Snakes of Tennessee

Amazing American stuff may be found in Tennessee. A diverse variety of wild birds, animals, and reptiles, including snakes, are there, along with country music, whiskey, delicious BBQ.

There is more to snakes than just the fact that some kinds may be poisonous. They are essential to the ecology and can even be a wonderful friend. However, it won’t happen unless you shed the stigma and have a deeper understanding of them.

The several types of snakes that may be found in Tennessee will be described in this article along with their distinguishing characteristics.

Common Water Snake

Common Water Snakes enjoy still or slow-moving bodies of water, including marshes, vernal pools, lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers and streams. Most frequently, you’ll encounter them lounging on logs or rocks in or close to the water.

Common Watersnakes go into the water to hide when they are startled. However, they are fast to fight themselves if they are seized or taken captive.

They will flatten their body, produce a foul-smelling musk from glands near the base of their tail, and hit the assailant. They have a slight anticoagulant in their saliva, which can make bites bleed and make the wound look worse.

Populations of common water snakes are thought to be steady in Tennessee. This species, like many others, is threatened by habitat loss and degradation. Sadly, people often murder them because they are afraid of them.

Red-Bellied Mud Snake

These are thick snakes, with an average length of around 4 feet. They have a checkered underside and are non-venomous. They are mainly glossy black, though not entirely so.

They prefer to stay around in stagnant, muddy water along rivers and streams, and are most commonly seen in West Tennessee near Reelfoot Lake.

It is nearly entirely aquatic for red-bellied mudsnakes. They mostly eat lesser sirens, which are salamanders with long, eel-like bodies. As their range has expanded, they like strong rainfall.

Timber Rattlesnake

The most frequent poisonous snakes you’ll encounter in Tennessee are timber rattlesnakes. They have the ability to bite humans and kill them. These snakes may reach lengths of 3 to 7 feet, and the midsection of their bodies is substantial.

The majority of the time, when these snakes are attempting to remain warm by basking on rocks, or when humans approach locations where they hide, they come into contact with people. Due to their black bodies, these snakes may blend in with some of their surroundings. It is possible to approach these snakes too closely without realizing it.

Snakes do not need to rattle in order to bite. Furthermore, they could be completely silent when you unexpectedly stumble upon them.

A timber rattlesnake will frequently warn you if you approach too closely by tensing the muscles adjacent to its rattle. As a result, the sound of fast rattling may be heard often across the southern United States. The best course of action if you hear this rattling sounds is to stop, locate the source of the sound, and then flee.

Western Cottonmouth

Tennessee is home to only one subspecies of cottonmouth, the western cottonmouth. Tennessee’s westernmost part is the only region where this subspecies may be found. Realfoot Lake and the nearby areas are where you’ll find them most frequently.

Contrary to certain common perceptions, they are not aggressive. They actually only ever bite in self-defense.

One of the most well-known water snakes to be found in Tennessee is this one. They congregate around wetlands and other similar locations.

Worm Snake

Tennessee is home to two different wormsnake subspecies. the Middle Eastern and Eastern Wormsnakes. The Eastern may be found in the Unaka Mountains, whereas the Mideastern is present in the majority of the state’s other locations.

Wormsnakes, as its name implies, resemble little worms and can reach lengths of 7.5 to 11 inches (19-28cm). They are tiny, with a sharp head, a lean body, and a short tail. On the top side they are brown, while the underside is pink.

The majority of the time, you may discover them buried behind damp objects like boulders, logs, leaves, and other forest detritus in hardwood woods. They can blend in better because to their tiny, triangular heads, which are ideal for borrowing.

Since they don’t possess strong venom, the species doesn’t pose a threat to people. Earthworms, insects, and larvae make up their food.

The female wormsnaks lay multiple eggs early in the summer, and the eggs hatch in late summer or early fall after the wormsnaks mate in the spring.

Plain-bellied Watersnake

Numerous bodies of water, such as rivers, floodplains, lakes, ponds, and wetlands are home to the plain-bellied watersnake.

Compared to other Tennessee water snake species, this one spends an unusually large amount of time on land. They may be found quite a distance from a water source in forests, especially in hot, humid conditions.

Both aquatic and terrestrial prey, such as crayfish, fish, salamanders, frogs, and other amphibians, are consumed by them. This species’ willingness to wait and ambush its victim, particularly on land, is another peculiar trait. Nearly all other water snakes pursue and hunt down their prey energetically!

