North Carolina Snake Identification

Many species share characteristics, making them challenging to distinguish without experience.

Native snake species found in North Carolina number 38. Some species are common across the state, especially in residential areas, though it’s doubtful that you’ll encounter them all.

We’re here to assist you with recognizing snakes in North Carolina! You’ll learn the fundamentals of recognizing the state’s most hazardous and prevalent species.

Learn why having snakes around is necessary and how to live in harmony with them.

The connections and helpful resources are included at the conclusion of this guide.

Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes

The two snake species that locals and visitors most frequently see are milk snakes and North Carolina kingsnakes.
Like other constrictors, they bite their victim before wrapping their body around it to suffocate it. They are otherwise calm and non-venomous snakes, so people shouldn’t be alarmed.

The body of an Eastern Kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula) is typically black with a row of thin white stripes running down the back. The Eastern Kingsnake’s visage is seen in the top image.

The Eastern Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum) is a highly adaptable snake that lives in a variety of habitats, including farms, woods, and fields. In the east, finding Milk Snakes may be as simple as going on a stroll and turning over a few large boulders or logs.

The may reach lengths of up to three feet on average, and their distinctive red, orange, or dull rust coloration makes them simple to identify.

In the state, keep an eye out for Scarlet Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis elapsoides) and Yellow-bellied Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis calligaster).

Rat Snake

Rat snakes may be found all across North Carolina. Both high in the mountains and down in the Coastal Plains, they like residing.

The rat snakes in the highlands may appear frightening since they are nearly totally black, but they are actually quite timid and will quickly flee if someone approaches them. Rat snakes that dwell on the plains will be a darker shade of olive, which helps them blend in with their environment.

If you meet a rat snake, do not be alarmed; they are not poisonous. Since they mostly consume rodents and vermin, rat snakes are really quite beneficial to humans.

Harlequin Coral Snake

Common names include the American cobra, Florida coral snake, harlequin coral snake, North American coral snake, red bead snake, thunder-and-lightning snake, eastern coral snake, common coral snake, candy-stick snake, coral adder, and Elaps harlequin snake.

The medium-sized, thin harlequin coral snake may reach lengths of up to 30 inches, while there are records of it exceeding 4 feet.

Their silky scales are covered in a vivid body pattern of red, yellow, and black circles where the two colors contact. They have a fixed set of fangs at the front of their mouth and a black nose.

They may be found in pine and scrub oak sandhills, which are usual habitats for them, while they occasionally exist in pine flat woods and hardwood regions that experience seasonal floods.

Since they spend the most of their time underground, they are rarely observed.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is no exception to the rule that rattlesnakes are no joke. Although it is a very violent snake, North Carolina has laws protecting it.

However, the likelihood of seeing an eastern diamondback rattlesnake on your upcoming stroll in North Carolina is quite low.

The snake is now thought by many scientists to be extinct in the state, although nothing is keeping it from returning in the future.

Conservationists would like to know if you see an eastern diamondback rattlesnake in the wild, but it’s best to leave them alone.


Snakes of many different species frequently dwell in and near water. Three members of the Nerodia genus of water snakes are found in North Carolina.

Brown water snakes, Southern water snakes, and Northern water snakes.
The length of a water snake’s body can range from three to six feet.

Because of their dark, frequently blotched skin, which helps them blend into their surroundings, it can be challenging to identify them in locations where there are many different species.

The image depicts a brown snake (Nerodia taxispilota).

Ring-Necked Snake

Identifying a ring-necked snake is simple. Typically brown or olive in appearance, they can occasionally have a nearly black foundation, and they often have a crimson, orange, or yellow ring around their necks. North Carolina is home to ring-necked snakes in every area.

Where they live in the state affects their pigmentation, and ring-necked snakes that live along the coast may not have a complete ring around their necks.

Ring-necked snakes may be dwelling under mulch, under flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, planters, heaps of leaves, or grass clippings for homeowners and suburban residents. The species is non-venomous and tiny, often measuring just 10 to 15 inches.

Pygmy Rattlesnake

The Carolina pygmy rattlesnake is the third rattlesnake that you can see in North Carolina. Pygmy snakes, like the other two snake species, are protected in North Carolina, so if you come across one in the wild, you should leave it alone.

The Carolina pygmy rattlesnake’s population is declining, although not at an alarming rate, according to the current conservation status of the species, which is “least concern.” The tiniest rattlesnake in the state, the Carolina pygmy rattlesnake, is nonetheless quite poisonous.

They consume smaller animals and reptiles in addition to bigger insects.

Eastern Copperhead

A huge snake, the eastern copperhead may reach lengths of up to 40 inches (102 cm).

Their heads are triangular, and their bodies are hefty. Dark crossbands in the shape of an hourglass run the length of their tan to brown bodies. The crossbands of snakes from the Coastal Plain are frequently disrupted.

Except for the brilliant yellow tail tip, juveniles resemble adults in appearance.

Larger than females are men.

In the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain, they can frequently be spotted crossing the street.

They are to blame for the most majority of snake bites that occur in the United States each year since they inhabit forested regions and may blend in with their surroundings because to their coloring. Deaths are extremely rare, but bites hurt and need medical attention.

Timber Rattlesnake

The timber rattlesnake is a poisonous snake that is protected in North Carolina. Their number in the wild is declining slowly, according to their current conservation classification of “least concern.”

However, the timber rattlesnake is a species that you should leave alone in the wild, exactly as the eastern diamondback.

Being opportunistic eaters, they will consume nearly any little animal that can fit in their mouth. That offers up a lot of options for a 5-foot snake that is fully grown.

