trees and buildings.

Scarlet Kingsnake Range Map

scarlet kingsnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

These vividly colored, non-venomous snakes are sometimes mistaken for venomous coral snakes. In fact, they were used as stand-ins for venomous snakes in the movies “Snakes on a Plane” and “The Mummy Returns.”

 

So how do you tell the difference between a dangerous coral snake and a harmless Scarlet Kingsnake in the United States?

coral snake vs scarlet snake

Just remember this rhyme, and you’ll never have to worry! “If red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow; if red touches black, you’re all right, Jack.”

 

These snakes are generally non-aggressive. However, they may vibrate their tail if disturbed, producing a buzzing sound when in leaf litter. If grabbed, they may strike and release a foul-smelling musk.

 


#31. Western Milksnake

  • Lampropeltis gentilis

 

western milksnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 15 to 34 inches in length.
  • Coloration is whitish, black, and reddish or orange bands, with the reddish-orange bands being bordered by black.
  • The snout is blackish and sometimes features white flecking, and the underside may have extensions of the bands or be more whitish.

 

Western Milksnakes are found in the United States in open sagebrush, grasslands and are occasionally seen in suburban areas. They’re a secretive species frequently found under objects like rocks, logs, boards, and other debris.

Western Milksnake Range Map

western milksnake range map

Credit – Virginia Herpetological Society

 

Because of their coloration, they are often confused with venomous coral snakes. But luckily, there’s an easy way to tell the difference. Just remember this rhyme:

 

“If red touches yellow, you’re a dead fellow; if red touches black, you’re all right, Jack.”

coral snake vs western milksnake

 

These snakes aren’t picky about food and feed on small mammals, birds, bird eggs, other snakes, lizards, reptile eggs, and occasionally, worms and insects. They actively hunt down their prey and use their coils to constrict the life out of them.

 

Though they’re usually docile when handled, Western Milksnakes do exhibit strong defensive behaviors when disturbed. You can expect them to vibrate their tail (like a rattlesnake), and they may even rear up and strike!

 


#32. California Kingsnake

  • Lampropeltis californiae

california kingsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 36 to 48 inches in length.
  • Most individuals are black or brown, with whitish bands running down their bodies.

 

These snakes are widespread across many types of habitats in the western United States.

 

Look for them in woodlands, grasslands, deserts, marshes, and even suburban areas! Most of the year, these California Kingsnakes are found out during the day, except during cold weather when they retreat underground to enter a hibernation-like state called brumation.

California Kingsnake Range Map

california kingsnake range map

Do you know how kingsnakes got the name “king?”

 

It refers to their ability to hunt down and eat other snakes! Incredibly, California Kingsnakes will even go after venomous rattlesnakes.

 

This species has the incredible adaptation to constrict its prey. In fact, California Kingsnakes have the strongest squeeze when compared to the size of their body! It’s thought they evolved this trait since their main diet consists of other reptiles, which don’t require as much oxygen as mammals.

 


#33. Gray Ratsnake

  • Pantherophis spiloides

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 42 to 72 inches in length though individuals up to 101 inches have been recorded.
  • Coloration varies. Most Gray Ratsnakes are typically completely black.
  • There may be red, white, or yellow flecking on the scales.

 

Look for Gray Ratsnakes in the United States in trees!

 

They are excellent climbers and often hunt and spend time in trees. Growing up, I used to see them all the time in a large walnut tree in our backyard! They occupy various habitats, including pinelands, stream banks, swamps, marshes, prairies, and agricultural areas.

gray rat snake range map

They’re also spotted near barns and old buildings since these places provide them access to their favorite food, which is rodents.

 

Like other rat snakes, this species is an active hunter and a powerful constrictor. Adults typically feed on small mammals, birds, bird eggs, lizards, and frogs. They suffocate larger prey using their strong coils but often swallow smaller prey immediately.

 

If disturbed, Gray Ratsnakes either flee for cover or remain motionless in an attempt to avoid detection using their excellent camouflage. They may also vibrate their tail, producing a rattlesnake-like sound in dry leaf litter. Finally, when they feel cornered or are grabbed, these snakes will strike their attacker as a last resort.