They are not afraid to bite and, if caught, produce a foul-smelling scent. Egrets, hawks, largemouth bass, and occasionally other larger snakes also consume plain-bellied water snakes.

Northern Black Racers

This snake is one of two varieties of racers that may be found in eastern Tennessee and can be found there. It nearly always has a matte black bottom that is somewhat lighter and can be any color from blue to grey. It has grayish white chins.

The non-venomous northern black racers will defend themselves if they feel attacked. They like living in suburbs, wide-open spaces, and open fields. When confronted, they defend themselves by striking and mimicking a rattle by shaking their tail in leaves.

Northern black racers favor open spaces such as pastures, meadows, byways, and lightly forested regions. They don’t like dense woodlands. They effectively use suburban spaces like road splits, where the grass has been clipped but is generally left alone.

Frogs, toads, tiny birds, chipmunks, mice, rats, and invertebrates are just a few of the many different items that it consumes when hunting during the day. The victim is held down and swallowed whole by this snake, which is not a constrictor.

Pygmy Rattlesnake

Pygmy rattlesnakes are little, yet they might be dangerous snakes, as their name implies. They may not have venom that is as deadly as that of the timber rattlesnake, but they may nevertheless harm or even kill people. These rattlesnakes differ from one other in other ways outside only size.

For instance, although pygmy rattlesnakes have vivid orange incorporated into their coloring, most rattlesnakes are relatively black in color.

Down their back, an orange strip extends. Their rattle generates a different sound as well. A pygmy rattlesnake is believed to make a noise that sounds like an insect buzzing, as opposed to the distinctive rattle of a timber rattlesnake. However, you may hear this sounds.

You have very little chance of seeing a pygmy rattlesnake since they are getting progressively rarer across Tennessee.


There are several poisonous snakes in Tennessee, but copperheads are among the most frequent. They are found almost exclusively in wooded regions but are widespread across the whole state. The vast spaces, like pastureland, do not appeal to them.

Only the southern copperhead and northern copperhead, two of the four copperhead subspecies, may be found in Tennessee.

There is a massive head on this snake with a big body. They have very triangular heads, like the majority of poisonous snakes. In addition, they have recognizable hourglass-shaped marks all over their bodies that serve as the primary means of identification when they are discovered.

Despite being much smaller and having a much smaller head, milksnakes have patterns that are comparable.

Scarlet Snakes

With the exception of the Northwestern areas, scarlet snakes may be found almost everywhere in Tennessee. Although not poisonous, the species is commonly mistaken for poisonous coral snakes.

They reach a height of 14 to 20 inches and are medium-sized (35-50cm). They come in a variety of colors, and their entire body is covered in red, yellow, and black bands. They are fascinating to watch, especially with their silky scales. The underbelly of men, which is white, is greater than that of females.

With their pointed heads, they favor environments that are accessible to them, such as pinewood woods, loamy agricultural areas, and hardwood forests.

Small animals, lizards, snakes, and other reptiles make up their food. Additionally, they have strong teeth at the rear of their jaws that are used for breaking open eggs that are too large to swallow intact.

The elongated eggs laid by scarlet snakes in the early summer will hatch in the late summer after they mate in the spring.

Queen Snake

In general, rocky-bottomed streams and rivers are where you’ll often find queen snakes since they enjoy flowing water. They can lose water through evaporation because of their extremely transparent skin. They are seldom ever seen far from water, as you might think.

They can be seen sunbathing on rocks, hanging branches, or plants close to the water’s edge throughout the day. Along the borders of streams, they frequently seek cover behind boulders. By chance, you could get a glimpse of them swimming.

Specialist predators called queen snakes eat crayfish as their main prey. Since newly molted crayfish have soft bodies and are still unable to utilize their pinchers, they nearly exclusively feed on them. In order to find crayfish, they scout beneath submerged rocks and other things.

Eastern Black Kingsnakes

Most of Tennessee’s state is home to this snake. Rabbits, rats, and other small animals are the main prey of this constrictor. Forests, suburbia, and agricultural areas are favorites. Despite preferring to stay on land, it may be found in wetlands and close to streams.

Kingsnakes consume other poisonous snakes as well, and a study of young king shakes demonstrates that they are able to detect chemical cues from the skins of the snakes they want to consume.

Since there are typically bright colored flecks throughout, it is not entirely black. As opposed to being speckled, it might also be banded. There are few all-black members of this species, although colour in general varies greatly.

