Snakes Of Pennsylvania

If you know how to tell them apart, the black snakes in Pennsylvania that are most commonly seen in the wild may be easily identified. Nearly every snake on this list has a non-black feature that makes it possible to distinguish between individuals of various species.

The majority of snakes in Pennsylvania don’t actually threaten people. People still mistake several of the snakes on this list for the very deadly cottonmouth, despite this. Due to its range’s end in more southern states, the cottonmouth is not native to Pennsylvania.

Some of the snakes on this list make wonderful pets, but you should look for them from breeders rather than attempting to catch one in the wild. This is so that they may more easily adapt to a vivarium and regular handling because they were raised in captivity.

The seven most prevalent black snakes in the state of Pennsylvania will now be examined in more detail.

Colubrid Snakes

The biggest family of snakes in the genus Colubrid is represented by a group of reptiles. Three-quarters of the 2,700 different species of snakes in the world belong to the Colubrid family.

The majority of non-venomous snakes belong to the Colubrid family. It consists of aquatic snakes, land snakes, and arboreal snakes.

Snakes that are colubrid, or non-poisonous, may be easily recognized from snakes that are venomous.

Colubrids have an almost flattened, tubular-shaped skull. Additionally, the head is usually twice as broad as the neck. In contrast to pit vipers, whose eyes are slit, these creatures have spherical pupils.

The huge scales on their body are arranged in a regular manner to cover their skull. They might be keeled or smooth depending on the situation. The length of its underbelly is covered in two rows of scales.

Their teeth are unique as well. The lower and upper jaws of the Colubrids are both equipped with teeth. However, they lack the bigger, hollow fangs used in attacks by poisonous snakes.

Northern Copperhead

The hourglass pattern that goes down their torso makes them easy to spot. The dark chestnut cross bars that form the hourglass are frequently interspersed with a number of dark dots and are thinner in the center than they are on the sides.

On the side of the belly, you could notice a few black dots.

Their head is a striking shade of red copper.

The tail tips of juveniles are yellow, and their overall color is paler than that of adults. Additionally, they feature a black line between each eye. With time, they get darker, and the tail’s golden color lessens.

The Northern Copperhead is a peaceful, lazily moving snake that, when approached, will either lie motionless or slowly retreat. When threatened or provoked, they will strike viciously.

Though they prefer forested slopes with plenty of rocks adjacent to a constant water supply, such as a swamp or stream, they are prevalent in the southernmost regions of the state where they are common in suburban backyards.

A Northern Copperhead bite should always be treated medically right away.

Eastern Copperhead

In Pennsylvania, look for these VENOMOUS snakes in mixed and deciduous woods, frequently close to rocky outcrops. Since the temperature is cooler in the spring and fall, you are more likely to see them out and about during the day. Eastern Copperheads are frequently nocturnal in the middle of the summer.

This species hunts through ambush, which means it chooses an appropriate location and waits to surprise its target. The fact that copperheads are referred to as “pit vipers” and have a heat-sensing organ between their eyes further supports this claim.

By being able to detect infrared, this adaptation aids these deadly snakes in finding and estimating the size of their prey!

In Pennsylvania, these snake bites seldom result in fatalities.

They generate venom, although it’s not very potent. In addition, fake strikes, dry bites, and warning bites are regularly used by copperheads. Venom is absent from dry bites, while warning bites have just a trace of it.

The main prey of these snakes is tiny rodents, frogs, birds, and huge insects like cicadas. They will wait for the venom to start working after the initial bite before eating their prey completely.

Northern Watersnake

All around Pennsylvania, water habitats are teeming with Northern Water snakes. Unfortunately for these guys, due of their resemblance to the poisonous Copperhead in terms of colors and patterning, they are frequently murdered out of fear. Although they are known to act hostilely when confronted, they are not dangerous.

They may be found in a variety of slow-moving freshwater habitats across Pennsylvania, including streams, lakes, ponds, marshes, and swamps. They consume tiny fish, reptiles, and even crayfish as food.

Northern Black Racer

In the state, northern black racers are a typical species. These snakes can move quite swiftly and are long and thin. They prefer the meadows, rocky slopes, and grasslands where they may hide away inside logs or beneath rocks.

These snakes can be found in bushes and up in trees since they are skilled climbers. Despite the fact that northern black racers are non-venomous, they dislike being harassed.

A wild animal will probably bite repeatedly if it is taken up. When threatened, a snake will mimic a rattlesnake, letting you know that it is unhappy. To make a rattling sound, it taps its tail on the ground.