 


#34. Eastern Ratsnake

  • Pantherophis alleghaniensis

eastern ratsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 42 to 72 inches in length.
  • Coloration is variable and ranges from plain black to dusky gray, brown, or yellow with black or brown stripes. Juveniles may have strong black to dark brown blotches.
  • Stout body with a relatively long and narrow head.

 

These rat snakes are found in many habitats in the eastern United States.

 

Look for them in agricultural areas, forests, and swampy woodlands. Make sure you look UP, as Eastern Ratsnakes are arboreal and are often found in trees!

eastern rat snake range map

They’re also often seen in and around barns and old buildings because of the abundance of rodents, which they kill using constriction. Birds and eggs are also on the menu, with the latter being swallowed whole and broken once in their throat!

 

Eastern Ratsnakes are active during the day and night, especially just after sunset. They travel considerable distances and are often killed on roadways.

 

If disturbed, Eastern Ratsnakes will first try to slither away. When they feel cornered, the next step is they’ll flatten their heads and lift the front of their bodies off the ground in an S-shape to appear more threatening and increase their striking range. They may also hiss from this position and bite if grabbed.

 


#35. Red Cornsnake

  • Pantherophis guttatus

red cornsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 24 to 72 inches in length.
  • Coloration is orangish-brown with black-bordered orange, red, or brownish blotches and a spear-shaped pattern on the head and neck.
  • The underside usually has a black and white checkerboard pattern which may have some orange.

 

Cornsnakes got their name because of their frequent presence near corn storage areas due to an abundance of rodents that also hang out at these locations. However, some sources maintain that they were named for the pattern on their underside, which sometimes looks like kernels of bi-color corn.

red cornsnake range map

Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society

Red Cornsnakes occupy various habitats in the United States, including overgrown fields, pinelands, swamps, and agricultural areas. They are sometimes found in suburban areas near other favorable habitats. Make sure you don’t only look on the ground, as they’re known to ascend trees, cliffs, and other elevated surfaces.

 

Red Cornsnakes prey on rodents, lizards, frogs, and birds and their eggs. These snakes are constrictors that squeeze and asphyxiate larger prey, but small prey may be swallowed whole without constriction.

 

These snakes are generally quite docile and are the second most popular pet snake (behind Ball Pythons) worldwide. However, if disturbed in the wild, they may vibrate their tail and lift the front of their body into an S-shape to appear more threatening. If grabbed or pinned, it’s not out of the question for them to bite their attacker, but they typically calm down quickly when being held.

 


#36. Great Plains Ratsnake

  • Pantherophis emoryi

great plains rat snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 36 to 60 inches long.
  • Coloration is light gray or tan with dark gray, brown, or green-gray blotching down its back.
  • A spear-shaped mark on the head and stripes on the sides of the head that meet to form a point between the eyes.
  • Also sometimes called Emory’s Ratsnake, Brown Ratsnake, or Chicken Snake.

 

Great Plains Ratsnakes are found in the United States in open woodlands, rocky, wooded hillsides, semi-arid regions, and agricultural areas. Being nocturnal, they are hard to find and spend most of their days in old mammal burrows or under rocks, logs, boards, and other cover objects.

great plains rat snake range map

This species prefers to prey on rodents but may also consume small birds, lizards, and frogs. They are also known to eat bats and are sometimes found near caves hunting them! Like other rat snakes, they’re constrictors and use their strong coils to suffocate prey before eating it.

 

When disturbed, the Great Plains Ratsnake curls up and vibrate its tail which sounds remarkably like a rattlesnake when done in dry leaf litter. Though they’re considered non-aggressive and docile, they may strike if grabbed.

 


#37. Western Ratsnake

  • Pantherophis obsoletus

western rat snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 42 to 72 inches in length though individuals up to 101 inches have been recorded.
  • Coloration varies. Adults can be completely black to gray to pale brown to yellowish with black, brown, or gray blotches.
  • Also commonly called the Texas Ratsnake!

