Tennessee’s 32 species place it roughly in the center of the US in terms of snake diversity. Although the state is home to several poisonous reptiles, you are far more likely to encounter one of the numerous black snakes that traverse its plains and mountains.
Are black snakes hazardous in Tennessee? What should you do if they assault you and how can you recognize them by their appearance? Find out by reading on!
Northern Ringneck Snakes in Tennessee
The 9.8-inch-long ringneck snake, one of the tiniest snakes in the world, isn’t entirely black. They are as thin as a pencil, in addition to being short in length.
While some of them have black bodies, others have gray bodies. Their bellies match the distinctive color band that runs down the base of each individual’s neck.
Because they are generally calm and have the aforementioned incredibly attractive ring of color around their necks, ringneck snakes are frequently kept as pets. They have a little amount of venom, but not enough to hurt people. To subdue their victim, they use this poison.
In contrast to this little snake, the prey that the ringneck snake consumes is not very large. Salamanders, insects, tiny frogs, snails, beetles, and earthworms are some of its favorite foods.
North America alone is home to the Northern ringneck snake. There are plenty of them, but because they are shy, they are rarely seen in the wild. They occasionally nest together; the ladies will congregate in groups to deposit their eggs.
Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula)
With adults growing up to 4 feet long, eastern kingsnakes are among the biggest reptiles in the state. They have smooth scales and a shiny black color, and the majority of them have round, yellowish or white markings over their backs. The bands are joined on the sides to form a structure that resembles a chain.
The environment of the snake determines how wide the white or yellow stripes are. For instance, those wandering the Tennessee highlands have either narrow bands or are all black, in contrast to those found on the Coastal Plain, which have vast chains. These reptiles can also be identified by their thick skulls, beady eyes, and undivided anal plates.
The summer months, particularly the early morning hours, are when eastern kingsnakes are most active. Since they are not nocturnal reptiles, when the sun sets they hide. They inhabit overgrown vegetation, congested spaces, and thick forests.
Even though these snakes are not poisonous, you should still take care not to handle them or harm them in any way. They are powerful constrictors and may bite if they become disturbed. You shouldn’t approach them because they could hurt you if you do.
If they can locate a regular source of food and a location to reside, kingsnakes may approach houses. As a result, you should try to get rid of any rodents from your yard or garage. Additionally, check that your home is free of any clutter or wood, since these areas offer excellent hiding places for these reptiles.
Red-Bellied Mud Snakes in Tennessee
These snakes are stout and typically reach lengths of 4 feet or more. They are non-venomous, largely glossy black with a checkered underside, and while they are not entirely black.
They are most frequently seen in West Tennessee around Reelfoot Lake and prefer to linger out in muddy, sluggish water along rivers and streams.
Mudsnakes with a red belly are virtually entirely aquatic. Lesser siren salamanders, which are long and eel-shaped, are their main food source. They particularly like heavy rains since it widens their habitat.
Rat Snake (Elaphe [Pantherophis] obsoleta)
These almost 6 foot long reptiles are grayish-black with occasional white spots seen between the scales. Their anal plate is split, and their body is loaf-like rather than spherical. These characteristics, together with their elongated skull, help you identify them quickly.
These snakes typically prey on rats, as their name indicates. However, they will also happily consume mice, squirrels, birds, frogs, lizards, and even other smaller snakes, along with their eggs.
They inhabit marshes, overgrown foliage, abandoned houses, and forested places. Despite not being poisonous, they will bite if they feel threatened. However, constriction is their favorite method of killing their victim.
North American Racer
In Tennessee, there are two North American Racer subspecies. The Eastern sections of Tennessee are home to the Northern Black Racer, while the Western areas of the state are home to the Southern Black Racer.
They are one of the biggest snake species in Tennessee, reaching lengths of between 36 and 60 inches (91-153cm). The species has a white patch on the face and neck regions and is mostly black in color.
Despite its name, Northern American Racers are not well recognized for their speed and agility. The periscoping hunting method is an intriguing detail about this snake species found in Tennessee. They lift their heads at this point in order to see their prey before ambushing them.
The species only contain enough juice to shock their victim and are non-venomous. They eat rats, birds, frogs, snakes, and other animals.
Females lay their eggs in the summer, and the eggs hatch in late summer or early fall. The breeding season occurs in the spring.
Northern Black Racers in Tennessee
The majority of mature Black Racers grow to heights of 5 feet. These reptiles are entirely black, although their chins typically have some white coloration. They also have big eyes, smooth scales, and thin bodies, which make them easy to see.
These reptiles may be found in all edge environments. These include agricultural regions, ancient fields, and the margins of forests and wetlands. When it comes to activities, they like to be outside throughout the day and need mild weather to do so. On the other hand, when it’s dark or cold, they prefer to hide in burrows or under boards.
Black Racers are typically terrestrial snakes, although they are also capable climbers. Because of this, they can catch their prey even in tall trees. They eat huge insects, lizards, birds, rodents, and other animals. The majority of predatory birds then hunt on them.
