Snakes of Louisiana

This web site is intended to provide information to the public concerning snakes native to Louisiana. Much of the content has been taken from Snakes of Louisiana by Jeff Boundy. This book provides a more detailed analysis of the subject and is available from the Office of the Louisiana Conservationist

For more informtion contact Jeff Boundy jboundy@wlf.la.gov

Introduction

Snakes are a fascinating part of Louisiana's natural heritage, but are also a source of much worry and fear among Louisiana residents and visitors. Most of Louisiana's snakes are harmless, and many are beneficial as predators of insects and rodents, as a source of income for reptile collectors, and as a necessary component of the food chain or "balance of nature." The fear of snakes in general, and particularly the venomous species, can be alleviated by understanding the behavior of snakes, and the limits of the threat they may pose to humans.

Snakes are an important component of the ecosystem as predators and as prey for other wildlife. They tend to be secretive, and when not searching for food or mates will usually remain hidden. Some snakes, particularly small ones, will feed almost daily, while large snakes may feed only once every week or two. During the mating season, usually in spring or early fall, male snakes may travel extensively to search for mates. During the warmer part of the year many snakes become nocturnal and are infrequently encountered by humans.

Snakes are not aggressive except when defending themselves. They do not pursue people, although they may swim or crawl toward someone they don't recognize as a threat. Venomous snakes are unable to strike a distance more than their body length, even less for large rattlesnakes. Thus, a distance of only five or six feet can be considered "safe" for any venomous snake in Louisiana. Despite the quickness of some snakes such as racers and coachwhips, they cannot crawl faster than five miles per hour, and can be easily outdistanced by a person.

The chief enemies of snakes are predators (hawks, owls, wild pigs, skunks, etc.), humans, automobiles, and habitat destruction. Snake populations can be maintained against any of these odds except for the latter.