 

Western Ratsnakes occupy various habitats in the United States, including agricultural areas, dense woodlands, forested river valleys, and rocky hillsides. They’re excellent climbers and are found often in trees and will frequently use cavities in trees for shelter.

western rat snake range map

Western Ratsnakes are active hunters and constrictors preying on small mammals, nestling birds, bird eggs, tree frogs, and lizards. They suffocate larger prey with their coils but often swallow smaller prey without constriction.

 

When disturbed, these snakes often freeze to avoid detection. If harassed, they’ll raise their heads and vibrate their tails to mimic a rattlesnake. And if they continue to be provoked or grabbed, they’ll strike their attacker as a last defense.

 


#38. Scarletsnake

  • Cemophora coccinea

scarlet snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 14 to 26 inches in length.
  • Coloration is red with light gray, yellowish, or white bands with black borders.
  • Small, pointed red head with a light-colored band behind the eyes and light gray or white underside.

 

These beautiful snakes are commonly found in the United States in pine flat woods, dry prairies, hardwood hammocks, sandhills, and open woodlands. They are burrowers and prefer areas with loose, sandy soil, leaf litter, logs, and other material they can easily hide beneath.

scarlet snake range map

There are THREE subspecies of Scarletsnake, and they all look similar. You would need to be a trained herpetologist to tell the difference!

 

The Scarletsnake is non-venomous, but it’s sometimes confused with venomous coral snakes. An easy way to tell the difference between the two species is to remember the rhyme, “Red touches yellow, kill a fellow; red touches black, a friend of Jack.”

 

Incredibly docile, these snakes rarely bite even when picked up by humans. But even though they’re common throughout their range, it’s rare to actually see one. Scarletsnakes are very secretive and spend most of their time hidden.

 


#39. Rough Greensnake

  • Opheodrys aestivus

rough green snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 22 to 36 inches in length.
  • Coloration is bright green with a yellow or whitish underside.
  • SLENDER bodies and large eyes.
  • Also commonly called a Grass Snake.

 

This species is hard to mistake for any other snake in the United States!

 

Their bright green color makes for excellent camouflage against the foliage. They’re highly arboreal and spend much of their time climbing in low vegetation. Look for them coiled and sleeping in shrubs, tangles of vines, or other thick vegetation, especially if it’s near water.

rough green snake range map

When disturbed, Rough Greensnakes typically freeze and rely on their camouflage. They’re nonvenomous and generally very docile, seldom striking even if grabbed.

 

The Rough Greensnake is fairly common, but they do face several threats. They’re one of the most exploited pet snake species in North America. They’re also often killed on roads and face habitat loss, especially when small waterways are cleared of vegetation in developing areas.

 


#40. Smooth Greensnake

  • Opheodrys vernalis

smooth green snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are SLENDER and typically range from 14 to 20 inches in length.
  • Coloration is uniformly light green with a yellow or white underside and a red tongue with a black tip.
  • Juveniles may be olive-green, blue-gray, or even brown until they shed their skin for the first time.

 

Also called Grass Snakes, these bright green snakes can be found in marshes, meadows, pastures, savannas, open woods, and along stream and lake edges. They prefer moist areas near permanent water sources.

smooth greensnake range map

They prey almost exclusively on insects and spiders and don’t use constriction; instead quickly striking and swallowing their prey alive.

 

Smooth Greensnakes hibernate during the winter in the United States, seeking shelter in old mammal burrows and abandoned anthills. They often hibernate communally with other small snakes. They emerge in the spring, typically in April, and are active until October.

 

Smooth Greensnakes rely on their EXCELLENT camouflage to avoid predators. They’re also agile and can flee quickly if they must.

 


#41. Bullsnake

  • Pituophis catenifer sayi

bull snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are large and typically range from 4 to 6 feet in length.
  • Coloration is yellow, beige, or light brown with large brown, black, or reddish blotching on the back and three sets of small blotches on the sides.
  • Blotches may appear like bands near the end of the tail, and the underside is yellowish with black spots.

