The black kingsnake is common in northern Alabama in settings that range from forest to swamps to developed land. Primarily black with small yellow or white spots, these snakes hunt for lizards, rodents and other snakes during the day. The black kingsnake is not injured by the venom of local pit vipers and helps control their population. Black kingsnakes will bite if threatened, but are non-venomous and pose no real threat to humans. Before biting, the black kingsnake will shake its tail and release a foul odor as a warning.
Black Pine Snake
Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi
The black pine snake is rare in Alabama and is listed as a threatened species, they prefer to live in the sandy soils of pine forests. Adults are typically solid black, while juveniles have black and brown patched patterns. Their keened scales distinguish them from other similar looking snakes in the area. Their food of choice is small mammals. The black pine snake is not a threat to humans, it will attempt to warn potential threats by hissing and rattling its tail. If the threat continues it may bite in defense.
The black racer is found throughout the state, however their numbers seem to be on the decline. Adaptable, the black racer can be found in nearly any environment eating anything they are able to catch. Despite the scientific name, black racers do not kill their food with constriction. Long and thin, the black racer’s back is completely black while their bellies range from black to grey. However, before reaching maturity, juveniles look quite different with a grey base and rusty-brown patches running their length. If threatened, the black racer’s first instinct is to use its speed to get away. If trapped, it will strike and bite as a last form of defense. If left alone, the black racer is not considered aggressive.
Black Speckled Kingsnake
The black speckled kingsnake lives near rivers in the Coastal Plain region, but is not commonly seen. It is a dark snake with white to yellow spots giving the snake an over “salt and pepper” appearance. Black speckled kingsnakes are non-venomous and use constriction to kill its prey which primarily consist of rodents and other snakes. Unaffected by the venom of local pit-vipers, the kingsnake helps control their populations.
Storeria dekayi ssp.
The brown snake is one of the most common snakes in the majority of the state. As the name suggests, it is typically brown, but comes in a variety shades, and will typically have two rows of darker spots running their length. Mainly feeding on worms and slugs, the brown snake spends much of its time under the cover of leaf litter and other downed objects. Non-venomous, the brown snake is not a threat to people.
Brown Water Snake
The brown water snake is typically found in and around water where it feeds on its favorite food, catfish. The brown water snake is non-venomous, they use their strong mouths to pull fish onto shore where it swallows its meal. As the name suggests, the brown water snake is tan with darker brown square patches running its length, young snakes look similar to adults. Brown water snakes are non-venomous and not aggressive, if given the chance to flee, they typically will. If the threat continues, they will release an unpleasant odor and bite.
Diamond-backed water snake
Found most commonly in the western Coastal Plains, the diamond-backed water snake is brown to green-brown with alternating darker patches to form diamonds. These snakes live in a variety of watery environments where they feed on aquatic animals, including carrion. Often confused with the much less aggressive cottonmouth, like many water snakes, the diamond-backed water snake is aggressive and quick to bite, often repeatedly, if threatened. Despite their aggressive nature, they are non-venomous and typically leave only scratches.
Coluber flagellum flagellum
The eastern coachwhip lives in areas with open, dry and hot habitats. Active day and night, coachwhips eat a variety of animals including frogs, snakes, birds and mammals. Non-venomous and not constrictors, the eastern coachwhips will often swallow prey alive. The mild tempered eastern coachwhip’s first line of defense is to flee. If trapped it will vibrate its tail as a warning, but will bite as a last resort. Most bites incurred by humans are a result of people intentionally disturbing the snake.
Eastern / Common Gartersnake:
Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis
The eastern gartersnake, often seen in “breeding balls” during the spring, are found in Alabama in a wide variety of habitats. Gartersnakes have a varied diet and are known to eat small fish, insects and worms. Their coloration varies, often based on where they live, with stripes that range from yellow, to red or even white. Gartersnakes are not a threat to people and are non-venomous. Given the chance, gartersnakes will flee to avoid contact with people.
