Missouri Snakes Pictures and Identification Help

picture of a copperhead snake

Situated adjacent to the Mississippi River and filled with plentiful rivers, lakes and land ecosystems containing them makes Missouri a very snake diverse state.

Of the approximately forty Missouri Snakes, five get categorized as venomous.

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. The body pattern gives them some good camouflage in their wooded habitats.

Populations of copperhead snakes exist across Missouri.

Populations of Cottonmouth Snakes are limited to water areas of the Southern Ozarks and wetlands of Southeast Missouri.

The Timber Rattlesnake pictured is Missouri’s most common venomous snake with a statewide distribution. Missouri also hosts all three of the Massasauga species, although not in great numbers.

  • Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus)
  • Pygmy Rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius)
  • Western Massasauga (Sistrurus tergeminus)

The remainder of this look at Missouri snakes focuses on the colubrids. They are the are the relatively harmless snakes with common names such as gartersnakes, ratsnakes and racers. Due to space limitations, only a representative sample of snakes are presented. Please click the green snakes button for more snake pictures and information.

Racers and Whipsnakes

picture of a Black Racer snake, credit Bobistraveling Flickr
Black Racer (Coluber constrictor) is the general name for one of the most widespread of all the snakes native to the United States.

In fact eleven different subspecies inhabit almost every state in the lower 48 states. Color is a common name applied to many of the species as well as the Black Racer. Blue Racers, for example are the name given to the most common i Missouri. They are also called Yellow-bellied Racers (Coluber constrictor flaviventris).

Eastern Coachwhip snakes (Masticophis flagellum flagellum) rank as the most common species of Missouri coachwhips. Many of the subspecies have different color patterns from red to yellow to brown to dark to tan. Body color in these snakes is very much a function of geography and climate.

Hog-nosed Snakes

picture of an Eastern Hognose snake
Plains Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon nasicus) can assume a variety of colors. Populations can be found in most areas of the state.

Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes

picture of a Speckled King snake snake, credit Pondhawk, Flickr
Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes are very habitat adaptable snakes. Some are also very colorful. Those features make them popular in the pet snake trade. Missouri hosts three species in the genera.

Speckled Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis holbrooki), pictured, inhabit areas of the Midwest and grow to an average size of about three feet. The picture highlights how its physical features, yellow speckles over an otherwise dark body, contrasts with its relative the Eastern Kingsnake.

Missouri also hosts the Yellow-bellied Kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster), another dull colored snake, and the Eastern Milk Snake, a smaller and colorful species.


picture of a Diamondback Water Snake
While all snakes possess the ability to swim, Water Snakes (genus Nerodia) get their name because of their close association with water habitats.

With the exception of the Pacific Northwest, nine different species inhabit most areas of North America. With five species, it’s reasonable to call Missouri watersnake territory.

  • Mississippi Green Watersnake (Nerodia cyclopion)
  • Plain-bellied Watersnake (Nerodia erythrogaster)
  • Southern Watersnake (Nerodia fasciata)
  • Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon)
  • Diamondback Water Snake (pictured above)

Physically, water snake bodies grow anywhere from three to six feet in length. Their dark, often blotched skin, helps them blend into their environment.

Water Moccasins shares a similar habitat and slightly resembles a few watersnake species. The shorter and thicker body of the Water Moccasin can normally be used as field identification clues to distinguish between them.

While Water Snake species are not venomous, many species are known to be ill tempered, and quick to bite when startled. Wildlife officials often recommend that boaters avoid drifting under low hanging branches (their favorite basking places) in order to decrease the possibility that the snakes drop in for a ride.

The Mississippi Green Waternake is listed as endangered and it’s range is limited to a small portion of the state’s southest corner.

Garter Snakes

close-up of a common garter snake
Missouri has three Garter Snake species. 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 Missouri.

Plains Gartersnakes (Thamnophis radix) live in the northwest of the state.

Two ribbon snakes, the Western Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus) and the Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis sauritus) inhabit North America, each with geographically identified subspecies. The picture shows a Gulf Coast Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis proximus orarius), one of the six different subspecies of the Western Ribbon Snake.

close-up of a common garter snake
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.

Plains Gartersnakes (Thamnophis radix) live in the northwest of the state.

Black-headed Snakes

Eleven species of Black-head Snakes have been recorded to date in the United States. They are all regionally based and all but three species have some type of connection with the Southwest.

Missouri has the Flat-headed Snake (Tantilla gracilis).

More Missouri Colubrid Snakes

picture of a Scarletsnake (Cemophora coccinea)
It’s easy to mistake the Scarletsnake (Cemophora coccinea) for a Milksnake or Kingsnake. They are a separate genera and fairly common in the Southeast.

A red face and red blotches surrounded by black bands are good field identification clues.

picture of a ring-necked snake face and neck
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.

picture of a Mud Snake, credit Ashley Tubbs Flickr
Snakes in the genera Farancia, don’t get much copy or recognition, primarily because they inhabit areas most often not inhabited by humans. Two species, the Mud Snake and Rainbow Snake live in the muddy waters of ponds, creeks, swamps and slow moving Southeast streams, and the range also extends a bit up the Mississippi River Valley.

The picture shows the Mud Snake, a striking black and red colored snake. Rainbow Snakes have red lines down the body. Both species can grow to be fairly large and robust, in the five to six foot range. Mud Snakes consume water based amphibians such as sirens and salamanders. Rainbow Snakes, at least the adults, consume eels.

picture of a Gopher Snake or Bullsnake (Pituophis melanoleucus)
Gopher Snakes or Bullsnakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) are common in Missouri with the exception of the southeast corner of the state.

They can grow large and bulky. Because they somewhat resemble rattlesnakes and they tend to do a lot of basking in the sun, they tend to scare people. Approach the snake with caution and look for a rattle. If no rattle, think Bullsnake.

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. 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.

  • Great Plains Ratsnake (Pantherophis emoryi)
  • Western Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus)
  • Western Foxsnake (Pantherophis ramspotti)
  • Red bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
  • Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
  • Groundsnake (Sonora semiannulata)
  • Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)
  • Rough Earthsnake (Haldea striatula)
  • Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum)
  • Western Wormsnake (Carphophis vermis)
  • Kirtland’s Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)

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