 

Bullsnakes are often seen in the United States in areas with high rodent populations.

 

So they’re common in places like prairie dog towns. But you can also find them in fields, grasslands, forest edges, savannas, and brushlands with sandy soils.

bullsnake range map

Bullsnakes are fast and can actively pursue prey in loose soil. They even use their prominent rostral (nose scale) to dig! Once they’ve captured their prey, they use their strong body to coil around and constrict their prey.

 

Despite being nonvenomous, these snakes act aggressively toward any threats. They often lift the front half of their body, hiss, and lunge at their attacker until they feel they can retreat.

 

Interestingly, their hissing can sound like a rattle! (see below!)

 

To accomplish this, the snake forces air through an extension of the windpipe, which has a piece of cartilage called an epiglottis that flaps back and forth, sounding very similar to a rattlesnake.

 


#42. Pinesnake

  • Pituophis melanoleucus

pine snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 48 to 90 inches in length.
  • Coloration is white, yellow, or light gray with black, brown, or reddish-brown blotches, becoming darker towards the head.
  • Powerful body, small head, enlarged rostral (nose) scale, and white underside with dark spots on the sides.

 

Pinesnakes prefer areas in the United States with loose, sandy soils!

 

The reason for this is that they need areas where it’s easy for them to dig! These snakes are excellent burrowers and spend a great deal of time underground. They use underground burrows for winter hibernation and protection from hot weather.

pinesnake range map

Pinesnakes prey on rats, mice, moles, other small mammals, and eggs, often entering or diging into animal burrows after prey. Multiple kills are common.

 

When disturbed, these non-venomous snakes posture aggressively. They often hiss loudly and flatten their head. It’s also common for them to make a noise that sounds remarkably like a rattlesnake. Pinesnakes accomplish this by forcing air through its windpipe, which has a piece of cartilage called an epiglottis that flaps back and forth.

 


#43. Southeastern Crowned Snake

  • Tantilla coronata

Southeastern Crown Snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically 8 to 10 inches in length.
  • Coloration is solid grayish-brown or light brown. A black pointed head followed by a whitish or cream band and then a black collar.
  • Slender snake with a solid pink, yellow, or white underside.

 

These tiny snakes occupy damp or dry woodland habitats in the United States.

 

They prefer areas with sandy, loose soils and plentiful organic matter and are skilled borrowers. In fact, they are rarely seen because they spend most of the day beneath the soil, rocks, logs, or organic debris! However, you may see them traveling on the surface at night.

crowned snake range map

Southeastern Crowned Snakes feed on small prey, including termites, worms, centipedes, spiders, and earth-dwelling insect larvae.

 

Interestingly, these snakes have small, chiseled fangs in the back of their jaw, which they use to inject venom into their prey. Luckily, the amount of venom is so small they are considered non-venomous when it comes to humans! And even when they are picked up, they generally don’t bite.

 


#44. Red-bellied Mudsnake

  • Farancia abacura

red bellied mud snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 40 to 54 inches in length.
  • Coloration is smooth, glossy black with a red and black checkered underside with the red extending up the sides, creating a triangle pattern.
  • The chin is heavily marked with black and usually yellow, creating a “zipper-like” appearance.

 

These semi-aquatic snakes are usually found in the United States near stagnant muddy waters of shallow streams, rivers, drainage ditches, canals, lakes, marshes, and swamps. They’re often spotted under water-soaked logs or other wet, organic debris and prefer habitats with dense vegetation and muddy bottoms and banks.

 

red bellied mudsnake range map

Red-bellied Mudsnakes are specialized hunters! Adult snakes feed almost exclusively on fully aquatic salamanders. They prey primarily on only two species, the Three-toed Amphiuma and the Lesser Siren.

 

These docile snakes don’t strike when disturbed or captured. Instead, if grabbed, they may press their harmless, blunt tail tip against their attacker, a behavior which has earned them the nicknames “horn snakes” and “stinging snakes” If continually handled, Red-bellied Mudsnakes may release a foul-smelling musk and go limp or play dead.