Garter Snakes

Due to their lack of aggression, garter snakes make for interesting subjects for identification because doing so poses minimal risk to the observer. They can have a variety of body colors, from the blue that Florida blue garter snakes are known for to the numerous red tones that are seen in West Coast varieties.

Because it is the predominant species in the majority of East Coast states, the Common Garter Snake in the photo has a pretty unremarkable appearance and is simple to recognize. Eastern Ribbon Snakes are also found in North Carolina (Thamnophis sauritus).

Rainbow Snake

You won’t have to worry about surprising this snake since a rainbow snake is impossible to overlook. Because of their vivid colors and distinctive patterns, rainbow snakes are among the most attractive snake species.

Rainbow snakes often have a base color of black with three long, thin red stripes along the length of the back. Some of them will also have yellow markings in addition to the red stripes, while some may have yellow or cream bellies. These snakes enjoy being in or close to water since they are semi-aquatic.

They typically reside in wetlands or close to brackish rivers in the southern Coastal Plains of North Carolina. When fully mature, they are often 3 to 5 feet long.

Northern Cottonmouth

The poisonous, semi-aquatic northern cottonmouth is also known as the water moccasin.

They have skulls that are trapezoidal in appearance with black lines through the eyes. They have big jowls due to their enormous venom glands.

They have a huge, hefty body and may reach lengths of 48 inches (122 cm).

Their color can vary; the majority have dark crossbands on bodies that range in hue from yellow to brown, but some might be entirely black or brown. The underside of the tail is entirely black, with brown to yellow spots often present on the belly.

Larger than females are men.

They are only found in the Coastal Plain, however some have been spotted in Piedmont areas. They like environments near water, such cypress swamps, vegetated wetlands, and river floodplains.

The good news is that cottonmouths rarely bite despite being poisonous and having a reputation for aggression. They appear to only bite if you try to pick them up or step on them by accident.

Eastern Coral Snake

In North Carolina, you should be on the lookout for the poisonous eastern coral snake. Although they undoubtedly reside in the state, the likelihood of you running into one is low.

Only a few verified sightings have been reported in North Carolina’s southeast. You may utilize the well-known rhyme “Red touch black, safe for Jack” to recognize a coral snake. When red hits yellow, a person dies.

However, despite the rhyme’s terrible conclusion, there have been no reported coral snake-related fatalities in the US. Simply said, they only deliver a small amount of venom with each bite. You should be OK as long as you don’t let them chew on you.

Colubrid Snakes

Because they often live in locations where people do not live, North Carolina Farancia snakes are not as well known as other snakes. The state’s ponds, streams, bogs, and slow-moving water environments are home to two kinds of snakes: the Mud Snake and the Rainbow Snake.

The Mud Snake, a menacing snake with black and red coloring, is seen in the image. Red lines run the length of a rainbow snake’s body. Both species are capable of reaching heights of five to six feet and becoming fairly strong and massive.

Amphibians that live in water, including salamanders and sirens, are eaten by mud snakes. Eels are consumed by rainbow snakes, at least the adults.

Northern Pine Snake

While the Outer Banks kingsnake may grow to an astonishing length of 5 feet, the northern pine snake can grow to a whopping 6 feet.

As opportunistic feeders, these snakes consume eggs, rodents, small animals, birds, and rodents. This pet is really striking because to its big size and maybe gentle attitude.

Although the northern pine snake has no intention of hurting you, you should still exercise caution around them since they have strong constrictors.

Carolina Swamp Snake (Black Swamp Snake)

Carolina Swamp snakes dislike being around people and even being outside very much! They prefer to dwell in shallow water with lots of plants so they can conceal because they are largely aquatic. While kayaking or canoeing in the shallows and wetlands, you could come across one of these magnificent snakes.

The snake’s belly is a vivid crimson red, while its top is either black or dark olive, making it easier for it to blend with the surrounding foliage. Small and only venturing out of the safety of their vegetative cover at night, unless disturbed from a hiding spot, are these creatures.

The Carolina swamp snake is referred to by a variety of names and is occasionally called the black swamp snake, as are many snakes. They may be fairly common in wetlands and are typically less than 2 feet long. Only in the Tidewater region near the shore can you find swamp snakes.

Smooth Green Snake

The smooth green snake is one of the easiest snakes to identify in North Carolina. They are totally green, as their name suggests, yet despite their 3-foot length, they aren’t as big as some other snakes.

Their food plays a significant role in why they are significantly skinnier. The smooth green snake is an insectivore, in contrast to many snakes that consume mammals, rodents, birds, and similar animals, however it will occasionally consume tiny amphibians.

They are often calm and make wonderful companions for novice snake keepers.

Eastern Diamond-Backed Rattlesnake

The eastern diamondback rattlesnake is the biggest species of rattlesnake, with a massive body and wide heads with two facial lines.

Although the biggest adult measured 96 inches (244 cm) in length, adults can grow to a maximum of 72 inches (183 cm).

They are tan, brown, or yellow, with brown diamonds that are encircled by lighter hues.

They are only found in the Lower Coastal Plain in the Southeast, and they like dry, sandy environments, pine forests, coastal dune habitats, and hardwood hammocks. Despite being great swimmers, they stay away from damp environments.

In dense undergrowth, they spend their time coiling up and waiting to ambush passing prey.

Outer Banks Kingsnake

The Outer Banks kingsnake is one type of snake that you could encounter in North Carolina. One of the largest natural snakes in North America, these enormous snakes may reach lengths of up to 5 feet.

Because they are often calm and ultimately become acclimated to handling, they can make wonderful pets. Just be aware that when threatened, they could bite.

They consume a variety of foods in the wild, but in captivity, they may survive on a diet of only mice or rats.