Eastern Hog-nosed snake
The eastern- hognose snake lives throughout the state but is not often seen. Their ideal habitat is along forested areas, rather than within the woods, with loose soil that they dig with their snout-like nose. Using this technique they unearth their main food, toads. Their colorations vary and while some are known to be black to grey, others are brighter with shades of red, orange or yellow. The eastern hognose is non-venomous, though if scared it will try imitating more dangerous snakes by flattening its head, hissing and striking. The strikes are typically intentionally short with a closed mouth. If these methods fail, the hog-nosed snake will roll over and play dead.
Eastern Indigo Snake
The eastern indigo snake lives in regions inhabited by the gopher tortoise as it uses its burrows for shelter and breeding. Not picky eaters, the indigo snake will eat anything small enough, but prefer reptiles. With the exception of cream or orange areas on their chin, the rest of their body is shinny, black/blue, causing frequent misidentification with black racers. The eastern indigo snake is non-venomous and is slow to bite. Its defense is based more on intimidation with hissing, flattening of their neck and rattling their tail. With a dwindling population these snakes are not often encountered and are listed as endangered.
The eastern kingsnake is uncommonly found in eastern and south-central regions of the Coastal Plains. Their glossy black scales with yellow to cream, often broken, bands make them easy to identify. These snakes live in diverse areas including fields, pine forest with open canopies or even near water as they are good swimmers. Non-venomous, they use constriction to kill its prey which includes eggs found on the ground, turtles and other snakes. Eastern kingsnakes are not dangerous to humans and would rather avoid contact. If trapped however, they will bite.
Eastern Milk Snake
Lampropeltis Triangulum Triangulum
Not often seen, the eastern milk snake is able to inhabit a wide array of environments ranging from developed suburban areas to sand dunes, as long as the environment offers suitable cover and food. They dine on birds, rodents, and lizards using speed to capture, then constriction to kill their prey. The eastern milk snake is tan to grey with darker brown patches outlined in black running their length. In immature snakes, these patches are likely more red in color. Often confused with a copperhead, the eastern milk snake is non-venomous and is not a threat to people. Though they will strike and bite if cornered, given the opportunity, the eastern milk snake will avoid interacting with people.
The eastern ribbonsnake, the little cousin of the garter snake, is found throughout the state. Typically, dark brown with yellow stripes going down both sides of their back, the ribbonsnake lives in areas of shallow water surrounded by grassy land. They mainly eat fish and frogs found in this environment by swallowing them whole. The eastern ribbonsnake is not a threat to people and is non-venomous. Its defense strategy includes flattening its head in effort to intimidate threats, flailing about and emitting and pungent smell.
Eastern Smooth Earthsnake
Virginia Valerie valeriae
The smooth earthsnake can live in various forested environments but are happier in wetter environments near marshes or similar habitats. Sleek and red-brown to brown in color, they sometimes have flecks of darker pigmentation. Their primary food source is worms, but will eat other small insects or larvae. Eastern smooth earth snakes are non-venomous and are not a threat to people.
Florida Green Water Snake
The green water snakes live near the Florida border in marshy areas. There they feed on frogs and fish, swallowing them alive. With no distinctive patterns, they range from brownish to greenish in color with darker flecks. Florida green water snakes are non-venomous, they will avoid contact with humans when possible. If threatened however, they will not hesitate to bite.
Florida Pine Snake
Pituophis melanoleucus mugitus
Found in the most eastern portions of the state, the Florida pine snake is one of the largest snakes in Alabama. Florida pine snakes alternate in off-white and and reddish-brown patches often more distinctive towards the tail. Mainly found among wooded pine areas with open canopies, they primarily eat small rodents. Non-venomous, these snakes are known to hiss loudly if threatened.
Glossy Crayfish Snake
Regina rigida rigida
With the exception of the most north west portion, the glossy crayfish snake is found throughout the Coastal Plains, often murky water with densely packed vegetation. Implied by its name, its staple food source is the crayfish. Dark green backs fading to nearly yellow bellies, these non-venomous snakes would rather flee, diving into the water, than fight. Rarely known to bite, the glossy crayfish snake will release an offensive odor and flatten its head if trapped.
