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How to Identify North Carolina Snakes

Note (September 26, 2011): I wrote this post several years ago and readers will sometimes email me asking me to identify snakes for them. I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SNAKES! That’s why I wrote this: because I found a helpful resource in the North Carolina Online Snake Identification System. Try that web site if you need help. I can’t help you identify a snake. :)

As my wife and I were leaving for church this morning, I happened to look down at the boxwoods in front of our porch. I noticed a small snake there that was about 18 inches long. In North Carolina, most people think every snake is a venomous Copperhead, so I knew that I was expected to shoot it–so I ran inside and got my camera. :)

I didn’t get a chance today to show my picture to Ron Cromer, my neighbor and friend that runs Snakes Alive, Inc.–an educational science program designed to give clear, concise insight into the lives, habits, and characteristics of reptiles, especially snakes.

To identify our little friend, I turned to the North Carolina Online Snake Identification System. On this web site, I entered all the information I knew about the snake: length, location, body form, pattern, time of day, etc., and it came back with information and pictures of snakes that met all the information I entered. It turns out it was just a Common Garter snake, which is a good snake to have around. If you live in North Carolina, and think that every snake you see is a Copperhead, you may want to bookmark this site.
Garter Snake in Front Yard

45 Responses to “How to Identify North Carolina Snakes”

  1. 1
    joel pontbriand Says:

    Hi rick, happened to find your site while i was trying to id a snake i found in my yard today. i used the identifier from davidson college, but everytime i put in some info it kept coming back saying it could not identify it and to change my criteria! i could only change it slightly, but to no avail. i live in new bern, and the snake i saw was dark green, yellow bellied with small stripes on the side of it’s head. it was about as thick as my thumb and moved very quickly. i sent my wife in to get the camera, but my buddy moved so fast i couldn’t keep up with wher it went. regards, joel pontbrind

  2. 2
    rickyspears Says:

    Joel – Thanks for stopping by! I just did a search using the Davidson College idintifier and the only selection I entered was the main background color of “green”. This returned 6 results. I’m no snake expert by any means, but it does sound like a Rough Green Snake. I used to live in Long Beach (now called Oak Island), not too far from there, I seem to remember that these are rather common in the North Carolina coastal plain.

  3. 3
    Kristy Says:

    Hi Rick, Thanks for posting this picture. I found my snake when I got BACK from church – they must work hard on the Sabbath. :) Anyway, it’s probably only the second snake I’ve seen close up and I was a bit alarmed when I saw it sunning on my steps. Your information was a relief!

    Durham, NC

  4. 4
    rickyspears Says:

    Kristy – I’m glad that you found the information on my blog useful, and you were able to determine that you weren’t in any danger. I think that most snakes won’t hurt you, but they can sure make you hurt yourself. :)

  5. 5
    Tamara Says:

    Thanks for the link to the snake id site. I forwarded it to a friend.

  6. 6
    Sarah Says:

    Hi Rick!
    Well, here we are on a Sunday morning surfing the net to id the snake we saw this morning in our front plant bed. We are from Florida, so any snake has the potential of being venemous. Like others, the Davidson College identifier was no help, but the NC identifier was. We saw a garter snake. Hmmm they must like Sundays!

  7. 7
    rickyspears Says:

    Sarah – Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you found that site useful. I’ll have to ask my herpetologist friend about garer snakes’ Sunday habits. :) Interesting!

  8. 8
    April Says:

    I would like help identifying the baby snake tha that has been laying in my driveway for over 3 hours. I have now taken pictures. Not sure if I know how to upload to this site for you to see or not. thank you to anyone who can help.

  9. 9
    rickyspears Says:

    April – You can’t post pictures to this site, but you could upload them to http://www.flickr.com and post a link to them. We’ll see if we can help you identify it. Some general information about the area in which you live will be helpful as well.

  10. 10
    George Says:

    I found this snake, already dead, located between the woods/wetlands and stream. I live in Robeson County in SE NC. Since I walk the dogs along here daily, I’m a bit concerned.

    Overall Snake http://www.flickr.com/photos/26214998@N02/3475795137/

    Pattern http://www.flickr.com/photos/26214998@N02/3475794841/in/photostream/

    Head http://www.flickr.com/photos/26214998@N02/3476603974/

  11. 11
    Sam Says:

    I found this juvenile (I assume) snake while hiking in the Shining Rock Wilderness yesterday evening. I have tried to ID it but have not had much luck. Anyone know what kind it is? It did strike at a stick when presented, and shook its tail as though it was a rattler, but had no rattles.

    Thank you.

    Flickr Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkphotography/3673973100/sizes/o/

  12. 12
    rickyspears Says:

    Sam – Your photo is set to private so no one else can see it to help you.