Their backs and tummies are both completely black. Black racers from the north typically have a little white spot under their chins. The look of juveniles is a wonderful technique to attempt to age one of these snakes because they are striped and lighter in color.

Timber Rattlesnake

Timber rattlesnakes may weigh up to 4.5 kg and reach lengths of 60 inches (152 cm) (9.9lb).

They have bodies that are yellow/brown or gray with keeled dorsal scales with black or dark brown crossbands. The crossbands have zigzag edges, and some of them are shaped like Vs or Ms. They frequently have a rusty streak. They have a golden belly that occasionally has black patterns.

Neither the Laurel Highlands nor the southern regions have wood rattlesnakes. As a result, it is uncommon in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the two largest cities.

Get medical attention right away if you’ve been bitten by a timber rattlesnake.

Timber Rattlesnake

In Pennsylvania, a number of environments are home to the Timber Rattlesnake, commonly referred to as the Canebrake Rattlesnake. In lowland thickets, high spots near rivers and floodplains, agricultural regions, deciduous woods, and coniferous forests, keep an eye out for these poisonous snakes.

As ambush predators, these snakes wait for unwary prey to approach so they may attack. They mostly eat small animals, however they may also eat frogs, birds, and other smaller snakes. After striking and releasing their prey, timber rattlesnakes wait for their poison to take effect before consuming them.

Due to their size, strong fangs, and high venom output, these poisonous snakes might be the most hazardous species in Pennsylvania. Fortunately, Timber Rattlesnakes are not aggressive and rarely bite. Usually, they rattle and posture plenty of warning.

In American history, the timber rattlesnake had an important role. It was a symbol of the American Revolution and was found in the original 13 colonies. It was the centerpiece of the “Gadsden Flag” in 1775. This yellow flag has the words “Don’t Tread on Me” and a coiled, ready-to-strike Timber Rattlesnake.

Queen Snake

Queen snakes are frequently mistaken for rat snakes because of how similar they look. They may be identified by their golden bellies and the barely perceptible brown stripes that run the length of their bodies. Despite being widespread in their area, these snakes are only present in the western and southern regions of the state.

Because queen snakes are excellent swimmers, they are frequently mistaken for the dangerous water moccasin. Nevertheless, they are harmless and present minimal danger. Over huge lakes or wide ponds, they prefer stony creeks and streams.

Northern Ring-Necked Snake

One of the most widespread snakes in Pennsylvania is the northern ring-necked snake, Diadophis punctatus edwardsii.

The ring of bright hue that develops at the base of these snakes’ necks gave rise to their name. This ring typically has a golden or yellow hue.

Though the rest of their bodies are typically dark gray, you may occasionally encounter snakes that are brown or black. Their underbelly is the same shade of yellow as the ring around their neck. Black spots may run along the middle of the stomach of certain snakes.

Each snake will only reach a length of 10 to 24 inches (25.4 to 60.96 cm), but their bodies will stay lean. They have a maximum lifespan of 20 years.

Eastern Massasauga

Eastern Massasaugas have tan or gray bodies with a row of black to brown colored blotches or spots running down the middle of their backs and three short rows of alternating spots along their sides. They can reach a maximum length of 30 inches (75 cm).

Both specimens with all-black surfaces and those with the black patches joining on the sides have been seen. Juveniles have paler skin tones.

If you are bitten by one of these snakes, you should seek medical attention right away because their venom damages the tissue.

Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Lawrence, Mercer, and Venango counties are home to this snake.

This species’ fast decline is mostly the result of habitat loss.

Eastern Massasauga

Gray or light brown in color, with larger, lighter-edged dots on the sides and smaller, deeper chocolate-brown blotches on the back. thick body, heart-shaped head, vertical pupils, and heat-sensing pits between the eyes and nose. Look for the rattle at the end of their tail since they are rattlesnakes.

Western Pennsylvania is home to these little deadly snakes.

Massasauga, which refers to their environment and means “big river mouth” in Chippewa, is the name of this region. Look for them in low places beside rivers and lakes, shrub swamps, wet prairies, damp grasslands, bogs, and marshes. They frequently move to drier areas close to these habitats throughout the summer.

The Eastern Massasauga hibernates by itself, unlike other rattlesnakes. They often spend the winter in crayfish burrows, although they can also hibernate in gaps beneath decaying logs or tree roots or in tiny animal burrows. Dens must be located below the frost line to prevent freezing to death.

These snakes carry cytotoxic venom, which is dangerous to cells and kills tissue while also preventing clotting and disrupting blood flow. However, these snakes are shy and secretive, and they try to stay away from people. They only ever appear to bite when being handled or unintentionally stepped on!