 

This species is incredibly secretive, and its status is poorly known in many areas.

 


#45. Rainbow Snake

  • Farancia erytrogramma

rainbow snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 27 to 48 inches in length.
  • Coloration is smooth, glossy, iridescent bluish-black with three red stripes and yellow or pink lower sides.
  • A short tail that ends in a pointed, horny scale.

 

These beautiful snakes are highly aquatic and spend most of their lives in water. These powerful swimmers are commonly found in cypress swamps, marshes, blackwater creeks, lakes, slow-moving streams, tidal mudflats, and sandy coastal plains.

rainbow snake range map

Rainbow Snakes are nocturnal and primarily prey on eels, earning them the nickname “Eel Moccasin.” However, they may also eat frogs, tadpoles, and salamanders, and juveniles in particular feed on earthworms and tadpoles. Prey is eaten alive, typically swallowed headfirst.

 

If disturbed, these docile snakes may freeze or attempt to crawl away slowly. If grabbed, they don’t bite but may press the tip of their tail into the attacker and release foul-smelling musk from a pair of glands near the base of their tail.

 

The Rainbow Snake is considered a species of least concern. However, their secretive nature can make their populations hard to count. Degradation of aquatic habitats and any decline of eel populations could negatively impact them.

 


#46. Plains Hog-nosed Snake

  • Heterodon nasicus

plains hog nosed snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 15 to 39 inches in length.
  • Coloration is varying shades of brown with darker brown blotches on the back, two alternating rows of smaller dark spots down the sides, and large longitudinal blotches on the sides of the neck.
  • Enlarged rostral (nose) scale.

 

The Plains Hog-nosed Snake strongly prefers open sandy or gravelly habitats. They’re excellent burrowers and also use old animal burrows for hibernation and protection from hot temperatures.

plains hog nosed snake range map

These snakes are best-known for their impressive displays when disturbed!

 

When initially confronted, Plains Hog-nosed Snakes typically remain motionless or hide their head under their coils. They may also try to bury themselves or escape into a burrow.

 

However, if they’re further disturbed, they’ll spread their jaws and neck like a cobra and puff up their bodies. They may also hiss loudly  and deliver false strikes with a closed mouth.

 

If these intimidating displays fail, the Plains Hog-nosed Snake will then twist as though they’re in pain, roll over on their back and play dead. They’ll be limp, open mouthed, and will remain this way even if picked up. They may also bleed from the mouth and cloaca, expel musk and fecal matter, and regurgitate recently eaten food.

 

If I saw one of these snakes do this display, I’d definitely leave it alone! But, unfortunately, they’re sometimes killed by people who are frightened by their cobra-like posture.

 


#47. Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

  • Heterodon platirhinos

eastern hog nosed snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 20 to 30 inches in length.
  • Coloration can be yellow, gray, brown, black, olive, or orange, often with darker blotches or spots down its side and back, though solid gray and black individuals are fairly common.
  • Thick-bodied, broad, triangle-shaped heads, and an upturned snout.

 

Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes prefer areas in the United States with sandy soil.

 

Here’s why:

 

Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes primarily prey on toads and use their upturned snout to dig for them in their burrows. They also have enlarged teeth at the rear of the upper jaw that they use to puncture and deflate toads that puff up when threatened. These snakes also have large adrenal glands, which secrete large amounts of hormones to counteract the toad’s potent skin poison!

eastern hog nosed snake range map

When disturbed, Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes lift their head off the ground and flatten their neck like a cobra! They may also hiss and false strike with a closed mouth.

 

If this display fails to scare off a predator, then the snake will play dead. They’ll roll onto their back, let their tongue hang out, and emit musk from glands near the base of their tail. Interestingly, when the threat has left, the snake will right itself and continue as normal. 🙂

 


#48. Kirtland’s Snake

  •  Clonophis kirtlandii

kirtlands snake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults range from 12 to 18 inches in length.
  • Coloration is grayish brown, reddish, or dark brown with four rows of alternating, dark, round blotches down the back and sides.
  • Bright red, pink, or orange underside.
  • Mostly black or dark brown head with white, light-cream, or yellow lips, chin, and throat.

