Snakes — an often feared, much maligned and widely misunderstood group of reptiles. Snakes are found on every continent except Antarctica. There are over 3,000 species of snakes in the world and 50 of those species can be found in the United States.
Because there are over 3,00 snake types in the world, it can be challenging to identify them all.
In this article, we’re going to focus on finding out more about some of the most common snake types that you might run into. If you want to learn about what to do if you encounter them, read our guide on getting rid of snakes.
But First, Let’s Talk A Bit More About Snakes
There are over 3,000 different snake species in the world.
As we mentioned above, snakes can be found on every continent except Antarctica. There are over 3,000 different snake types on our planet and they can be found in a variety of different habitats. From tropical rain forests to desert sand dunes, snakes can be found almost anywhere!
Snakes are reptiles, which means they are cold-blooded animals. They do not have eyelids and do not have external ears (though they can still hear!). Snakes also don’t have legs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fast! In fact, these legless reptiles are capable of navigating a variety of types of terrain, and they can even swim and climb.
Most snakes eat insects, small mammals, birds and eggs, small frogs, or fish. Some snake types eat fruit or seeds and some larger species of snake will eat wild pigs, deer and even monkeys!
Some snake types even eat other snakes, which is probably why most species of venomous snake will avoid each other and will only come together to mate.
Not all snakes have fangs, and all snakes lack teeth. For this reason, snakes swallow their prey whole as they cannot chew. Snakes also lack a jaw joint, which allows them to open their mouths wide enough to swallow food that would otherwise be too large for them. They use powerful muscles in their body to help push food into their stomachs, which can take anywhere from a few minutes to an entire hour. Once the prey has been ingested into the stomach, the snake’s stomach acid does the job of digesting the prey completely.
Despite their notoriously bad reputation, snakes are some of the most diverse and fascinating animals in the world. And with so many snake types on the planet, it’s no wonder that some have developed unique features that make them stand out from the rest. This is especially true when it comes to venomous snake types.
It’s widely believed that all snakes are dangerous, but there are only about 200 species of venomous snakes on the earth. Even these “dangerous” snakes want nothing to do with people.
Still, it is possible to run into a venomous snake if you’re not careful, which is why it’s important to have a good understanding of different snake types in your area.
Keep reading to learn more.
The Most Common Snake Types In The United States
Many snake types are capable of incredible camouflage, making them difficult to see or identify.
There are over 50 different snake types in the United States, and while each type is different in its own way, some can be more dangerous than others.
No matter what state you live in, If you find yourself outdoors there is a chance that you will see a snake at some point. But which snake types are most common in the United States, and which snake types are most dangerous?
Let’s take a look at some of the most common snake types in the United State:
- The Eastern Copperhead
- The Rattlesnake
- The Black Rat Snake
- The King Snake
- The Plain-Bellied Watersnake
- The Massasauga Snake
- The Ribbon Snake
- The Eastern Racer Snake
- The Common King Snake
- The Cottonmouth
- The Rough Green Snake
- The Black Swamp Snake
1. The Eastern Copperhead
The Eastern Copperhead is named for his copper coloring.
The Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) is not only considered one of the most common snake types in the United States, but also one of the most venomous snake types. It is found in the southeastern U.S., from New Jersey to Florida, and west to Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Minnesota. The copperhead’s habitat ranges from swamps and marshes to rocky uplands or forests.
Copperheads are pit vipers, a subfamily of snakes that have heat-sensing pits on their heads to help them locate their prey. The pits are located between each eye and nostril and are used primarily for locating warm-blooded animals such as small mammals, birds or frogs. Copperheads feed on mice, chipmunks, squirrels and other small animals.
The copperhead gets its name from its reddish-brown head and body color. Its back has chestnut crossbands outlined with black, while its underside is white or yellow with large brown blotches.
The copperhead snake is one of three venomous snake types in the eastern United States that gives birth to live young, (pit vipers in other regions lay eggs). The copperhead has a litter of five to six young in midsummer.
The snake’s coloration and patterning are similar to many other nonvenomous snakes, making it the perfect ambush predator. When prey comes near, the copperhead strikes quickly while using its camouflage to hide from its prey and other predators.
2. The Rattlesnake
Rattlesnakes have small rattles on the end of their tails to warn predators to back off.
Rattlesnakes are the most well known of all venomous snake types in the United States. The rattlesnake has a deadly venom that can be fatal to certain people if not treated immediately.
Like copperhead snakes, rattlesnakes are also pit vipers. They can be found in every state in the United States except for Hawaii, and it is estimated that there are at least 36 species of rattlesnakes.