  13. 13
    Pam Says:

    Hi! My husband killed a pregnant eastern garter snake this morning right in our backyard. Unfortunately, we didn’t identify the snake until after he killed it at which time we realized it was pregnant. The plentiful offspring came squirming out and are all over the place. We feel really aweful because now we know this snake is not a poisnous copperhead but a garter snake. What should we do with all the babies?

  14. 14
    Anonymous Says:

    i saw a black snake that puffed up like a cobra when i got near it. It also had a diamond shaped head. What breed is it?

  15. 15
    Tbird Says:

    We’ve seen two snakes in the back yard in the past 3 days. One was black with white bands (bull or king?) and the other was brownish with stripes (striped garter or racer?) I have a picture of the black with white banded one. Could I post it on your site or send it to you?

  16. 16
    rickyspears Says:

    Tbird – You can’t post it here, but you can post it to Flickr.com or some other photo sharing service and post a link here. Of course, I don’t know much at all about snakes, I just discovered that tool and wanted to share it with others. So, I doubt there is much I can do for you.

  17. 17
    Lynn Greskevitch Says:

    I finally identified the snake living in our side paddox. The snake is a gardersnake. The snake can get in an area that can not be reached.
    This is the paddox that I
    keep my puppies in to play. How can I get rid of the snake? What do you do with them after they are caught? I am not going to try and catch it. My neighbors would only want to shoot it.

  18. 18
    Mary Holby Says:

    Thank you for posting the picture of the gardensnake, because I have one living in my wood pile, and right now he is in one of my sheds. He seemed harmless and has the round head, so of course, I didn’t shoot it, but I’m was really glad to find your picture because he is exactly like the one I have so thank you for giving me peace of mind.

  19. 19
    Shan Says:

    Thanks Ricky for the effort. Can someone help me identify this snake on the hole in the wall next to my AC? It looked like foot and half long and less than an inch diameter. I live at South Charlotte.

    Photo : https://picasaweb.google.com/veenashan/BlackSnake?authkey=Gv1sRgCMmU6MTsrrHkrQE#5632541530593770018

  20. 20
    sue Says:

    Well, I should have checked your site before we killed this garter snake. When we evidently surprised him, he was all mouth ready to strike, scared us enough. I thought garder snakes were all green and skinny. We find lots of them. What are they?

  21. 21
    lorraine Says:

    Tonight, January 1,2012, as I was bringing in a potted plant from my front porch, I noticed something fall from the bench from which the plant was located, I got my flashlight and discovered this snake on my porch. It looked very much like the one in the picture of a Common Garter snake. Isn’t is very late in the season for a snake to be moving about. It had better find a warm place as the weather is about to become very cold.

  22. 22
    Bill merriman Says:

    Brown snake about 4 feet Long not much bigger around than a nickel
    Found in garage. I liver on Inland Waterway. Is he harmful?

  23. 23
    xavier Says:

    When I opened the door of one of the bathrooms in the house I found a snake around the toilet. I believed it just came from one of the joints not completed sealed from the floor. Went to get my camera and something to get it and was gone.Finally got it under the water tank of the toilet, tried to catch but run through the same joint. Almost 12″ long and color similar to one at the picture but more gray. My intention was not to kill it, but I am concerned that might be more around..

  24. 24
    Margaret Says:

    We found a tiny snake on our walkway. I tried to find out what type of snake it was but didn’t have any luck. It was black with what looked like orange or red stripes (it was night). Do you have any idea?

  25. 25
    stephanie Says:

    what kind of snake has a single light colored stripe down it’s underside from head to tail. the snake is black,the stripe is sort of yellow/light orange in color and there also appears to be a ring around it’s neck

  26. 26
    steven Says:

    does anyone know a name of a snake with diamonds on its back …………main color orange …..at night …. i need to know asap please let me know my dog got bit by a snake with that description …………..::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::I need to know if its poisonous or not

  27. 27
    Carla Says:

    Was it more like hourglass shapes or diamonds? Copperhead snakes have an hourglass pattern on their backs and are thick around the middle. they are more a rusty color than bright orange. They are out at night, too.

  28. 28
    Connie Says:

    Night before last, about midnight, my cats were intent on something under my nightstand. I thought it was a mouse, so I didn’t pay much attention, until I saw a black snake slithering over my trashcan. I was shocked! I hadn’t seen any all summer, and now in the middle of Oct, one is in my house. Anyway, I tried to get it, and it went under my refrigerator. I haven’t seen it since. Are the chances good that it went back outside? (I am not sure how it came in, but there is an access panel behind the fridge, which I thought was taped up good–maybe not.