Grey Rat Snake
Common throughout the state, grey rat snakes have a base coloration of grey with darker patches along their back. Their lighter bellies have a square patch pattern. This coloration may change throughout the state with grey rat snakes in the southern portion of the state being notably lighter in color. No matter the color, they live in a variety of environments with larger populations found in fields and forest where they hunt rodents and birds. They use their climbing skills to access trees and rafters to find more food sources. Non-venomous and if left alone, non - aggressive, the grey rat snake will attempt to avoid detection or flee a threat. If trapped grey rat snakes will coil and strike as a last defense effort, however typically calm quickly.
Gulf Saltmarsh Snake
Somewhat common in brackish waters and salt marshes, overall populations are limited by appropriate habitat. Most often nocturnal hunters, the gulf saltmarsh snake is not a constrictor and is non-venomous using speed to swallow fish alive. These snakes can have a wide variety of appearances, but are generally dark brown with four stripes, two brown and two yellow to tan. The gulf saltmarsh snake is not a treat to people and is less aggressive than many other water snakes. Their typical defense strategy is to lay motionless in an effort to avoid being spotted. They may bite and emit an unpleasant odor if grabbed, however, often do not bite even if picked up.
Midland Water Snake
Nerodia sipedon pleuralis
The midland water snake is the most commonly seen water snake throughout most of the state. It lives in streams and ponds with sandy bottoms where it hunts fish and amphibians. These snakes have rusty to dark brown bands near the head which morph into patches down their length. Non-venomous, and non- aggressive most bites occur when people intentionally disturb these snakes.
Mississippi Green Water Snake
Common throughout the southern Coastal Plain region, the Mississippi green water snake lives in slow-moving streams lined with trees and swampy forest. Non-venomous, they catch prey, mainly fish, with speed eating them alive. Dark green, these snakes lack easily identifiable coloration, but have a line of scales between lips and eyes that helps to pinpoint their identity. Like many water snakes the Mississippi green water snake will first attempt to flee from threats, but will readily bite if trapped.
Lampropeltis calligaster rhombomaculata
Mole kingsnakes are believed to live throughout the state but are not often seen. They have a base color that ranges from pink to tan with rusty or dark brown saddle-shaped patches. Adults have faded from more vibrant colors as juveniles. As they are not often encountered, we know less about their lifestyles, aside from the fact that they spend the majority of time underground. They are non-venomous and are not a threat to people, but will bite if accosted.
Found in the Coastal Plains and the Interior Plateau, the mud snake prefers to make sluggish moving waters with thick vegetation its home. There they feed on small salamanders and other amphibians. Mud snakes have shiny black backs with bellies that are checkered black and red. Unlike other water snakes, the mud snake does not bite. Instead it presses its sharp tail against threats in an attempt to escape. Despite popular belief, the mud snake does not sting and poses no threat to people.
North Florida Swampsnake
Regina pygaea pygaea
The North Florida swampsnake lives in the southernmost regions of Alabama often in ditches, canals and swampy areas. Often, they are seen alongs roads running through swampy areas on rainy nights. They eat a combination of, among others, little fish, worms and amphibians. North Florida swampsnakes have black backs with bellies that are divided by red ventral scales. These snakes are not known to bite but will release a pungent odor or attempt to flee if threatened.
Northern Pine Snake
Pituphis melanoleucus melanoleucus
The northern pine snake is listed as species of high conservation concern and is not often seen. The base coloration of these snakes is light with darker patches that become more defined down the length of the snake. They live in forests, often pine, that are dry with loose soil where they are most active above ground in the mornings and evenings. If threatened the Northern Pine Snake may take an aggressive stance while hissing and rattling its tail. Northern pine snakes will sometimes bite, however others won’t even if picked up. Non-venomous, they are not a threat to people.
Northern Scarlet Snake
Cemophora coccinea copei
The northern scarlet snake has black, red and yellow bands and is commonly seen throughout the state. Harmless, it can be distinguished from dangerous snakes in that the yellow and red bands do not touch and by having a solid colored belly. Primarily found in forested areas they hunt at night for their favorite foods, lizards and snake eggs. Northern scarlet snakes are not venomous and rarely bite, even defensively. Instead, they will often coil with their heads hidden while rattling their tail in an attempt to divert attention to protect their head.