The rattlesnake is very distinctive in appearance with a triangular shaped head and vertical pupils. Their rattle contains hollow rings that make a sound when they shake it as a warning to any predators or people who may get too close.
Rattle snakes have heat-sensing pits on their face that allow them to detect warm-blooded prey such as rodents, rabbits and birds. Because rattle snakes are so dangerous, it’s important for people to learn how to identify these snake types to avoid being bitten. It is also important to learn what to do if you are bitten by a rattlesnake so you have the best chance at recovery.
There are several different types of rattlesnakes in the United States including:
- Western Diamondback Rattlesnake
- Timber Rattlesnake
- Mojave Rattler
- Massasauga Rattler
- Canebrake Rattler
- And Prairie Rattler
We will learn more about some of these common rattler snake types further down.
3. The Black Rat Snake
Black rat snakes may look frightening, but they are not venomous.
The Black Rat Snake is one of the largest, most common and most familiar snake types in the United States.
This is a non-venomous snake that is commonly found in the eastern parts of the United States. The black rat snake (Elaphe obsoleta) is also known as pilot black snake or chicken snake. These snake types are excellent climbers and are capable of climbing trees and buildings. They are also excellent swimmers.
Black Rat Snakes have a body length of about three to six feet, with a record of just over eight feet. An average adult can weigh around five pounds, with a maximum weight of ten pounds in some cases.
The color of this snake type’s body varies from grayish-black to brownish-black. The sides may be marked with irregularly shaped blotches or spots. The belly is grayish or yellowish white. The scales are smooth and shiny, giving it a glossy appearance.
Juvenile black rat snakes are patterned similarly to adults but may have reddish blotches on their back and yellow bellies.
The Black Rat Snake has very small eyes for its size and its tongue is relatively short compared to other snakes in the Colubridae family. It has two large fangs at the back of its upper jaw that point backwards toward its throat to help hold prey.
4. The California Kingsnake And The Florida Kingsnake
The Califnornia Kingsnake, pictured above, is often black and yellow in color.
The king snake is another one of the most common snake types in the United States. King snakes are found throughout much of the country and prefer wooded areas and habitats near bodies of water.
King snakes usually live near rivers, swamps, lakes and ponds. They are not only found in wooded areas but can be found in barns and fields as well. King snakes are known to eat other reptiles and, amazingly, they are resistant to rattlesnake venom!
King snakes are not venomous, but they are large enough to constrict their prey. The California king snake is generally black with yellow or white stripes on its body. This snake can reach up to five feet in length. It can be identified by its rounded head and smooth scales.
The Florida king snake is another snake type you might run into in the US. This snake is brown or reddish in color with irregular dark blotches on its back. Juveniles have well-defined double rows of spots along their backs that mix into blotches as they age.
5. The Plain-Bellied Watersnake
Plain-bellied water snakes are non-venomous.
The plain-bellied watersnake is another non-venomous snake found in the southeastern United States.
They are one of the most common snake types in their region, which includes Virginia to Florida and west to Texas. The plain-bellied watersnake is a medium sized snake with a slender body. Their average length is between two and three feet long, though they can grow up to five feet in length.
Their body color can vary from brown, gray or olive green with dark brown or black blotches or bands along the back. The underside of the snake is usually yellow, green or white with black spots, blotches or bands. They have a distinct black line that runs through their eye and their head is usually darker than the rest of their body.
Plain-bellied water snakes are semi-aquatic and spend most of their time near the water, especially during hot summers. They can be found living in swamps, marshes, creeks and rivers and are often seen basking on river banks in large groups. These snakes feed mainly on fish and amphibians but also eat insects, small mammals and reptiles like lizards and other snakes.
6. The Massasauga Rattlesnake
Massasauga Rattlesnakes are dangerous to people and pets and should be avoided.
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus) is one of our rattlesnake types we mentioned above. This is the only rattlesnake found in Ontario. It has a triangular shaped head and a rattle on the end of its tail, and it can grow to 90 cm in length.
This snake is gray, brown or black in color with dark brown or black blotches down its back. The massasauga rattlesnake has vertical pupils, like a cat, and it is found throughout southwestern Ontario and is even considered endangered.
The massasauga rattlesnake is a pit viper, meaning it has heat-sensing pits on either side of its head between the eye and nostril. These pits are used to detect warm-blooded prey such as mice and birds, even in total darkness.
