Situated in the center of the United States means that Nebraska snakes have both an eastern and western character. The approximately thirty snake species makes snakes the largest group of amphibians or reptiles in the state.
Space limitations mean only a sample of representative species can be presented on this page. Please click the green Snakes button for more snake pictures and identification help.
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.
The picture shows the Nebraska native, the Plains Black-headed Snake (Tantilla nigriceps) A dark of black head contrasted against a different color body is the physical characteristic tying all the species together.
Garter snake identification can be a fun activity because they are not aggressive snakes and taking the time to look at one means little personal harm to the observer. Their body color can range from blue, prominent in Florida blue garter snakes, to the many shades of red visible in West Coast species.
Three different subspecies of the Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans) inhabit western North America. One in Nebraska. The picture shows a typical wandering garter snake skin pattern, characterized by the light color stripes. A close up picture would show the snake’s eight upper labial scales, typical of all Thamnophis elegans subspecies.
Nebraska residents can also find three additional Garter snake species slithering around their yards.
- Common Garter Snake
- Plains Gartersnake (Thamnophis radix)
- Western Ribbon Snake
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.
Look also for the Plains Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon nasicus).
Kingsnakes and Milk Snakes
Kingsnakes experienced some evolutionary good fortune. They are immune to the venom of poisonous snakes such as Copperheads and Rattlesnakes, often making them the top snake in their territory.
Speckled Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis holbrooki) follow that general rule of thumb. They 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.
Check for Yellow-bellied Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis calligaster) and Central Plains Milksnakes (Lampropeltis gentilis) around the state.
The Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) leads the list of water snake species in the most states, including Nebraska. It’s the only watersnake species.
The picture shows a bulky snake with a dark body. As the snakes age their body color tends to darken. Younger snakes, especially when seen in the water, often have some colored pattern on their bodies.
Size and a dark body are good field clues. They also help insure that the snake in the water is not the venomous Copperhead.
More Nebraska Colibrid Snakes
Gophersnakes (Pituophis catenifer) look like rattlesnakes without the rattle. They tend to spend a good deal of time basking in the sun. That trait gives people sufficient time to check for a rattle. Nebraska hosts the Great Basin Gopher Snake in the picture.
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 where crayfish are abundant.
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.
Here’s another dozen Nebraska snakes in the Colubrid family<
- Red bellied Snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
- Dekay’s Brownsnake (Storeria dekayi)
- Black Racer (Coluber constrictor)
- Racer Whipsnake (Masticophis flagellum)
- Smooth Greensnake (Opheodrys vernalis)
- Lined Snake (Tropidoclonion lineatum)
- Glossy Snake (Arizona elegans)
- Western Wormsnake (Carphophis vermis)
- Great Plains Ratsnake (Pantherophis emoryi)
- Western Ratsnake (Pantherophis obsoletus)
- Western Foxsnake (Pantherophis ramspotti)
- Ring-necked Snake (Diadophis punctatus)
Venomous Snakes in Nebraska
Nebraskans need only be concerned with two of the four types of venomous snakes, Copperhead Snakes and Rattlesnakes.
Copperhead snakes consume rodents in their territory. Unless directly disturbed, they are not known to be particularly aggressive in the presence of humans.
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.
Three rattlesnake species also live in Nebraska. Their presence in any specific area usually gets well documented.
The Timber Rattlesnake pictured is probably the most common species in the United States. It lives in most states east of the Rocky Mountains.
Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus mitchellii) range extends across sixteen states, mostly in the Midwest.
Also look for the Western Massasauga (Sistrurus tergeminus).