Northern Red-Bellied Snake
Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata
The northern red-bellied snake typically lives in shaded, damp environments where they often take cover under logs or leaves. Nocturnal hunters, the main staples of food for the red-bellied snakes are worms and slugs. The northern red-bellied snake has a wide range in colors, varied from black to brown to gray, but their red bellies are nearly always abruptly contrasting. The red-bellied snake is not a threat to people or pets. If unable to flee, the snake will likely wiggle violently while releasing an unpleasant odor. More rarely, they will curl their lip to show teeth in an effort to deter attackers.
Pine Woods Littersnake
Pine wood littersnakes ideally live in forest with significant leaf litter, but can also be found in more suburban areas if close to their ideal environment. Here they eat a variety of small amphibians, worms and lizards using a mild (not harmful to humans) venom. Dulling with age, the pine wood littersnake is orange to rusty red with a light color belly. Even in defense, the pine wood litter snake is not known to bite, instead it attempts to escape and releases an unpleasant odor.
Plain-bellied Water Snake
The plain-bellied water snake lives in a variety of watery environments, but prefers those that are permanent. There, using speed to swallow its prey alive, the watersnake eats fish and amphibians. Likely due to size and proximity to water, these harmless snakes are often confused with a cottonmouth. The plain bellied water snake is a generally gray-green from head to tail without a pattern. If left alone, the plain-bellied water snake is not a threat to people. If disturbed, these snakes will drop from their perch or log into the water to escape. However, if caught they are known to repeatedly bite threats in an effort to escape.
Lampropeltis calligaster calligaster
Prairie kingsnakes are typically a shade of brown as a base color with rusty colored patches going down their backs and alternating on their sides. As omnivores they have a varied diet, but primarily eat other snakes, rodents and amphibians they find in open areas. These areas may include farmlands, cut wood lots or even coastal grassy savannas. Their ability to help regulate rodent and venomous snake populations make them beneficial to have around. The prairie kingsnake is harmless to people and is non-aggressive. If trapped, it may bite in defense, but would rather escape if allowed the chance.
The queensnake is found throughout most of Alabama, living in environments around running water. Most often seen warming in the sun on branches overhanging water, the queen snake is typically brown with three non-distinct darker stripes along their upper body. They are mainly active during the day hunting their primary food, crayfish, that have shed their shells recently. The queen snake is non-venomous and is not a danger to people, even if threatened, the queen snake is not likely to bite.
Farancia erytrogramma erytrogramma
One of the most delightfully colored snakes in the state, the rainbow snake is not often seen. The rainbow snake has three distinct red lines next to dark blueish-black lines that run from head to tail. They mainly live in clear water where they feed on eels at night. They shelter among downed logs or similar objects along the water's edge. If threatened the rainbow snake will try to go unnoticed by remaining very still or attempting to slowly crawl away. Even if picked up they are not known to bite, but may release a pungent smell and push their harmless but pointy tail into the threat.
The red cornsnake is relatively common in northern Alabama, but less so in the rest of the state. Red cornsnakes have black outlined rusty colored patches along their back with similar but smaller patches alternating along their sides. They are most commonly found on farm lands and forest that have healthy prey populations. The red cornsnake is a constrictor whose diet includes rodents, lizards and frogs. If left alone the red cornsnake is not a threat to people, it prefers to remain still to avoid detection or flee. While non- aggressive and non-venomous, if threatened it will coil and willingly bite in defense.
Red Milk Snake
Lampropeltis Triangulum syspila
The red milk snake lives in open, dry areas, often at the edges of wooded areas, often seeking shelter under downed logs or rocky up crops. Infrequently seen, these snakes eat other snakes, lizards and small animals. Often confused with the coral snake, the red milk snake has red, black and cream bands. The red milk snake is non venomous and does not pose a threat to people or pets. It will first attempt to hide, then flee and as a last resort strike in defense. Non- aggressive, if left alone, the red milk snake is not a threat to people.