This is one of our snake types that is capable of immobilizing prey with one of the most toxic venoms of any North American snake. Fortunately, the massasauga’s venom glands are small and it cannot inject much venom at all into humans. Still, if bitten, you are advised to seek medical help immediately as you may be allergic to the venom or have other complications from the bite.
The eastern massasauga is not an aggressive snake, but it will sometimes coil up and rattle its tail if cornered or disturbed. Generally, if left alone it will not bite unless provoked or stepped on by accident.
7. The Ribbon Snake
The Ribbon snake is a type of garter snake common to the United States.
The Ribbon Snake is a species of garter snake belonging to the Colubridae family. There are several subspecies of the Ribbon Snake, with some being more common than others.
The Ribbon Snake can be found in North America, but they are most commonly seen in eastern parts of the continent. This species of snake has a very slender body that can grow up to 60cm in length, but the average size is 40-50cm.
The Ribbon Snake has smooth scales that can be yellowish or light brown in color. They have three stripes that run down their bodies (one stripe on each side and one in the middle), which are usually black or dark green in color.
These snake types spend quite a bit of time near bodies of water and they will often swim as well as sunbathe on land. They prefer to eat fish and other aquatic creatures, as well as frogs, tadpoles and insects. Due to their diet, these snakes are often found near rivers, ponds and lakes where they hunt for food.
The Ribbon Snake is not venomous and most people do not consider them dangerous. They will try to escape if you approach them, though they can bite if they feel threatened.
8. The Eastern Racer Snake
The Eastern Racer snake is sometimes called the black racer due to its coloring.
The Eastern Racer Snake is a member of the Colubridae family. It is also known as the Black Racer, Blue Racer, and the Pilot Black Snake. The common name “racer” refers to its speed and ability to move over short distances.
The Eastern Racer is a non-venomous snake that can be found throughout most of the eastern United States. It is a dark gray or black snake with smooth shiny scales and can reach lengths up to seven feet. This medium-sized snake has an average lifespan of ten years.
These snake types are able to recognize different colors, though not as well as humans see them. They sense heat using their tongue like a pit viper does, but they do not use their tongue for scent detection like many other snake types do.
9. The Common King Snake
Common King Snakes look eerily similar to the highly deadly yet less common coral snake.
The Common King Snake can grow to be up to five feet in length, and they are often mistaken for the coral snake, which is a very venomous snake, thanks to the similar colors on both the snakes’ bodies.
However, the order of these colors is different for the different snake types, and many people use a popular poem to tell the two apart.
The phrase “red touch black, friend of jack” refers to the pattern of the King Snake. The rhyme “black touch yellow, kill a fellow” refers quite ominously to the pattern of the coral snake, which has a deadly bite.
Common king snakes eat rats and mice as well as smaller snakes. For this reason, they are sometimes called “the king of snakes”, leading to their name.
10. The Cottonmouth Snake
Cottonmouth snakes are large and very venomous.
The Cottonmouth is a snake that can be found in the southern parts of the United States, which includes Texas. There are various types of cottonmouths,including the eastern cottonmouth and the western cottonmouth.
The Eastern Cottonmouth
This type of snake is also known as the water moccasin. It grows to a length of three feet, but some snake types can grow as long as six feet. Their color varies from dark brown to almost black and their underside is lighter in color.
The juvenile eastern cottonmouth snakes have yellow-green tails which they use to attract frogs. These snakes can be found near streams, marshes and other types of water bodies with vegetation. Cottonmouth snakes are highly venomous and are considered medically dangerous to people.
The Western Cottonmouth
The western cottonmouth snake is also known as the plains cottonmouth or narrow-banded cottonmouth.
These snake types are usually olive green in color with faint crossbands on their backs that disappear as they mature. They also have yellowish lining on their lower jaws (which becomes darker when they grow older) and their bellies are usually cream-colored with dark spots. These snakes can be found near streams, ponds, slow moving rivers and marshes.
Like the Eastern cottonmouth snake, the western cottonmouth snake is also venomous and considered dangerous.
11. The Rough Green Snake
Rough green snakes are often found in the United States.
The Rough Green Snake is a non-venomous species of the Colubridae family that can be found in the United States. It ranges from southern New Jersey and Florida to eastern Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. This snake is also present in the southern part of Ontario and Quebec in Canada.
It got its name because it has rough skin which is bright green in color. The lower part of this snake’s body is white or yellowish in color. Its eyes are large and round with vertical pupils, and its head is small and flat with a narrow neck.
The Rough Green Snake can reach 20 to 30 inches in length but the average length of an adult snake is between 16 to 24 inches in length. Both males and females are almost identical in appearance, though females are often larger than males.