In every part of its range, this poisonous snake is classified as threatened, endangered, or a species of concern. These snakes have historically been under threat from hunting, and several states have conducted roundups and offered bounties. They still frequently die nowadays from fear and have to contend with dwindling marsh habitats.

Ribbon Snake

Pennsylvania is home to the semi-aquatic Ribbon Snake. The Eastern Ribbon Snake and Northern Ribbon Snake are the two subspecies of ribbon snakes that may be found in Pennsylvania.

Ribbon snakes inhabit rocky or wooded habitats with a continuous water source. When threatened, they frequently dive into the water to escape and bask on branches or in bushes near water sources.

The Northern Ribbon Snake population lives in the northwest of the state, while the Eastern Ribbon Snake population lives in the eastern half of Pennsylvania. The Allegheny Mountains separate the two populations of Ribbon Snakes.

Black Rat Snake

Black rat snakes are all-black Eastern rat snakes. Since it’s just a name for a subset of the eastern rat snake population, they are not distinct from other rat snakes.

Black rat snakes may be found anywhere and don’t have particular habitat preferences. As a result, they rank among the snakes that people in the state are most likely to encounter. These snakes are particularly well-known to farmers because rodents around fields of produce are their favorite prey.

Despite being visible all year round, black rat snakes are most frequently seen during the day in the fall and spring. To conserve heat, most brumates congregate during the winter with other snakes, such as copperheads. They aren’t in danger right now because the cold has rendered all the venomous snakes too dormant to hunt.

Black rat snakes are nonvenomous and generally harmless, but when threatened, they emit an offensive smell.

Eastern Milk Snake

Another of Pennsylvania’s most prevalent snakes is the eastern milk snake, Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum.

These snakes have a bad reputation because copperheads and them are frequently mistaken. Unfortunately, because of their appearance, they are frequently killed.

Even so, there isn’t much of a similarity between them. The head of a copperhead is copper in color and unmarked. The Eastern Milk Snake is fairly marked and has a pale hue.

The stomach of a copperhead is also cream in color and unmarked. The stomach of the Eastern Milk Snake is white with dark spots. In fact, their bellies have so many spots that they resemble a checkerboard.

The Eastern Milk Snake’s body frequently causes people to mistake it for a copperhead. The body is gray or tan in color, with spots on the back that are brownish red. These snakes have black rims around their spots.

The snake’s back has the largest markings, but as they descend the sides, they get smaller. The spots on the copperhead are widest on the sides and thinnest on the back, which is distinct from this.

Despite being non-dangerous, they may nevertheless get rather big, which perhaps adds to people’s worries. They have a growth range of 24 to 52 inches (60.96 to 132.08 cm), and their lifespan can reach 20 years.

Eastern Garter Snake

In Pennsylvania, eastern garter snakes are widespread and simple to find!

In fact, they are frequently the species of snakes that people encounter. They frequently inhabit urban parks, rural areas, cemeteries, and suburban lawns and gardens because they are well suited to live in close proximity to people.

Although it is not necessary, they like grassy areas close to freshwater sources including ponds, lakes, ditches, and streams.

In grassy areas close to shelter, look for these snakes in Pennsylvania as they enjoy the sun.

When threatened or trapped, eastern garter snakes defend themselves. For instance, if you catch one or disturb it frequently, it will urinate and exude a pungent odor from its glands. They frequently bite as a last option as well!

The most typical prey items for the Eastern Garter Snake include toads, frogs, slugs, salamanders, fish, and worms. They will, however, consume other insects and small animals if they can overwhelm them since they are quite opportunistic. Depending on the temperature, they might be active both during the day and at night.

Northern Copperhead

Three poisonous snakes may be found in Pennsylvania, one of which is the Northern Copperhead. Although they can live in or near water without needing a water source because they are semi-aquatic, they are frequently seen doing so along the banks of streams or in marshy areas.

Northern Copperheads inhabit the bottom two-thirds of Pennsylvania and are extensively dispersed throughout the state. Although they frequently live near water, they have also been known to live in rocky or steep terrain, earning them the nickname “upland moccasin”.


As you can see, Pennsylvania is home to quite a few snakes, including a few venomous ones. As such, you should always exercise extra caution while wandering close to huge rock heaps or fallen trees.

The Northern Racer and Northern Copperhead are two excellent pet snakes on our list (for knowledgeable owners), however we advise only buying captive-bred pets from a licensed breeder to prevent endangering the natural environment.

We sincerely hope you have liked reading this list and have learned about a few new species. Please share this list of snakes found in Pennsylvania on Facebook and Twitter if we were able to help you with your inquiries.