Nerodia fasciata
Banded Water Snake
Banded Water Snake
16-45 inches. One pattern morph consists of dark brown to nearly black snakes with narrow tan or yellow crossbands and a pale orange band from the eye to the angle of the jaw. Another pattern morph,...
Pituophis melanoleucus
Black Pine Snake
Black Pine Snake
25-80 inches. Overall dark brown to nearly black with a row of large black blotches down the back, and with light markings on chin; young snakes are paler, with the dark spots being more distinct...
Ramphotyphlops braminus
Brahminy Blind Snake
Brahminy Blind Snake
3-6 inches. Overall polished black or brown; no enlarged scales on belly; scales smooth; tail short and blunt.
Storeria dekayi
Brown Snake
Brown Snake
Brown Snake
7-16 inches. Tan or brown above with a pale band down the back; most populations with a row of small black dots on either side of the middle of the back that may be connected by dark lines; coastal...
Crotalus horridus
Canebrake Rattlesnake
Canebrake Rattlesnake
25-70 inches. Light tan or beige above with dark brown crossbands and a reddish stripe down the middle of the back; brown band from eye to angle of mouth; tail dark gray or black; scales keeled.
Coluber flagellum
Coachwhip
Coachwhip
25-90 inches. Usually dark brown or black anteriorly, becoming tan or reddish on the body or tail; some individuals entirely black above; underside dirty white or pink. Juveniles are tan with narrow...
Thamnophis sirtalis
Common Garter Snake
Common Garter Snake
15-45 inches. Sides tan to dark brown overlain by rows of black spots that may make the upper sides appear black; some individuals with red markings or distinct checkerboard pattern on sides; usually...
Nerodia sipedon
Common Water Snake
Common Water Snake
16-50 inches. Gray, orange or tan above with dark gray, reddish brown or brown crossbands that may be offset between the back and sides; underside pale with small dark crescent-shaped markings; head...
Agkistrodon contortrix
Copperhead
Copperhead
14-45 inches. Beige, tan or pale gray, often with a dull pink or orange tint above, with broad, darker brown, hourglass-shaped crossbands that slightly paler on the lower sides; underside whitish...
Agkistrodon piscivorus
Cottonmouth
Cottonmouth
15-55 inches. Dark tan, brown or nearly black, with vague black or dark brown crossbands; side of head black with a white line from the eye to the angle of the mouth; underside dark with large...
Nerodia rhombifer
Diamond-backed Water Snake
Diamond-backed Water Snake
18-65 inches. Pale gray-brown or tan above with dark brown or black crossbars alternating on the back and sides; dark markings are smaller than the interspaces; underside yellowish with small dark...
Crotalus adamanteus
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
25-90 inches. Brown or tan above with dark brown, pale-edged, diamond-shaped markings; dark band bordered by light stripes extends diagonally through eyes; tail with pale and dark rings; scales...
Heterodon platirhinos
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
Eastern Hog-nosed Snake
15-42 inches. May be either pale gray, tan or brown with several rows of black spots down the back and sides, or, overall black or dark brown with a paler underside; scales keeled and in 25 rows. In...
Thamnophis sauritus
Eastern Ribbon Snake
Eastern Ribbon Snake
16-35 inches. Slender brown snakes with a dull white to pale tan stripe down the back and pale stripe on each side covering the 3rd and 4th scale rows above the ventral plates; underside whitish;...
Carphophis amoenus
Eastern Worm Snake
Eastern Worm Snake
8-12 inches. Brown above, pink below and on the first to second scale row; eyes tiny; scales smooth and in 13 rows; small, harmless spine on the tip of the tail.
Tantilla gracilis
Flat-headed Snake
Flat-headed Snake
5-9 inches. Pale tan above with a pink cast below; top of head slightly darker than body; eyes tiny; scales smooth and in 15 rows.
Regina rigida
Glossy Crayfish Snake
Glossy Crayfish Snake
Glossy Crayfish Snake
15-30 inches. Dark gray or dark olive to nearly black above with vague, dark longitudinal bands; dull yellow or pale tan below and on the lowermost scale row; underside with two rows of black spots....
Regina grahamii
Graham's Crayfish Snake
Graham's Crayfish Snake
15-45 inches. Gray or olive above, yellow to pale gray or tan on the belly and lowermost 3 scales rows; pale tan band may be present down the back; underside often with a central row of gray or black...
Pantherophis spiloides
Gray Rat Snake
25-84 inches. Tan or gray with large dark brown or black blotches down the back and a smaller series on each side; some scales yellow, orange or red producing a calico effect; underside white...
Micrurus fulvius
Harlequin Coral Snake
Harlequin Coral Snake
15-36 inches. Series of wide black and red rings, separated by narrow yellow rings, encircling the body; snout black and rear of head yellow; scales smooth and in 15 rows. The first black ring on the...
Pituophis ruthveni
Louisiana Pine Snake
25-65 inches. Pale tan with a row of large black or brown blotches down the back, and a smaller series on each side; underside whitish with obscure brown spotting; tip of snout pointed; scales keeled...
Lampropeltis triangulum
Milk Snake
Milk Snake
Milk Snake
14-30 inches. Series of black, red and white or yellow rings, with each red and white ring bordered on either side by black; rings often interrupted on belly by white or black line; snout may be...
Nerodia cyclopion
Mississippi Green Water Snake
Mississippi Green Water Snake