12. The Black Swamp Snake
The black swamp snake is famous for his bright red belly.
The Black Swamp snake is another non-venomous type of the Colubridae snake types. It can be identified by its thin body, blackish color and red belly.
The Black Swamp snake grows up to 72 inches long, but it is commonly found at 12 to 24 inches long on average. This is the largest non-venomous snake types in the United States and Canada.
The Black Swamp snake’s color varies from dark brown to a light tan color. It can also have black, red and yellow stripes along its back. Its belly is yellow in color with black spots on it.
The Black Swamp snake can be found in the southern part of Ontario, Canada; New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin in the United States. They are mostly found near the swamps, marshes, lakes and rivers where they can find food easily.
They are active during the day time and mostly sleep at night time. They often spend most of their time on land, as they need to absorb enough sunlight to maintain their body heat.
Best Products For Snake Control, According To Experts
Avoiding snakes or leaving snakes alone is generally best when it comes to keeping yourself and loved ones safe.
Although snakes are fascinating, and while many snake types are not dangerous to people, most of us still don’t want them in our yards.
If you’re looking to keep snakes out of your yard, there are a variety of products that can help. From snake repellents and traps to snake-proof fences and gopher mounds, you should be able to find a product that is right for you.
Here are some of the most popular products for keeping snakes away:
There are a variety of snake repellents on the market. Snake repellents can be used in yards and gardens or inside the home to repel snakes from certain areas. Most use the scent of sulfur or naphthalene (similar to mothballs) to create a stench that snakes find unpleasant.
Others emit a sound (like an ultrasonic frequency) that drives snakes away. Some customers report good results with these products, but some say they don’t work as well as chemical or scented repellents.
Mothballs and Sulfur
Mothballs and Sulfur are two other common tools people use to repel different snake types — either by sprinkling them around their homes or burying them at regular intervals in the yard outside.
Both mothballs and sulfur are caustic chemicals, so be careful when handling them and make sure to keep them out of reach of children.
Not sure which type of product would be best for you when it comes to repelling different snake types?
We have listed some of our favorite products for keeping snakes out of your yard below. Take a look!.
Ortho Snake B Gon Snake Repellent
Ortho Snake B Gon Snake Repellent Granules repels different snake types with an essential oil scent and can be used to create a perimeter barrier. It is completely safe for people and pets and is waterproof, weatherproof, and long-lasting.
This product comes in a formula that is ready to use in your yard and garden, and can serve as an effective form of snake repellent for a wide variety of snake types in the United States.
CETRIP Snake Repellent Ultrasonic Solar Stakes
Another form of snake repellent for different snake types are the snake repellent ultrasonic stakes above by CETRIP. These products are easy to use and low maintenance as they use solar power and work by emitting an ultrasonic vibration into the earth that is highly irritating to snakes.
The product is also safe for people, pets, and children because it works without the use of chemicals or electricity. You can use these stakes in your lawn and garden, and they can also be used to protect your property from a number of other pests like lizards and rodents.
Garden Tailor Hardware Cloth Snake Fence
If you are dealing with venomous snake types or you simply want to keep snakes out for good, you might consider investing in a snake fence made of wire mesh. It’s important to use a mesh that has fencing smaller than 1/4th of an inch.
Even then, however, we should note that juvenile snakes can sometimes find their way through this mesh. When using a snake mesh fence, it’s wise to use other forms of snake repellent for different snake types in your yard for extra protection.
Tips You Should Keep In Mind When Dealing With Different Snake Types
This person is holding a non-venomous garter snake, though if you’re not sure which type of snake you have come across, it’s best to leave them be.
In truth, there is no such thing as a “most common” snake in the United States.
While it may be easier to identify the most common snake types in some regions, there are many factors that play into which type of snake you are most likely to run into. These factors include location, habitat, climate, and more.
Even something as seemingly simple as altitude can come into play when it comes to the most common snake types in the United States.
Of course, while it is important to know which snake types you are most likely to come across and which snake types are venomous, it’s also important to know what to do should you encounter a snake you cannot identify.
If you are hiking in a region known to be a habitat to venomous snake types, we suggest wearing long pants, covered shoes, and even consider products like snake gaiters or rubber boots to help protect yourself.
Some people walk with walking sticks that they use to move grass in front of them before taking a step.
If you do see a snake and are unable to identify it, avoid handling the snake or approaching it. For the most part, snakes are not aggressive towards people and prefer to be left alone.
So, have you ever come across any of the snake types on our list above? Tell us which snake you’ve run into most in the comment section below.
Thanks for reading!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.