The ring-neck snake can be seen throughout the state, often found sheltering under objects on the ground in forest and gardens. There they feed on a variety of insects, worms and lizards. Ring-necked snakes have black to grayish blue bodies with a defined yellow ring at the neck and bright yellow belly. They are known to coil and show this bright belly as a defensive strategy, but do not typically bite in defense. They are non-venomous and do not pose a threat to people.
Rough Earth Snake
Common across most of the state, the rough earth snake lives in a variety of habitats as long as there is plenty of ground cover. Their keeled scales range from gray to rusty brown, but are uniform from head to tail, with an off-white belly. Their food of choice are earthworms but may eat insects, swallowed whole, as rough earth snakes are non-constrictions and non-venomous. Mild tempered, the rough earth snake will likely flounder wildly in an effort to escape, but is unlikely to bite.
Rough Green Snake
Opheodrys aestivus aestivus
Less common than in the past, the rough green snake can be found throughout the state in areas with significant vegetation, often found along the edge of water. There they spend most of their time in trees hunting a variety of insects. They are able to swim and occasionally will search for food in the water. Uniformly bright green with large eyes, their keeled scales differentiate them from the smooth green snake. If threatened the harmless rough green snake’s first line of defense is often to stop and sway in place, likely an effort to mimic the breeze blowing the surrounding vegetation. If this and then fleeing is unsuccessful, the rough green snake is likely to wiggle wildly and release an off putting odor in an effort to escape. Even if caught, the rough green snake is not known to bite.
The scarlet kingsnake is uncommon throughout the state with some regions having no reported sighting. They are known to both burrow and climb trees in hardwood and pine forest. Primarily nocturnal hunters, these constrictors are sometimes active during the day hunting snakes, lizards and rodents. Non-venomous, the scarlet kingsnake is prone to misidentification with the coral snake. The scarlet kingsnake has rings of yellow, red and black down the length of its body. Unlike the coral snake, black rings are found on both sides of each yellow and red ring, preventing red and yellow from touching. While they will bite as a last line of defense, scarlet kingsnakes are non-aggressive if left alone.
Southeastern Crowned Snake
The southeastern crowned snake, one of the smallest in the state, can be found throughout Alabama. A foot in length at max, the crowned snake is a uniformed shade of brown with the exception of a black collar around the neck and a black head. They are found living in well drained wooded areas, often taking cover under debris on the ground where they hunt for termites and earthworms. Not known to bite and non-venomous, the southeastern crowned snake is not a threat to people.
Southern Hog-nosed Snake
The southern hog-nosed snake can be found in a variety of habitats including developed areas that sit adjacent to more favorable environments. There they used their distinctive nose to unearth frogs, their primary food, but also eat small animals using a mild venom. In humans, which are rarely bitten, the venom causes only mild swelling or irritation. The southern hog-nosed snake varies in color from orange/red to light gray with smaller dark patches running its length. Immature snakes are similar in appearance. Despite the mild venom, these snakes are not a threat to humans. If scared the southern hog-nosed snake will flatten its head, strike with it’s mouth closed and hiss, all bluffing techniques. If the threat persists the snake will roll onto its back and shake before emitting a pungent odor and playing dead.
Southern Water Snake
Commonly found in the southern Coastal Plains region, the southern water snake is dark brown with bands of a lighter brown running from head to tail. With age, the snake becomes darker, with some eventually nearing solid black. As the name implies, the southern water snake inhabits aquatic environments, often in shallow, non-moving water.. They dine on a variety of creatures in these aquatic environments that include fish, lizards, frogs and in brackish environments, crabs. Often confused with the cottonmouth, a differentiating feature is the vertical pupil and the pit of the cottonmouth vs the round pupil and no pit of the water snake. The southern water snake will not hesitate to bite if threatened but is non-venomous and will avoid conflict if possible.
Western Smooth Earth Snake
Virginia valeriae elegans
Found only in Sumter and Mobile counties the western smooth earth snake can be found in an array of forested environments but tend to be most fond of those near marshes or similar water sources. Non-venomous and not constrictors, the smooth earth snake relies on speed to capture its prey, mainly worms, but includes slugs and soft insects. Tending to have a coloration of rusty brown to brown with sporadic small dark spots, the western smooth earth snake is not a threat to people and if able will hide unnoticed, out of sight, avoiding conflict with people.