 

Kirtland’s Snakes are rarely found far from a water source in the United States. They occupy various wetland habitats, including wet prairies, forested woodlands, floodplains, wet meadows, marshes, and swamps.

kirtlands snake range map

These snakes spend a lot of their time in burrows or under objects such as rocks, logs, boards, or leaf litter. During the winter, they hibernate in crayfish or other animal burrows.

 

Kirtland’s Snakes are reclusive and nocturnal. They feed on small prey, primarily earthworms and slugs. They may also consume crayfish, leeches, small fish, insects, and grubs.

 

Kirtland’s Snakes are imperiled in all states within their range and are listed as endangered, threatened, or vulnerable. Habitat loss and degradation have played a significant role in the decline of this species. They also face threats from road mortality and the pet trade. Additionally, as these snakes rely heavily on crayfish burrows, any reduction in crayfish populations is detrimental.

 


#49. Dekay’s Brownsnake

dekays brownsnake

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults typically range from 6 to 13 inches in length.
  • Coloration is light brown or gray to dark brown or black with two rows of dark spots down the back, which are sometimes linked.
  • A dark streak down the head and may have a light stripe down the center of the back.

 

Dekay’s Brownsnakes occupy various terrestrial habitats as long as there’s plenty of cover available such as rocks, logs, boards, and all sorts of trash and organic debris. They’re often found in backyards and gardens under objects.

 

dekays brownsnake range map

These secretive, nocturnal snakes hunt during the evening and night, feeding primarily on slugs and earthworms. However, they’ve also been known to consume snails, insects, insect larvae, small tree frogs, tadpoles, frog eggs, spiders, and fish. Prey is typically grabbed and quickly swallowed alive.

 

These docile snakes usually don’t bite in defense. Instead, if captured, they often squirm vigorously or flatten their bodies and may release foul-smelling musk from glands near the base of their tail.

 

This species is considered common in most of its range and is not a major conservation concern. It adapts well to human development and has a reputation as a “city snake.” However, pesticide usage and clean-up of cover objects may reduce their populations in urban areas by reducing their habitat and food source.

 


#50. Burmese Python

  • Python bivittatus

burmese python

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adults are typically 10 to 16 feet in length, but individuals may grow up to 23 feet!
  • Coloration is tan, cream, or tannish yellow with darker brown, black-bordered blotches down the back.
  • Dark head with a light stripe through each eye converging at the nose, forming a “V” pattern.

 

The Burmese Python is one of the largest snakes in the world!

 

Unfortunately, it is not native to Florida, and they are causing MASSIVE damage to ecosystems. Escaped and released snakes from the pet trade are to blame.

burmese python range map

These invasive snakes are primarily found in the Everglades, which offer a near-perfect habitat free of any natural predators. While Burmese Pythons spend most of their time on land or in trees, they need a permanent water source to survive. They’re good swimmers and can stay submerged in the water for 30 minutes.

 

Burmese Pythons sit and wait for their prey, then strike their target rapidly when it approaches and use their coils to constrict and suffocate it. They feed primarily on mammals, including foxes, rabbits, and raccoons, but they’ll also eat birds, amphibians, and reptiles. In Florida, they’ve even been observed preying on alligators and deer!

 

Efforts are underway to try and rid Florida of this giant predator. You may have seen the annual “Florida Python Challenge,” a competition held to see who can capture the most snakes in a given time period.

 

Here’s what to do if you see a Burmese Python:

 

You should report the animal via the “I’ve Got 1” reporting hotline (888-483-4681), the EDDMapS reporting site, or by using an iPhone application, IveGot1.

 


Do you need additional help identifying snakes?

 

Try this field guide!

 


Which of these SNAKES have you seen before in the United States?

 

Leave a comment below!

 

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