Kansas Snakes: Pictures and Identification Help

picture of a Prairie Rattlesnake

Not many people associate Kansas with Kansas snakes. That would be a mistake. Because it is situated in the center of the United States, Kansas ranks up at the top of the snake diversity list with approximately forty different snake species.

Geography partially explains snake diversity in the state. The western half of the state hosts traditional western species, the eastern half of the state hosts traditional eastern species.

Five Kansas snakes are also categorized as venomous snakes: Copperhead Snakes, Cottonmouth Snakes, Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus), Prairie Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis) and Western Massasauga (Sistrurus tergeminus).

Copperheads are fairly common in eastern areas in open spaces and forest edges. Cottonmouth Snakes have a very small presence in the far Southeast corner of the state.

The three rattlesnake species are sufficiently placed so as to insure that all areas of the state have at least one rattlesnake species. The top picture shows a Prairie Rattlesnake.

Space limitations mean that all Kansas snakes can not be presented on this page. Please press the snakes button on the left for additional snake pictures and information.

Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes

picture of a Speckled King snake snake, credit Pondhawk, Flickr
Four species in the Lampropeltis genera of Kingsnakes and Milksnakes live in the states.

Speckled Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis holbrooki) extend their range across the state and need not worry about the state’s rattlesnake population because they are immune to the venom. In effect, they are the top snake in Kansas.

The picture highlights how its physical features, yellow speckles over an otherwise dark body.

Yellow-bellied Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis calligaster) live in the east and their bodies are a light color with blotches on the back.

Central Plains Milksnakes or the Western Milksnake (Lampropeltis gentilis) is the most common species in the state. A very small area of the southeast hosts the Eastern Milksnake (Lampropeltis triangulum).

Black-headed Snakes

picture of a Plains Blackhead snake
Two of the eleven species of Black-head Snakes have been recorded in Kansas. The Plains Black-headed Snake (Tantilla nigriceps) pictured is a creature of the west, found along prairies.

Flat-headed Snakes (Tantilla gracilis) occupy a variety of woodland and prairie habitat in the east.

Garter Snakes

picture of a Checkered Garter snake, credit Jay Phagan, Flickr
Checkered Garter snakes are mostly a Texas species. However there is some spillover into the very southwest Kansas counties.

Like all garter snakes, they have stripes down the body. Unlike most garter snakes they have a very pronounced checkered pattern complimenting the stripes. It’s hard to misidentify them.

Three additional gartersnake species have ranges that extend across most of Kansas, making them easily recognized by residents: Plains Gartersnake (Thamnophis radix); Common Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis); Western Ribbonsnake
(Thamnophis proximus). Each species stakes out its own territory.

Kansas Colubrids

picture of a ring-necked snake face and neck
The Ring-necked Snakes (Diadophis punctatus) are as common a Colubrid species in Kansas as they are throughout the United States, found in most areas of the United States. It’s also the only member of the genus.

picture of a Gopher Snake or Bullsnake (Pituophis melanoleucus)
Likewise, Gopher Snakes or Bullsnakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) can be found all through the states.

They can grow large and bulky, and somewhat resemble rattlesnakes.

picture of a Crayfish Snake
Snakes in the genus Regina (Queen Snakes and Gray Crayfish Snakes) are another of the common species in the Eastern United States that are less well known to the larger public. They inhabit most water areas of the East that host their primary food source, crayfish.

The picture shows a Crayfish snake. It inhabits the marshy areas of eastern Kansas.

Both species are an nondescript, dull brown color, and both species grow to a fairly small size, under two feet in length.

picture of a Smooth Earth Snake, Stephen Horvath, Flickr
Smooth Earthsnakes (Virginia valeriae) are the only representative of the Virginia genera. They are fairly common in the East and easily recognized by their smooth brown body.

There is a small spillover into a few northeast Kansas counties.

Here’s a list of additional Kansas snakes not addressed in this presentation.

  • Long-nosed Snake (Rhinocheilus lecontei)
  • Groundsnake (Sonora semiannulata)
  • Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
  • Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
  • Rough Earthsnake (Haldea striatula)
  • Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum)
  • Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)
  • Western Wormsnake (Carphophis vermis)
  • Great Plains Ratsnake (Pantherophis emoryi)
  • Western Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus)
  • Plain-bellied Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster)
  • Common Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)
  • Diamond-backed Watersnake (Nerodia rhombifer)
  • Chihuahuan Nightsnake (Hypsiglena jani)
  • Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
  • Red bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)

Blind Snakes

New Mexico Threadsnake (Rena dissectus)

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