These snakes, as their name implies, move extremely quickly, which helps them both obtain their own food and flee from predators. They do not suffocate their victim once they have it in their grasp. As an alternative, they eat it alive.
Although Racers are not poisonous, you shouldn’t threaten them or approach them if you don’t have any prior experience dealing with them. You run the danger of getting bit if you do that. Therefore, if you see these reptiles about your property, it is better to call pest management.
Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis)
The average length of an eastern garter snake is 2 to 4 feet, with males being somewhat larger than females. They have three vertical golden stripes across their backs and lustrous, black bodies.
These reptiles may be found in a variety of habitats, such as slopes, marshes, overgrown grass, and forests. Since they like wet environments, you may usually locate them close to natural water sources.
However, if they can consistently locate food, they can also reside in suburbia. They enjoy hiding in places with high grass, wood logs, rocks, and other cover. These snakes are really the reptiles on this list that are most frequently seen in places with a human population.
As long as they are left alone and not threatened, garter snakes pose no harm to people. They consume fish, snails, toads, worms, salamanders, small rodents, and frogs.
These snakes are likely to be active at any time of the day or night. No matter what hour it is, they simply go out to hunt when they become hungry. Additionally, particularly on warmer days, they could also be active during the winter.
Eastern Black Kingsnakes in Tennessee
The majority of Tennessee is home to this snake. It is a constrictor that consumes mice, rats, and other small animals for food. It enjoys woods, suburbs, and agricultural areas. Although it likes to stay on land, it may be found in wetlands and close to streams.
A study of young king shakes reveals that they are able to detect chemical cues from the skins of the poisonous snakes they want to consume. Kingsnakes also consume other dangerous snakes.
It’s not entirely black since there are typically light-colored flecks throughout. Instead of being speckled, it might instead be banded. The colour of this species, however, varies greatly, and some individuals are entirely black.
The majority of Tennessee is home to the Gray Ratsnakes, often known as Chicken snakes. The barn, agricultural structures like the grain store, and farmland detritus are where you’ll most likely find them.
They are one of Tennessee’s biggest snake species, reaching enormous lengths of 42 to 72 inches (107-183cm). Their dorsal color is predominantly black or gray with a few white flecks near the scale margins.
Excellent climbers, gray ratsnaks can frequently be seen busking or foraging in trees. They are a widespread species in Tennessee, where snake phobia frequently results in fatalities. They do not, however, threaten people since they are non-venomous.
They should be left alone since they are important in keeping rodent species under control in the environment. Eggs, small animals, and birds make up their food. They strangle and devour their victim altogether, suffocating it.
Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorus)
In Tennessee, especially in areas with access to water, water moccasins (often 3 feet long) are fairly prevalent. These reptiles range in color from brown to even yellowish to dark gray on their backs. They are also distinguishable by their triangular heads and big, bulky bodies.
Cottonmouths can be active both during the day and at night. In the sweltering heat, they like scavenging for food at night. These snakes love to live near water, as suggested by their common name, therefore you may find them in cypress swamps, densely planted wetlands, and river floodplains. Additionally, they frequently locate drying ponds and settle nearby them in order to eat the trapped fish.
You will frequently encounter these snakes lounging on rocks and logs since they adore the sunlight. Although they won’t ever get very high from the ground, they can even climb the trees close to the river.
It’s interesting to note that the Cottonmouth term refers to the how their lips look on the inside. In particular, these reptiles’ lips seem to be filled with tiny pieces of cotton when they open them.
Cottonmouths are poisonous, thus you should be careful around any state-wide permanent water sources and stay away from them. If you don’t assault them though, you can stay safe even if you see them. If they are not terrified, these snakes will never approach you or bite you, thus if you see one, you should not approach it.
The moment a Water Moccasin bites you, you should dial 911. Depending on how well your immune system is functioning, the bite symptoms may develop right away or up to an hour later. They include breathing difficulties, excruciating discomfort, edema, and elevated heart rates.
Eastern Hognose Snakes in Tennessee
This snake is another one on our list that isn’t entirely made up of black people, but there are enough of them to warrant inclusion. It is widespread throughout Tennessee.
Their rostral scale, or nose scale, has an adorable pig snout-like upturned appearance. When it’s time for brumation, their nose enables them to dig through earth detritus and discover or create burrows.
These snakes are widespread and come in a variety of hues. They are frequently kept as pets. There are several morphs in the pet business that come in a wide range of hues.
Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius)
The black bodies of coral snakes are lean and thin, and they have yellow and red bands along the length of them. With the longest specimens measuring only a little over 2 feet, these reptiles are the tiniest on the list.
These snakes are also easily identified by the two little fangs sticking out of their lips. None of the other species previously mentioned have teeth like these.
These reptiles often live in pine flatwoods, scrub oak sandhills, and any other habitats that are subject to seasonal floods. However, because of their small size and slender bodies, they can also be found amid suburban rubbish and debris.
Eastern Coral Snakes are poisonous, just like Cottonmouths. Therefore, if you cross their way, never threaten them. Instead, make a pest control call and keep as far away as you can.