Carphophis amoenus ss
The worm snake is common throughout most of the state. They prefer to live in the damp soil of wooded areas, where they spend the majority of their time underground. They can, however, be found nearly anywhere one find earthworms, as the earthworm is their primary food source. Brown to pink in color, with an appearance that is similar to the earthworm, the worm snake is not a threat to people.
Agkistrodon contortrix ssp
The copperhead is found throughout the state and is the most commonly seen venomous snake here. Found most often in forested areas, the copperhead is also found along streams and in overgrown areas. Primarily an ambush hunter, the copperhead waits for small mammals to pass for feeding. Insinuated by the name, copperheads have a copper colored head, their bodies are tan to brown with hourglass markings down their length. While not considered aggressive, copperheads are venomous and are known to stand their ground. Their hemolytic venom breaks down blood resulting in painful injuries, but rarely death. If bitten seek immediate medical attention.
The eastern coralsnake is found mainly in coastal plain regions, where they spend a lot of the time in loose soil underground. Eastern coralsnakes primarily eat other snakes and lizards, using venom delivered through fixed, grooved fangs. Young and mature coral snakes are similar in appearance with red, black and yellow rings. Red and yellow rings that touch distinguish the coral snake from other local snakes. The eastern coralsnake is not aggressive and will flee from threats if given the chance. However, their venom is highly toxic, the most of any snake in the U.S. Contact should be avoided, if bitten seek medical attention immediately.
The eastern cottonmouth is a semi aquatic snake often found near water, warming in the sun, throughout the state. Eastern cottonmouths eat a variety of fish, frogs, snails and even small alligators. With age the cottonmouth becomes darker, nearing black, often causing people to misidentify other non-venomous snakes. Eastern cottonmouths are venomous and while not aggressive, are likely to stand their ground if approached. If threatened the cottonmouth will often rattle its tail, coil up, and open its all white mouth as a warning. If bitten, seek immediate medical help.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
The eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the largest of its species, is most often found in the hills of southern Alabama. There they lay waiting to feed on a variety of small rodents and mammals using hemotoxic venom to kill prey. The eastern diamondback can be distinguished from other snakes by the row of brown diamonds with off-white borders running its length. The eastern diamondback is considered non- aggressive, typically biting humans when intentionally disturbed or stepped on. They are, however, venomous with a long strike range, up to four feet, so should be given plenty of space. Before striking, the snake will often rattle its tail as a warning to potential threats. If bitten, medical attention is needed immediately.
Sistrurus miliarius ssp
The pygmy rattlesnake is not often seen but lives throughout the northern third of the state in a variety of habitats, however is often absent in very dry environments. Like many pit vipers, they prefer to lay in wait for prey to pass, however will hunt actively if needed for lizards, insects, birds and mice. Some pygmy rattlesnakes have been reported to lay in wait for prey for up to three weeks in a coiled and ready to strike position. Approximately the size of a pinecone when coiled, the pygmy rattlesnake is a shade of gray with nearly black patches down their back. Venomous, but not aggressive, the pygmy rattlesnake will attempt to avoid being seen using its camouflage to its advantage. Threatened, the snake may attempt to flee or rattle its tail from a coiled position as a warning. To adults, their bites are painful but not typically deadly. However, bites to small children and pets can be more concerning. If bitten, immediate medical attention should be sought.
Timber rattlesnakes live in a variety of forested areas often with rocky cliffs. There they mainly eat small mammals, rodents and less frequently birds. As pit vipers, timber rattlesnakes are able to detect warmth using the pits below their eyes, allowing precise striking of prey. Timber rattlesnakes use hollow fangs to inject hemolytic venom. This venom causes blood cells to breakdown as part of the digestion process. When defending themselves timber rattlesnakes may use less or even no venom in the bite and will rattle its tail as a warning. If bitten, seek immediate medical help.