Timber Rattlesnake

Tennessee is home to this type of rattlesnake, which is poisonous.

In terms of both length and breadth, they are a sizable snake. A large triangular head dominates them. Because of how erratic their body colors are, it is difficult to reliably identify them by color alone.

In densely forested woodlands, they are mostly found. They favor steep slopes with a southerly aspect and lots of hiding places among the rocks. But you may also find them in rural settings like mountains, bogs, streams, and woods.

Currently, habitat degradation and persecution are causing their number to fall.

They are thought to be less hazardous than other poisonous snakes due to their rattle. Usually, they only bite if they are repeatedly threatened.

North American Racer

The North American Racer has two subspecies that may be found there. Tennessee’s Eastern portions are home to the Northern Black Racer, while its Western regions are home to the Southern Black Racer.

Their size ranges from 36 to 60 inches, making them one of the biggest snake species in Tennessee (91-153cm). The species is mostly black with a white patch on the face and neck regions.

Contrary to their name, Northern American Racers are not renowned for their speed and agility. They employ the periscoping hunting method, which is an intriguing detail about this snake species in Tennessee. As they prepare to ambush their victim, they elevate their heads in this position to see them.

Only enough juice is carried by the species to shock their victim; they lack venom. In addition to rodents and birds, they also eat snakes.

Females lay eggs in the summer, which are fertilized during the springtime mating season. The eggs hatch in the late summer and early fall.

Southern Watersnake

In Tennessee’s far west, close to most freshwater, the Southern Watersnake may be found. In lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, swamps, wetlands, and even streams, look for them. On branches drooping over the lake, they are frequently seen lounging.

Since they are mostly nocturnal, these snakes spend a lot of their time searching the shoreline for frogs and tiny fish to eat. They swiftly seize and ingest their victim, much like other watersnakes do.

Delicate and non-venomous, southern watersnakes are. However, if they are caught or grasped, they may flatten their heads, emit a foul scent from glands at the tip of their tail, and even bite. Unfortunately, occasionally people mistake them for the poisonous cottonmouth, which results in their death.

Northern Ringneck Snakes

The ringneck snake, which is 9.8 inches long and among the tiniest snakes in the world, isn’t entirely black. In addition to being short in length, they are also very thin.

They come in various body colors; some have gray bodies and others are black. Where their necks begin, each of them has a distinctive color band, and their bellies are a perfect match for this band.

Because of their relative calmness and the incredibly nice colored ring on their necks noted before, ringneck snakes are frequently kept as pets. They have a little bit of venom, but not nearly enough to injure people. Their victim is supposed to be subdued by this poison.

When compared to this little snake, the food that the ringneck snake consumes is not very large—it is only big enough for them. It enjoys eating salamanders, bugs, little frogs, snails, beetles, and earthworms.

The Northern ringneck snake is unique to North America. Although there are plenty of them, they are rarely seen in the wild because of their secrecy. In groups, the females will congregate to deposit their eggs, and occasionally we may see them nesting together.


In the majority of the state, the scarlet snake is common. The knowledge we do have about them is quite limited since they are so secretive. For example, we don’t have a lot of information on how long they live or how they reproduce. Even their population in Tennessee is unknown to us.

They are distinguished by their unique red coloring with white and black markings, as their name would imply.

They inhabit pine and hardwood woods and favor sandy and loamy soils because they are better for burrowing. Under logs and other debris, they can be discovered.

Ring-necked Snake

In Tennessee, there are two different types of ring-necked snakes. Both the Northern and Mississippi Ring-necked Snakes. East Tennessee and West Tennessee follow one another in where you can find them.

The 10 to 15 inch (25-38 cm) range in length for the Ring-necked snake species is a tiny, thin size. On the underside, they are orange or yellow with a black or gray color on top. To set them from from other Tennessee snake species, they have a recognizable yellow or orange ring around their necks.

The Northern Ring-necked snake species may also be distinguished from other snakes by the consistent ring and plain color on their bellies. On their bellies, Mississippi Ring-necked snakes feature patches of various colors and an incomplete ring.

They do not threaten people seriously and are not poisonous.

Corkscrew’ and ‘Thimble’ are other names for ring-necked snakes. They coil tightly and expose their colorful bellies when threatened by predators, which explains why.

They consume earthworms, larvae, tiny snakes, and lizards as food.

Females deposit their eggs in the summer after mating in the spring; the eggs take seven to eight weeks to hatch.