Like all of New England, Massachusetts snakes rank at the lower end of the snake diversity scale in the United States. Cool winters are partially to blame. Many of the snakes have trouble hibernating over the winter in the frozen grounds.
All but one of the fourteen Massachusetts snakes are nonvenomous. Many will bite if mishandled or even handled. No doubt many folks are still in the habit of picking up snakes they find in the wild. Even if they mean the snake no harm, the act of picking it up can annoy or scare the snake into biting.
Here’s a quick run down that covers Massachusetts snakes. The green snakes button leads to more snake pictures and information.
Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) is the general name for one of the most widespread of all the snakes native to the United States. They are long, thin snakes with a black body, and as the picture highlights, white chins.
As the picture suggests, they are habitat adaptable and can turn up on manicured grass lawns
Depending on the source, up to five species of Hognose Snakes live in the United States:
- Eastern hognose snake
- Plains Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon nasicus)
- Dusty Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon gloydi)
- Mexican Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon kennerlyi)
- Southern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon simus)
Eastern Hognose snakes (Heterodon platirhinos) can assume a variety of colors and are the most wide ranging of species.
Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes
Eastern Milk Snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) are very adaptable snakes, inhabiting multiples areas from fields to forests to farms. Finding Milk Snakes in the east can be as easy as taking a hike and flipping over a few big rocks or logs. The can grow up to on average about three feet in length and the red to orange to dull rust color of the bands makes them easy to spot.
The Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) lives in most areas of the state that have ponds and lakes.
Because there are no Cottonmouth snakes in Massachusetts, residents need not worry about confusing them with watersnakes. All things being equal, the snakes that live in and around Massachusetts aquatic environments are nonvenomous.
Rat snakes are the general name given to a group of constrictors that inhabit various regions of the East and Midwest. Their rodent diet and their propensity to inhabit areas with human populations often translated into the humans calling them rat snakes based primarily on the snake’s diet.
The Black Rat Snake ranks as the most wide ranging of the species. Massachusetts has a very small population located in a few counties in the center of the state. They are listed as endangered.
The all black body makes it a fairly easy species to recognize.
Ribbon snakes refers to a group of snakes in the genus Thamnophis, differentiated by the presence of longer tails and a light patch in front of the eye. Eastern Ribbon Snakes (Thamnophis sauritus) share those same physical features.
The Eastern Ribbon Snake has a distinct pattern on the body as well as the common stripes.
The Common Garter Snake in the picture is a rather bland looking species and easy to identify basically because it’s the primary species in most East Coast states. It’s also the most wide ranging of all the garter snakes and found in almost all of the lower 48 states.
Still More Colibrid Snakes
The Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus) in the second picture is a common Colubrid species, found in most areas of the United States. It’s also the only member of the genus.
The dual color body, dark on the top and a bright shade of orange or yellow on the bottom serve as the best field identification clues. The picture highlights the snake’s characteristic ring neck mark. While ring-neck snake bites are rare, touching them is not recommended. They can secrete a foul smelling chemical.
The eastern half of the United States hosts three Storeria species:
- Red bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
- Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
- Florida Brownsnake (Storeria victa)
Red-bellied snakes live mostly in wooded areas. Brownsnakes even adapt to city life. Whereas most people on the West Coast consider the Garter Snakes as your basic garden snake, many people in the East, especially residential urban areas, think the Brownsnake as a common garden snake.
Eastern Wormsnake (Carphophis amoenus) is a very small and thin snake that inhabits forested areas in most parts of the Eastern United States.
Smooth Greensnakes (Opheodrys vernalis) are small nonvenomous snakes that also go by the name grass snakes. They are insectivores who consume a good deal of grasshoppers and other pesty insects that live in the grasslands of the state.
Pit Vipers – Rattlesnakes
Both of the venomous Massachusetts snakes labeled as venomous are also categorized as endangered. So, the odds of any tourist or resident seeing on is very low. Their inclination for privacy further reduces the odds of any human being bitten. One almost literally has to almost step on one to be attacked.
Copperheads grow to an average three feet in length and their light body is covered with darker crossbands. The head shows a characteristic copper color.
Pit Vipers, the largest group of venomous snakes, consist of three general kinds of snakes: rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths.
Sixteen Rattlesnake species in the genus Crotalus inhabit most areas of North America. Because of their venomous bites, their presence in any specific area usually gets well documented. Rattlesnake identification can be a bit tricky in the desert Southwest because it hosts over a dozen different species.
Rattlesnake identification becomes easier in other areas of the United States that lack Rattlesnake species diversity. The Timber Rattlesnake pictured is probably the most common species in the United States. It lives in most states east of the Rocky Mountains.