16-50 inches. Dark gray-green, olive or dark gray above, with a row of small, dark squared markings along the upper sides, alternating with a row on the lower sides and middle of the back; underside...
Farancia abacura
Mud Snake
25-80 inches. Shiny black above with a red underside crossed with black bands, the red irregularly extending onto the lower sides; tail tip with hardened point; scales smooth and in 19 rows.
Rhadinaea flavilata
Pine Woods Snake
Pine Woods Snake
8-15 inches. Reddish brown or tan above, pale yellow below; a distinct dark band passes through the eye, bordered above by a pale line; scales smooth and in 17 rows.
Lampropeltis calligaster
Prairie Kingsnake
16-50 inches. Tan, brown or gray above with a row of dark brown to reddish, oblong or dumbbell-shaped spots down the back and a smaller series on each side; underside whitish with brown spotting;...
Sistrurus miliarius
Pygmy Rattlesnake
Pygmy Rattlesnake
10-20 inches. Pale gray or tan above, with a row of dark blotches or spots down the back and one row on each side; reddish or orange band present down the middle of the back, and wide black band...
Coluber constrictor
Racer
Racer
20-65 inches. Racers are shiny black with white throats in the Florida Parishes. Racers in the Mississippi Valley and low areas of the southeastern part of the State are gray with black masks and...
Farancia erytrogramma
Rainbow Snake
25-60 inches. Shiny black above with three longitudinal red stripes; yellow below and on the lower sides; underside with several rows of black spots; scales smooth and in 19 rows.
Pantherophis guttata
Red Corn Snake
Red Corn Snake
25-65 inches. Tan, yellow brown or reddish brown with a series of large, orange or reddish, black-bordered spots down the back and a smaller series on each side; top of head with reddish bands...
Storeria occipitomaculata
Red-bellied Snake
Red-bellied Snake
Red-bellied Snake
6-14 inches. Brown or gray above, with two rows of black dots or two or four thin dark lines from head to tail; underside usually red or orange, rarely yellow or dull white; pale spots present on...
Diadophis punctatus
Ring-necked Snake
Ring-necked Snake
8-16 inches. Slate gray above, yellow-orange below with black dots or central row of spots; neck with a distinct yellow collar; scales smooth and in 15 rows.
Virginia striatula
Rough Earth Snake
Rough Earth Snake
6-12 inches. Gray, tan, brown or slate gray above, pale yellow or whitish below; faint, pale collar may be present; scales keeled and in 17 rows.
Opheodrys aestivus
Rough Green Snake
Rough Green Snake
16-42 inches. Bright green above and yellow below; scales keeled and in 17 rows.
Nerodia clarkii
Salt Marsh Snake
Salt Marsh Snake
15-35 inches. Pale gray or tan above with three broad, dark brown or black longitudinal stripes and a dark band through the eye; underside dark reddish brown with a central row of pale spots. The...
Lampropeltis elapsoides
Scarlet Kingsnake
Scarlet Kingsnake
12-24 inches. Series of black, red and white or yellow rings, with each red and yellow ring bordered on either side by black; rings continue across belly; snout always red; scales smooth and in 17-19...
Cemophora coccinea
Scarlet Snake
Scarlet Snake
14-22 inches. Series of black, red and whitish crossbands on the back and sides, with each red and white band bordered on either side by black; white below; snout red and pointed; scales smooth and...
Pantherophis slowinskii
Slowinski's Corn Snake
24-52 inches. Gray with a row of large darker gray, brown, or orange, black-bordered spots down the back and a smaller series on each side; top of head with dark bands converging at a point between...
Virginia valeriae
Smooth Earth Snake
Smooth Earth Snake
Smooth Earth Snake
6-13 inches. Gray, tan, brown or red brown above with tiny black dots on the head; pale yellow to white below; faint pale line may be present down the back; scales smooth or weakly keeled, and in 17...
Tantilla coronata
Southeastern Crowned Snake
Southeastern Crowned Snake
6-13 inches. Pale tan above with a pink cast to the underside; top of head dark brown with a pale collar followed by a dark collar; eyes tiny; scales smooth and in 15 rows.
Lampropeltis getula
Speckled kingsnake
Speckled kingsnake
16-60 inches. Shiny black above, each scale with a white or yellow spot; underside cream or yellow with alternating black blotches. In young snakes the yellow spots may be limited to the sides and to...
Micrurus tener
Texas Coral Snake
Texas Coral Snake
15-36 inches. Series of wide black and red rings, separated by narrow yellow rings, encircling the body; snout black and rear of head yellow; scales smooth and in 15 rows. The first black ring on the...
Pantherophis obsoleta
Western Rat Snake
Western Rat Snake
25-84 inches. In southern Louisiana and some low areas in central Louisiana: tan or gray with large dark brown or black blotches down the back and a smaller series on each side; some scales yellow,...
Thamnophis proximus
Western Ribbon Snake
Western Ribbon Snake
16-42 inches. Slender black or brown snakes with a white, yellow or orange stripe down the back and a pale stripe on each side covering the 3rd and 4th scale rows above the ventral plates; underside...
Carphophis vermis
Western Worm Snake
Western Worm Snake
8-14 inches. Black above, pink or scarlet below and up to the third scale row; eyes tiny; scales smooth and in 13 rows; small, harmless spine on the tip of the tail.
Nerodia erythrogaster
Yellow-bellied Water Snake
Yellow-bellied Water Snake
16-55 inches. Dark gray, gray-green or olive above, yellow below. Young are pale gray, with a pinkish cast on the sides, with large, squared, alternating blotches. The markings of the young begin to...