  29. 29
    Connie Says:

    P.S. It was about 3 feet long, seemed solid black, with light color underneath. Very small head. Any info will be appreciated–i.e. what it is, what to do, etc.

  30. 30
    Amber Says:

    Found this little guy in a moist grassy area of the lawn. No idea what kind of snake it is, but I am curious.


  31. 31
    Ashley Says:

    Hey Rickey I found a snake in my childrens bedroom tonight & it was black/dark brown with light yellow splotchy shaped stripes, It was very skinny and about a little over a foot long. It was pretty slow and hid for a minute or so & then came back out & then we killed it because it was in my kids bedroom in the middle of the night!!! What kind of snake do you think this is? & do you think it is possiable there are more of them in my home? -Signed a very worried MOTHER!

  32. 32
    Chris Sullivan Says:

    Hi Rickey,
    Think I got a family of either cotton mouth or Eastern king snakes living in and out of my garage. Seen the adult in October (warm day), Baby seen twice today 3/17/13 and once in Nov In the 50’s that day. Both slow moving guess because of weather, black body, blotched bright yellow green bands, gaps mouth when trying to get it and baby was ratteling tail but didnt see an actual rattle. not sure of head shape. What do you think it may be?

  33. 33
    Sydney Says:

    Hi Ricky,
    I found a snake in my backyard. He was moving slowly.light grayish brown with faint beige stripes, about three feet long. When I tossed a rock at him he froze. I live in Goldsboro, NC. We had a lot of rain last night. Do you know what kind of snake this sounds like?

  34. 34
    Donna Trull Says:

    Hi Rick,
    My mom found a snake in a bag on her deck today. She said it was black with orange diamonds. She said it was a baby, and of course now were wondering where is the mama? Do you know what this snake is and is it poisionous?

  35. 35
    Ginny Says:

    Saw a blue and redish striped snake about a foot or so long at the baseball park tonight. Stripes ran the length of the snake. Snake had just shed its skin.
    any ideas what type it was? Just curious.

  36. 36
    Donna Says:

    Thanks to your pix, we were able to ID the snake resting near the top of my daylillies. The fill-in-the-blank website was not useful to me, either, but your pix is identical to the snake we saw. We know that we have black rat snakes and coppers, but I had not seen this one before. And, it was on Sunday morning, lol. Thanks again for posting this pix.

  37. 37
    Jamie Says:

    Hi Ricky I found a snake in my back yard here in the Outer Banks that I have never seen before. I have been all over the internet and can’t seem to find the kind of snake it was. It moved very fast for a baby snake. It has a black body with a muti-colored blotched pattern on its back. I didn’t get a good look at the belly color. Please help.

  38. 38
    ellen Says:

    i saw a long stocky black snake in the road, during the day, i would say sunning, i have never seen the type of pattern before. it had beautiful silver diamonds on its back. is there any such thing as an albino copper head?

  39. 39
    Cynthia Aquino Says:

    I found a snake in my flower bed but I could not identify it in the identification system. The snake was blue with some black stripes starting on have of the body up and the head was striped black and yellow. Please advice.

  40. 40
    kay turner Says:

    I was walking home just a few mins ago n this snake was right there it was black n had red it look red stripes on it! It was a juvenile I’m gusse! Because of it size dose anyone know Wht it is

  41. 41
    Paul Says:

    Kay, if you’re near water, that’s a banded water snake. Not harmful at all :)

  42. 42
    Geoff Says:

    I found a snake that had been run over in the road. Want to make sure it is not a rattlesnake baby. I have pictures I can send but don’t know how using this site. I have 2 young kids and there are tons of kids in our neighborhood. Is there any way I can get an ID from the picture? We are in the mountains of Western NC, but in the suburbs, not really deep country.

    Can anyone help? How do I send an image?

  43. 43
    Steve Says:

    In a swamp in Durham, NC around 20 years ago my brother and I were pursued by a brilliant green snake with an equally brilliant orange belly. It was every bit of three feet long and as big around as a forearm. It also raised it’s head like a cobra to look at us as it headed our way. I have tried to figure out this mystery for two decades.

  44. 44
    Phyllis Says:

    I also found the Davidson snake identifier to be useless. I just found a small snake about 12 inches long, slender, tan with brown stripes. It is in Lincoln County in a yard in dry grass. There was water not too far away, He was laying in a zig zag pattern. Can you help before an innocent snake gets done in? Thanks.

  45. 45
    David Says:

    Hey guys,

    I have a snake removal business in NC. We cover the whole state as well as some of SC and VA. I can ID or safely relocate a snake if you need so. Give me a call at 336-953-2878.

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